September 2, 2020
Jacki HartThis season will go down in our history books as one of the most surprising and challenging yet.

Together, we’ve navigated the ‘non-essential’ turmoil and crisis management of Covid-19 that weighed everyone down with uncertainty, panic and confusion. From the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with contractors, if I were to judge the success of adaptive strategies put in place, I’d say you all have earned your stress management stripes — most with gold stars aplenty!

Through the past few months, as the impact and shock of the pandemic phases of community engagement have smoothed out, I set out to learn which covid-required process changes actually turned out to be a benefit, and will continue going forward.

Through our bi-weekly video coffee chats in the Landscape Ontario Peer to Peer Network, I learned the pandemic shifted homeowner perception of the value in what we provide as a profession. It drove up demand for our products and services.

I asked members of LO’s Peer to Peer Network, “What have you changed as a result of the pandemic, that your team and company will keep in place going forward?”
  • “A set of tools for each employee,” replied Johann Bossers and Laurie Anne Stewart. The positive effect is that each employee takes better care of tools, leaves them behind less often, tries to fix them if something breaks, or at the very least, asks for a replacement immediately (as opposed to leaving it in the bed of a truck or in a dark corner of the shop in a useless state of disrepair).
  • “Handwashing stations in our enclosed trailers,” commented Brian Cotter. “Appreciated by all staff, and used regularly, these are turning out to be a must-have that was never on the radar before.”
  • “The expectation of patience from our customers,” stated Paul Barker. “In peak season, suddenly customers found patience and were willing to understand that we were doing our best. They didn’t move on or give their work to the first company who could show up. They waited their turn and trusted they were on a list. I want to see this respect continue.”
  • “Using cloud communication across the company,” offered Lindsay Drake Nightingale. “Communication has improved… it’s more effective and efficient.”
  • “Staff taking their own vehicles to site,” replied Lindsey Ross. “In many cases, it’s more convenient for them to have their own vehicle handy all day, and makes scheduling maintenance sites of various sizes more efficient. We don’t need to have the same size crew show up on every site all day. They can meet up mid-day on bigger sites, then split up to do smaller sites where appropriate.”
  • “Answering the phone when it rings,” commented Mo Von Roeder and Michelle Von Kent. “Through the pandemic, we were falling behind, and switched our process to make responding to phone calls a priority. It seems people want to talk to you more than ever. (as of July) We’re booking into fall for irrigation installations and customers are willing to wait for our professional high-service focus. Our sales are through the roof.”

This season has not been without its challenges. I also asked peer group members about managing creeping complacency on PPE and physical distancing. Their most common concern is a sudden spike of Covid-19 cases that could result in another shutdown of all non-essential businesses.The epidemiologists have consistently shared statistics of the probability of a bumpy ride ahead… which is a great reason to keep your red, amber and green budgets in mind. Yes, for many of you reading this, your sales are up and strong — which is great! I’ll ask you to remember, as I did the Peer Network members, to continue reviewing your numbers at month-end (at the very least) EVERY MONTH. With uncertainty still lingering in the air, it’s important to have a Plan B and C, should things that are not within your control, create pressure on your company resources and cash flow.

I’m so very proud of our profession. All of you have shown the grit and determination to keep moving forward in this unprecedented year! Pat yourselves on the back, celebrate successes and positive change and keep your eye on the prize — emerging successfully from this era as a viable company, with an engaged team, and with profit.

Owners and managers of Landscape Ontario members can join the Peer to Peer Network for free.

Jacki Hart CLM
Prosperity Partners Program Manager