How Conserva Irrigation is rising to the challenge

Conserva Irrigation tech (Photo: Conserva Irrigation)
Conserva Irrigation reported a 25 percent increase in year-over-year growth in Q1 and Q2 of this year. (Photo: Conserva Irrigation)
Conserva Irrigation tech (Photo: Conserva Irrigation)
Conserva Irrigation reported a 25 percent increase in year-over-year growth
in Q1 and Q2 of this year. (Photo: Conserva Irrigation)

2020 will be remembered as a difficult year for many industries, but with increased demand from homeowners, green industry companies have been able to thrive under the new challenges the coronavirus has presented. Conserva Irrigation has grown more than most. The franchise irrigation company, headquartered in Richmond, Va., has added 14 new territories in the first half of this year and is closing in on 100 licensed territories in the U.S. Conserva founder Russ Jundt shares the company’s outlook on growth and how it’s helping water-conscious clients manage resources.

Conserva has reported significant growth this year. How is the company approaching growing and onboarding new franchisees during the pandemic?

We keep in mind that business and life, for that matter, go on even in the midst of a global pandemic. Conserva had to reinvent our new franchisee training program and move it to 100 percent virtual training.

We laid out each of the 10 days of our training on a virtual whiteboard with our entire operations, marketing, CRM and app team and all elements of our business unit, and regrouped each of the topics. We invested in overhead desk cameras to highlight each angle during the instruction and practiced (with a variety of camera angles) so that we could still deliver an almost-hands-on training.

And, we shipped boxes of irrigation components to each of the franchisees’ homes so that they could have that same hands-on feel.

Today, all of our content is now refreshed and updated. We’ll continue to have five of those 10 days as a virtual training program, shortening the time away from family for new franchisees.

We had to do it 100 percent virtual a few months back, but now, with the permission of the franchisees, we have (training) in our Richmond office. We’re practicing social distancing at all times and working in much smaller groups.

Why do you think the irrigation business has been thriving in these conditions?

People are investing in their homes. We know that irrigation is essential for plant health and well-being, so each of our locations remained essential during the heightened period of the pandemic. And, the ticket size of each work order is traditionally smaller than other home projects and is therefore more attractive to people to continue that service.

An irrigation system that has been professionally assessed and updated with high-efficient components uses 40 to 60 percent less water, which is highly attractive in these times. And, by delivering the right amount of water at the right times, it also reduces the need for weed and feed, as the soil is not leeched of its nutrients by overwatering.

How is Conserva helping customers manage their water consumption?

(The philosophy of) ‘the wetter the better’ is egregious and doesn’t make sense to us. With the advent of the new generation of smart controllers and flow control, we have beta tested and are now releasing for next season what we call Water Like a Pro, which is a subscription-based remote monitoring program for our residential customers.

It’s a heightened monitoring program of all of our smart controllers online. We take advantage of bridging rain events, thus lowering the amount of water that is traditionally used, even by smart controllers.

Each franchise owner, with local and regional weather, can even be more attentive and react to weather conditions, even greater than a smart controller can. With the predictive capabilities of these smart controllers, we can react to changes in the weather patterns that affect that residential consumer’s yard, thus reducing the amount of water used and taking advantage of that ‘free water,’ that rain.

What’s your advice for the rest of the green industry as it attempts to adjust with the times?

Challenge yourself, question your field protocols and your other methods of running your business. Try to look at them differently to see what areas of improvement you can bring to your own business model, what you can bring to your own consumers and how can you break the pattern of, ‘This is how we’ve always done it.’ Because more of the same produces more of the same, and that’s not going to keep you fresh. This is a time to reinvent yourself.

Abby Hart

Abby Hart

Abby Hart is the former senior editor of Landscape Management. A native Clevelander, she spent 10 years in Chicago, where she was operations manager of a global hospitality consultancy. She also worked as managing editor of Illumine, a health and wellness magazine; and a marketing specialist for B2B publications. Abby has a degree in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communication.

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