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Industry Insights

Now What?

Top ten pieces of advice for the small business owner who's bracing for the impact of COVID-19

It's been inspiring to see the leaders of the landscape profession step up at this time with advice, encouragement and an example to follow. Here is some of the best advice we’ve gleaned from articles, webinars and online conference calls over the past week as well as a few thoughts of our own.

1. Manage & conserve cash.

Collect any money owed to you. Get those invoices out ASAP!
Make payment easy. Give your clients payment options (credit card and e-Transfer come to mind).

Be sure to educate clients that monthly contracts are designed for making payment easier on their cash flow. They should still pay their monthly fee even if you can’t be on-site this month because you still plan to deliver the full value of the agreement within the calendar year. Just remember though — it’s on you to still deliver that value in the coming months!

“Create a monthly cash flow projection. Take that down to weekly if you must. Keep a close eye on cash!”

Mark Bradley, CEO of Landscape Management Network

Be cautious of deferring too many payments, because doing so will create problems in the future. Peter Guinane of Oriole Landscaping suggests thinking of COVID-19 like a grenade that’s just landed in your lap. Deferring payments is like taking that grenade and throwing it six months into the future. You’ll avoid injury now but you have to be prepared for that thing to go off later in the year.

2. Plan for the worst.

Know your numbers. Have a plan and share it. What would it look like for your business if you took a 75% drop in revenue, for example?
Determine the trigger points (i.e. When this happens, then we do this…)

“Ask: What? So what? Now what?”

Jacki Hart of Consulting By Hart

3. Mind your manners.

“Remember your friends in your supply chain. This is not a time to screw suppliers!”

Mark Bradley, CEO of LMN

4. Use technology to connect with your team, your suppliers and your customers and… mute yourself when you’re on a conference call.

Not muting yourself is the biggest sin you can commit on a conference call. Every little sound you make is picked up, from the clacking of keys as you type to your roommate’s call in the other room. Avoid potential embarrassment. Hit mute when you’re not talking.

Ashira Prossack, Forbes

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

“Be the radio station in your employees lives.”

Jeffrey Scott

Your employees are hearing all kinds of things from news outlets, many of which are in the business of generating fear and panic with sensational headlines. Actively shape a more positive narrative in your organization.

And remember that while entrepreneurs embrace change, employees resist change. Any changes happening right now will be harder for them to embrace, so involve them in the planning and communicate about it often.

6. Keep a “wartime rhythm."

Maintain weekly meetings or daily huddles. Move them online, but keep ‘em going. Keeping your team connected has never been more important — it keeps your group dynamic in place and lets your workplace culture continue to grow. Continue to check in with each other, whether its about work projects or mental health.

7. Seize opportunity.

Get rid of bad habits — no time like the present for this one, really.
Step up your leadership — no time like the present for this one too.
Call your team to innovate — no time like the present for all of these actually!

8. Look after yourself.

“Unplug long enough to get your equilibrium back.”*

Jacki Hart

“Work out. Read. Rest.”

Phil Harwood of Grow The Bench

You have to put your own oxygen mask on first before you can attend to the needs of others. With the extra time many of us have on our hands right now, some are doing a little extra reading. They're working on their business while they can't work in it. When the time comes when we can all go back to work, they'll be well positioned to succeed. Here are some of our favourite reads that have influenced our thinking about business, branding, marketing and design.

9. “Keep marketing!”

Keep marketing

Alan White of Turf Systems

“Sales slumps are the result of not prospecting when times were good.”

Jamie Riddell of SiteOne Landscape Supply

If you had a solid marketing plan in place before this crisis hit, you’re in a much better position than most. You may need to review your message and adjust tone. You may need to reallocate your budget to different tactics or channels. But don’t stop marketing!

People who have been ordered to stay home have more time to research dream projects. And that means that traffic to your website will likely go up. Is it ready?

Don’t have a marketing plan? You’re going to have to hustle, but better late than never.

“This is the time to beef up what you do on Instagram and Facebook.”

Joe Salemi of DynaScape Software

10. Adjust your marketing, message and tone.

Staying connected with your current customer base should be priority; gaining new customers is also important. Striking a tone of understanding and kindness that is genuine is crucial to accomplishing both goals.

Listen to find out how your audience is thinking and feeling. What are they most worried about? What do they need from your brand more than ever? How have you moved to meet those needs?

Be reassuring but honest. They won't forget your desire to work with them in ways that they appreciate.

Craft copy that is human, sensitive, clear, and concise. Don't make your copy about you, your needs or your acomplishments. This is not the time to self-promote — it's the time to give, to be supportive, and to reduce the stress and fear so many are feeling.

Watch the timing of any campaign so it's appropriate and sensitive to what's happening in the moment -especially days filled with tough news and when local and federal governments need to lead with essential messaging. Read more here.

Looking for even more resources?

Written by Jason Bouwman, RGD

April 8, 2020