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07 September 2020

Unforeseen Changes | Angus Lindsay | Pro Landscaper

With the supply chain suffering, idverde’s Head of Assets and Fleet, Angus Lindsay, says it’s important, where possible, to retain staff with the experience and knowledge to pull them through the crisis.

As we emerge from lockdown, like survivors from nuclear fallout, the full extent and long-lasting effects on our day-to-day lives are becoming apparent. The pandemic has seen some big names in manufacturing and supply fall by the wayside or diversify, and it has been impressive the way some businesses have adapted to produce products to assist in the battle against Covid-19.

What has come as a surprise is the loss of some highly experienced individuals within businesses which weathered the pandemic and continued to provide support during the lockdown, only now to face redundancy. We are all having to adopt leaner working practices but, to my way of thinking, losing years of valuable experience is an extremely short-sighted approach to the long-term sustainability of a business. Within a commercial operation a realistic program of succession planning makes these decisions far easier to manage, as hopefully there will be someone with the right skills able to pick up the reins. But what of the family business, where the next generation may be not always be the best replacement? This could result in a skills gap, but then I suppose blood is thicker than water.

Tough times call for tough decisions. When the loss of the few may safeguard the future of many others, it’s a tough call many smaller businesses are having to make to ensure their survival. Several large corporations with multi-faceted interests, some linked to the aviation industry, are now looking to sell some of their portfolio which, perversely, could affect the supply of lawnmowers and ATVs. John Deere recently announced that they are selling their pedestrian mower manufacturing facility and ceasing production of robotic mowers as these products are no longer a strategic fit for their business. I wonder how many more of the big players will look to streamline their operations by rationalising their product line-up? After all, the recent pandemic is only one hurdle; emissions and a move to cleaner technology could dramatically change the range of options available to the end user.

The landscape still needs to be managed. But how?

Whatever lies ahead, the landscape still needs to be maintained and managed. How we deliver this remains to be seen, though learning from experience will be invaluable to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not replicated. With tens of thousands of people entering the job market, some may well decide to join our industry but have little or no experience, so learning from the old-hands is an ideal way to get them up to speed, as technology can’t always provide the answer. I have in the past extolled the virtues of learning from others who have been there, seen that, and got the T-shirt, but going forward I think that this is even more relevant.

I’m sure we have all come up against inexperience in one form or another: the 1.5m rotavator fitted to the 100hp tractor; specifying a 48” machine only to discover it can’t get through the gates; thinking it is acceptable to carry an 1800kg machine on a 3500kg truck; or the belief that a flail will take down anything from brambles to small trees. These could all be avoided if we share our experience. In our brave new world, where getting people back into work through apprenticeships and the like is a priority, management training schemes and on-line training are all well and good, but shouldn’t we be drawing on those who can share their vast practical knowledge and experience before we lose them for good?


Angus’s article is also published in the September 2020 issue of Pro Landscaper magazine.