This fall, is your intent to spend less money with Early Order Programs (EOP), or to invest in better products or other needs? Or both?

Since the beginning of the EOP era, there has been an ongoing debate on whether the goal of a successful EOP program is to spend less money or to invest the EOP savings into better products or other operational needs, more effectively spending the same amount of money.

The truth is that it varies from property to property and from season to season. Sometimes it is all about the savings and other times it is about upgrading to better fungicides or herbicides.

I asked a few of my superintendent friends this burning question about savings vs. reinvesting, and my unofficial nonscientific poll brought back some very interesting results. Amazingly, 100 percent of the superintendents that I polled said, “I want the freedom to be able to choose all or part savings or reinvestment based on our situation at that time” and “EOP intelligently used gives me those options. It creates flexibility and stability within the chemical budget.”

So apparently the old question is not really an either-or- situation, but rather it’s more about creating opportunities to do more of what is needed depending on the fiscal and agronomic pressures present.

I recommend that coupling a strong Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program that captures accurate thresholds and actions data when used to facilitate an EOP seems to generate the right balance of information to make informed decisions on whether you should take the EOP savings to the bottom line to improve profit or reinvest in better higher quality products.

For example, if you had significant breakthrough on your fall/winter pre-emergent application, you may want to invest in a different active ingredient to control fall/winter weeds at a more acceptable level. However, if your property is having financial challenges and every dollar is needed to make it through the season to next year, then the choice is simple: Save the money.

No one knows your operation better than you, so at the end of this question, is the advice to use EOP wisely and give yourself options to either save or reinvest and make that choice with full confidence knowing the whole of your operational situation better than anyone on the planet.

When weighing EOP, what factors besides price are you looking at? So what other factors are there to consider besides price?

The important thing to remember is that successful EOP programs require a large dose of teamwork and partnership to maximize the value of the program.”

When it comes to EOP, price is often just the start of negotiations and I always suggest that you look at the total value of your individual agreements. I know that many people who do not utilize or see value in EOP programs say something like, “it is only a few percent cheaper than if I wait and only buy what I need in the month for the month.” Depending on how well you shop and secure options, this could be true. However, I have had many years where we covered 90 percent of our chemical line items through EOP and saved tens of thousands of dollars and benefitted from other perks of strong EOP partnerships. Here are a few things to look for in maximizing the value of an EOP beyond obvious pricing advantages.

  • Delayed terms of payment. EOP invoices due in May, June or July of the following financial year improve cash flow.
  • Special delivery dates or product warehousing or storage.
  • Gift cards or other loyalty items for spending at agreed upon levels.
  • Free attendance at regional EOP/product trade shows or education.
  • Program warranties. Buy partnered products, apply at recommended rates and intervals, and should the product fail to perform, free additional product will be provided to ensure satisfaction. An example would be products for pre-emergent weed control backed by post-emergent products provided free if outbreaks or weed pressure occur. Insurance to reduce the risk of trying new or different technology during an EOP buying period.
  • Product support. How strong are the vendor representatives and the relationship to the club and/or superintendent? Can they be a resource toward the success of the product or assist in problem solving?

The important thing to remember is that successful EOP programs require a large dose of teamwork and partnership to maximize the value of the program. It is quite common that price is only the first consideration when choosing EOP products and programs. EOP should be as unique as the superintendent and the property that he manages.

My 35 years in the business have shown me that solving the riddle of EOP is sometimes as simple as asking a few fellow superintendents for some advice. One great way to do that is call a few local superintendents, schedule a pre-EOP lunch and exchange some ideas. A well-timed call to an EOP vendor may even be willing to pick up the bill for lunch in exchange for a few minutes of face time.