Peter Bugden knows just how important it is to maintain strong employee morale, so it irked him to no end when he saw people crossing the street to avoid his workers. The owner of a Nutri-Lawn franchise in Halifax, Nova Scotia said these harsh incidents led employees to feel like pariahs, and productivity suffered as a result.
When the incidents occurred, a pesticide ban had just been passed in the municipality of Halifax. Nutri-Lawn had stopped using pesticides for spot treating weeds as soon as the ban became law, yet in the case of pesticides, Bugden said, perception is reality.
“The perception of lawn care companies in our area was low, even though we didn’t use pesticides anymore,” he said. “The guys felt bad about what they were doing.”
Yet over time, Bugden addressed the problem of low employee morale by hiring new workers who were able to cope with the pesticide ban, teaching his employees about new products that were permitted, and helping workers to better educate customers.
“We tried our best to make it a fun place to work and make them feel good about themselves,” said Bugden. “We used it as an opportunity, and as a result, our employees started feeling better about their work and their customers.”
Bugden cited the example of a new employee who started working at Nutri-Lawn in 2008. He recently surpassed $1 million in production and sales with the company, and this spring Nutri-Lawn threw a celebration to mark his contributions to the company.
“We’ve been fairly successful at minimizing turnover, and now I’ve got a great manager here,” he said. “My philosophy is, ‘Give the customer more than they expect, and do it with a smile.’”