6 Streamline Best Practices With Landscape Design Software

6 Streamline Best Practices With Landscape Design Software

landscape design software

When it comes to designing award-winning projects, there is no question that it can be time-consuming. Every tree, plant, piece of furniture, and every line has to be hand-drawn. Then it needs to be coloured and shaded to bring out the visual. And perhaps multiple views need to be designed to give the client a walkthrough of the space. Eventually, that design has to be turned into an actual number, fully costed out for all the material used and labour time. Needless to say, it can be very labour-intense.

It’s why many in the landscaping business are dropping their pens and pencil crayons in favour of landscape design software. Computer-assisted landscape design streamlines many of the aspects of design work and completes it in a fraction of the time. Designs not only leap off the page with beautiful colour and 3D renderings but also gives you accurate and precise shapes and measurements in your designs. If you’re looking to grow your landscaping business, CAD-based design solutions are a must. Let’s look at how software is streamlining the design process.

Sketch from a site plan

For accuracy in your designing, start with survey plans of the property and load them into your landscape design software. One aspect of streamlining designing is improving the accuracy and having exact surveyed plans will definitely be a better starting point for any design plans you have. You can also scan in plans you have mocked up on a notepad. Go from napkin drawings from your customer to a professional-looking design with the scan ability. It’s about precision in your measurements so you get the most accurate estimate possible.

Build kits

Some design elements have groups of objects that you will constantly use in designs. Think about a table and chairs, or a grouping of flowers. Having to put each individual piece down over and over again can be time wasted in designs. Especially when you have done it on a previous design before. In landscape design software, build custom kits of items, objects or groupings that you commonly use in order to speed up the production of your designs.

Pre-drawn shapes and libraries

One of the benefits of using CAD-systems is that it’s computer-generated. If you are using specific shrubs, stones, trees or water features, you want your clients to see exactly what they will look like. With over 1,200 pre-drawn library figures, select these objects and put them into your design. These are already drawn and rendered for you. Just scale them to size and add colour to get the exact plant or stone you want in your design. With over 9,000 plants in the library, set your designs apart from your competition with a detailed and accurate rendering, giving your designs character and more realism than what could be completed with pencil and paper.

Add a lot more colour

Colouring designs can be very labour-intense. Each tree, shrub, plant, water feature, deck and grass area has to be coloured, shaded, and textured in order to offer that wow factor to clients. It’s difficult to do manually, not to mention how much time it takes to complete a full design. With colour tools in your landscape design software, bring your designs alive with colour swatches that can instantly change the look and feel of your design.

Colour will win more bids, but it’s another part of the process that needs to be streamlined to cut down the time it takes to complete. With landscape design software, you have the ability to change shading, opacities, textures and colours with the simple sliders and paint tools. Put the pencil crayons away and bring to life your designs with an easy to use colouring function.

Make it come to life in 3D

Flat designs can sell. That’s what you get with pencil crayons and paper. But if you really want to wow your potential customers and win more bids, you need to bring those designs to life. And that means giving them a real 3D look at what their landscaped space will look like. With 3D modelling tools as part of your landscape design software, transform your 2D designs into a 3D world that your customers can actually envision themselves in.

Take them through a walkthrough of their space. Let them see the height of the trees, how the shadows will fall during the day and where their pathway will take them with a 3D rendering. If you want to guarantee a sale of your project, wow your customers like no one else will. The proof will be in the presentation when you deliver an award-winning and most importantly, job-winning 3D design.

From design to estimate

Having a great design is one thing, and you can definitely wow your customers with designs made in landscape design software. However, your customers still want to know the cost of all the work. Eventually, you will have to give them a price. The old way is to do the bid in a spreadsheet, accounting for each plant, shrub and tree you have designed and pricing them from your cost book. That’s every single item, one by one, put into an estimate. That keeps many landscapers up late at night completing bids, instead of spending time relaxing after a day working in the field.

With landscape design software, turn your design into an estimate automatically. With a cost book in your software, each element you place in your design is accounted for and automatically put on the estimate. You don’t need to go plant by plant, as the software will account for it all. It’s one of the fastest ways to turn designs to estimates and allows you to streamline all your bidding. Change a price in the cost book and the price updates on your bids. Get the most accurate bids you have ever completed in a fraction of the time by removing the manual process and replacing it with automation.

