True Colors Shining Through in 2020
As a wife, mom, and business owner of Green Scenes Indoor Landscaping, January of 2020 found my life full and rewarding. We had three excellent referral bids out. The future looked bright! Little did we know that soon life as we know it would be radically changed.
Soon after the Super Bowl, there was news about a strange virus from China. In early March, I was happily caring for plants in a sunny atrium downtown. Jim, my husband, called asking me to stop by Costco to stock up. On everything. Now. Fear was in the air as shelves emptied and people shopped in silence.
On March 13th, the Governor closed all schools in NC. My kids were happy at first. A two week vacation! Clare, a high school senior, was upset but hopeful that she would return to school. My son James, in 8th grade, would soon be homeschooled. May 15th found me tearfully cleaning their lockers alone in an empty hallway.
I contacted local officials to see if Green Scenes was deemed an essential business. Designing, installing, and caring for tropical foliage and patio plants is a rare profession. The lady had never heard about indoor landscaping! Nevertheless, she confirmed that yes, we could stay in operation.
We rode an emotional roller coaster. At this time, we didn’t know a lot about the Coronavirus. Could it be transmitted on the plants? I spent hours researching only to find wildly varying information. Should we wear gloves or masks? I had a few masks from repotting days, but none were available at stores. I sent an email to each of my clients, asking for nighttime access to each building. I explained it was so important to be safe for myself and my daughter, who would be working with me. It was already so evident which organizations were taking this virus seriously, and which ones thought it was a hoax. Some buildings had signs up in early February discouraging hand shakes and large gatherings, while others showed full parking lots and no social distancing or slowing down at all.
Some clients went out of business. One retired and sold the business, ending my contract. One long time client completely ignored me and would not answer emails or phone calls. I later learned they had closed and let all the plants die when the heat was turned off. Thankfully, most of our clients stuck with us. Everyone showed their true colors.
Clare and I began plant maintenance at night in April. My directions were “Drench and Dash.” I urged her not to touch her face, and we wore gloves. I figured out when the cleaning crew had finished, and we worked soon after. She chatted on her air pods while working, her voice echoing through the empty, dim buildings. We ended each night sanitizing our work truck in the driveway and showering immediately when we entered the house. Meanwhile, keep in mind that I was waking up at 5:30 a.m.to create classes for my son’s “homeschool” lessons every day. Dragging him out of bed so I could pretend to be a teacher was so hard.
By early summer, things had opened up a bit. After her graduation, Clare was busy babysitting most days, so I went back to working in the daytime. But my job had radically changed. Learning to work in a mask was challenging. I quickly determined that cotton masks were way too hot, but I could handle the nice disposable paper masks. My glasses fogged up so badly that I had to leave them in the car, resulting in a constant, dull headache.
When I came to do plants, I found skeleton crews and only saw security guards. Gone were the full break rooms and offices since nearly everyone was working from home. One of my clients started a Mask the City initiative. (www.maskthhecity.com) It was inspiring to see people again as conference rooms changed into sewing rooms to help our city. I was proud to be a small part of this.
In July, we were blessed to gain 3 new contracts. Two in the booming real estate market, and a new office in an existing client’s building. We were so excited! The gains easily offset our March losses, and we felt hope and joy for the future.
Holiday Decor ended 2020 on a festive note. Our clients were interested in decorating for the holidays and we were so thankful. Sadly, my wholesaler for Poinsettias had not made it through the shut down. But our problem was quickly solved! My friend at Myers’s Greenhouse was happy to sell us the flowers we needed. “We grew 3000 Poinsettias for churches who are not buying,” she said. I’m glad to report that all Poinsettias were sold!
Take time to realize what makes your company valuable even in times of crisis. I believe our greatest long term value is found in our integrity and personal relationships. Do you strive to lead your company to “…do unto others as you would have them do unto you?” How did you handle fear? Did 2020 find you competing fairly based on your skills and value to the community, or did you go after new business by undercutting existing contract pricing? Perhaps you even lost a client in this way in 2020. We all reap what we sow. 2021 is the moment to decide how we will move forward.
In the future, offices will profoundly change. Over 40 percent of white collar workers say they prefer to keep working from home permanently. It’s time to think about how that will change our indoor plantscaping industry. How will you make your business furlough proof? The true value of any business is trust and excellence. We must take time to connect with our clients and communicate clearly when situations change overnight. Can you communicate via Zoom? How about connecting with a new manager with masked faces? By focusing on what we can control, we show our clients that we are passionate about bringing beauty into their world with our live plants and display of Biofilia.
Let’s work together to support one another in 2021. 2020 taught me to be thankful for so many things I took for granted. I’m very thankful for the weary immunology researcher who takes time to thank me for the Holiday Decor outside their lab. I’m happy to greet the day porter whose eyes crinkle into a smile when they see me filling my Waterboy. Keep smiling under that mask! Be determined to head into 2021 filled with gratitude so we can all continue to bring life and beauty into our world. Let your true colors shine in 2021.