Welcome to our first newsletter publication! I thought writing this article might be a good place to begin. It is an invitation into our experiences inside Groundcare this past year. Full disclosure, we are not English majors, and have limited experience in the internet publishing realm. I apologize in advance for any grammatical mistakes you may see. I promise our goal is to create content that, above anything else, may be useful to you. We want to keep our articles short and sweet. With patience and consistent effort, our aim is to improve.
We had a phenomenal start to this year. Coming into 2020 we had secured new commercial maintenance contracts and had prepared our operation to begin servicing over 50 new locations, including two university campuses. Our business was growing very quickly and we hired Jim Paluch from JP Horizons as a business coach for our executive team.
Due to the influx of properties, we decided it was time to add new service software. After much research we decided on Service Autopilot. Our main objective was to establish a digital platform to schedule new and ongoing services, and to track service history. Using this software, our service crews have the ability to “check in” and “check out” properties throughout their workday. They can input notes and upload images for management review. Our email newsletter is also generated through Service Autopilot.
On a personal note, my second son was born in February. He is now 8-months-old.
The COVID threat became real for us when Governor Newsom issued the statewide Stay-In-Place order on March 19. That same evening the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) sent out an urgent message to contractor members. It directed us to cease operations. At the time it wasn’t clear if landscape services were part of “critical infrastructure sectors.” There were conflicting state and county directives. We decided to stay-in-place on March 20, and by the following day we had the green light to continue work. We were deemed an essential business.
In the following weeks we began seeing interruptions in service. Several commercial customers asked us to put services on hold, while others had no choice but to terminate. The progress we had enjoyed in the beginning of the year was wiped out in six weeks.
With less revenue and an unpredictable future, anxiety ran high. Fortunately in May we were approved and received funding through the Paycheck Protection Program. I think this gave us (and other businesses) much needed confidence during that trying time. In June and July we saw many properties resume maintenance services.
COVID Finds Us
Even though we are a small family business and don’t enjoy a large spending budget such as some of our competitors, we decided early to honor emergency paid sick leave without restrictions. Our thought was that by doing so, employees would be more likely to self-report symptoms or interactions with other positive COVID cases.
Between July and August we had three employees out sick due to COVID. They self-quarantined and returned after receiving two negative tests. Fortunately, no one was infected during work. So far we haven’t had any more cases.
The New Abnormal
It took several months for near normal exchanges to resume. In August we began discussions with various customers about their budget restrictions and ways to help. New homeowners began finding us through references. To be frank, we stopped marketing residential services years ago. Interestingly, several homeowners insisted on professional tier service and were willing to pay more for it.
Our employees continue to follow Groundcare safety protocols. We are proud of the touch-less hand washing stations we installed. Our team follows self-certification mobile screening questions every morning. On occasion we will notice an employee forget a protocol. We just keep reminding them why we’re doing things differently, and how it is in our collective interest.
Looking Into 2021
If there’s a silver lining in 2020, it is our new ability to be more comfortable with change. It has been said that disruptive events like COVID are an accelerator for business and even personal life. Insights or intentions you’ve had in the past are given life sooner. I know it’s true for our initiatives this year.
No matter how the markets move, we know that our main differentiator will be tied to quality and customer service. We are working extra hard training our staff and putting new systems in place such as customer satisfaction tracking. If you are our customer, you may have seen a customer survey request from us already. Thanks for any and all feedback you can give us.
The COVID threat will continue to be with us at least several more months. We intend to keep our team on guard with everyone’s safety in mind.
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