Success in landscaping is about streamlining

To be the most successful and to grow your business, you need to streamline processes. Saving yourself time in one area is time you can put in another. It can also take your bidding, estimating and designing to a whole new level you weren’t able to do before manually. Multiple angles, 3D renderings, real shades of colour for plants is going to make your designs more appealing to customers and win you more bids. By using landscape design software it’s a path to winning more jobs by doing a fraction of the work you did before.

Grow Your Business With These 4 Essential Tips

Grow Your Business With These 4 Essential Tips

LANDSCAPING SOFTWARE

The landscaping market has increasingly become more competitive. So much so, that just being able to offer a great project isn’t enough. There are plenty of other must-do’s landscaping businesses are having to do to stay competitive and grow their business. Between new equipment, landscaping software and keeping up with the latest trends, landscapers can keep their business in front of the competition, and stand out amongst a very crowded field.

It’s important for any business owner to always be thinking ahead and how they can improve their business. If you want to grow, you need to be evolving with the times. That means both in designs and industry trends with technology. So, for the landscaper looking to having a booming and thriving business, here are some essential tips to follow.

Become as efficient as possible

There are plenty of areas in a landscaping business that can benefit from a brush up to make it more efficient. Efficiency is generally dollars saved. Whether we are talking about spending fewer hours doing a task because of automation or buying the most effective equipment for the job, it’s all about doing what is right for business. Efficiency can come in the form of deciding to buy a piece of equipment rather than rent it. That’s because, over the course of the year, you would save money on rental fees if you purchased equipment outright.

Relying on pen and paper for all of your designing, tracking, quoting and invoicing also isn’t an efficient way to do business. Landscaping software provides the tools for those tasks that will complete them in a fraction of the time. How many more designs and bids can you do in a month if you are saving 30-50% of your time doing both. And to grow your business, you need to do two things. First, add more customers through more designs and bids. Second, lower the expenses on tasks by becoming a lean and efficient landscaping business.

Stay on budget, know your budget

Having a budget is critical for any future success of your landscaping business. But many landscaping businesses operate without knowing their budget. There are many expenses inside a landscaping business that you may not have accounted for when you are bidding on projects. It’s not all materials and labor hours that need to be in the estimate. There are also your outside costs, such as the overhead of office and support staff, warehouse and storage fees, insurance, and utility bills. All of those costs need to be recouped throughout the year and be included in your projects. But if you don’t know the budget for them, how can you account for them?

One way to stay on budget is by using landscaping software to include those overhead expenses in your project costs automatically. Let the software calculate the percentage of these expenses that need to be included in each job you bid for. It’s important to think company-wide when estimating and not just on the single project. There are plenty of budgeting methods available, and your landscaping software should manage it for you, so you know where you are year-to-date in your budget.

Know what your homeowners want

The customer base is starting to change as the population changes. Think about the people buying homes today that need lawn care and landscaping. Millennials make up a large portion of that market. And many millennials support environmental issues. That means you need to make environmentally sound decisions when it comes to your bids, the equipment you buy and the plants you suggest. Perhaps that means buying battery-powered equipment, rather than gas engines. Or starting to recommend more organic lawn treatment programs. And going paperless with landscaping software is a no brainer, as millennials are a generation of people who are built on e-bills over paper bills.

These new wants by homeowners could have an effect on your budget, on your expenses and how you design landscapes. To grow your business, you need to be ahead of the trends, or at the very least, with them. If the largest portion of your upcoming market has environmental issues at heart, then being an environmentally friendly landscaping business should be in your plan of action.

Embrace the technology that is available

We have already talked a lot about landscaping software, but that is an industry essential if you are wanting to grow your business. It encompasses every part of the tips we have discussed already, automating many of the processes you do on a daily basis. From quoting to tracking to billing, landscaping software is covering every part of your business. Pens and paper just aren’t doing it anymore. Technology sells and appeals to your customers. Be it a fantastic looking design from multiple angles or rendered in 3D to give them a full view of their backyard. Or as simple as automated billing. Technology is available to help grow a landscaping business and it should be something to embrace by everyone in the industry.

If you want to grow your business, you need to be willing to change your business. The company that doesn’t change, doesn’t grow. Sticking to the system and processes you have always done in the past, might not be what will make you succeed in the future. Take a look at your own landscaping business and see where you would benefit from a few extra hours, a better budget or being more aligned with your customers. And then see how landscaping software can be that essential piece to accomplish it all.

