Are you interested in building a playground for your center/school or renovating your current one? If you live in Puerto Rico or on the East Coast of the United States, Mike Clifton is the guy you want to call. With over 17 years of experience in the educational sales industry, Mike understands the importance of playgrounds and outdoor classrooms in children’s education. Learn more about Mike, his experiences with the education industry, and how he can help you go through the playground building process to make your playground dreams a reality below!
1. When did you start your job with Playgrounds by Kaplan?
Mike: I started in September 2016. I’ve always believed in the value of play for children and have been building tree houses and play sets for my kids for years, so when I saw this opportunity, I thought it would be a perfect fit. It’s met my expectations and more.
2. What is your favorite piece of playground equipment?
Mike: Well, who didn’t love getting burned on the hot metal slide, being hit in the head by a tetherball, and being thrown off of a merry-go-round—only to be trampled by the kids pushing it? But luckily, times have changed and equipment has improved both in safety and functionality. While visiting playground sites for measurements and renovation discussions, I love seeing the kids running around and having a blast on the playgrounds, so I would have to say that my favorite piece of equipment is anything that brings a smile to a child’s face. I am lucky to represent Kaplan Playgrounds, which offers a variety of equipment for all ages and interests to keep everyone happy. Now I must go run around in a circle for old time’s sake!
3. What is the biggest misconception people have when they start the process of building a playground or finding new equipment? What do customers often forget to ask or address?
Mike: There are many steps involved in the playground design and installation process. I would say one of the biggest items overlooked pertains to budgets. Many times the cost of installation and safety surfacing are not included in budgets, and these costs are based on the size of the project and can be quite expensive. It is very important to understand that the cost of an item in a catalog will have many other associated costs, which may include installation, required surfacing, freight, and taxes.
Another item to keep in mind is timelines for the completion of the project. Typically, playground equipment is custom made to order. Most companies do not stockpile playground equipment, so the time it takes to make or complete the order must be considered in any timeline. By the time you add in shipping time and scheduling (if it is an installation), the project could take six to eight weeks and sometimes even more based on the time of year. While this may seem like a long time, remember that these are construction projects, and it takes time to install them properly. We know that new playgrounds and updates to older playgrounds are a significant investment, and we are here to help in making the process as easy as possible.
4. At one point you owned a bookstore with your wife, and then you transitioned into the educational sales industry. How have those experiences impacted your interactions with customers and your overall role as a Playgrounds by Kaplan team member?
Mike: Joy and I opened and ran a new and used bookstore in 1989 before selling it to one of our customers in 1997. Our specialty was children’s books, and we’ve always had a passion for helping children develop into whoever/whatever they want to become. It was a tough decision to sell the bookstore, but our first child was born in 1995, and we wanted to move to a larger area with more exposure and opportunities. The transition into educational sales was a natural step for us. We were self-employed, so we could work from home and spend time with the kids while also selling products that we truly believed would help children grow. That same feeling is still there today for me with playgrounds. I have talked to so many people whose best school memories are playing outside on the playground. Knowing that I can help provide some of those future memories for kids today makes me happy!
5. What kind of services does the Playgrounds by Kaplan team provide?
Mike: Kaplan provides playground services from start to finish (site visits, planning, site preparation, installation, all types of surfacing—everything from wood mulch to synthetic turf, and finally cleanup). We are also happy to provide drop ship services directly from the manufacturer to your site for your own installation. New playgrounds are exciting, and we are here to help in any way. We work very hard to make sure every customer is satisfied with their new venture, and we look forward to working with you!
Don’t miss Mike’s tips on keeping your playground equipment and surfacing well maintained! Be sure to also read “Playgrounds by Kaplan: What You Need to Know” for more information about the playground building process. If you have any questions about playgrounds, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Playgrounds by Kaplan team.