Trust, reliability drive success and mower choice for Wisconsin contractor
Aaron Van Ranst, for years, had wanted to get into the lawn and landscaping business. In 1999, he found his entry when he purchased an established 10-account business. Since then, he has built Prestige Lawn & Landscape, based in Baldwin, WI, to mowing 200 lawns a week, for about 65 clients (about half residential and half commercial), including two 70-unit condominium associations. As part of the business Van Ranst acquired, he inherited a Grasshopper mower, which continued to serve him for the first couple of years and which made a positive impression on him for its comfort and workhorse reliability.
“Once I got off the ground and was looking for a new mower, I dug through a whole pile of research on all of the different mowers,” Van Ranst says. “I read up on the Grasshopper Company, and I felt like it was a good fit because it seems like they’re a small town company that really cares about you. And I had good luck with the one mower I had.”
With the research and first-hand experience in hand, Van Ranst bought his first new Grasshopper Model 225 with a 61-inch deck in 2001 and has purchased another dozen Grasshoppers since then. His two most recent acquisitions, also taking place after much research, are 327 electronic fuel injection (EFI) models.
“For a while, I had a 227 standard gasoline model and the new 327EFI.” Van Ranst says. “In comparing them side-by-side, the 327EFI was a lot better, more efficient with fuel use. We can run all day on a tank of gas and never have to stop to fill up with gas. And to me, it has more power. When you get into some heavier grass, you notice the fuel injection kick in, and you get that extra power boost.”
Van Ranst says he considered purchasing a diesel-powered Grasshopper before he went with EFI but because his jobs usually don’t involve mowing fields or high grass, the EFI provides all the power he needs. Van Ranst, who runs two mowers at a time as part of his fleet and puts about 700 hours a year on them, trades in or sells one of his machines every two years, and re-sale considerations were part of his decision to choose EFI.
“These 327EFIs are so much easier for me to re-sell than a diesel,” Van Ranst explains. “The homeowners I usually sell to don’t want diesels because they are more expensive. We can sell these EFIs to a homeowner, and they’re going to run forever for those guys for the hours they’re putting on them.
“Every Grasshopper mower I’ve ever had, I’ve sold, and every one of those mowers is still running. It’s pretty impressive. I can drive around my area here and see my old mowers running. All of the people I’ve sold them to have been tickled pink that they’re still running, and they get a good mower at a reasonable price.”
Van Ranst says the hard-working, trustworthy mowers are a perfect fit for him and how he operates in his small hometown of Baldwin. He says he’s proud to say that everything he buys and all of his accounts are situated within an 8-mile radius of his home. His Grasshopper dealership, Value Implement, is also right there in Baldwin, and Randy, the salesman from whom Van Ranst bought his first Grasshopper still serves him there.
“To me, trust and loyalty is what I base my business on,” Van Ranst says. “and that’s what I look for in a company, whether it be a dealership or the company that makes the mower. We’re in a small town, and loyalty is huge to us. So that’s why I keep buying from the same place, from the same salesman and the same mowers.”
Van Ranst says Prestige’s business has evolved over the years, based simply on market demand, to include less landscaping work. Today, nearly all of the company’s business is lawn care and mowing services. He has one full-time employee who mows along with him, 40-60 hours a week during the May-September mowing season. A part-time employee provides additional support when needed.
Ongoing support from and dialogue with Grasshopper is another aspect that contributes to Van Ranst’s commitment to the company.
“The Grasshopper rep will come around, and he’ll text me,” Van Ranst says. “We’re always in contact, and it seems like I don’t get lost in the shuffle with Grasshopper. If I have any questions, I can either call my dealer or call the Grasshopper Company, and they’re always there and willing to help. And they’ve got questions for me too, like when the EFI models first came out. They wanted to know what was going on in the field and how the mowers were working.”
Van Ranst says the open dialogue and his zeal for the Grasshopper brand has turned him into a de-facto brand evangelist.
“It’s kind of a running joke at the dealer downtown that I sell more Grasshoppers for them than they do,” Van Ranst says. “If anyone has questions, they send them over to me, and I tell them what I think.” He says he sells people interested in the brand on the reliability and trust he has in Grasshopper and its mowers.
“Grasshopper is a huge part of our success,” he adds. “If we have down time, we’re behind. If I’ve got to work all weekend because we spend a day fixing mowers that are breaking down, then I can’t see my family, and I’m just wasting time. I need a reliable machine that’s not going to break down, and I need somebody I can trust that the machine’s going to get back in a reasonable time if it does need some repair. I can’t imagine how any other lawnmower would stay running the way these do. When you put 700 hours on a mower in a year, and you’re not in the shop once, it’s pretty amazing, so I don’t know why I’d ever switch.”
Using Grasshopper mowers, Aaron Van Ranst has built Prestige Lawn & Landscape from 10 accounts in 1999 to about 65 in 2015. He mows 200 lawns a week.
The 327 EFI mower is a huge part of Van Ranst’s success. The fuel economy of the mower’s electronic fuel injection lets him mow all day on one tank of gas while providing all the power he needs.
The 327 EFI is a hard-working and trustworthy mower and plays a huge part in Van Ranst’s success