Five Questions to Ask About Landscape Specific Software
by Dan Weaver, Account Manager, DynaSCAPE Software
Have you ever created a landscape design plan and wondered if it was possible to automate a take-off to a full cost based estimate and proposal for your clients? If you answered yes, you are not alone. There are thousands of landscape companies across North America that share the same frustration. The cumbersome task of manually creating the plan, labelling the plan, re-creating the list for takeoff, comparing the list with your excel spreadsheet, entering formulas, square footages and hoping that you are accurate enough to make a profit, just isn’t the best practice. This process is time consuming and more importantly, isn’t accurate and detailed enough for landscape companies to know exactly how profitable their job can be resulting in lost profits and money left on the table.
The big question is are you accounting for all of your overhead? What about labour burden? What about all the extra little costs involved when leaving the yard in the morning, travel time and many other general conditions? Are you recovering all of these often forgotten expenses? Are you accounting for these expenses on your estimates and charging for them? In a lot of cases, NO! This process can be difficult to track and include on a basic spreadsheet and needs to be organized in one system.
Over the past 3 years, I have spoken with thousands of landscape business owners, contractors, designers, architects and estimators and all of them agree that this process needs to be automated and improved within the industry. These professionals are actively seeking a solution to speed up this process and work flow that will allow their companies to be more competitive, professional, profitable and efficient.
Here are a few things to think about when implementing a new system that will help your landscape business follow best practices:
QUESTION 1: Do you have the right tools?
There are many programs on the market that contribute to the day-to-day operation of your business. These products can vary from accounting packages, cost book systems, POS, CRM sales management, inventory management, design software and estimating software. The challenge is selecting the right product for your unique business needs. A lot of these programs are great for some industries but are often shared among several industries and are not specific enough for your operation. This raises the biggest problem when using multiple mass market software products. Often these tools cannot be tailored to your company’s operations and just don’t check all the boxes required to successfully run your operation. By using multiple systems that don’t communicate, it makes everyday tasks difficult to complete and can waste your time. Double entry ring a bell? How about losing data from one system that doesn’t import correctly to another? This is what happens when you use software not designed for your industry.
QUESTION 2: Do your systems communicate?
When selecting software to help solve your pains, you should always ask the question about integration. Software can be very tricky to connect to everyday mass market/industry products like MS Word, Excel and accounting programs like QuickBooks. By having an all in one system that handles specific green industry best practices that “play nice” with other programs, is crucial. More importantly, how about integrating your specific landscape software so that everything operates smoothly and communicates under one platform. There are very few systems on the market today that streamline the green industry’s design process, to a full cost-based estimate right through to final invoice. I encourage and stress the importance of this integration when choosing the right program for your business.
QUESTION 3: Are you practicing the right systems/procedures?
When you invest in a software program that is specific to your industry and integrates as an all in one business management and design solution, you will have the advantage over your competition. You will experience a large list of benefits for your landscape business. One worth noting, is the creation of systems and procedures your business will adopt from implementing the all in one solution. Software like DynaSCAPE Manage360 and DynaSCAPE Design, has been created from professionals like you that include built-in industry best practices. By utilizing the system and its built-in best practices, the program will guide your company to follow these practices that are proven to help streamline your operations, become more efficient and profitable.
QUESTION 4: Why is it important that both the Design program and Estimate communicate?
By using a professional design solution that integrates with a cost based estimating platform will allow you to automatically label your design from your centralized cost book and then create a material take off directly into an estimate. Within 5-10 minutes of design completion, you have your proposal ready to be sent to the client. You can manage changes in your design and produce a new proposal easily and quickly whenever the client requests any revisions. This process will eliminate errors and allow for your team to trust every estimate that leaves the office. This will also speed up and streamline the overall process that will create more time for you and your team to focus on client and business needs.
QUESTION 5: Why is it important to have built in best practices that allow for systems to be built and followed?
By implementing a business management and design solution that integrates together, will automate your work in ways that will help you run your company better. Programs like this are structured to help you follow the best practices in the industry, from the way that you estimate to the ways that you manage your sales cycle, recover your overhead and schedule your crews. With those best practices built into the program’s workflows and options, your landscape business can use the same professional estimating, job management, sales and management methodologies that the most successful companies use to ensure consistent profitability. Having a system like this will help you steer your company towards greater efficiency and bigger profits.