Teamwork Pays Off: The Elevation Team Ensures Client’s Success 

A new enterprise software solution shouldn’t just provide support for the business as it is today. It should position a land care operation to elevate its efficiency, customer service, and profitability well after the purchase … month after month, year after year. 

BOSS® Software has made it a priority to put its clients in the best possible position to maximize the system’s capabilities through the BOSS Elevation Team.

Comprised of BOSS super-users with more than a century of combined industry experience, the Elevation Team provides new users with regular engagement on their use of the software to ensure it is achieving its full potential. 

“We’re client advocates, like an account manager for the BOSS customer,” says Shannon O’Neil, chief operating officer at Chicago-based Ryco Landscaping and an Elevation Team member. “We are there to reach out to clients, engage them, and provide a touch point for questions and issues they encounter.” 

Continually Improving Software Performance

One of the most valuable services the Elevation Team provides is a yearly wellness check, which comes with the software subscription. 

“The BOSS wellness check is designed to gauge how well the client is using the software, and to identify areas where the business could receive more benefits,” says O’Neil. 

The wellness check includes metrics on standard housekeeping items, extended features, and reports so that the client can understand where their organization rates with its use of BOSS.

“A customized report card is provided for review, then we schedule a meeting to go over the results and help the client clearly understand where there are opportunities for improvement, and to answer any questions,” explains O’Neil. 

In addition, clients are trained how to run the wellness check on their own any time of the year to ensure continuous improvement. 

Software Customized to Your Company’s Needs

Software customization and new software segment installations are another place that the Elevation Team can come into play. 

“We recently helped out a contractor who was focused on landscape lighting,” says O’Neil. “We helped him connect the dots, get all the products he was using into his inventory, and successfully deploy the software solution.” 

A recent customization provides a good example of the value of the Elevation Team. It was a payroll report that calculated weekly performance bonuses using an Excel spreadsheet.

“A contractor was doing a specific report and that we were able to help reformat, which has saved the company both time and money,” says O’Neil. 

“It involved pulling a report from the accounting system and putting the numbers into Excel to do the calculation,” she continues, “and that spreadsheet was then sent to payroll. Not only was it cumbersome, but formula errors were causing the bonuses to be calculated too high. We created a Pivot report that took the Excel step out and sent it direct to payroll.”

Premium Service, Premium Results

The Elevation Team also offers premium service calls for a deeper dive into issues and questions.

“Our value as owner/operators is that we can provide a fresh look and level of experience that a programmer can’t because of our experience in the industry,” says O’Neil. “We’ve been there and done that.” 

Another available offering is the BOSS Elevation Group Workshops, which feature targeted, intensive off-site experiences with the Elevation Team, BOSS software developers and managers, and fellow landscape contractors who are BOSS clients. 

“The next workshop in July is focused on snow, and we will have snow removal clients speaking at the event,” says O’Neil. “Our goal is to elevate and improve the client experience beyond basic customer service and accelerate business performance.”

The BOSS® Difference

BOSS’ intimate knowledge of software and the professional landscape and snow removal business makes it the number one choice for businesses searching for a complete software solution. Call 866/596-5971 or request a free consultation today.

BOSS: Committed to Continuous Improvement

While no one who runs a business can fully foresee how evolving market forces will impact their product and service offerings, the one absolute certainly is that change will happen.

That’s why from the beginning, the creators of BOSS Software rolled out their initial offering with one eye on the horizon.

“We’ve been committed to reinvestment in the technology since day one,” says Mike Cossins, owner of The Integra Group, parent company of BOSS. “When we originally priced the software, we set aside 40 percent of the revenue for maintenance to keep up with technology changes.”

And it’s not just about adding and improving features to the software. Evolution beyond the software itself, such as electronic commerce, internet browser preference, and the movement toward mobile devices for connectivity and communication have required vast investments to ensure BOSS customers can access accounts and interact with employees in whatever way they prefer.

For example, when Google Chrome proved to be a better multiplatform option as a base browser, a software rewrite was required to accommodate a shift away from Internet Explorer.
The move to mobile was another significant shift.

