Smarty Pontz

The Lawn & Garden Performance Group LLC Newsletter  

              November 2013  book

Lawn & Garden News You Can Use

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Consultant

 by: Rick Pontz


First, there is no sense jumping in with both feet and start looking to hiring a consultant until you have a clear understand of what you want the consultant to do and to what you want them to accomplish.


Prior to interviewing a consultant prepare a "needs list" which is very similar to a job description. Even if you'd like the consultant to help you define your objectives you should at least have an outline prior to interviewing potential consultants.


There are many reasons why your lawn and garden company may be ready to hire a consultant including;


  • When you need specific expertise that doesn't reside in house.
  • When you simply need another pair of hands or more feet on the street
  • When you need to bring internal or external people together
  • When you need to deliver a message that can't come from the inside
  • When you need the freedom to think collectively and come to consensus and closure.
  • When you need a disinterested or disinvested party and voice

Many companies we talk to end up hiring the first person they talk to regardless if it is a manufacturer representative they met at a trade show that also consults or a consultant that is very successful marketing their consulting company and not so successful actually reaching the consulting objectives of their clients.


Here are a few questions you should ask a consulting company prior to making your decision:

  1. What is the consultant's special area of expertise? Consultants are like everyone else, they are great at some things and not so great at other things. Though many consultants like to be considered generalists, consultant's skill-sets and expertise vary greatly. I've met some consultants who could sell anything to Walmart but had no clue how to sell to independent stores or hardware stores and couldn't generate marketing material or read a spread sheet if their life depended upon it. Consultants lose their value when they get out of their area of expertise. Does the consultant's area of expertise match what you want them to do for you? Ask if the consultant has done similar work for other lawn and garden companies. Choosing a consultant with the exact area of expertise you want can increase the quality of the work and may reduce the cost. Problems with consultants often arise when they work in areas in which they are unfamiliar but try to stretch to fit what you are looking for.


Just because a consultant has spent 25 or more years selling, marketing and developing fertilizer products doesn't mean he has the ability to help you understand the irrigation or animal repellant category. Has the consultant worked in your product category? Does the consultant personally know the product category players? Choosing a consultant who is knowledgeable of both the lawn and garden industry and your product category will improve the quality of the result and decrease the amount of time needed to achieve the result.


2. What type of information and reports will the consultant provide you? What type of hard copy deliverables do you expect? A weekly detailed report in writing? A monthly report? Copies of all the consultants communications regarding the consulting project? Financial Analysis and projections? Weekly conference calls? Do you require specific market intelligence reports on your product category, or competitive landscape? During the interviewing process it is important you clearly define your expectations, ask and confirm the consultant can deliver them within an agreed to timeline.


3. Ask for a sample of the consultant's work and reports. The consultant can eradicate the identity of the company or project to maintain confidentiality but the material should be reflective of what they will provide you if engaged.


4. Ask how the consultant structures their fees and contracts. Ask for a specific proposal including all costs and how the costs are related to the results of the project. Determine if the consultant will be cost effective in comparison to the project you want them to do. Never sign a Consulting agreement without a built in 30 day "opt out" clause that will allow you to terminate the agreement with 30-days' notice. Always have legal counsel review the agreement prior to signature.


5. References. Ask for three references of companies within the lawn and garden industry the consultant has worked with within the last two years that are similar to your company or to your consulting needs that you can talk to. Insure those references aren't companies such as manufacturer representatives that actually work for the the consultant. Ask the references the following questions :


a. What was the consultant supposed to do for them and did they do it?

b. Did the consultant actually increase their business or not. By how much?

c. Was the consultant cost effective?

d.What didn't they like about the consultant and why?

e. Would they hire the consultant again?


Hiring a consultant is like hiring an employee and will take up both financial resources and the resources of your time and probably some of your employee's time. Consider both quantitative and qualitative outcomes that you would like to have from your work with your consultant.


The best consultants are worthless if you can't implement and maintain their suggested changes or support the consultant in achieving their objectives. Thus, a large part of what consultants will do for you is educate you and your employees on necessary knowledge, skills, and mindsets. Finding the right one by asking the right questions will dramatically improve the results you are expecting.

Myths & Rumors 


Tractor Supply, with more than 1,200 mostly rural retail stores around the country, understands that there are "hundreds" of online sources for consumers to buy the things that Tractor Supply sells. But the company has every intention to gain share and grow its online operation. One interesting observation: 30% of the consumers are coming to Tractor Supply's website from a mobile device.



Trade promotions are no longer generating the same level of sales lift as they have in the past. With their shopping behaviors

fundamentally changed, shoppers are making fewer impulse purchases and often expect to find their favorite items on promotion. Retailers are evolving to more complex Every Day Low Price (EDLP) and Hybrid EDLP strategies, and seeking new ways to drive shopper trips and larger baskets(dollar sales per checkout). Smart manufacturers are shifting their trade promotion strategies to become better aligned

with the evolving marketplace.


According the "Mobile Consumer Report: Combat Showrooming with Personalization " released by the mobile marketing firm Vibes.


The report finds that 44 percent of shoppers in Vibes' study said they frequently engage in showrooming, the act of visiting a brick-and-mortar store to view merchandise but searching online for a lower price.

Almost half 49 percent of the surveyed shoppers compare prices of the products on your shelf to those on your competitors' Web sites. While only 23 percent say they bought the product from a competitor, that's an increase from the 9 percent in 2012.

The report also found that of the surveyed shoppers:

  • 24 percent purchased a product from the store's website after leaving (up from 11 percent in 2012).
  • 40 percent researched a product on the store's website (up from 20 percent in 2012).
  • 49 percent looked up product reviews (up from 31 percent in 2012).
  • 25 percent used a company's mobile app (up from 17 percent in 2012).







