3 Rookie Mistakes that are Costly for an Interiorscape Company
Before you send your plant technicians out to their first solo account, make sure you cover these three rookie mistakes that can be costly to your company.
1. WATER SPILLS
I have a friend in the farming business that wanted to shadow me while I serviced one of my downtown buildings. Having free help is always a plus, so I had him carry the watering cans while we waited for the elevator. As the doors opened and he turned to step onto the elevator, the water sprayed out of those watering cans like a sprinkler, leaving a curved line of small puddles on the travertine tile floor. He had no clue the heavy motion of his body was causing water to spill from those cans until I stopped him from entering the elevator and pointed it out. Luckily, I always carry a rag and we quickly wiped the puddles away before any of the tenants got their shoes wet or, more importantly, slipped. If someone would have fell as a result of our water spill, my day of free help could have cost me several thousand or more.
According to OSHA, the most common job accidents are slip and fall injuries caused by wet, slippery surfaces with the national average cost per accident for a company being $40,000.00. It was estimated by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) that 20-30% of these people will suffer from bruises and fractures. This is one of the greatest risks in our line of business and why it’s so important that we stress water safety and diligence. Even after years of service experience, accidents can happen from dripping water when over-filling a can or not handling the jug carefully. To prevent this, I stuff the can opening with rolled up paper towel which acts like a wick or even use a rubber wine stopper to plug the hole. Besides leaking watering cans, you also have to be diligent with your plant containers. A leaking container can cause furniture or floor damage that you can be liable for. Worse yet, is a large container that leaks onto a smooth surface causing a slip hazard after you’ve left the account. That’s why I avoid using wicker and terracotta inside which are prone to leaking. Having your techs do container checks on a regular basis is a good practice that can prevent lawsuits and higher insurance premiums.
2. PEST CONTROL
Here in the South, insects can cause a lot of problems, and one of the most annoying are fungus gnats. They are my biggest nemesis aside from mealybugs. Many times, they can contaminate a building undetected from the larvae hiding in the soil of a replacement plant. They are attracted to the light of a computer screen and often become extremely bothersome to those trying to work. If your techs aren’t proactive with gnat control, such as using nematodes and taking care not to over-water, it can lead to more infestations. If client complaints are ignored or the gnat situation becomes too widespread, the next step for most clients is cancellation. I’ve heard of companies creating “no live plants” policies due to fungus gnats bothering their employees. Not only does this harm our business, but also the employees who benefit from having plants in the office.
3. DETERIORATING PLANTS
Deteriorating plants can become a tricky issue, especially if an employee’s performance is based on the number of plant replacements they have. With a guaranteed service contract, the less foliage replacements a tech makes, the more the interiorscape company profits. To encourage a low replacement rate, we often offer plant technicians bonuses based on their performance reviews in which plant replacements play a role. While this practice encourages proper plant care, it can also lead to techs keeping inferior plants inside our client locations. One of my techs would tell me that some of her “bad plants” would begin to make a comeback when moved closer to a window. Problem was, most of the plants had deteriorated too far to return to their original beauty. Our customers are paying for high-quality, well-maintained plants, not something you find in an average household. I had been stressing to her so much about saving costs, I forgot to explain upholding the high standard of plant appearance was more important. Once I assured her that having plant replacements such as these weren’t going to affect her salary or benefit the company in the long run, she no longer felt he need to use client locations as temporary greenhouses.
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