Progress during Covid-19

Bruce Wilson, Lawn & Landscape September 2020 - December, 2020

Bruce Wilson is founding principal of Bruce Wilson & Company.

As we head into the last lap of this historic year, innovation, strategy and change management have become more important than ever. Like so many, I, too, entered 2020 planning for optimism. Then COVID-19 happened and even the best plans were hijacked by uncertainty.

There was no precedent for the pandemic’s uncertainty. First thoughts were doom and gloom. When the landscape industry cleared the “essential” bar, business owners sprang into action and the momentum hasn’t stopped.

The resulting surge in productivity has had its benefits. CEOs could no longer say they longed for time to work on their business instead of in it. Instead, company leaders doubled down on technology, upgraded response capabilities, built more effective team networks and communicated with compassion and empathy.

New norms and priorities for hygiene and sanitation have been a long time coming and are much needed. Everyone is more concerned about personal health and safety. And as facilities have become cleaner and healthier places to work, landscape companies have gained a competitive edge in recruiting.

Not all from the pandemic is bad, as companies are now embracing technology and following stricter hygiene policies.

Customers have taken noticed. Landscape service teams are listening more and talking less. One company I know has a 70-30 rule: listen 70% and talk 30% of the time to build a compassionate connection. This is a time when trust is needed most.

When working from home happened, what seemed impossible has driven efficiency. Video conferencing and workflow systems have introduced new levels of collaboration and positive interaction. We learned in real time how to blend technology and people, and we used the scale and power of online platforms to create an alternative workspace. There has been less commuting in traffic, more time working, less time traveling to and from, less wear and tear on vehicles, lower fuel costs, less stress, more flex and teams working better together.

The crisis has been challenging, but it has also fundamentally improved the way we do business and the tools we use to do business better. It’s redefined our sense of urgency, altered how our service teams interact with customers, how employees interact with each other and how people and businesses across all customer segments perceive and experience value.

With planning and budgeting season on everyone’s mind, these improvements can be used as a model to leverage greater progress.

  • Go deeper on organizational readiness planning
  • Identify bigger and bolder aspirations
  • Embrace continuous change as a mindset and as an opportunity
  • Reinforce positive change in the workplace and engage employees to generate widespread excitement for progress
  • Accelerate the scale at which teams bring new ideas to customers
  • Rethink revenue management and service delivery models to be more competitive
  • Invest in technology and data to better understand customers and market forces
  • Rebuild operational foundations, systems and processes for speed and agility
  • Prioritize initiatives that will drive competitive advantage
  • Make decisions that create positive change in the community

When the businesses re-opened at the beginning of summer, we found that employees resisted going back to old ways of doing things. When we talked with customers, we found that they didn’t want to go back to old ways of doing things, either. They preferred the new fast beating the old slow and appreciated the changes we made to make our services easier for them.

If we’ve learned anything from this, it’s that as CEOs and business owners, we can’t do it alone. The vision for our future, our ability to adapt with next level challenges and our need to stretch beyond our current comfort zones must be linked to a coalition of action.

When we listened to our employees and our customers, we not only got fresh thinking; we were able to be better and more creative. More than ever, we’ve learned what a coalition of people we trust can really do to help our businesses grow when we invite their collective and empowered voices to the table.

Published with permission, GIE Media/Lawn & Landscape magazine. Original article appeared September 2020.

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