Meet the managing director: Steven Nixon

By Alistair January 26, 2024 09:00

Bernhard and Company, a leader in sports turf technologies, has been supplying market-leading grinding machines and turf care solutions to golf courses and sports facilities around the globe for more than 150 years. We spoke to company director, Steven Nixon, to discuss industry-wide challenges, and to find out how the products and solutions not only create world-class playing surfaces, but also alleviate stresses on equipment and finances, and make life that bit easier for the teams in the workshops.

The company based in Rugby, Warwickshire, has been at the epicentre of the turf industry for decades. As the team prepares to embark on another busy trade show period in early 2024, managing director Steven Nixon took some time out of his schedule to talk to us about how Bernhard and Company is continuing to drive technical excellence with its products and solutions, while also prioritising the creation of opportunities for wider turf industry development.

Steven, great to speak to you. You’ve now been managing director at Bernhard and Company for six years. As we look ahead to 2024, can you reflect a bit on that time, and let us know whether you feel there are any particular challenges that course managers are facing in the UK?

I’ve been lucky enough to work in different locations around the world for Bernhard and Company, what is still today a fantastic family-owned business. Our teams have expertise in multiple disciplines, with knowledge in engineering, agronomy and product design that all combine with an unrivalled understanding of the development and maintenance of playing surfaces. We all come together with the goals of continuing to drive innovation, and also providing training and learning opportunities for people in the industry.

There are a few challenges that the turf industry has been facing as a whole, namely recruitment, access to parts and lead times, and evolving chemical restrictions. However, when it comes to things like time available, longevity and quality of equipment, and equipping maintenance professionals with management skills, we feel that our products and solutions and educational programmes are able to make a real difference.

You mentioned a couple of things there, recruitment / time and the use of chemicals. How do your products and solutions provide a potential stress relief from those issues?

The one thing that every single golf course can achieve is the best quality of cut possible. The ways in which course managers around the UK are adapting to the changes in chemical regulations varies, but what we know for sure is, if you can sheer your grass blades perfectly, the blades will not be damaged as much, and therefore will remain in a healthier state, reducing the need for corrective maintenance.

With regard to time, we understand the difficulties that machine downtime can cause in a functional workshop. For those clubs that send their equipment off for contract grinding, rather than having in-house grinding machinery, the downtime for that grinding period can be more than two weeks, multiple times per year. This will render many clubs unable to cut during those periods.

Not only does having grinding machines as part of your workshop alleviate that problem, but it also allows course managers and equipment mechanics to devise a regular grinding programme that will keep mower cylinders performing at their very sharpest, every day of the year. That’s even the case if a cylinder was to become damaged because of topdressing or a stone, with our grinding machinery, you can have the cutting unit off, ground back to the perfect sharp edge, and back out working on your golf course within the hour.

Another benefit of owning Bernhard and Company grinding machines is that they can really extend the life of your mowers. This is something that is becoming increasingly prevalent with extended lead times on a lot of products coming from overseas. With our no-contact setup, there is a drastic reduction in wear and tear on the entire mower, helping to increase their lifespan.

Bernhard and Company are known within the industry for the customer service and support that is available at all times. Talk us through that customer journey and why you feel it’s important to provide such a gold-star service to your customers?

Fundamentally, we’re a people business. We take pride in the knowledge that, when we make a sale to a customer, that is very much just the start of the process and our relationship – it’s a relationship as much as a transaction. The relationships that we hold with our customers are the bedrock of our operation.

Should any of our customers need our help with a technical query, or require a replacement part, no matter where in the world they may be, our customer support teams will always be on hand to support and assist in any way they can. We are committed to providing an unmatched service and educational support for each and every customer.

We also offer product training with local Bernhard and Company representatives upon delivery of machinery, to ensure that the individuals working on the machines are able to get the very most out of their purchase.

Aside from the machinery you offer, we know that Bernhard and Company has invested a lot recently into its sister business, the Bernhard Academy. Can you tell us more about the Bernhard Academy and the benefits that it might offer to our readers?

That’s correct. The Bernhard Academy is a totally separate business to Bernhard and Company, but it is headquartered out of our factory facility in Haverhill. The Bernhard Academy is a vessel for focussing on customer needs and adding value to our profession through providing opportunities for growth and development for turf professionals with all levels of experience.

Currently, the educational programme offers workshops that fall under two categories: Management or Technical. Both cover a range of essential topics to help achieve success in turf maintenance. These workshops are available for booking at the four Bernhard Academy sites around the UK, at Royal Norwich Golf Club, Moortown Golf Club, Gleneagles, and Leicester City FC Training Ground. We also offer a number of webinar workshops which are delivered live from the Haverhill factory.

We really think it’s important to emphasise that the educational material we are offering at the Bernhard Academy is not just for course managers or superintendents. Greenkeepers and equipment professionals will take something away from these courses, no matter their level of prior experience. The easiest way to reserve a place at one of the upcoming workshops is by heading to the new Bernhard Academy website:

The workshops on offer are proving exceptionally popular. As part of BTME’s Continue to Learn programme, the Bernhard Academy opened up three one-day workshops during BTME week in January 2024. You only had to blink, and you missed them though, as they were among the very first workshops to become fully subscribed after launching.

The Bernhard Academy has recently appointed a new education director, Sami Strutt, formerly of BIGGA. Can you tell us how Sami will fit in, and how she will help to drive the business forward?

Absolutely, we’re delighted to have unveiled Sami Strutt as the new education director for the Bernhard Academy recently. We’ve got no doubt that Sami has the experience and tools required to take the Bernhard Academy to the next level, as we continue to roll out new programmes and workshop opportunities around the globe.

When she takes the reins in spring, she’ll bring an enormous amount of experience in developing educational programmes for the greenkeeping community from her many years at BIGGA.

One of the key elements of her role from the get-go will be the full launch of the Bernhard Academy within North America. By the time you’re reading this, we’ll have opened our first site in the USA, located at the famed Oakmont Country Club. This venue will be a hub for activity as we begin to roll out our programme of educational courses within this new market, and of course, will reside in a location etched in American golf history.

Of course, Bernhard and Company has been heavily involved in the development of greenkeepers and turf industry professionals for many years, as headline sponsor for the BIGGA Delegation to the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in the USA, for more than two decades.

That’s right. For more than 20 years now, we’ve sponsored a delegation of 10 BIGGA members to visit the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in the USA, to offer a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity.

Over the years, the BIGGA Delegation sponsored by Bernhard and Company has become one of the most respected and revered educational opportunities in the industry. The trip typically includes site visits to leading golf venues in the region, as well as seminars, networking events and educational demonstrations. The delegation is known within the turf industry for being a great opportunity to build both business and social relationships that last a lifetime. It’s something that we’re extremely proud to be associated with.

By Alistair January 26, 2024 09:00

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