Interiorscape Contingency Planning: Why You Need a Rover

Call them what you will…emergency back up, secondary, extra, floater, roamer…their purpose is to do what ever needs done. And one of those things just might be to increase your profits.

What is a rover?

A rover should be experienced in all aspects of interior landscaping. When filling a rover position, you’ll want to find someone who has done a lot of plant care, especially enough to be able to deal with plants he or she doesn’t see regularly. You should feel confident that they will have no trouble familiarizing themselves with all your accounts. The rover should understand the requirements of installation and how to navigate your part of the country. Experience in heavy equipment operation would certainly be a plus. They should have a pesticide applicators license and be conversant with special operations like atrium maintenance, large material pruning, outdoor work (if you offer that service), etc. They should know how to operate the greenhouse (if you have one) and how to order plants and supplies. Some other things that are useful are experience in training, quality control, conducting meetings, and customer relations. It’s about you and what your company needs done. In other words, they can step in whenever they’re needed, wherever they’re needed.

Why are they necessary?

When an employee is on vacation, sick, or quits, having someone who can fill the position will save untold quantities of time, aggravation, and anxiety. Everyone else on staff continues with their own jobs, smooth and efficient, while the rover goes where the necessity is.

Ah, sounds lovely, but let’s get real. Profit margins are tight anyway, how are we going to find the money to support a person that has no real job? It seems like a luxury only the very rich (well, very large, no one is rich in this business) companies can afford.

True, to a certain degree. If you’re company is just you, and you’re content with that, then hopefully you already have procedures in place for these kinds of interruptions. If not, maybe you should seriously consider hiring a rover as back up.

Are you ready?

If you think you’re ready to hire a new employee, perhaps it makes more sense to hire an all-around experienced person rather than a basic plant technician or an untrained person new to the trade. It may cost a little more to begin with, but you should be able to raise your revenue from a combination of increased efficiency and new business. Down the road, should you choose to keep growing your operation, that experienced person will become either your supervisor or your rover, depending on their talents.

But does it work?

Hiring the most all-around experienced person you can find when you’re starting off makes good sense, but what if you’re a small to medium sized company? Surely you’ve experienced the scrambles that go on when you lose a staff member for whatever length of time. Maybe you’ve even thought about hiring a rover. Let me tell you my experience.

One of the medium size companies (5 technicians, 2 installers, a supervisor, a sales person, a general manager, and the owner) I worked for many years ago was considering hiring a rover. The owner thought it might be a good idea, but she was worried that there wouldn’t be enough work for an “extra.” She went ahead and tried it. Guess what happened. There was never even an hour when that “extra” didn’t have something to do. That company went on to be one of the major interiorscaping companies in the Northeast.

There were many reasons for that company’s success, but at the top was its reputation for excellent service and highest customer satisfaction. Having a person who could step in and cover anyone’s job surely contributed. It certainly made life easier and more satisfying for the supervisor, who could do “supervisor things” instead of service as well as the installation people, who could complete all of their installations instead of covering an additional position. Likewise for the manager, who could actually manage instead of filling in for someone else. And especially for the owner, who could concentrate on selling new accounts and shmoozing old ones instead of doing the manager’s work because the manager was doing the supervisor’s work because the supervisor was doing absent technician’s work.  See how it goes?

Having a rover is like laying a big strong foundation before you start building your walls. Perhaps you think you can’t afford one, but if you consider what you’ll do if a “big storm” hits, you may see that the investment might just be worth it.  Guaranteed the rest of your people will thank you.

Marlie Graves, known as The Ficus Wrangler, has been keeping plants beautiful, training techs and relating to clients at half a dozen companies for 30 years. She studied creative writing and psychology in college and went on to start an independent film company with her first husband. She decided to focus on plants full time after completing the NYBG Horticulture School interior landscaping course. Marlie is retired, operates "The Ficus Wrangler" YouTube channel, contributes regularly to several houseplant forums, and is working on a plantcare book based on professional methods.

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