The benefits of early order programs

By |  October 7, 2019 0 Comments
Alan FitzGerald

Alan FitzGerald

Every year as fall rolls around, superintendents across the country breathe a sigh of relief that they survived the summer’s 90 days of hell and look forward to a relatively easy period where the turf can take care of itself. Meanwhile, on the “dark side” of the industry, sales reps are starting their 30 days of hell and ramping up for Early Order Program (EOP) season.

The sudden uptick in calls and texts to set up sales appointments in late September is the not-so-subtle reminder that it’s EOP time.

The general consensus is, “Why do we have to do this now?” and the usual opening line from the reps is, “I know you guys are, ‘Ugh, I just got done with this year, I can’t even think about next!’ but I still have to drop this off.”

My participation in EOPs over the years has greatly increased, largely because of clearer programs and newer, more efficient products. When I first became a superintendent, I saved money by using generic pesticides, which at the time were similar to the brand-name lines. As the brand-name companies launched newer, high-efficacy products, simple math showed that these products cost less. The longer residuals reduced the price per acre, even before considering factors like extra labor for multiple applications needed to maintain the same coverage. The benefit of these products, coming with EOP savings upward of 25 percent, makes it even easier to justify purchasing them.

Gone also are the days when you got purchase points that could be traded for stuff. I never liked that method. There always was an awkward conversation trying to explain to a GM that the club has credits that will expire if they are not used to “buy” something from this catalogue — essentially paying for the item out of the pesticide budget.

The current programs are a lot cleaner because the club can see actual savings. Saying that, it would be nice to have all the rebates rolled in upfront because it throws off my inventory prices and makes it difficult to work out exact savings.

Going back to the big EOP complaint — not wanting to think about next year — I like putting together a rough game plan for applications for the following season. I know it will change because of the weather, but having a guideline of when I want to apply certain products is great for planning. I use EOPs for 60 to 75 percent of my purchases, and supplement the remainder based on what the season brings. EOP time coincides with the club’s budget preparation, so it helps me plan expenditures for the upcoming year and provides a clear monthly breakdown of costs — greatly helping the club’s cash flow.

While the Irishman in me loves a bit of wheeling and dealing, I like that EOPs have agency pricing, so the purchases ultimately go to those who provide the best service and not to those willing to discount more. There are no downsides other than having delivered — but unpaid for — product in my inventory over the winter; it shows as a liability.

Knowing I can use the latest products, with their benefits of better control and longer periods of efficacy — while also getting the best value for the club — makes participating in EOP programs worthwhile.

Alan FitzGerald is superintendent at LedgeRock Golf Club and this year’s Herb Graffis businessperson of the year.

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