“When we first rolled out BOSS, mobile wasn’t what it is today,” recalls Cossins. “BOSS had been cloud-based, but typically was used in an office on a PC. Subsequently, over several iterations, we designed new mobile screens to be used in the field that are now a core part of the system. And we continue to add features to it.”

Software By Contractors, for Contractors

New feature development is critical, so the software grows with customers’ businesses. BOSS has added numerous capabilities for customers including service route planning and management and integrations with accounting and payroll systems. BOSS also worked with a committee of market experts to create a business management software offering for the design build market.

Today, the commitment to growth and product advancement continues at BOSS with a significant investment in a snow management module.

“It’s a different market than maintenance or construction,” says Cossins, requiring its own approach to software. But just like the other BOSS offerings, “investment will be shared across all of our clients, and a percentage of the monthly fee will go toward the growth and enhancement of the service.”

While monitoring market forces is an internal management responsibility, BOSS relies heavily on customer engagement to ensure its development is on target, and to better understand client needs and desires as far as their management software.

“We have a Client Steering Committee featuring a hand-selected group of our top five clients who are, from our perspective, maximizing their use of all the features of BOSS software,” says Cossins.

At a once-a-year meeting, ideas from the group are vetted out through presentations and discussions and ranked by their relative levels of impact to customers and effort to create. The list instructs BOSS managers and engineers on key future projects.

“The plan now is to add a snow version of that committee to get feedback and ideas for feature development in that product,” says Cossins.

In a rapidly changing world, BOSS’ commitment to invest in the future has kept clients ahead of the curve and will for years to come.

The BOSS Difference

BOSS’ intimate knowledge of software and the professional landscape and snow removal business makes it the number one choice for businesses searching for a complete software solution. Call 866/596-5971 or request a free consultation today.

Six Things Contractors Need to Know When Buying Software

Selecting a business software management system is not something you want to change every year, or even every few years. You are not just choosing a software, you are choosing a long-term partner, creating a long-term business relationship and identifying a tool to help run your business.

For businesses to grow revenue, track expenses, manage labor, inventory and subcontractors, increase the accuracy of the bidding process, better serve customers and maximize their fullest potential, they need to select software that aligns with how their business operates and choose a software that seamlessly fits in and supports their efforts.

Let’s be honest. The selection process is not something that can be done on the side or when you have a few hours to spare. To maximize what will be a significant investment of time, people resources and money, you need to do your homework.

When It’s Time For New Software

How do you know your company is ready to switch to a new software system or make that initial investment?

If you feel you could be more productive or efficient with new software, it’s time to consider other options. Assessing your current setup is a good place to start. It’s important not to accept that your current setup is always ‘the way it should be’ just because you are used to it. Being open-minded will bring new opportunities that will boost your business performance.

Six Things to Consider When Selecting Software

Once you’ve made the decision to make a change or invest in software for this first time, there are several questions you need to consider as you research your options, according to Jarret Pitchford, onboarding specialist for The Integra Group, makers of the BOSS management software.

  1. Does your company currently have a culture of checks and balances? For example, do you have a regimented process for purchasing or inventory or do people just buy what they need, when they need it, and figure the rest out later? The same goes for tracking labor costs. When you are working on multiple projects at one time and shifting crew members around due to labor shortages, do you really have an accurate picture of your true labor costs down to the per job level?
  2. Do you currently like the way your company estimates jobs? If not, how, specifically, do you want to change that process and what do you want to achieve with the change?
  3. Do you want to switch to verifiable takeoff data (i.e., how many acres to mow, liner feet to edge, bed square footage to apply mulch, etc.) vs. instinct and experience? Do you have time studies in place you can use in the estimating process to gather the verifiable data needed to improve the accuracy of your estimates?
  4. Look around at your operation ask the question, ‘Does your company embrace technology?’ Is this going to be just another piece of technology that your company will readily adopt and use to its fullest, or will your team think you’re trying to move from a bass boat to an aircraft carrier? If your team is anti-tech, this will be an uphill and costly battle.
  5. Are you ready to lead? The most successful software deployments take place in companies where the owner takes the lead, embraces the deployment, is involved in the process and shows enthusiasm for this change. Your employees will follow your lead.
  6. Can your software grow with you? Switching software can be a major process. If you choose the right partner from the start, you can eliminate the need to change multiple times. It is much better to have a software partner that can adapt to your business as it goes through many stages of growth.

