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Adapting and modernizing operations during COVID-19

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How JML Landscape in Pittsburgh, Penn., used technology and creativity to continue operating during a pandemic.

When Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced his COVID-19 executive order, JML Landscape in Pittsburgh, Penn., acted quickly to implement new measures.

“We’re pretty proactive with our face coverings,” says Wesley Stetser, division president for JML Landscape.

JML Landscape’s offerings include landscape design and installation, maintenance and winter services for a 90 percent commercial and 10 percent residential clientele.

Within operations, communication to team members helped reinforce the company’s COVID-19 policies, says Will Kmetz, senior vice president of operations for JML Landscape. Kmetz says it was important to highlight the reasons why they were doing what they were doing, whether it was sanitization or wearing a mask.

Beyond the traditional use of personal protective equipment, “we emphasized more in the lines of self-accountability,” Kmetz says. “We had to express constantly that we can do all these things perfectly, but we have to pay attention to public perception.”

Liz Golden, HR associate for JML Landscape, says how employees embraced these new measures speaks to the overall company culture.

JML Landscape utilizes H-2B employees, who came in two waves. The company had a little bit of interruption in bringing them in during a pandemic. But Stetser says one bright side in using the H-2B program is, “we were not capped out this year.”

They were hoping for about 90 workers and have 81 in Pittsburgh. While all of them are returning, the company is working to get them up to speed on the new policies.

Golden says her operation has had to get creative with onboarding of new and returning employees in the middle of a pandemic. It’s done one at a time.

“We now have a pretty robust payroll platform,” she says. “We onboard all rehires and new hires electronically. We utilize that tool and stagger a schedule of bringing them in.”

And Stetser says there have been some impacts at the topline level, but it’s not catastrophic. Commercial contracts have been fairly steady, but a few have requested concessions such as performing minimal maintenance.

“Post June 1, we’ll revisit,” Stetser says. “It’s been hard to measure the revenue impact.”

One thing that the team at JML Landscape has taken pride in is how quickly the company has adapted technology.

“We’ve been an old-fashioned company,” Stetser says noting job orders in the past were written in triplicates but are now digital. “We’ve been evolving to utilize technology. Our evolution to more of a paperless company [is possible] with the use of Zoom and Microsoft teams. It’s something I see us continuing forever at this point.”

And, Kmetz says he’s taken pride in the operation’s camaraderie.

“Our company and our teammates have all rallied around our leadership,” he says.

Christina Herrick headshot (Photo: LM Staff)

Christina Herrick

Christina Herrick is a former Editor for Landscape Management. A Journalist graduate from Ohio Northern University, Christina is known for sharing her insightful experiences on the road with her audience.

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