It's not often that the president and CEO of a large landscaping company with six locations scattered across a state is seen behind the controls and operating equipment. But that's exactly what happened a few years ago in Charlotte, North Carolina, when a larger-than-expected snowstorm blanketed the city. Kurt Bland, president and CEO of Bland Landscaping, got right to work when his staff was left shorthanded after the inclement weather event.
Using an Ariens Power Brush 36, Bland worked more than 100 hours over a five-day period to clear customer sidewalks. He knew that he needed this exact piece of machinery to get the job done. The work left an impression, and Ariens and Gravely products remain Bland Landscaping's tools of choice.
"I wouldn't ask my crew to do anything that I wouldn't do," Bland said. "We didn't have enough guys to shovel all the walkways, so I used a trailer to carry the Ariens Power Brush to different job sites across the area. Let me tell you, there's no way that we would have finished clearing the sidewalks for all of our customers without that machine."
Bland has grown with the Apex, North Carolina-based company since its founding—literally. He was born in 1975, and the very next year, his parents Tom and Nancy Bland opened the doors for business. The business has established locations throughout the state and it's looking to expand beyond those borders. Bland Landscaping now employs more than 350 people and uses Ariens and Gravely machines, exclusively. It has also won numerous state and national awards over the years, including being named a Top 100 landscaping company by Lawn & Landscape and Landscape Management.
Bland and his brother Matt took over Bland Landscaping in 2004 when their father handed over the reins, and the two subsequently decided to switch the equipment in the fleet over to the Ariens and Gravely brands. Before making the transition, Bland Landscaping had used machines from a variety of different manufacturers. However, Bland felt that sticking with Ariens and Gravely would be the best move because, as a relatively large landscaper that works on sizable job sites, the company demands high-performance, industrial machinery that offers a low total cost of ownership and a high return on investment.
"I think the best way to operate a fleet is to stick with one manufacturer and work through any problems together," Bland said. "As a company that operates across the entire state, our needs are a little bit different and we need machines that help us efficiently complete jobs for large areas. Ariens and Gravely equipment is productive and efficient, and it meets the needs of commercial landscapers. With a majority of our work being done for commercial office parks and homeowners associations, we need machines that are versatile and can handle just about any job."
Bland Landscaping deploys the full lineup of Ariens and Gravely products, from mowersto snow blowers and leaf vacuums. Because the company works in all types of weather conditions, there may be times when employees store the mowers in late November and then have to bring them back out in late December to do some touch-ups, only to clear snow two weeks later.
"While we mow about 44 times a year over about a 10-month span, from December through February we have to be prepared for snow, too," Bland said. "This past January, there was one Monday where it was nine degrees outside and then by Friday it was in the 80s. That's just the climate we live in."
With the demands of a commercial fleet, durability and maintenance are chief concerns. If a machine isn't working properly, Bland Landscaping has the resources available to fix the issue in one of its two mechanic shops, or it can rely on the AriensCo dealer network for reliable equipment servicing. Bland said the quality and durability of Ariens and Gravely machines ensure increased uptime for the company's fleet, and it's what sets AriensCo apart from other manufacturers.
"AriensCo really listens to our needs and delivers. Also, when you can say that you've had dinner with the CEO of a company, like I have with Dan Ariens, that means something," Bland said. "It reflects the culture that Dan and the Ariens family have cultivated over the years, which is difficult to do in a company their size. That is pretty powerful!"