Be the BOSS of Your Business

BOSS consolidates ALL the aspects of your landscape, landscape construction, lawn care or snow management business into a single cloud-based solution available anytime, anywhere. Learn how BOSS can deliver return on your investment that will provide smoother internal processes to help your team provide exceptional customer service.

A Measurable Improvement in Performance

Hartman Landscaping Improved Financial and Operational Performance After Selecting BOSS®

What gets measured, gets improved. That’s critical in any business, but particularly so in the landscape and snow removal industries where labor and staffing can be a revolving door and weather can be unpredictable.

The best way to profitably manage a business is through real-time numbers. These numbers tell a business owner what their gross margins are so adjustments can be made proactively to improve the bottom line.

 

The Need for A Single Solution

Beau Hartman is the president of Hartman Landscaping in Zanesville, Ohio He’s passionate about the landscape business and it’s been in his blood since he was 15 years old. While this is a common start for many landscape industry entrepreneurs, not all landscape businesses are alike. When Hartman and his team decided that they’d had their fill of reviewing 10 different spreadsheets to complete their client billing as well as the need for a better scheduling tool, they set out to find a business management software program that could serve as a one-stop-shop. Specifically, a centralized platform to remove the uncertainly and time intensive process of manual time keeping and data entry.

After spending a few months researching and reviewing software demonstrations, Hartman determined that BOSS® would provide them with what they needed – a more cost-effective solution than other providers, and with a bonus comfort level that comes from the software for snow removal.

Finding Financial Success

As they set to implement the new software, Hartman couldn’t have imagined the financial success they would enjoy in one year’s time.

“We had been working with consultant Ed Laflamme to improve our gross margins across the board, but BOSS made it a lot easier to properly job cost and monitor and estimate gross margins,” said Hartman. “Job costing, alone, is really the number one benefit to us. If we can’t see what our job performance is, we don’t know what our margins will be.”

The company discovered that several condominium associations clients they were manually job costing and thought they were doing OK on when it came to profit margin were, in fact, costing them money.

Hartman estimated his annual revenues increased from $1.8 million to $2.5 million in 2021 because the software helped the company do more and do it more productively.

“It streamlines everything and allows us to handle sales more efficiently, which in turn helps us monitor gross margin and know we’re doing profitable work,” he added.

Saving Time and Money

Hartman’s team implemented the software in about three months. They held two to three meetings a week running from 30 minutes to two hours. In addition, they had homework to input service, materials and production rates into the program. While time-consuming, Hartman said his team didn’t resist the implementation and were glad to see it through.

Today, contract renewals are much easier through BOSS software automation, and the purchase order system is the driving factor behind the company’s job costing.

“The monthly invoicing alone (through BOSS) probably saved us 12-16 admin hours a month,” said Hartman. “I can’t imagine working without BOSS. We were scared at first as it was an expense, but we looked at how much money we spend a year in advertising and determined that if it costs us a dedicated amount of money each month to run our entire business, it’s definitely worth it.”

Today, contract renewals are mostly automated, a purchase order system is in place controlling job costs, AP is in order, and snow removal and mowing routes are centralized.

Hartman enjoys the ability to monitor gross margin on install projects on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. As material invoices are input, he can see in real-time where they stand on a job. On maintenance contracts, he can see which properties they’re underestimating hours on making it easier for crews to see the overall budget for the job.

Benefiting From Early Returns

With one full season under their belt, Hartman said there were a few big eye openers pertaining to inventory and direct job costs. He also learned about distributed time – the travel time between jobs. BOSS distributes it and proportionately allocates it to each job based on the size of the job.

“The investment and time spent onboarding the new system were big lifts but it’s definitely worth it in the long run it,” said Hartman. “

BOSS® Hosts Elevation Workshop To Assist Users Drive Business Opportunities

(December 8, 2021) – Peer to peer learning is often the most effective method of transferring knowledge. To that end BOSS®, the landscape industry’s original enterprise-class business management software creator, hosted an Elevation Workshop for clients at this year’s GIE + EXPO in Louisville. 