Cash Flow Savvy Business Owners Are Keyed In

Cash Flow Savvy Business Owners Are Keyed In

By Joe Salemi     cash flow savvy business owners

Most small to medium sized professional landscape businesses do very well in their technical skill-sets, yet running the business often presents challenges outside of their comfort zones. They often struggle because of poor cash management skills, or at least because of lack of understanding of how to effectively manage cash flow – not letting it manage them. 

Next to fraud, competition, and poor economic conditions, this is THE reason landscape businesses struggle or fail. 

Take all of this and add that it is a significant source of stress. Ahhh!! It makes sense, you have employees, equipment, contracts, office space with overhead and people that depend on you to make their living and the money just isn’t coming in at the right time to take care of payroll or your vendors. More than ever, a foundational business skill is managing positive cash flow.  

Here is some great advice I’ve received over the years of observing and working with high performing landscape companies and cash flow savvy business owners all over North America: 

  • Monitor cash flow closely – keep a close eye on bank balances, sales opportunities (in progress/won/lost), accounts receivables, inventories, payables, and credit card terms. All of these wrapped together give you a great sense of the financial health of your landscape business. 
  • Make frequent projections – take a look at what invoices have been sent out and their terms. Ideally, you’ll have a customer rating system based on how well they pay so you’ll be able to have a quasiaccurate way to project when cash will come in. 
  • Prepare thorough, accurate cash flow forecast – consider historical sales, payment histories, industry averages/trends, current economic conditions. The more you can do to forecast your cash flows and benchmark, the better you can plan in the event that slowdowns or clogs in the pipe start to build up. 
  • Identify issues early – you have a client that is taking their sweet time to pay – don’t be afraid to ask for your payment! I see it all too often that landscape business owners feel awkward or uncomfortable asking a client to pay their invoice. Don’t sit on in it, don’t wait ‘til later to “work on it”. Fix it when you find it and keep the pipeline of cash flowing. 
  • Have a back up plan – in much of the US and Canada, the landscape business is extremely seasonal. And, well, so is cash flow. Give some hard thought to how youll bridge the gap between good times and hard times. Wellestablished professional landscape businesses build reserves. Strong startups have well-backed lines of credit that support their work and growth. If you know there’s going to be a gap in the flow of cash, it may be time to establish an off-season service you can provide to your existing clients (or new ones), allowing you to be revenuepositive on a regular basis. 
  • Grow carefully and be measured – it often takes money to make money, but overachieving and uncontrolled growth can (and likely will) send you into an unrecoverable tailspin. Have a solid business plan that outlines the strategic direction you want to progress towards. Develop objective key results (OKRs) that will keep you laserfocused on achieving your goals (dreams).  
  • Invoice quickly – any delays in getting invoices to clients means a delay in getting paid. This should be a priority for you (or preferably for your office admin professional). Have regular, dedicated time set aside to invoice your clients for the work and services you provide.  
  • Use technology wisely and effectively – if you’re not using an accounting software package, well shame on you! I’ll assume you are and you’re using it to manage your A/R. Focus on the clients who have exceeded (aged) more than 20 days and work to remind them to get their payments in. Invest in a landscape business operating system that allows you to tie invoices directly to the job, and will have them generate automatically for your routine maintenance clients. 

Cash flow struggles are real, but don’t let them loom over you like the ominous clouds and weather systems that have delayed the start of the season for much of North America. If you aren’t as financially savvy as you’d like to be, surround yourself with people that are and learn from them. Ensuring a steady flow of earned revenue is coming into the business is just as important as ensuring the crews complete their projects on time and on budget.  

Let us show you how Manage360 can help you manage your cash flow effectively and efficiently.

The Future is Bright!

The Future is Bright!

In March 2019, DynaSCAPE sponsored the National Collegiate Landscape Competition – Joe Salemi was there to scope out the up-and-comers of the landscape industry, and recap the event highlights.

