For Mike Ruegsegger, owner and sole operator of Mike's Lawn Service in Gaylord, Mich., delivering detailed, topquality service isn't just one way of doing business for his customers, it's the only way.
Providing the best service possible is something Ruegsegger learned during his nearly 30 years in the supermarket business before becoming a full-time lawn service contractor 17 years ago. "You can go anywhere to buy a can of beans, so if you don't provide good service, they won't be back," he says.
He demonstrates his commitment to service and a quality cut by walking the properties he mows because he likes to know what he's mowing and how it feels so he can get the best look and cut. "If Better Homes & Gardens won't come take a photo of the property when I'm finished, then I have not done my job," Ruegsegger says. "I go the extra mile to take care of my customers."
Ruegsegger's use of Grasshopper diesel mowers and PowerVac™ collection systems plays an important role in the well manicured, magazine-worthy lawns he maintains for 24 high-end accounts, about 70% being residential and the rest commercial. Besides mowing, irrigation and snow removal, he does a small amount of landscaping, fertilizing, weed control, and shrub and tree trimming for clients who need those services.
Ruegsegger bought his first Grasshopper, a model 721D, in 2000 and successfully used it for years before selling it to a young man getting started in his own lawn maintenance business. He now has two Grasshopper mowers, a 725DT, with 52-inch deck and HighLift™ 15B PowerVac™ collection system, and a 928D with 61-inch deck and 15B PowerVac™ system.
In addition to the diesel Grasshopper models he runs, Ruegsegger also operates diesel trucks for his business. He likes the power and torque that diesel provides. One time, when his 721D was in for maintenance, he was given a gasoline-powered loaner. The difference in time to complete a job was telling, he says. "It took at least 25 percent more time to do the same job with the gaspowered mower as it did with my diesel," he estimates. "I also like the diesel mowers' fuel economy."
Mowing is just one of the capabilities of Grasshopper products that contributes to the beautifully manicured lawns and grounds Ruegsegger and his clients expect. He points out that another area in which Grasshopper excels is grass and leaf collection, especially for spring and "The PowerVac™ system works great," Ruegsegger says. "There's not a better collector available – even with wet leaves. By the time leaves fall in Michigan, snow is right behind it – sometimes just a couple weeks away. So there's a limited window to get them picked up. The PowerVac does the job well."
He says he had heard about the HighLift™ system, which allows the operator to raise and extend the collector up to 72 inches from the operator's seat for easy emptying. He then saw the video and asked Grasshopper factory rep Bob Michalski about it before buying one. Ruegsegger has a dump trailer for the clippings, leaves and other
debris that his HighLift™ 15B picks up. He starts emptying at the lowest level and raises the HighLift™ on subsequent trips as the trailer fills up. This has relieved him from having to use a pitch fork to distribute clippings to fill up the trailer – and that saves his back.
As he ages, Ruegsegger, 63, explains he is beginning to scale back his business, going from 35 accounts last year to 24 now. Ultimately, he plans to sell the business, but even after that, he plans to service a few accounts to stay active. He only mows high-end properties, including farm homes and nice estates on lakes, and he prides himself on leaving well-manicured lawns on each property.
Ruegsegger's focus on beautiful lawns is also shown in his meticulous commitment to regular maintenance and service on his equipment. He keeps a maintenance log on each mower and does most of his own service, checking the oil and grease daily, changing the oil and filters every 100 hours, keeping his blades sharp, and blowing off the dust and grass from each machine before loading it back on his trailer. Every three years, he runs each mower through his dealership, Willard's Equipment Company, Inc. in West Branch, Mich., for frontto- back maintenance. He tells the mechanic to treat the mower as if it was his own and fix everything that needs fixing.
"I am very particular about my equipment because I need it on the ground and working and not in the shop," Ruegsegger explains. Employing mowers and collection systems from Grasshopper allows him to have that reliability while providing comfort, convenience and a top-quality, manicured cut. He says setting a high standard for his business is difficult but, ultimately worth it.
"Being a mowing contractor is not easy," he says. "You have to get up at 5 a.m. and put in a full day. It's hard work, and you must be dedicated and self-motivated to succeed. If you don't want to do that, it's not the type of business for you. I always go after quality, not quantity, and people know that while I may be more expensive, I deliver excellent quality and customer service."