The workshop featured BOSS software users sharing their real-world scenarios to explain how BOSS helped them realize significant positive impact to their businesses by improving productivity, profitability, growth, and more. 

“Our Elevation workshops are part of the secret sauce that makes BOSS so valuable to our clients,” said Mike Cossins, president and founder of  The Integra Group. “We want our clients to benefit from sharing practical ideas and solutions to the challenges and opportunities they experience running their businesses every day. It’s neighbor helping neighbor in the BOSS community.”

Presenters included Erin Grummert with Zak George Landscaping in Ft. Collins, Colorado and Peter Thelen of Landmark Landscapes in Atlanta. 

Grummert’s shared how Zak George benefitted from deploying BOSS in their snow and ice management division.

“The cloud-based feature gives our snow and maintenance teams the ability to clock in from the job site and to view and adjust schedules to respond to client’s needs faster,” said Grummert. “The route optimization feature gives us the ability to streamline the client billing process by combining service tickets because we bill daily for snow.”

A BOSS user since 2018, Zak George has realized the following benefits in their snow and ice management division:

  • Reduced paper usage by 80 percent.
  • Increased accuracy of clock-in times, making payroll and invoicing more accurate, while reducing effort required.
  • Gained the ability to adjust schedules on the fly during snow events.
  • Greater efficiencies in the pre-season planning process and set up.

Landmark Landscapes, a 10-year BOSS user, turned to BOSS to upgrade its financial and operational reporting systems to drive profitability. The company uses a weekly hours labor report for their maintenance division to help crew leaders and crews understand what drives productivity, profit and more effective time management.

“This is where the power of benchmarking comes into play,” Thelen told attendees. “It has helped our crew leaders and crews make better decisions.”

Landmark also uses the quarterly production efficiency reports to identify areas needing improvement and price new business opportunities properly.

“The analysis of the data from the reports has helped us improve our bid analysis process and allowed us to improve our gross profit by six margin points by looking at the hours we were spending and what we were charging.”

The ease of use and ability to customize BOSS meets the ever-expanding needs of its companies while delivering a return-on-investment. The software is designed to support multiple vertical markets including:

  • Landscape and snow removal management 
  • Field service management 
  • Transportation and logistics management 
  • Moving and storage management
  • Food service management 
  • Supply chain management 
  • Custom solutions for various industries

Learn how BOSS can help you grow your business at www.bosslm.com and www.theintegragroup.com

 

About The Integra Group

Founded in 1999, The Integra Group provides cloud-based solutions and custom software consulting services throughout the U.S., Canada, and Australia.

 

Media Inquiries

Cindy Codecode@b-communications.com

Jeff Fennerjfenner@b-communications.com

Stephanie Leveling Joins BOSS® Elevation Team

(November 23, 2021) – BOSS®, the landscape industry’s original business management software developer, announces the addition of landscape industry veteran Stephanie Leveling to its Elevation Team. 

The Elevation Team is unique to BOSS and serves as a support system for new and existing users to help them achieve superior results in their businesses when implementing BOSS business management software into their operations. Leveling joins John Richter and Lisa LaRose.

A graduate of Illinois State University with a Bachelor of Science in agribusiness/horticulture, Leveling started her career in the green industry as an intern with Heimos Greenhouses in Millstadt, Illinois, and worked there after graduation.

Leveling moved to the commercial maintenance area as a foreman for Munie Greencare Professionals in Caseyville, IL and built a career in account management that has spanned three decades working for some of the largest commercial maintenance companies in the St. Louis market. For the last seven years she has served as the divisional manager for Ideal Landscape Group located in south St. Louis County. 

Active with the NALP’s Women in Landscape Network, Leveling was recently appointed to the Gateway Professional Horticulture Association board in St. Louis as member at large. Active in the community as well, Leveling is on the board of directors for the O’Fallon Little Panthers Football Club, and served as the committee chair in the local Cub Scouts. 

“Joining BOSS allows me to work with green industry professionals all over the country to help them grow and improve the overall performance of their businesses and continue to be a part of and contribute to this industry that I absolutely love,” said Leveling. 

