Many green industry professionals are coming into the new year riding a wave of success brought by the 2020 pandemic.
With a whole new year before them, many are not only expecting company growth but are also hoping for a better understanding from the public about the importance of the green industry.
The adjusted normal
Emily Lenhart Scales, acquisition specialist with Canopy Lawn Care, Inc. in Cary, North Carolina, says they are still implementing Covid-19 guidelines in their everyday work, but at this point, she says these precautions have become an adjusted normal.
Currently, Scales says their office staff is still working remotely, and they’ve even downsized their office space to allow staff members to continue to work from home. Scales says she believes this could be a long term set up for their office workers.
“I think this is our new way of life,” says Scales. “That was a decision that was made pretty early on, and in June or July, we decided we wanted to stick with the platform team and office staff working remotely.”
Scales says their field team is still actively working, and they currently meet up in an outdoor area with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure they are socially distanced and safe. Scales says their staff members have maintained good health throughout the pandemic, but they have had a few customers call off services due to the virus.
“It’s a really vulnerable time, and you have to disclose information that you wouldn’t otherwise want to tell people,” says Scales. “I think that we take it as delicately as we can and we are being as empathetic and sympathetic as we possibly can be, both in the office and in the field.”
Scales says she’s thankful that their crews were able to stay operational throughout last year, and she adds that they made it through the year with no staffing cuts.
Even with the turmoil the pandemic brought, Thomas O’Halloran, president of T-C-O Landscapes in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, says they still saw tremendous growth and were able to hire new employees.
“Interestingly enough, 2020 was our best year yet,” says O’Halloran. “We grew more last year than we have any other year, which is incredible when you really look at that and see what the defining factor was there. I think Covid-19 was one of the huge factors, plus it was an election year and that’s always super different. It’s been a whirlwind, to be honest, but it’s all been kind of the perfect storm.”
O’Halloran adds that the housing market played a big part in their record success, as a large portion of the jobs they completed were landscape maintenance projects on properties that were soon after listed for sale.
O’Halloran says the company has both a maintenance and landscape installation side. For 2020, most landscape installation customers were new, and repeat customers fell more into the maintenance side.
Overall, O’Halloran says he noticed that customers were willing to pay larger sums for large installation projects, but when it came to mowing, many opted to do it themselves.
O’Halloran says their operations are back to normal, with the exception of client communication. When meeting with a customer for an estimate, O’Halloran says he automatically shows up to the site with a mask on to make the customers more comfortable.
“Every client is different, and so many people have gotten pandemic fatigue and are just sick of it,” he says. “Some wear masks while I’m there talking with them, and some don’t. It’s been very interesting to see how diverse people are in their opinions on the virus.”
O’Halloran adds that email communication has been huge for them this year, as opposed to in the past. Once they were cleared to begin work again, O’Halloran says they sent out a mass email to their customers giving them the option to keep or pass on their services.
“Cross your T’s and dot your I’s, and make sure your line of communication is open with your client,” says O’Halloran. “Covid or no Covid, do that because that’s always going to help you, and it’s proved to be quite helpful, especially during a pandemic.”
Scales says they’ve kept their communication methods consistent with customers with the only change being that they no longer leave door hangers behind at projects.
Based on their sales team hitting their goals, Scales says she believes customers are once again becoming comfortable with the idea of spending money on landscaping projects. After adjusting their sales goals at the start of the pandemic, Scales is happy to report that they were able to hit 100 percent or better in the last two months of their sales goals.
“We had really been struggling with that through our typical growing season because during our growing season, the Covid-19 pandemic was also growing at the same time,” says Scales. “That sort of instilled that lack of confidence into the consumer. They did not want to sign up for a lawn care package. They didn’t want to commit to anything because there were so many unknowns.”
Check back tomorrow for part 2 of this series, where we’ll find out how company morale has faired through the pandemic, as well as what these companies took away from 2020.