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Why Grunder Landscaping is closing for 2 weeks

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Marty Grunder’s consulting firm The Grow Group offered helpful tips for running a landscape business amid the COVID-19 crisis during “Don’t Panic – Plan,” a free webinar on March 24.

“With every challenge, ladies and gentlemen, there is an opportunity,” said Grunder. “We are all figuring this out day by day and sometimes hour by hour. With the challenges we’re facing the last few weeks, one thing is for sure: The companies that plan rather than panic are likely to thrive.”

The presentation focused on the four pillars Grunder says successful businesses focus on: platform, people, processes and profits.

He also shared the thinking behind his decision to temporarily close Grunder Landscaping Co. (GLC), for two weeks.

 

Deciding to close Grunder Landscaping Co.

GLC is based in Dayton, Ohio, where Governor Mike DeWine issued a two-week stay-at-home order beginning March 23. The state exempted many essential services from the order. Grunder said landscaping fell within a gray area. After weighing pros and cons, the GLC leadership team decided to temporarily shut down.

“The cons of staying open outweighed the pros,” Grunder said, noting it’s an individual decision for business leaders to make based on state orders, safety considerations, team and client reactions and financial and operational impacts.

For him, it came down to erring on the side of caution.

“Our team was getting nervous about coming to work. Our clients are watching us — and God forbid one of our folks gets infected and then we have to quarantine,” Grunder said. “Fortunately, in Ohio, the grass doesn’t need cut yet.”

When deciding how to close, the company designated three employee groups:

  • Essential – working from home full time with full pay.
  • Partial essential – working from home three days a week with full pay on those days. These employees will be compensated through unemployment minus pay on a pro-rated hourly rate and can use paid time off.
  • Nonessential – not working. These employees were advised to apply for unemployment.

In the meantime, the company will continue to pay insurance premiums.

GLC leaders communicated the closure to the team through email, text and private Facebook messages, as well as in person. The company also emailed all clients to inform them about the shut-down.

Grunder recommended other company owners who are considering whether to close first check with their city and state governments to see if there’s a stay-at-home order and whether landscaping is deemed an essential service in your area. The National Association of Landscape Professionals is aggregating these details.

“Your decision should be consistent with who you are as a company,” Grunder says. “Look for ways to stay true to your vision, mission and core values.”

For areas that don’t yet have a stay-at-home order, Grunder shared the coronavirus safety protocols GLC implemented over the last few weeks. They included:

  • Closely monitoring and following federal, state and local guidelines;
  • Taking team members’ temperatures when they arrive to work, as mandated by the state, and sending home anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees F or above;
  • Suspending the use of water coolers and ice machines;
  • Prohibiting onsite visitors and designating a delivery drop-off site away from people;
  • Wiping down trucks, tablets, surfaces with Lysol before and after use;
  • Hiring a firm to sterilize the office three times a week;
  • Practicing frequent and thorough hand-washing;
  • Practicing social distancing by keeping a 6-foot distance between people;
  • Assigning only one person per truck, allowing personal vehicles to follow trucks to jobs and reimbursing team members for mileage;
  • Suspending the use of leave-behinds and door hangers; and
  • Suspending all in-person meetings and training.

 

Platform, People, Processes, Profits

“Your platform is the foundation for your business,” Grunder said. “It’s your vision, mission and core values. It’s also what you’re selling, whom you’re selling it to and how you differentiate yourself from your competition.”

Staying true to your company’s platform, specifically its core values, should be a major factor in deciding what protocols to implement and whether to remain open during this time, Grunder said. GLC’s core values — quality, leadership, teamwork and profitability — are part of the reason the company elected to close.

“Your team, your clients and your community will remember how you respond to this situation,” Grunder said. “Don’t sacrifice your future for short-term gains.”

The pandemic is also an opportunity to build trust with your company’s people, Grunder said, by keeping them informed and ensuring they feel listened to.

“It’s our job to keep morale up,” he said. “(Place) a phone call, text message or an email to ask how they’re doing. Or do they need anything?”

With the rise in unemployment, it’s also vital to continue to recruit employees, he said.

For employees who are still working, Grunder advises sticking to your team’s regular meeting schedule using technology like Zoom.

He recommends continuing to follow your company’s processes or put some in place to ensure work will continue.

“It’s crucial that we make the most out of the next two months,” he said.

Grunder’s colleague Vince Torchia, vice president of The Grow Group, addressed profits, emphasizing that the fundamentals of finance hold true.

“This level of uncertainty heightens their importance now,” he says. “If you can plan and not panic and stay smart through this time, you have an opportunity to come out of this like a rocket ship.”

Torchia advises landscape companies to regularly review their numbers and maintain a strong balance sheet. Owners and managers should be looking as cash, accounts receivable and accounts payable daily.

“It’s all about liquidity right now,” Torchia said. To maintain liquidity, he recommends keeping a line of credit, invoicing promptly and reducing unnecessary expenses.

Additionally, Torchia said to invest in new tools and equipment with caution. “There could be opportunities to get things for a bargain, but not at the expense of uncertainty,” Torchia says. “You still have to pay for it.”

Finally, Grunder encourages landscape companies to keep good records about the costs you’re incurring as a result of the pandemic and the policies you implemented to keep your team, clients and community safe.

“Document everything you do,” he said. “There is a likelihood the government is going to help us here at a high level; it would be a shame if you can’t recapture your expenses – or if someone accused you of not taking care of employees or community.”

Marisa Palmieri

Marisa Palmieri

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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