Noted for its ease of use and ability to be customized to meet the ever-expanding needs of companies, BOSS Software stands alone when it comes to delivering return-on-investment and unmatched levels of client service.

BOSS Software is designed to solve shared challenges and barriers to growth for business owners in multiple vertical markets including landscape and snow removal management 

Learn how BOSS can help you grow your business at www.bosslm.com

About The Integra Group

Founded in 1999, The Integra Group provides cloud-based solutions and custom software consulting services throughout the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Our solutions are mission-critical business operations that are typically enterprise-wide in scope.

Media Inquiries

Cindy Codecode@b-communications.com

Jeff Fennerjfenner@b-communications.com

Turning Data Into Dollars

Greenscape’s Gross Profit Improved

12 Points Following Switch to BOSS

  • Massachusetts-based Greenscape’s gross profit margin improved 12 points using BOSS Business Software
  • Data analytics improves financial and operational performance.
  • BOSS Software’s data analytics and reporting features give users the ability to drill down on multiple data points to identify trends.
  • Data analytics is a teaching tool that can improve individual and team performance.
  • The data mined from analytics is beneficial to clients helping them budget and understand the true costs to do the job.

While there is indeed power in data analytics for businesses, harnessing that power has proven elusive for many landscape contractors.

Software manufacturer Microsoft reported in the fall of 2019 a startling statistic about data use in business: Between 60 and 73 percent of all data within an enterprise goes unused for analytics. Often, the problem lies in applying the right software solution that matches not only your industry, but the way you do business.

That isn’t the problem for users of BOSS Business Software. When Greenscape, a 34-year-old landscape maintenance and snow removal company based in Raynham, Massachusetts, embarked on a search for new business software , they wanted a product that would sync with their growing regional enterprise.

Greenscape’s 350 employees are spread across five maintenance and construction branches doing exclusively commercial work. The company made the move to BOSS software in large part to take advantage of software’s ability to manage the myriad data it generates in its day-to-day operation.

Nate Patnaude, Greenscape’s maintenance division manager, shares his thoughts on how BOSS has made Greenscape, a BOSS Elevation Award recipient, more efficient, profitable and customer responsive.

Q: What went into the decision-making process leading up to choosing BOSS?

We were using a construction software product previously and were looking for a system that was more granular and could manage the entire workflow – customer relationship management, sales, invoicing, and estimating.

Until we found BOSS it was a struggle to find software that understood the transactional nature of the landscape business. In our industry, we need to know how to manage the many small components of a job, and it often comes down to nickels and dimes, not thousands of dollars.

Q: What was the clincher to go with BOSS?

The visibility of the data and data reporting are significant strengths of the BOSS system. It gave us the ability to take data and easily cut, dice, and slice it to measure against our KPIs. The reporting structures have been a real plus and allow us to look at data from different angles.

We have five branches, one of which is 400 miles away, and having the visibility to see what’s going on in real-time is invaluable.

Q: How does Greenscape use data analytics to its advantage?  

The analytics tools in BOSS software allow us to identify trends in ways that are critical to our business, whether it is season to season, service to service or market to market. The reports we generate provide us with a clear picture of how well each part of the business is performing.

We drill down and run reports using seven points of data on a weekly basis. We can look at one branch, one crew, or even one specific manager. If one data point is moving in a way that doesn’t match up, we can take a closer look to see what’s happening.

As a result, I can have a conversation with the branches about very specific items including labor hours, gross profit, and sales in real-time. This gives us the flexibility to affect change immediately which has been particularly valuable this year as costs have gone up. It has allowed us to make shifts to counteract and offset the increases.

Q: What impact do data analytics have on the bottom line?

Data analytics helps our sales team understand the impact of taking on a specific job can have at all levels of the company. We can also see trends in the market, which gives us a better understanding of the industry as a whole and allows us to make deliberate decisions about our approach.

For example, What type of services do we want at a specific branch? Will a specific market sustain a certain service offering better than another? What services are clients buying and when?

Data Analytics In Action

Patnaude shared an example where data analytics assisted a client better understand what services they needed and how it would impact their budget.  The client was a large private school that was making substantial improvements to the school grounds’ landscaping.

