Finding Opportunities Within Challenges

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March 1, 2021 -  By
Photo courtesty of Corteva Agriscience

Photo courtesty of Corteva Agriscience

With many hardships from 2020 carrying over into the new year, now is the time for LCOs to reevaluate their products and strategies with a focus on efficiency.  

Like most business owners, lawn care operators (LCOs) faced a host of unprecedented hardships associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. With many of these challenges and uncertainties carrying over into the new year, experts agree that now is a good time for LCOs to reevaluate their products and strategies with a focus on efficiency.

Photo courtesy of Corteva Agriscience

Gilbert Del Rosario

“Normally LCOs go into their spring season with successes and experiences from the previous year, and transfer those methods into the next year,” said Gilbert Del Rosario, western turf and ornamental sales and market development leader for Corteva Agriscience. “However, given the really unique and historic challenges that LCOs faced in 2020, this is a good time to rethink if their strategies are good enough for what they’ll be up against in the coming months.”

Dr. David Hillger, Corteva Agriscience Turf & Ornamental field scientist, says LCOs should consider not just the risks and challenges they face, but also the unique opportunities presented to them this season. For example, the fact that many more people may continue to work from home means more opportunities for interactions between clients and technicians. Homeowners who were typically at work when their lawns were serviced are now keeping a more watchful eye on applicators and troublesome weeds.

At the same time, with the pandemic came a heightened focus on health and safety, and homeowners may have more questions about what is being sprayed on their lawns. This is especially true considering that, with some schools currently closed, more children and pets may be playing outside on lawns during the day. While all of these scenarios present a level of risk, Hillger says they also present opportunities for LCOs to demonstrate their expertise and professionalism.

“Workers are going to be under a microscope more now than in the past,” he said. “But with every lemon there is always lemonade that can be made with it. LCOs have this opportunity to present themselves as respectful and careful with what they are doing.”

Photo courtesy of Corteva Agriscience

Dr. David Hillger

From a commercial property standpoint, Hillger notes that LCOs may experience the opposite effect. Office buildings and business complexes that typically have thousands of people coming and going each day now may have far less traffic. Commercial clients may be less concerned with the landscape’s appearance and may even need to cut back on lawn care services to reduce costs.

“These properties present less risk now, but it’s still very critical for LCOs to make sure they are doing a professional job,” Hillger said. “They need to try to keep these customers.”

While labor isn’t a new challenge for the lawn care industry, COVID-19 may make it more difficult for LCOs to stay fully staffed this year. Quarantine requirements, not only for employees but for their family members as well, means technicians at a moment’s notice may be unavailable to work for extended periods of time. Del Rosario says revamping their product portfolios can help LCOs minimize these labor challenges. For example, instead of waiting for the summer season to control broadleaf weeds, he suggests LCOs use a product like Crew® specialty herbicide in the spring. Crew is a combination of Dimension® and Gallery® specialty herbicides that controls grassy and broadleaf weeds in one application, and also offers early postemergence control of crabgrass. It is safe on both warm- and cool-season turfgrass and on more than 400 ornamentals, which means applicators can treat entire properties with just one product.

“With the risk of not having a full staff in the summer months, using a product like Crew gives LCOs some wiggle room during that busy season,” Del Rosario said. “Crew can be used on turf and on landscape beds, giving both grassy and broadleaf weed control. That is an easy strategy to increase efficiency and effectiveness.”

In commercial settings, a product like GameOn specialty herbicide can provide control of more than 100 broadleaf weeds in just one or two applications. This is ideal for those commercial clients looking to reduce costs and get maximum control before troublesome weeds become a further problem.

“It’s so easy to fall into a rut of focusing on 2021 and all of its challenges, but LCOs need to flip it and look for opportunities to improve their organization and capabilities,” Hillger said. “Given the unique situation we are in, this is an opportunity for LCOs to try something they maybe haven’t thought of before — a chance to explore going in a new and improved direction.”

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