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Photo courtesy of Pickel Landscape Group

Mike Pickel brought a “Bunny” on board to keep his landscape crews focused on production. Bunny, in this case, is his father, Maurice, who acts as a “gofer” at Pickel Landscape Group in Landen, Pennsylvania, to pick up and deliver materials, transport equipment and much more.

“Anything that can keep our production team on a jobsite, he does that,” Pickel, 35, says of Bunny, 68, who got his nickname from a baby blanket years ago.

“It’s the little stuff that happens when you own a business that the business owner, manager and team leader shouldn’t have to worry about because they need to focus on getting work done. He helps our team by letting them do their jobs.”

“The Key is understanding that your production people are more valuable in the field installing plants or building patios than they are making deliveries.” Mike Pickel, owner, Pickel Landscape Group

Bunny started working for Pickel as a fertilizer technician in 2010. But in 2012, when Pickel started outsourcing applications and moved into a new facility, he realized that his dad could add more value as fleet and facilities manager.

In this role, Bunny keeps the facility clean, in addition to jockeying equipment and materials to and from the field.

The position, which also includes the responsibilities of chief safety reminder: inspecting crews and jobsites for required safety gear, is part-time, four days a week – a great opportunity for a semi-retired worker at the company.

“Some people might look at this position for a company that just does a little over $1 million in revenue as a big overhead expense, but it allows us to be way more productive,” Pickel says. “The key is understanding that your production people are more valuable in the field installing plants or building patios than they are making deliveries.”

Pickel learned the hard way that the downside of Bunny’s position is abuse by forgetful crews. Pickel was shocked to hear how often team leaders called Bunny to bring materials, safety gear and tools they should always have on hand.

So last year, Bunny started getting a daily agenda (that he can adjust for legitimate requests), and creating a daily time report to monitor his activity. At spring orientation, he explained to crews what he would – and would not – do for them.

“You need to put parameters in place so the position doesn’t get abused … and so you don’t get upset because he spent half a day taking plastic edging for a paver patio that the guys should have brought days ago,” Pickel says. “We’ve learned to set up parameters so we can be hard on those parameters, not the person.”