With 43 years in the industry, Ken Taylor, CLP, sales manager, corporate business division, John Deere, has seen the industry evolve in some very exciting ways.
Though he got his start with Outboard Marine Corporation—a multi-billion-dollar Fortune 500 company that manufactured boat motors—Taylor says his future was actually on land and not “on water” as he had originally thought. Early on, a role with Lawn-Boy mowers gave him a taste of the landscape industry—and he hasn’t looked back.
“When The Toro Co. acquired Lawn-Boy, I learned what it was like to be part of a company truly focused in the lawn, landscape and turf industry,” says Taylor.
A few years later, Husqvarna was making an acquisition to enter the commercial mowing segment and they recruited Taylor. Five years after that, Taylor had the opportunity to join John Deere—and the rest is history.
“For the past 15 years, I have been fortunate to be part of this tremendous company and culture,” Taylor says.
NALP recently caught up with him to find out more.
What have been the biggest changes and advancements you’ve seen in the lawn and landscape industry and why do you think they are significant?
The way the managed lawn and landscapes industry has grown and continues to grow have been the biggest changes. The industry is a vibrant growth industry that provides a sustainable and prosperous business future. The value that society is placing on responsible resource management is a positive influence on the professional industry.
What do you expect to see for the future of the lawn and landscape industry?
I foresee continued consolidation. I think we’re already seeing a lot more private equity firms coming into the industry and buying companies. But with that comes a higher level of professionalism.
I think we’ll also see continued pressure on available labor, environmental stewardship and continued growth and value placed on responsibly managed landscapes.
From a supplier perspective, what do you think lawn and landscape professionals’ biggest challenges are today in the industry and why? How are suppliers trying to help with that?
The industry is too fragmented in delivering a value proposition as to the benefits of managed landscapes and career opportunities. NALP’s Industry Growth Initiative and workforce development have the potential to be game changers. But, from my perspective, this needs to be an industry-supported initiative embraced and supported by all the stakeholders; national and state trade associations, colleges and universities, landscape professionals and suppliers, too.
Some suppliers have been proactive in supporting the various activities and initiatives focused on regulatory topics, emission standards and safety. Overall, I believe suppliers continue to be proactive in developing products and services that are environmentally responsible to address noise, emissions and other regulatory standards, as well as incorporating technology.
What do you think biggest challenges for lawn and landscape pros will be in the future – maybe 5 to 10 years out and why? How do you think suppliers play a role in alleviating those challenges?
Positioning the industry as a viable business and career path to pursue is one of our biggest challenges. The available labor challenges will not go away. Adopting technology and automation to improve efficiencies will be critical to success. Pressures on environmental stewardship and validating that managed landscapes and the services that the professionals in industry provide are vital to the sustainability of the industry and society will also remain a growing challenge.
Suppliers will play a vital role in the evolution of the industry. Those who understand the customers’ business pressures, plans, and problem—as well as industry trends—will deliver viable solutions. Suppliers who embrace the changes will ultimately be the winners.
What will you miss most about the landscape industry and what plans do you have for retirement?
I love what I do! John Deere has provided a lot of opportunities. I value the industry, the customers and my associates. What I will miss most is interacting with and learning from others. My plans include improving my golf game and becoming more physically fit—how about walking nine holes, five days a week? I also plan to vacation without a schedule and spend more time with my family.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Industry Growth Initiative is changing narratives about the work of landscape and lawn care professionals through public relations efforts that help home and business owners recognize the value of investing in their outdoor spaces. Additionally, they are making an impact on the industry through workforce development efforts.