On the Road 

I will be attending the following industry events:
January 8th-10th, MANTS - Baltimore, MD
January 13th-15th, CETS - Columbus, OH
February 5th -7th, New England Grows - Boston, MA 



Check Out Our Web Site

Are you looking to:


Buy a company, brand or product?


Sell a company, brand or product?


Work within the lawn & garden industry?
Hire within the lawn & garden industry?
Visit for more information.
Find us on Facebook   

Pass It On

 * PASS IT ON: Please feel free to forward this online newsletter to any colleague that is interested in any of the information included in this newsletter (with copyright notice intact.) 

 * SUBSCRIBING: Get your own "Smarty Pontz" newsletter. If you are receiving this issue as a forward, and would like to get your own subscription, please visit and sign up for your own copy.

Your e-mail address stays with us.  We do not sell, rent, lease or loan our mailing list.

* USAGE & DUPLICATION "Smarty Pontz" Newsletter by The Lawn & Garden Performance Group LLC is a free electronic newsletter. Reproduction of this content must include the following attribution: Reproduced with permission from The Lawn & Garden Performance Group LLC.  Rick Pontz is President of The Lawn & Garden Performance Group LLC. He is a nationally recognized marketer, author, and consultant on lawn & garden mergers, acquisitions, strategic alliances, marketing rights agreements and the introduction of products to the lawn & garden industry.  Contact Rick at 480-840-6023 or 602-549-6752.


About Us 

The Lawn & Garden Performance Group LLC provides a full range of services to companies, including  identifying new market opportunities for existing business and serving as intermediary and negotiator to companies seeking acquisitions, mergers or strategic alliances. Launching new companies, brands or products in the lawn & garden industry, trouble shooting, market and sales analysis, recruiting, training and managing direct sales forces and manufacturer representative agencies.
The Lawn & Garden Performance Group LLC provides Lawn & Garden manufacturers with the tools it takes to successfully market their new products.  The Lawn & Garden Performance Group LLC was formed in 1999 under the leadership of Rick Pontz.  Rick is a noted guest speaker at many industry events and has been an active member of professional organizations including being a board member of the National Hardware Show, General Merchandise Distributors Council, Lawn & Garden Merchandise Council, and the Lawn & Garden Marketing and Distribution Association.
Rick, who held positions of president, vice president of sales & marketing and national sales manager at various lawn & garden companies over the past two decades, said he was driven to start the company after watching numerous products fail. "Most of the products failed not because of lack of performance or consumer demand," Rick said. "They failed because the product marketers didn't know about or didn't pay attention to the idiosyncrasies and pathways to marketing lawn & garden products."
phone: (480) 840-6023
web: http:/
Rick Pontz, author, speaker and veteran business development expert in the lawn and garden industry, founded The Lawn & Garden Performance Group, LLC in 1999.
 During his tenure in the lawn and garden industry, Rick has managed large and small lawn and garden product companies as President, Executive Vice President, Vice President of Sales & Marketing and as International Sales Manager. Rick Pontz was the primary negotiator in 14 acquisitions within the last five years and has successfully introduced over 42 products to the lawn and garden industry during the last twenty years. Many of the products are currently being sold by such major retailers as Home Depot, Lowes, ACE Hardware, WalMart, True Value, Target & Kmart.
Mr. Pontz has been an active member of professional organizations including General Merchandise Distributors Council, Lawn & Garden Merchandise Council, Mailorder Gardening Association and the Garden Writers Association. He is on the advisory board of the National Hardware Show and the National Lawn and Garden Show and is a guest speaker at many industry events. Mr. Pontz has been quoted in USA Today, Home Channel News, the Wall Street Journal and Green Beam publications. Mr. Pontz is also on the Board of Directors of three lawn and garden corporations.
Brent Freeman brings 30 years of Senior Management experience in the Financial Services industry to Piper Group International.  Prior to joining PGI, Mr. Freeman served as Chief Operating Office for NestWorth Inc., a closely held real estate investment company located in San Francisco California.   Mr. Freeman has held Senior Management level positions at Bank of America, ITT, GMAC and GE Capital.    Having served on acquisition teams for Bank of America, GMAC and having personally bought, built and sold several business, Mr. Freeman brings his extensive personal, corporate experience and expertise to the purchase and sale of middle market business interests.       Mr. Freeman holds a Private Pilots license and he and his wife Mary, own and operate La Dolce Vita Vineyards, Inc.   Education: BS in Business from Arizona State University, Walter P. Carey School of Business.

Joanne Schlosser is a certified coach who works with high performing leaders that want to grow their career to the next level. Her vibrant business career of over 25 years has included positions of leadership in healthcare, economic development and non profit work. She founded and ran two entrepreneurial companies. She has also worked in high technology, aerospace and the hospitality industry. As a consultant, coach, trainer and professional speaker, Joanne's clients include over 100 firms ranging from small, rising stars to large Fortune 100 stars.
Joanne has worked extensively as a change agent, with projects ranging from small process improvements to the opening of a state-of-the-art hospital. Joanne has provided leadership development and organizational development services to thousands of leaders. That led to her interest in leadership coaching. Joanne is a lifelong learner who is passionate about helping Rising Stars, particularly high potential leaders, newly promoted leaders, senior leaders, and business owners achieve their full potential. She is skilled in using numerous assessments, to such as DISC, Emotional Intelligence, Strengthsfinders, and 360 Feedback to help you learn more about your own strengths and developmental opportunities. Joanne's coach described her as a "Possibilities Person" and her goal is to help you find the possibilities in your life to achieve your desired goals.

Quick Links
"The Truths, Myths & Secrets of Marketing Products in the Lawn & Garden Industry"

EmailJoin Our Mailing List