It’s 33°C in southern Denmark. After weeks of searing heat, all the grass is yellow and contractors have nothing left to cut. With machines idle and operators at home, companies need deep roots and smart strategies to cope. OKNygaard has both.
Peter Porup is a firm believer in strategic planning. As one of four OKNygaard directors, he decides which machines the thriving contractor buys or leases for its broad portfolio. In addition to lawn and turf services, the company also has a ‘concrete’ division that installs sewers and builds large surfaces such as car parks. Together, these two pillars give the business the stability and flexibility it needs to adapt and grow, backed by multi-year contracts that enable solid financial planning.
With eleven fleets of machinery – one at each company base –, OKNygaard has an impressive stock of equipment. But as Peter points out, it’s the people who matter most. “You need the right people and the right structures in place to grow a business like ours. This is a team effort, not a one-man operation. And we build our team carefully.”
With friendly, efficient service and a smart corporate image, OKNygaard has a good reputation that’s equally attractive for staff and customers alike. As Peter says, every one of the 560 employees is a company salesperson too.
Speaking of sales, Peter’s relationship with his John Deere turf dealer is another important success factor. He and Ole Mathiesen go back a long way and have done a lot of business over the years. In 2003, Ole was the man who delivered Peter’s very first green machine; today, OKNygaard runs about 80 John Deere turf products. The current fleet ranges from a 1550 front mower to a 1600 wide rotary mower, plus a selection of tractors that includes ten brand-new 2036Rs and extends up to 6-Series machines. All are new or recent, in keeping with company policy.
In terms of TCO, the eleven local managers know from experience that investing in John Deere pays dividends through higher uptime. But it’s not just about the machines. Peter regularly tests competitor products too, and has no qualms about prodding Ole to come up with even better solutions. And that’s when things get really interesting.
Ole Mathiesen began as a mechanic, then switched to sales and went on to run his own John Deere dealership for ten years before selling it to Semler Agro. So if you want a creative turf solution that works, Ole is the man to see. Just 4 weeks ago, Peter called to say a regional manager needed a rotary mower for a new football pitch contract, and what did Ole think of the configuration he wanted to buy? Ole listened carefully, then shook his head and came up with a solution that was different – and 2000 kg lighter. “At the demo, the manager and staff watched very carefully indeed,” Ole recalls. “First with a frown, then with a smile … and afterwards they said it was the best they’d ever seen.”
I see myself more as a machine consultant than a salesman.
For Peter and his company, it’s vital to have a partner who shares their ability to plan ahead and think outside the box. Ole Mathiesen and John Deere are happy to support the company’s structure wherever they can – for example in service and repairs for its John Deere fleet. Like many contractors, OKNygaard takes care of routine maintenance and repairs itself. But instead of maintaining workshops at all 11 bases, it deploys its very own ‘rapid response’ team: the Blue Men.
Blue Men are trained OKNygaard mechanics who drive out to operators in the field when a blade or belt needs replacing. They also perform routine maintenance on the company’s John Deeres at six or twelve-month intervals. Whenever they need support, they call their opposite numbers at John Deere for professional assistance and on-the-spot parts orders.
As a service company, we demand outstanding service too. That’s why we run John Deere.
This personal service is just another example of how important people and people skills are in today’s business environment. It’s easy to talk values and philosophies when business is booming. But when a heatwave like the one in 2018 strikes, the way a company treats its people really shows.
Like most contractors, OKNygaard has a contingent of supply workers to buffer the impact for employees, and a ‘time bank’ that staff can fill in busy months, then drain in quiet spells to keep their income steady. But the company goes much further than that. “We want our people to grow,” explains Peter Porup. “So we encourage them to learn new skills on a company course, or even re-train completely, instead of staying at home.”
For Peter Porup, staying at home has never been an option anyway. On top of the passion for golf he shares with his family, Peter is a keen (and highly competitive) cyclist who thoroughly enjoys mountain biking and long-distance road racing with his local club. As Ole Mathiesen points out, this is one area where he and his long-time customer will never see eye-to-eye. “Why sweat from Denmark to Paris when you can drive an air conditioned car instead?”