Words of Wilson features a rotating panel of consultants from Bruce Wilson & Company, a landscape consulting firm.
As we assess the pandemic’s longer-term impact on the economy, two things this crisis has in common with past recessionary events are a heightened sense of urgency around planning and budgeting, and questions about how to manage the unexpected.
The best advice I’ve ever received about leading through change was from the founder of ValleyCrest Companies, Burt Sperber. He would say each and every time, “Don’t read the papers.” Although news has gone online, Burt’s point is solid. Too much information can have an adverse effect on our capacity to be objective.
Managing all the data we get in our daily lives is a problem for everyone, not just CEOs. But when CEOs need clarity to be effective leaders, information overload is likely to reduce the ability to make quality decisions.
We see the influence of information overload happening in conversations at our peer group meetings, as we tackle the data, and process and evaluate what’s relevant. Most landscape CEO concerns are focused on shared problems: the crisis’ impact on customers, cutting expenses while continuing to invest in their teams and dealing with situations that could require a company-wide pivot.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s wise to worry about worst-case scenarios. Just don’t let it become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, coach your teams to manage the crisis lifecycle, not just the event; have empathy for people affected; lead with compassion and positivity, balance optimism with reality, and maintain faith in the long game. There are winners in every crisis and it’s possible to emerge from this one stronger and more resilient than ever.
Technology can be used to help you relate with customers during these unprecedented times.
To prepare for what comes next, your planning team should focus on changes in customers’ priorities, what they’re investing in and what they’re cutting back on, such as enhancements, which could lead to reductions in sales, either due to the customers’ postponement in spending or budget cuts.
Owners need to challenge their account teams to find out how the pandemic has impacted customers’ business or lifestyle, and then propose modified enhancement programs that are in line with their circumstances. This customer-focused approach will also help your account team be better able to help your customers make informed decisions and be more consultative in their selling.
On the residential design/build side, projects are stalled and new ones are being put off. Some landscape companies are going to work through this more effectively than others. They are already coming up with creative ways to get things moving. For example, “staying in” is the new “going out,” and as homeowners are nesting more, there may be opportunities to support new outdoor priorities. Yes, it will be a tough year but, as I said before, there will be winners.
This is also a time to adjust your company’s brand message to relate more to what your customers are going through, embrace community leadership and ensure you’re being of service to your customers. Update your content to focus more on the “why” and remind your customers that what you’re doing and what they’re experiencing matters. Keep in mind that there’s a difference between information and insight, and be the source for the unique wisdom your customers are looking for.
Technology has introduced new ways to connect with customers, be more purposeful with prospects and align team culture while working remotely. We’re using video conferencing in our own company to reinforce team goals, advance learning and create a new, virtual space to be heard and supported.
During any crisis, strong performers perform and weak performers don’t. So, if you want to think through the options, it’s worth taking a hard look at employees who lack the ability to move fast or adapt to change. Weak performers use recessions as an excuse for their failures or a sign that they lack the determination to succeed. If you need to make adjustments, start here. There are some “personal-best” people looking to grow their careers. Seek out these high performers to build a winning team who can help you envision your new beginning.