January 17, 2011
We're going to do a little change of pace in this post. This is part of an internship report by undergraduate student Derrick Peterson who completed a an internship at Hawcott Lawn Service in the summer of 2010.
The address of Hawcott Lawn service is:
PO Box 37
Nevada, IA 50201
History of Hawcott Lawn Service:
Ben Hawcott established Hawcott Lawn Service in 1998, at that time the only service that he offered was mowing and the only town that was serviced was Nevada. Since then it has grown every year, even with a struggling economy, and now offers a full line of lawn and landscape maintenance services. The primary service area is Central Iowa, focusing on Ames and Nevada.
Hawcott Lawn Service is run by owner and founder, Ben Hawcott, and has one full time employee. At any given time of the year there are 8-12 seasonal employees. The business is run out of a 3,000 sq ft pole building near Nevada, Iowa. This facility stores all of the equipment needed to operate a full scale lawn and landscape business. Some of the equipment includes a skid loader, a garden tractor and brush mower, core aerators, dethatchers, multiple trailers for leaf removal and hauling mowers, blowers, trimmers, chain saws, push mowers, walk behind mowers, zero turn mowers, ride-on treatment applicator, landscape materials, and all of the fertilizers, pesticides, and ice melt just to name a few. There is a lineup of six pickup trucks that keep Hawcott Lawn Service and all of its equipment on the move.
The lawn maintenance services offered include mowing, edging, core aeration, dethatching, overseeding, fertilization, weed control, and preventative grub control. The newest addition to the lawn service branch is topdressing. An application of 1/8” - 1/4” of compost is added to all the turf areas. Many of the customers for the topdressing application are home owners in housing developments. These areas often need this application because the topsoil is scraped off during construction, which creates a less than optimal soil structure for growing grass. With a lapse in the strength of the economy there have been few people who have taken advantage of this service. Hopefully within the next few years these numbers will pick up.
A few of the landscaping maintenance services that are available are spring and fall cleanups (consisting of removing leaves and debris from the lawn and landscape), pruning/hedging, gutter cleaning, ornamental treatments, and aquatic treatments (for ponds and large fountains).
Full landscape installation is also a service provided by Hawcott Lawn Service. They are able to create and install any landscape plant design, edging, mulches, patios and walkways, and walls. Their newest installation service is small fountains and ponds.
Snow removal and salting is offered during the winter months and helps to offer year round cash flow for the business.
As an intern, I played two important roles this summer; I was a crew leader for the mowing routes and a spray technician. At the beginning of the year I told Ben that I would like to take on more responsibility and gain more hands on experience with lawn treatments, he thought this was a great idea and immediately began training me as to how he wants the treatments done. With letting me do treatments, Ben then had more time to focus on meeting customers and getting more jobs and accounts lined up. Some of the areas that I helped managed, both with mowing and with treatments, ranged in size from 500 sq ft to 20 acres of turf.
Some of my tasks included:
· Perform routine equipment maintenance
· Load, unload, and drive the truck with trailer
· Keep proper and accurate records of work that is done
· Train team members
· Assign duties to team members
· Fill and mix chemicals in the sprayers
· Calibrate the granular spreaders
· Communicate with customers to address any problems or concerns
Part of my responsibilities, concerning the mowing side, was to create a mow list every morning for all of the crews. It was important that I wrote out the properties in the correct routing order that way the list would be done in the most efficient manner. I also had to prioritize the properties, not only week to week but over the course of the summer. During the spring everything was mowed once a week, but once summer hit and things started drying out it became essential to space out each mowing more than a week.
The other side of my responsibilities was doing the lawn treatments. On these days I would clean out the hopper of the spreaders that I would be using, usually this was an Anderson push spreader and a Turfco T3000 stand on applicator. The next step would be to load all of the fertilizer, the chemicals for the day, and to fill the 200 gallon spray tank with water and chemicals. Probably the most important aspect of doing treatments is realizing that not all people think lawn treatments are safe. It does not matter what statistics or facts you may give them, they will still disagree with the treatments and those ideas need to be respected. In order to still maintain a positive business image, especially for these people, you need to act professional at all times, be able to answer any questions that may arise, and wear the appropriate protective gear. A final responsibility for the lawn treatments is maintaining proper records. There is a lot of information that needs to be recorded, such as the time, the amount of product used, temperature, wind speed and direction, and it needs to be accurate. This information is not only there because it’s required by law, but it also allows Ben to analyze the numbers and see how long we are spending at each property and make sure that the proper amount of product is being put onto the lawn.
Challenges and Perks:
One of the challenges this year was the occurrence of Aschochyta leaf blight and its damage that it causes to many lawns. Aschochyta causes a bleached out appearance on the leaves of the grass, usually Kentucky bluegrass. It began showing up around the beginning of June and did its damage quickly. Many customers were concerned with their lawn and we told them what it was, that it would recover within a few weeks of growth, and we directed them to an article written by Dr. Dave Minner that explained what Aschochyta was and how to handle your lawn’s future. Fortunately we didn’t lose any lawns over this outbreak.
Another challenge that we dealt with was the severe flooding of the Ames area on August 11th. Most of the roads leading out of town were over run with water and the city was without drinking water for a few days. This did not affect our work schedule too much; the shop for Hawcott Lawn Service is located between Ames and Nevada and is out of the flood plain. The only issue was finding a route to get to work and once we all made it there we had enough things to do in Nevada and the rest of eastern Story county that the whole crew could continue to work. Finding a route back to Ames in order to go home was a challenge but by the time we got off work, there was a road that had opened back up. Luckily for us the properties that we manage were not damaged by the flood and so there was not any clean up that we had to do.
One perk for working with Hawcott Lawn Service is that Ben likes to give the company challenges and if we meet those proposed goals we are rewarded. This year two challenges were given, both of them were to complete our week’s mowing schedule by Friday at noon. We accepted and met both challenges. One of the rewards was an afternoon of pizza and bowling, while on company time, at Perfect Games in Ames and the other was an afternoon of pizza and a kickball game, also on company time. One of the great things about working for Ben is that he is generous to his employees and he likes to keep them satisfied so they want to continue to work for him.
Here are a couple of pictures from the flooding on August 11th. The top picture is from the Des Moines Register and shows the Iowa State University football field, Jack Trice Stadium, surrounded by water. Most of the roads leading in/out of Ames were closed down by 10 a.m. and by 4 p.m. that same day only two roads were reopened. The bottom picture shows one of the commercial properties in Nevada that also had excessive water. Luckily after a couple days the water receded and all roads into Ames were reopened.