Story written for GreenIndustryPros.com and first appeared November 2021
Function or form? It is a question we all face, both in business and personal life. Essentially, should something be purposeful or look good?
Wes Alseth says, “Why can’t you have both?”
Wes and his wife, Steph own Red Oak Landscape and Design, where the idea of having both function and form is key in how they serve customers. While those outside the business might think that landscape is all about form – pretty shrubs, eye-pleasing paver patios, attractive retaining walls – any professional landscaper would likely agree with Wes.
“Good landscape design is about function as much as form,” he says. “From drainage issues to privacy needs, we use landscaping as solutions to customer problems, while adding visual beauty to their home.”
Red Oak Landscape and Design
Red Oak Landscape and Design is based in Big Lake, Minnesota, just outside the Twin Cities metro area. In the first few years that the Alseths have been business owners, they have seen a steady uptick in business, in line with the growing suburban area they serve.
Wes and Steph have struck a great balance of splitting time between the office and jobsite. Wes takes on most of the sales and design work and runs equipment onsite. Steph manages the schedule and bookkeeping and does more of the detailed and manual labor.
By choice, Red Oak Landscape and Design does not have a large equipment fleet.
“When we first started our business, we bought the only piece of machinery we could afford, a compact tractor,” Wes explained.
The company provides a full range of services, including demo, removal, edging, tree and shrub planting, patios, retaining walls and mulch and rock installs. With a diverse array of offerings, paired with steady growth, Wes recently realized he needed to look at upgrading to a more versatile machine.
“Our compact tractor was no longer cutting it so my first thought was I needed a skid steer,” he recalled.
However, he quickly eliminated the skid steer from contention, not because it couldn’t provide the versatility he was seeking, but on account of a pair of challenges.
The first challenge: getting equipment and materials where they need to be.
“Houses are so close together, sometimes there are fences and gates, and it gets pretty tight. That’s pretty common,” Wes said, noting he would need a machine with a design even more compact than a skid steer. Another layer to this issue was something more unique to his company: often having multiple clients in a single neighborhood.
“A machine designed to quickly get from one house to another would be a bonus,” he said.
The second challenge: delicate residential lawns.
“Skid steers are heavy and I’ve had firsthand experience with them damaging lawns,” Wes said. “I remember it would add at least another day and cost for us to go back and fix the damage the machine caused.”
With his specific criteria, Wes was worried it would be a long shot to find exactly what he wanted. Then he came across the Vermeer ATX compact articulated loader.
Finding the Right Equipment
“When I’m looking for something, I research it to death,” Wes said with a laugh. His thorough research led Wes to the Vermeer ATX. “It looked like exactly what I needed. It had tons of specific attachments and it doesn’t destroy yards.”
Digging deeper, Wes found a video from RDO Equipment Co. that gave him more insight into how the ATX moved and operated. Watch the video now to see a walkaround overview of the Vermeer ATX.
Getting the Right Attachments
Wes was pleasantly surprised to learn the nearest RDO store was only 20 minutes from Big Lake, right off Interstate 94 in the city of Dayton. He visited the store and met two Vermeer-focused team members: Mark Rieckhoff, RDO regional sales manager and Pat Arnold, account manager. The ATX was brand new to the market in 2021, but Mark and Pat were able to give Wes a thorough overview and walkaround.
Wanting to start the relationship right and give Wes full confidence in his purchase, Pat also gave him the opportunity to try the ATX. That sealed the deal for Wes. “As soon as I demoed it, I bought it,” he said.
In a similar way that Wes and Steph approach their customers with a problem-solving mindset, the RDO team is also one determined to overcome challenges for customers. Pat wanted to help Wes make the most of his machine investment and really solve his number one pain point, the need for greater versatility. Enter attachments.
In learning about Wes’ company and his challenge, Pat realized that the ATX would be the only machine in Red Oak’s fleet, as Wes planned to sell the compact tractor and use the proceeds for his new investment. He and Wes discussed all the applications the ATX would need to accomplish and Pat knew that the right attachments would be key to solving Wes’ challenge.