Above is just a small sample of the audience in attendance for the Closing Ceremonies

One of the biggest issues affecting the professional landscape industry right now is access to quality people, and often it seems like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel; that is, until you experience the National Collegiate Landscape Competition. As a four-day event with over 1,200 students, faculty, and industry leaders collaborating across workshops, professional development series, networking events, a career fair, and competitions, you leave with the feeling that the industry is going to be just fine. I’ve now had the opportunity to experience this event for six consecutive years, and each year it continues to get bigger. In fact, if you don’t book your hotel early and/or secure your registration, there just might not be any room at the inn for you.

DynaSCAPE’s Joe Salemi oversees the Landscape Design competition, and offers technical help as needed.

Many industry-related sponsors invest a significant amount of time, effort and money because students are our future industry leaders, and they want early (and regular) exposure to these young professionals. DynaSCAPE isn’t any different; in fact, we have a strong academic program with our landscape design software being taught in 61 of the 68 schools that participated.

For professional landscape companies that haven’t been to this amazing event, but are looking for quality, young people to join their organizations, here’s some inside information:

  • Secure a lead or assistant sponsorship for a competition;
  • Book a booth at the Career Fair;
  • Build relationships with your local college or university, and get to know the department heads and instructors;
  • Sponsor your local participating school’s t-shirt (they wear them all week long!); and,
  • Attend the networking events like the Industry/Faculty Reception.

We know these students are serious about their futures not only because of the amazing work they’re producing, but also because they commit to the event during Spring Break. While thousands of their friends are vacationing and taking a break from school for the week, these bright and dedicated young people are focused on building a pathway to success for their future careers.

The Student Career Fair can get quite busy, but is by far the best place to snag your next landscape professional.

While most people imagine relaxing during Spring Break, these students are hard at work during the Planting Install competition.

Even if you’re only mildly considering participating in the National Collegiate Landscape Competition by either helping with a competition or in the career fair, I strongly suggest planning for it now. Landscape companies big and small were at the career fair looking for young professionals to intern and join their teams. There is no other event in North America that even comes close in size and scope for the future leaders of the landscape industry.

Click here to see pictures and final results of the 2019 competition.

Click here for more information on the National Collegiate Landscape Competition in 2020.

Interview with Jeremy Scarlett

Interview with Jeremy Scarlett

In a recent interview with Jeremy Scarlett of Scarlett’s Landscaping in Ventura, CA, our own Joe Salemi talks to Jeremy about some of the challenges that they work through, how his relationship with his father has driven the success of the company, and how they utilize Manage360 to drive efficiencies and profitability. 

Jeremy started his professional career in environmental and financial sectors before entering the green industry.

Jeremy is a Landscape Industry Certified Hardscape Technician thorough NALP, a Level II Certified Allan Block Experienced Wall Builder, and a certified ICPI Concrete Paver Installer. Jeremy was born and raised in Ventura. He graduated from St. Bonaventure HS in 1996 and UCLA in 2001. Jeremy grew up working with his father and continued to do so all through college. After college, he spent time in the environmental and financial fields before rejoining forces with his father in 2008. Jeremy and Tom formed Scarlett’s Landscape, Inc and now provide Landscape Design and Build services for all of Ventura County, Santa Barbara, and West LA County. Jeremy is a 4th generation landscaper, carrying on the tradition his great grandfather started in the 1930s.

Scarlett’s Landscaping Core Values

Team members are Humble. They lack excessive ego or concerns about status. Humble people are quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to seek attention for their own. They share credit, emphasize team over self and define success collectively rather than individually.

Team members are Hungry. They are always looking for more. More things to do. More to learn. More responsibility to take on. Hungry people almost never have to be pushed by a manager to work harder because they are self-motivated and diligent. They are constantly thinking about the next step and the next opportunity.

Team members are Smart. They have common sense about people. Smart people tend to know what is happening in a group situation and how to deal with others in the most effective way. They have good judgment and intuition around the subtleties of group dynamics and the impact of their words and actions.

Lead With Gratitude, Grace, and Obsession

Lead With Gratitude, Grace, and Obsession

Seems like an odd combination: gratitude, grace, and obsession right? Well it is at first blush. Unpack it and you’ll find it’s exactly the right recipe to show your employees that you care about what’s important. Finding and keeping the good ones on your team can be a full-time job, especially given the current labor climate. Here’s how you can make it a little easier on yourself.

