Hindsight’s 2020: Did the pandemic actually help the green industry?

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Updated Dec 2, 2020

N95 face masks and surgical masks on a tableYesterday, Total Landscape Care talked with green industry experts about how they’ve adjusted to COVID-19, as well as the growth they’ve experienced over the past few months.

Today, we’ll take a look at how operations are faring on a day-to-day basis and see where these business owners see their companies going in 2021.

Getting back to normal

While the nation is far from being back to a pre-corona normal, Austin Moccia, owner and CEO of Moccia Lawn and Landscape, Inc. in Grosse Ile, Michigan, and Miles Kuperus, Jr., CEO of Farmside Landscape & Design in Wantage, New Jersey, agree that their operations are now fairly close to how they were before the virus hit, with the obvious exceptions of social distancing, mask ordinances and extra sanitization practices.This Is Part Two In A Two Part Series Click Here To Read Part One

Even though new practices were implemented to help reduce the potential spread or contraction of the virus, Kuperus and Moccia agree that some will remain long after we have bid the virus farewell, such as daily truck sanitization and weekly in-depth detail work on fleets.

On the business side, Kuperus says they have gotten into the rhythm of operating during COVID-19, however, the social aspect of work, or the lack thereof, is still something they are struggling to get used to. Kuperus adds that since his workers were thankful to get out and about and return to work, morale hasn’t suffered.

“From an industry standpoint, we have been operating kind of pre-corona for the year,” says Kuperus. “From a social standpoint, there have absolutely been challenges. The virus is very real and very telling, and we will be glad to put this one in the books. We respect it, and we don’t want to be a spreader firm by any means.”

Kuperus says it’s vital that they continue to operate safely and follow recommended guidelines to keep employees and customers safe during the coming months. Whether an employee comes down with COVID-19 or the flu, Kuperus says they are told to stay home until they are symptom-free and also cleared to come back by a medical professional.

As a business owner, he admits this process can sometimes prove cumbersome, but he stresses the importance of making sure health is prioritized and the spread of germs is minimized.

To help ensure his team members are well, Moccia says he’s also encouraged employees to make safe, smart decisions when not at work.

“While we obviously can’t control and don’t have an interest to control what people do in their free time, we do ask our staff, for the benefit of themselves and their coworkers, to make smart decisions in their off hours,” says Moccia. “There’s no reason to be fearful, but common sense goes a long way. We’ve had good results across the board from our staff, and I wasn’t surprised by their cooperation.”

Moccia counts himself fortunate that all of his employees enjoy coming to work, and because of this, he says nobody wants to be “the person who lets everyone else down on that self-ascribed responsibility” of staying safe when out and about.

Moccia says Michigan’s economy has opened back up, and he is relieved to see that practices such as wearing masks in crowded areas and the frequent usage of hand sanitizer are still being widely utilized.

Regardless of whether or not the masses continue to wear masks regularly, Moccia says he will still require his crews to wear them in public and on jobsites.

“Regardless of whether there’s a mask mandate or not, we’re wearing one for everybody’s benefit,” says Moccia. “Even at this point, the benefit of wearing one outweighs any negative. The optics of it are important, too. You don’t want people in your company uniform looking like they don’t care.”

While hindsight is 2020, Moccia says looking back, he believes they made the right moves as a business when it came to reacting to COVID-19.

“We as a group did everything we had set out to do,” says Moccia. “Not everything you do is going to work, and as a business owner, you have to realize that. But it’s the willingness to keep trying and learning from what doesn’t work that will ultimately yield the results you like.”

Looking back, Kuperus agrees that the plan of action they pursued was the best reaction, as he says they took it seriously from the very start. Although it was a frightening time, Kuperus says his crews handled the experience well, and he has no regrets.

Looking ahead

Going into 2021, Moccia says they want to see both horizontal and vertical expansion. So far, they’ve seen their fair share of vertical growth, but he wants to make sure it’s sustainable.

Moccia believes uncontrolled growth is one of the most detrimental things that can occur in a business, as it usually results in clients no longer getting the same customer service they were used to. For Moccia and his team, customer service is a top priority, and he says he wants to always strive to offer the same level of service to customers, regardless of how much growth the company sees.

“This year’s been stressful for everybody; I don’t think anybody can say they haven’t had more stress,” says Moccia. “But the people we’ve done work for have been happy, which is what we want, and we appreciate that they’ve been understanding.”

Going into the new year, Kuperus says he wants to continue to empower his teams and team members to achieve higher success, and that will be the primary goal for the new year. He also says he wants to make sure they continue to love their clients and offer awesome customer service, regardless of external circumstances.

Kuperus says he always wants to be able to say they met or exceeded the expectations of the customers. He adds that this has always been a focus for their company, but he wants that to be a “laser focus” going into 2021.

“As an industry, it was a great opportunity with COVID-19 for us to really showcase the industry,” says Kuperus. “We work in an industry that really achieves amazing places for our customers and lets them have a little place for peace in their landscape. We will continue to take our jobs seriously and create those spaces, and I think we have a lot to be proud of as an industry.”

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