During the process, the school realized it need an expanded and more consistent maintenance program design. Greenscape pulled past service data and factoring in the new improvements, outlined what services would be required to maintain the improvements.

The school was able to then make informed decision on what services were needed and how much they needed to budget.  The result was a four-year contract extension at a higher rate.

Data also provides Greenscape with greater flexibility to adjust contracts to help clients with their budgets. Patnaude said having access to the real-time data allowed Greenscape to make on-the-spot decisions, which was extremely valuable.

If your company is looking for a business partner that will be invested in your success, call 636.449.3300 or visit www.bosslm.com

The Integra Group BOSS® Announces New Software Release

(August 4, 2021) – The Integra Group, the innovative force behind the landscape industry’s original enterprise business software, has deployed a new global release of its BOSS® software that helps landscape contractors, lawn care and snow removal professionals overcome barriers to growth and improve profitability.

New features include:

  • Integrated DocuSign and e-signature capabilities – this allows customers to obtain electronic signature using DocuSign directly integrated with BOSS software, providing faster turnaround for document execution and the ability for clients to sign documents anywhere from any device. 
  • Integrated credit card payments – A single source solution for processing customer’s credit card payments featuring robust payment security, transparent pricing, detailed transaction management and reporting, next day funding, 24/7 customer support and reduced credit card fees. 
  • Text messaging – capability to easily share important scheduling and project-related information via text message to your team and clients. 

“Our goal is to give our clients the tools they need to continually improve and grow  their business operations,” said Mike Cossins, president and founder of The Integra Group, developer of BOSS Software. “We are continually

adding new features to BOSS software to make it the go-to business management tool for all lawn and landscape contractors and snow removal professionals.”

Noted for its ease of use and ability to be customized to meet the ever-expanding needs of companies, BOSS Software stands alone when it comes to delivering return-on-investment and unmatched levels of client service.

BOSS Software is designed to solve common challenges and barriers to growth for business owners in multiple vertical markets including: 

 

  • Landscape and snow removal management 
  • Field service management 
  • Marine transportation and logistics management 
  • Food service management 
  • Supply chain management 
  • Custom solutions for various industries

Learn how BOSS can help you grow your business at www.bosslm.com 

About The Integra Group

Founded in 1999, The Integra Group provides cloud-based solutions and custom software consulting services throughout the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Our solutions are mission-critical business operations that are typically enterprise-wide in scope.

Media Inquiries

Cindy Codecode@b-communications.com

Jeff Fennerjfenner@b-communications.com

The Integra Group – Creator of BOSS® Software – Announces the Launch of New Corporate Website

(June 21, 2021) – The Integra Group, the innovative force behind the landscape industry’s original enterprise business software, announces the launch of its redesigned website with updated content and client service tools.
TheIntegraGroup.com is the source for landscape and snow removal contractors looking for intuitive and customizable software solutions that help companies transform their businesses and remove barriers to growth.
The website features expanded content offerings detailing the unique features and industry-focused solution-based tools of BOSS® software, an overview of the software’s implementation process and stories of how landscape contractors and snow management professionals have found success using BOSS.

The site is also a portal to BOSS University Training and Certifications which includes self-guided video training, regular webinar “Deep dive” sessions, client group “Elevation Workshops,” regularly scheduled instructor led trainings, and customized in-person training sessions.

“BOSS software is not an off-the-shelf product with limited functionality. Rather, it is customizable and scalable to meet the needs of growing landscape and snow removal entrepreneurs,” said Mike Cossins, president and founder of The Integra Group. “The new website is more than a fresh coat of paint. It allows us to highlight our client-focused solutions and to tell the world what makes us different. BOSS software is a solution designed and built for your industry by your industry!”

Founded in 1999, The Integra Group has seen its versatile BOSS Software deployed by hundreds of landscape contractors across the United States. Noted for its ease of use and ability to be customized to meet the ever-expanding needs of companies, BOSS stands alone when it comes to delivering return on investment and with their unique culture focused on service, The Integra Group provides unmatched levels of client service.
BOSS Software is designed to solve common challenges and barriers to growth for business owners in multiple vertical markets including:

 

  • Landscape and snow removal management
  • Field service management
  • Marine Transportation & Logistics management
  • Food service management
  • Supply chain management
  • As well as custom solutions for various industries

The work in this diverse set of industries not only makes Integra stronger, but it also brings new ideas and innovation from various industries together to help your industry.

