Lawn & Landscape hosted a webinar on April 3 with columnists and industry consultants Jim Huston (J.R. Huston Consulting), Ed Laflamme (The Harvest Group) and Bruce Wilson (Bruce Wilson & Co.)
The panelists discussed best practices during COVID-19 and commented on exclusive Lawn & Landscape COVID-19 research. Here are some takeaways from the webinar. View the webinar its entirety here.
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Spend accordingly. Planning during a good economy is a must, but it’s also important during an economic downturn.
“You’ve got to think short-term, long-term,” Huston said.
Laflamme added “Watch your cash flow. The most important thing is planning for the ‘What ifs.’”
The panelists also have a few suggestions on how to limit spending and what not to cut. The L&L survey shows that the majority of participants have already paused spending in some way due to COVID-19.
"I hate to hear the word 'cut,'" Wilson said. "I would suspend or postpone capital purchases unless you need them immediately."
“The worst thing you could do is lay off your people,” Laflamme said. “It could ruin your culture.”
Laflamme added that businesses shouldn’t cut marketing either, but instead market more to keep sales moving forward.
Take precautions. With the COVID-19 outbreak comes the need for more sanitation and safety procedures. Survey results show that businesses have implemented extra cleaning and disinfecting of trucks and equipment, outdoor meetings, staggering work hours and more.
The panelists also suggested that businesses may want to look into allowing workers to use their own vehicles and reimburse them for mileage, along with keeping the windows down in the trucks, wearing some kind of face mask or bandana and keep six feet apart.
Increase communication. Some businesses have seen cancellations. According to the survey, the majority of the cancelled or paused jobs have been in the residential design/build segment.
To curb the number of cancellations, Huston, Laflamme and Wilson said communicate with your customers and let them know what you’re doing.
“Approach them before they cancel,” Wilson said. “Ask customers questions about how this is affecting them, and what they are concerned about. You’ve got to pick up the phone…become a resource for them.”
According to the panelists, there are opportunities for growth out there even during this pandemic.
Huston said there are opportunities in pest control and irrigation for those who are looking.
“A lot of it gets backed to mindset,” Huston said. “There’s opportunities out there.”
Laflamme said he has a client who’s essentially reinvented his business during this trying time by now providing disinfecting services.
“We have a client who does lawn applications and pest control, he completed shifted,” he says. “They got into the sterilization business. He’s turned it around to a positive aspect. The response so far has been incredible.”
Buy low and stay involved. Wilson said that now might also be a good time for acquisitions of small, owner-operated business.
“A lot of them are probably really stressed right now,” Wilson said.
The panelists also had some advice for those who have not been deemed essential businesses by their states.
“Get involved with your state association and also your local representatives,” Huston said. “What’s surprising is how inconsistent these definitions are as far as what is an essential business.”
Huston also suggested that companies who can’t work right now start networking.
“Maybe they can be doing some learning at home while they’re on these furloughs,” Laflamme said.
Wilson said businesses should ask their customers to call area politicians on their behalf.
“Lobby your customers to lobby the authorities to make it an essential service,” Wilson said. “I think you’ve got to keep the pressure on to get it to be an essential service.”
Stay positive. The three panelists agreed that how business owners choose to handle the crisis, and the difficulties that come with it, will have an impact on their business.
“Owners that have a very positive mindset seem to be having positive results, and the owners who have a somewhat defeated attitude about it are taking their lumps,” Wilson said.
The following survey results were taken between March 20-23 and March 28-31.