Pat presented the available options, highlighting a handful that he felt would accomplish what Wes needed. Based on typical compact equipment sales, Pat expected Wes would invest in two, maybe three attachments right off the bat.
“Wes stepped up that game and ordered seven!” Pat said with a laugh. Wes was quick to point out that he actually wanted even more attachments to start, but initially settled on three different types of buckets, two types of forks, a grapple and an auger.
Almost immediately upon getting it out to the jobsite, Wes was pleased with the machine, saying, “It didn’t meet my expectations. It exceeded my expectations.”Achieving the Results
Thanks to its weight and turf tires, the ATX causes minimal ground disturbance. It has met Wes’ goal of eliminating costly lawn damage and time-consuming rework. Additionally, the machine’s design enables Wes to get where he needs to go, quickly – that includes going from house to house and getting through narrow gates and access points. Related article: Get answers to top questions about the Vermeer ATX
The other game-changer for Wes goes back to function. “The attachments are what I like best about the ATX,” he said. “If there’s a specific task I need to accomplish, I just swap in the attachment I need.”
The functionality and possibilities that come with attachments has offered an extra benefit to save Wes time and money in one other area – and, more importantly, address another major pain point.
“Renting is a great option, but it doesn’t always make the most sense for us” he said. “There is a cost but also it adds time to the process: drive to the rental center, get set up, bring back the equipment. With our small crew, we don’t always have the time for it.”
Having limited equipment, Wes often looks to short-term rentals when he needs to accomplish a specific task. But now, with the ATX, Wes says, “I can just keep adding attachments instead of renting.” With demolition being one of Red Oak’s key services, Wes is eyeing a jackhammer as the next attachment he plans to buy.
Both he and Steph appreciate the way the machine’s function and form add up to real savings on jobsites, both in time and labor.
“Mulch top dress is a common spring project,” Wes said, sharing one example. “A job that required 30 yards, we’d do it with four workers and a wheelbarrow, and that would take us at least two days. Now, we do that same job with two people and the ATX, and it only takes one day.”The Value of Service
As well as the machine has performed, equipment is nothing without service backing it up. For the RDO team, demonstrating their parts and service support capabilities was important to show Wes how they approach partnership long after the sale of a machine and work to their goal of building a customer for life in Red Oak Landscape and Design.
“At some point, every machine is going to need service,” Pat said. Whether during routine maintenance or a breakdown, Pat shares that RDO customers get peace of mind that they will get that parts and service they need, when they need it. Wes can attest to that, early-on experiencing this timely promise of service in action.
“RDO saved the day for me the first time I used the grapple,” he said. “Long story short, I made a mistake and the coupler snapped off. RDO sent a service technician out in less than an hour. He was able to get the piece back to the shop and fix it, then get the repaired piece back out and install it on the machine that same day.”
It is still fairly early on in Wes’ use of the Vermeer ATX but he appreciates knowing that the RDO team has his back in the event an issue pops up or something goes wrong.
“It’s like car or home insurance,” Mark said, referring to equipment service support. “You hope you never need it but you absolutely need to know it is there.”All In a Day’s Work
The Vermeer ATX has helped Red Oak Landscape and Design continue to deliver on its promise to provide both function and form for customers. Better yet, the machine’s versatility and speed has allowed the crew to keep up with growing demand. Wes has been able to continue splitting time between being in the office, meeting with customers and getting to work on the jobsite.
“As we grow, it is absolutely crucial to Steph and me that we get to keep working onsite, doing the work for our customers,” Wes said. “We don’t want to spend all day in the office. We like to get dirty, we like to sweat, we like to work hard.”
Fortunately, that hard work is made a little easier and much more productive by having the right machine.
Find out more about low lease payments and the different models of the Vermeer ATX
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or to learn more about equipment, parts, and service, contact your local RDO Equipment Co. store