Q&A With Schiller Grounds Care Inc. President

In February 2009, Commercial Grounds Care Inc. (CGC), manufacturer of BOB-CAT, Bunton, Ryan and Steiner brand power equipment, and Schiller-Pfeiffer Inc. (SPI), manufacturer of Classen, Little Wonder and Mantis brand power equipment, will begin operating solely as Schiller Grounds Care Inc. President Pat Cappucci will continue to oversee operations. Below we discuss with him what led to this decision and how dealers may benefit.

Q: What led to the decision to merge CGC and SPI into one brand?

Operating as two companies was not adding value for our customers or us. In fact, in a number of cases it made us difficult to do business with. Therefore, the decision to move to one company was relatively straightforward. We are maintaining and strengthening our most important brands—our leading product brands such as BOB-CAT, Ryan, Mantis, Little Wonder, Steiner, Bunton and Classen.

Q: Why was operating as two seperate companies not adding value for customers?

We had successfully unified many aspects of the affiliated business practices of the two companies early on, such as marketing and sales. Other departmental duties remained separate for both companies for quite some time, such as IT, accounting and customer service.

As of January, we are utilizing one central system for all products regardless of their manufacturing location, we have one toll-free number, one corporate website, and one customer service department to assist our customers from a corporate perspective. Individual brands are maintaining separate service centers where appropriate. This all adds value to our customers.

Q: Why were the companies not merged initially in 2006?

The acquisition of Textron’s commerical grounds care division included several brands of products, an entire manufacturing facility and nearly 160 employees. In essence, the acquisition equated to a whole company and its products and services. It was best to treat it as such.

The new Commerical Grounds Care Inc. faced many challenges and transition deadlines—from advertisments to sales programs, and new accounting systems to dedicated websites. By affiliating the two companies we could utilize the strength of both workforces to ensure a successful transition period. It was through the combined efforts of CGC and SPI employees that we were able to overcome those challenges in a timely fashion, and meet our deadlines while continuing to focus on and grow SPI.

Now that the CGC transition period has ended, we are entering 2009 as a united company with an integrated workforce and strong 2009 business plan that focuses on brand awareness and continued product development.

Q: What did the merger entail?

Completed on January 1, the merger involved two years of preparation—merging payroll systems, the launch of a new corporate website, online parts and warranty services, as well as many marketing aspects of the new company name.

A merger like this also requires a change in the mindset of our employees. Independently, we are two successful mid-sized companies. Each has its own valuable reputation to the customer. United, we will become a larger organization within the green industry and will strive to infuse the finest attributes of both companies.

Q: What are some of the downfalls you fear and how will you prevent/remedy them?

The only real potential I see for a hiccup is with our employees, some of whom had pride in the original company names. We are using this as an opportunity to unify everyone toward a common goal, and a new direction for us together.

Q: How will the merger affect distribution?

It will not have any substantial effect. Our distribution channels are determined by product brand, not our company name. The different brands require different channel approaches to maximize their reach in the market.

We will continue to evolve our channels to serve our brands and customers. Dealers will see a greater focus on our product brands and product lines. Having two company names only added confusion, no value.

Q: How does a greater focus on your product brands and product lines translate into improved dealer satisfaction?

We manufacture seven well-respected brands of commercial and residential landscaping and grounds care equipment in the green industry. To help the dealer make the most of our brand-focused efforts, we launched “Pro” websites in 2008. These secured sites offer many value-added services to the dealer, such as Print Express, which allows a dealer to customize catalogs, postcards and mailers, sell sheets and other promotional materials for each brand.

We also offer a parts look-up and ordering system, online warranty registration and claim processing. We are expanding upon our Pro site services in 2009. In addition, we offer a Company Store where dealers can purchase branded POP material. We’ve also launched an online Sales & Service School for dealers.

These services all come at a cost. As a unified company, we can host these dedicated sites through one portal and keep our costs down. Reducing our internal costs allows us to increase services to our dealers.

Q: How will the streamlined ordering process benefit dealers?

Dealers shouldn’t see any change on processing as the dealer orders through their channel partner. A more noticeable benefit for the dealer will be in the services we are now able to offer them.

A single website portal makes ordering parts and processing warranty claims for multiple brands easier and more efficient. Dedicated brand sites remain accessible within the main corporate site so that dealers can access dedicated brand marketing material, sales and service training schools, and more. These are all value-added benefits to the dealer.

For more information on Schiller Grounds Care Inc., visit schillergroundscare.com.