This article was provided courtesy of Include Software, a GROW! sponsor.
Last February during MGI’s annual GROW! Conference, some 300 landscape professionals toured Grunder Landscaping Co. headquarters to learn how the business operates behind the scenes. One subject the Grunder finance team was asked about again and again was how to use landscaping business software effectively and how to get the technologically averse to actually adopt it.
The truth is that incorporating the right software into your business can greatly improve efficiencies and increase profitability. Because the task may seem daunting at first, we asked three industry experts for their best tips and tactics for making landscaping business software work for you.
Know Going In That Change Is Hard
When Grunder Landscaping first implemented landscaping business software in 2012, they initially tried to use it to do things the way they’ve always done. It became a constant battle until they realized they had come up with more workarounds than procedures.
Landscaping business software forces you to face your company’s inefficiencies head on—and that may be hard.
Nanette Seven, vice president of Include Software, says there is no landscaping business software out there that’s a miracle worker. Many companies think that as soon as they purchase software, their business is going to improve. But often the implementation process reveals underlying problems that need to be addressed first.
“You need certain processes and procedures in place before software can start helping you,” Seven says. “Find a software company that can support you in this process.”
Be honest with yourself and with your employees. Admit that it will be hard at times. Mike Ericson, Grunder Landscaping’s accounting manager, says that most people resist change, especially when it comes to technology. That’s because it’s just so different from what most green-industry businesses are used to.
“I think a lot of us do not understand much about how software and networks work, which adds to the frustration and makes it intimidating,” he says. “The best remedy for anxiety is information. Being able to explain why a change in process is needed is much better than just outlining the change that needs to be made. The why helps us work together to move forward as a company.”
Know That It’s Going to Make You Better
Help your team adopt the software and adapt to a new way of working by focusing on all the ways it will ultimately make their jobs easier.
“You need to be talking to your employees about the end result,” says Seven. “You should admit to them that it’s going to be really hard at times. But also talk to them about the benefits. They’re going to be able to do their jobs better and that means getting home to their families quicker, being more profitable, and growing within their roles. It’s painful now, but in the long-term, this is how it will benefit you.”
Mike Mendez, senior systems architect for Mariani Landscape in Lake Bluff, Illinois, says that landscaping business software is the “best tool to get the work done.”
“In the landscaping industry, everything used to be done on scratch paper,” he says. “Software has really elevated the game. You can do a lot more with data processed through a software system than you can with it written on scratch paper.”
According to Mendez, their software has enabled Mariani to:
- Estimate job costs and man hours more accurately.
- Know how profitable a job is, even in the middle of it. Tracking profitability has been a game changer, he says.
- Manage their workforce better. If they recognize they’re going to have a lot of work in the off-season, they’ll have plenty of time to prepare for the necessary labor.
- Prepare consistent and professional proposals.
“It puts some controls around your ability to bid and estimate work,” he adds. “Your bids are now more accurate and everyone in your organization is bidding at the same rate. Instead of salesperson A saying it’s going to be $10,000 for this work and salesperson B saying it’s going to be $8,000 for the same work, everyone is on the same page.”
Ericson says one of the most helpful changes has been eliminating the guesswork. Decisions are no longer made on gut feelings or best guesses. They’re made based on hard evidence.
“Software takes the guesswork out of filing and accessing that information in the future,” he says. “It saves the time of double entry of data and physical printing and routing through the office. Beyond those points, the biggest help is the information that can be created and utilized through analysis of the raw data.”
Know That It’s a Differentiator
By helping you run more efficiently, always knowing your numbers, and streamlining a lot of processes, specialized software can set you apart from the competition. The edge it can give you is vital in a competitive industry like landscaping.
“Keeping up with technology is important for all companies,” Ericson says. “But it’s particularly important in the landscape industry where the barriers for entry are low. There are always new competitors popping up, especially when the economy is recovering or growing. Keeping up with technology helps established companies continue to outperform those who don’t use these powerful tools.”
Grunder Landscaping has also found that using the mobile app companion of their software keeps crews connected with the office in real time.
Of course, in order to be successful with software, you must find the product that’s right for you. There are a lot of software options out there, so take time and make sure the one you choose easily adapts to your organization.
Know That It May Be a Slow Go
As you take steps toward embracing new software at your company, try not to get discouraged with the process. It’s going to take some time to adapt to the change and that’s OK.
At Grunder, Ericson says it mostly came down to the uncertainty involved in something so new. It was difficult to trust how things would turn out. But as everyone grew comfortable with the system, that trust grew, and the uncertainty disappeared.
“It comes down to baby steps,” Mendez adds. “Understand that some of your people are going to be timid with it at first and it will take some longer than others to grasp it. But they’ll get there. Give people time to adapt to the change and work with them along the way.”