A common theme among landscapers I’ve talked with throughout the last six months has been a conservative approach to operating their businesses. They’ve told me that now is not the time to try something new or make a big purchase. Sure, landscapers did add COVID-19 cleaning services, although for some, that was a method of survival.

But our story on page 8 is about Billy Van Eaton, owner of Cumberland Landscape Group in Atlanta, who took a chance on something that isn’t too common in the business world. He added a chaplain, who comes in twice a week, to the company payroll.

Brian Horn, editor, Lawn & Landscape
“So, as you prepare for next year, maybe an outside-the-box idea like Van Eaton's is something worth considering.”

“I think what really won me over was just understanding the day-to-day stress that everybody has in this environment,” says Pernell Roberts, vice president of operations at the company.

The move started with the owner and his leadership team discussing an employee assistance program. You can read the story for more details, but Van Eaton says he didn’t do this to force religion onto his workforce. He wanted to give his employees someone to talk to if they needed it.

And in 2020, I think we all could use someone to talk to. But as I’ve written here before, the industry as a whole seems to be doing OK. Our 2020 State of the Industry does back that up, though there is still some trepidation.

Of the concerns we list in our SOI survey, labor is once again at the top of the list, but a possible economic recession and the presidential election are now added into the mix, along with COVID-19. We added personal stress as an option a few years ago and it consistently ranks in the top 10 as a concern.

When the calendar turns to 2021, the ills of 2020 aren’t going to magically go away. So, as you begin to prepare for next year, maybe an outside-the-box idea like Van Eaton’s is something worth considering. Sometimes adopting that old saying, “zig when everyone else zags,” could make your company better off than it was before. – Brian Horn