 

About The Integra Group

The Integra Group provides cloud-based solutions and custom software consulting services throughout the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Our solutions are mission-critical business operations that are typically enterprise-wide in scope.

Facing What No One Saw Coming

The sky isn’t falling… but we are. Literally every landscape and snow company is having some form of this conversation as we face the uncertainty of this upcoming season. Sure, businesses have highs and lows. Champion a cause long enough and you will live to see, and lead through, true disaster – an equipment malfunction severely injuring an employee; a freak electrical short in a truck that bursts into flame; a reckless driver causing an accident with one of your field captains’ cars and they’re killed instantly. Disaster.

But even alongside disaster, what we face today with #COVID-19 drains the color from our faces. This is a true “black swan” event, as coined by Nassim N. Taleb:

First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme ‘impact’. … A small number of Black Swans explains almost everything in our world, from the success of ideas and religions, to the dynamics of historical events, to elements of our own personal lives.

Thus as leaders we must ask: How can we face what no one saw coming?

First, take courage. No one wishes to see such days, but here they are, and here we are; our teams, our employees, and our communities are looking to us. They’re listening for wisdom, reaching for courage, watching how we lead. The road ahead is hard, and it will be hardest for leaders, but “we can” begins with “I [the leader] will”. The late Walter Anderson said:

Bad things do happen; how you respond to them defines your character and the quality of your life. You can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of your loss, or you can choose to rise from the pain.

Second, speak with calm, candor, and confidence. No one facing a hurricane talks about sunny days in the seven day forecast. There’s a hurricane. We all know it. What people don’t know is what to do about it or how to talk about it. By speaking plainly about it as leaders, we set the example for our organization that while our circumstances are not safe talking about them can be. We also set a precedent for the tone in which we expect to face things – feeling emotions, but not being run by them; seeing crisis, but also seeing a team lined up with us.

Third, remind people who they are and what they can do. Sunny days are when we hang our visions and values in the front office; stormy nights are when we set them in the foundation. A field captain can’t control how long quarantine lasts, but they can make sure their team follows all protocol and uses all safety equipment to keep their little group safe. An office manager can’t change what the economy will do, but they can make sure employees and their families have money for groceries because payroll ran correctly. Coach people to stay aware of the crisis but to stay focused on what they can control.

Finally, look for consistency, contingency, and efficiency. Crisis typically isn’t the best time to risk pushing all your chips to the middle of the poker table, so maybe those 1-year and 3-year objectives you set for your business don’t make the sense today that they did two weeks ago. Regroup! Try to establish through hard numbers what your level of risk is as an organization, then look at what your options are to mitigate those risks. What part of our revenue stream is contractually bound and safe to depend on, and if a shutdown hits what gets suspended? Would an investment in increased safety division hygiene programs reduce our potential HR impact? Could some of our older management staff work from home for the next two months to both keep us moving and keep them safer? What if we we tried to get by one extra quarter without that job hire? Would a migration from paper systems to software systems make us more efficient and save enough cost to offset some revenue loss? How are our cash reserves as a company? The more safety net you can visualize – and confirm – the safer you and your team will feel, and the more conservative of an approach you can adopt.

Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley famously mentored one of his teams by saying, “You have no choices about how you lose, but you do have a choice about how you come back and prepare to win again.” Our world will lose altitude for a while to this – none of us have a choice in that – but we can deploy the parachutes of wise decisions to slow that descent for a safe landing.

The hurricane will pass. I hear somewhere on the other side is sun in the forecast.

===

David Rempfer shares from 13 years of profit and non-profit team leadership, is a veteran of multimillion landscape and snow operations, and is one of less than 300 professionals in North America to be SIMA Executive CSP certified. He now consults industry executive and leadership teams in their pursuits of business improvement and quality-of-life.

(This blog was originally posted March 17, 2020 to LinkedIn.com.)