COVID Made Me Do It!

Columns - Guest Column

The pandemic may have forced you to institute changes to your snow and ice management operation that make a lot of sense for your business over the long term.

October 15, 2020

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The year 2020 will certainly go down in the record books as a year that challenged us all. It will also go down as a year that allowed/forced smart organizations to adapt and improve their business models in very unexpected ways to deal with shutdowns and labor issues. As things begin to open back up, I urge you to consider the changes you implemented. You may find that much of what you did to meet the demands of the moment actually makes good business sense moving forward. Here are just some examples.

Virtual Meetings

Prior to COVID-19, most companies in our industry had in-person meetings or regular conference calls. After being forced to implement virtual meetings to ensure employee safety, companies learned this method carries merit in many circumstances: virtual meetings allow attendees to participate from anywhere – including from the cab of a truck – saving commuting time back to the office. Even though this type of interaction may not have been as good as an in-person meeting, it was way better than a regular conference call because the collaboration in a video call allowed participants to understand more nonverbal cues (which improves communication quality). Companies also discovered that they could even skip some meetings altogether realizing an immediate increase in productivity (and morale).

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Intentional Communication

Casual, impromptu interactions came to a halt because clients were working from home or had restricted access for visitors; meanwhile, many employees were no longer in the office at the same time. Those physical connections helped build and maintain relationships and trust. Smart companies replaced those interactions with more intentional communications. Regular email updates (or better yet – videos) from owners and other key leaders helped maintain and strengthen a company’s culture. Clients continued to see the value in working with the company through regular, strategic communications.

Workplace Flexibility

Most employers did not embrace work from home policies, fearing a decrease in productivity. The pandemic helped speed the implementation of technology, allowing work from home solutions which gave employees flexibility, increased safety and satisfaction without the loss of productivity. This flexibility also allowed companies to open up a large, untapped potential pool of employees, capable people that were unable to work full-time out of the home.

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Process Changes

Small simple changes enacted because of the coronavirus helped a lot of companies’ productivity. Some companies implemented staggered start times or direct report to job sites. Others were forced to overcome their reluctance to change and implemented new technology that helped them maintain, or even increase, service levels (for example: smart irrigation, paperless time tracking, GIS estimating, video conferencing, etc.). Outdated systems and health constraints also forced organizations to look at how they did things. Processes were able to be automated, streamlined and often made touchless, increasing speed, accuracy, and quality along the way.

New Revenue Streams

Many revenue streams dropped significantly because many clients scaled back on scope and services. By necessity, companies needed a way to make up the difference. Some added nontraditional services (for example: cleaning and sanitation services, organic vegetable gardening) while others, expanded into new geographic market areas to make up the lost revenue.

Our industry responded to the coronavirus pandemic with creativity and determination. Companies were forced out of their comfort zone and were required to change and do new things in new ways. Many of these changes will be good for our businesses long-term and we need to keep doing them even when a pandemic is no longer an issue.

Snow Magazine contributing editor Joe Kujawa is a senior facilitator and dedicated practice leader for Bruce Wilson & Co. Joe is a 2016 Leadership Award recipient.