Grace

To lead with grace requires knowing who you are, which allows you to inspire people to help you move the organization toward its goals. It’s a style of communication that is synonymous with respect and caring. If used appropriately, it can increase the levels of teamwork and create a cohesive culture by building trust and cooperation. A leader who creates this sort of working environment through their communication alone can certainly be called a graceful leader. 

One of the main attributes people who lead with grace also seem to have is authenticity. Authentic leaders are not afraid to show their vulnerability in front of employees. They are self-aware, which requires knowing and understanding themselves. They know that their vulnerability helps them to connect because people sense that they’re genuine. Authentic leadership, at its most basic, means not being “someone other” at work than you are at home. If you pretend to be one way at work and act another way at home, your behavior won’t be natural and you’ll come across as awkward and unsure, which will create distrust.

A second attribute that qualifies leading with grace is compassion. Compassion starts with a belief that ‘we are all created equally’ and that no ones’ work is above anyone else’s, including yourself as the leader. A leader who is compassionate is aware of and respectfully acknowledges employees’ efforts and feelings, which results in win-win situations more frequently. Instead of a transactional approach (“do what I say because I give you money and benefits”) or an authoritarian approach (“do it my way or get fired!”), a compassionate leader thinks about the collective: “Let’s achieve these great goals together.” A compassionate leader generously recognizes work well done, but also gently, firmly and without apology, corrects employee’s efforts as often as is needed. Helping an employee improve their performance through communication and feedback is compassionate. Letting an employee ‘wallow’ in bad work habits is not good for the company or the individual employee. They also tend to put employees first and attempt to be as flexible as possible if their employees have had difficulties, like a death in the family or divorce.

Learning to balance authentic and compassionate actions with accountability is the key to leading with grace.

Gratitude

The combination of leadership and gratitude is extremely powerful. The power of gratitude gives leaders the edge they need to quickly pivot during stressful situations, such as their team not performing or their bottom line dropping. When leaders pause for 60 seconds and use the Gratitude Practice outlined below, they give their brains and their bodies a chance to recalibrate. This allows them to focus not only on the present and how they can turn things around, but on hidden opportunities to be grateful. 

When leaders engage in this practice on a regular basis, they are able to generate gratitude from within, which allows them to show gratitude to others. Think of it in these terms:

A leader who is grateful towards his or her employees gains their respect.

The simple act of gratitude produces other behaviors. When a leader takes time to intentionally thank her employees, she gains their respect. Because gratitude is a virtue, we tend to respect those who exemplify it.

A leader who thanks his employees gains their trust.

Gratitude can’t be faked, and that’s one of the reasons why it is one of the emotions that elicits most trust.

A leader who thanks his employees gains their effort.

Gratitude also produces greater effort in those who sense it. Someone says, “Thanks, that was awesome! You totally rocked that deadline!” That kind of grateful language is encouraging, because it’s a reward for effort. When we’re rewarded for our effort in such a way, we want to give even more effort.

A leader who thanks his employees gains their appreciation.

We appreciate virtue when we see it i others. Thus, when you express gratitude towards other people, your behavior will gain appreciation.

A leader who expresses gratitude prevents other undesirable emotions.

Grateful people are rarely angry. And angry people are rarely grateful. Think of it like this, that gratitude can eliminate some of the more undesired traits associated with leaders — micromanagement, authoritarianism, rudeness, etc.

Obsession

A healthy obsession for the right things is ultra critical to drive the success of your company. Obsessing about quality of work, the level of service your employees perform for your clients, the way your employees treat your equipment…etc. A healthy obsessive tendency perpetuates a culture of continuous improvement. And a continuous improvement culture drives everyone to do better.

Leaders who take deep dives in to the processes that are critical to the delivery of product and service that drive revenue don’t let anything else preoccupy their mind. The go “all in”. Think of this like working on the business rather than in it, but 10X. This is where the details matter. Obsessed leaders look at every aspect of the business and how it runs, in it’s finest detail. From how your front line employees interact with your clients to the follow up emails they receive as a thank you for their business.

Don’t let yourself get distracted. Obsession with improvement means that every day, without fail, you will relentlessly focus on finishing each of these process goals. They become your top priority.

The landscape business owners I know who are at the top of their game got there not by wanting to be better, but by becoming obsessed with improving. Because we live in such a result-oriented society, it’s easy to forget that the key to happiness lies not in the end goal, but in the efforts along the way toward achieving the goals we’ve set for ourselves.