December 1, 2020
Alan White
Alan White

Take control of unanswered questions

Peers: There for you

Looking back on the past year, I’m reminded of what it was like when I first started my business. As a 20-something, every experience was fresh and new, and I relied on the advice of the experienced professionals around me. Whether it was from successful entrepreneurs in the horticulture and landscape profession, or bankers or lawyers, I needed guidance from those who had been there before.

In these uncertain times, we need to lean on our colleagues and leaders more than ever. That’s why I’m really proud to have been part of a group of industry leaders who’ve served on Landscape Ontario’s Covid-19 Task Force.

The goal has been to provide the industry with up-to-date information as well as guidance on the evolving health and safety requirements, staffing challenges and financial threats our businesses are facing. We have tried our best to look at the issues with a clear lens, with the big picture in mind.

The task force met each week day in the early months of the pandemic, and continues to hold meetings twice each week. We analyzed the information coming from governments, public health officials, as well as industry participants and the public. We tried to be proactive, and to continuously look ahead to anticipate things before they came down the pipe. We actively engaged with government officials, particularly during the spring when it wasn’t clear if, or when the industry could get back to work.

I feel a responsibility to share my experience and knowledge with peers, because I know it makes a difference.

You don’t become a leader without having challenges and tough experiences along the way. But I think over time, you realize the challenges don’t have to hurt you. You’re going to make mistakes, but with support from colleagues and mentors, you’re going to overcome those obstacles.

From a business perspective, I know many in our profession overcame a rocky spring to achieve very strong sales through the rest of the season.

It’s going to take time to analyze the 2020 season and to evaluate all the factors and elements that contributed to what looks like a really good year for our industry.

Were people investing their unspent vacation dollars into their landscapes? What role did the huge level of federal government spending play?

It’s hard to say. But what I do know is I am going to be very conservative with my budget for 2021. With so much uncertainty in terms of when a vaccine is going to arrive and how it will be distributed, and the unknowns of how changes in government policy and spending will affect the economy, I think it’s critical to draw up “best,” “worst,” and “most likely” budget forecasts.

If there is any time to not base your budget on last year’s figures, it’s now.

Could there be repercussions from all that government spending? Will many of those small businesses in the hospitality and other badly impacted sectors that have been just barely hanging on finally fall through in the coming months?

While a lot of these things are out of our control, there are a lot of steps we can take to set our businesses up for success. Now is the time to take a step back and look at new ways to support your employees, to ensure they feel valued and respected in their roles and also have room to grow.

Now is also the time to take a close look at your Covid-19 protocols. As the pandemic drags on, it becomes more and more difficult to be diligent and to make sure our employees are keeping their guards up. As business owners, we can’t let our guards down because our employees and our communities count on us. Let’s all do our part.

So, when you’re planning ahead this winter, make sure to connect with colleagues and mentors to see what they’re thinking and what new strategies they are implementing to set themselves up for a successful year amidst all the uncertainty.  
Alan White serves as Chair of Landscape Ontario’s Covid-19 Task Force, and operates Turf Systems, based in Burlington, Ont.