First impressions do matter and for companies that provide landscape maintenance, your spring cleanup work can serve as the first impression of your quality of work to companies and homeowners.
Not only do spring cleanups set the tone for the customer relationship, but they are also important horticulturally. It sets up the foundation for healthy plant growth and development and helps control weeds from the start.
“Spring cleanup is very labor-intensive, therefore if it does not go well, you will have crews performing spring cleanup, mulching, and mowing concurrently,” says Joe Lewis, LIC, growth and development manager for Environmental Management Inc. (EMI), based in Plain City, Ohio. “This leads to unhappy clients, exhausted crews, and an increase in overtime hours, which impacts job costing.”
Keys to Success
Getting spring cleanups off on the right foot comes down to planning, proper staffing, training and communication.
Jay Rotonnelli, vice president of business development for Piscataqua Landscaping & Tree Service, based in Eliot, Maine, says towards the end of winter their account managers will go out and walk their clients’ properties to look for damage and what the landscape looks like overall.
“Before this, they pretty well got their schedule set, but it’s important for them to get out there review the property in person so that when they come back, they can have conversations in the mornings with their team and make sure that they’ve had the discussion to make sure they have the right tools,” Rotonnelli says.
Lewis adds conducting site visits in the fall and winter help you create an effective plan, which drives staffing and training needs before the season begins.
Depending on your location, it can be hard to know an exact date for your spring cleanup season to start. For Tyler Lindquist, owner of Highridge Landscapes based in Bozeman, Montana, they opt to start recruiting in February and bring new staff on early so they are trained and ready for when the weather allows them to start.
Rotonnelli says recruiting has become more and more difficult but they focus on retaining their current employees and utilize a referral program to bring in new employees. Meanwhile, EMI recruits constantly but they do ramp up recruiting in the winter for a March 1 start date. Once their staff is in place they begin training.
“Not a death by PowerPoint, but hands-on training to show the team how to safely, effectively and productively operate equipment and service the clients’ needs,” Lewis says.
Because the spring cleanup work is demanding, effective employee engagement is key to retaining these new hires. Lewis says while you can’t hide the fact spring cleanup is work, you can welcome new employees to the team and ensure their needs are met.
“We hire for personality and work ethic, then we work hard to create a team environment where expectations are clear, and every team member feels appreciated,” Lindquist says. “Being fully open to what they are getting into before they start is huge but both parties must be flexible.”
Training and explaining how you can help them achieve their goals can also help build loyalty.
“At the end of the day, if employees feel you care about them, you are loyal to them, and you can develop them as professionals, you will retain these quality people for years,” Lewis says.
Because spring cleanups are at the mercy of Mother Nature, communication is critical to ensure clients have realistic expectations as to when these services will occur. Having a solid communication plan will allow you to adjust plans without affecting the relationships with the clients.
Failing to plan, train and communicate are often the causes of issues during spring cleanup season. Not shifting your focus from winter operations or not renewing maintenance accounts in a timely manner can cause an influx of work that you didn’t staff for.
“Common mistakes that can mess up spring cleanup season are underestimating, time or budget, as well as inadequate team training,” Lindquist says. “We believe in client satisfaction, so we will continue to perform until expectations are met. This coupled with the mistakes mentioned above can lead to schedule disruptions and tense client relationships.”