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Back to work in Minnesota for Doehling Landscape Services

April 23, 2020 -  By

Matt Doehling, is glad to be back to work. Doehling, owner of Doehling Landscape Services in Shakopee, Minn., was originally among the businesses classified as a nonessential service in Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s executive order in March. But, as of April 8, landscaping operations were essential businesses so he and his employees could start the season.

While nonessential, he had to lay off his six full-time employees on his 50-50 commercial and residential maintenance operation. He says he wasn’t able to go into the office to process payroll in the strictest reading of the executive order.

Unable to work, Doehling took to an advocacy role.

“I sent an email to our whole customer list as many as I could,” he says. “I said, ‘here’s what’s going on with our service and our business’ and encouraged them to write our legislators and our representatives.”

He also encouraged his clients to sign a petition to designate lawn care services as an essential business. This petition ended up with 40,000 signatures. One client called him and told him “I put in a good word for you,'” in the statehouse. Doehling says he did not expect that, but it’s great to know that his clients helped lend their voice to the cause.

“Our industry is a great exam of a (good) industry from a public health standpoint,” he says. “We don’t need to have contact with our customers. Our crews don’t have direct contact with each other. Keeping one crew member to a company vehicle, we can maintain all the social distancing that’s required and needed to prevent the spread of this terrible virus.”

He also said another point worth addressing is that since his employees likely applied for unemployment, that’s taking away the resources from other small businesses such as restaurants and bars that need it.

“It’s an additional strain on the public treasury that isn’t needed,” he says.

He’s had some substantial hits to his bottom line, with about 25 to 30 account cancellations on spring fertilization programs, which he estimates is about a $10,000 to $15,000 loss in gross revenue. He says there are about 60 to 70 other clients he hasn’t heard from and expects them not to renew. He estimates all of that to be about a $25,000 to $30,000 loss in revenue.

A bright spot, he says, is the new business he’s been getting.

“I’ve been surprised with the number of new business we put in place this year,” he says. “It’s a test to the great work that our employees do.”

Some of that Doehling attributes to good referrals from existing clients as well as a strong marketing campaign.

“The positive is that we’ve been able to, for the most part, replace lost business,” he says.

And, another positive he’s seeing is a refocus on supporting small business.

“It’s easy to go to the big-box stores,” he says. “A bigger realization of maybe I’ll call these guys instead and that in and of itself could be a big positive nationwide.

Christina Herrick

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