How Much Does It Cost For A Landscape Estimate?

How Much Does It Cost For A Landscape Estimate?

Customers will routinely ask, how much will it cost for an estimate of a landscape design. Some companies do it for free, others charge a fee. But the costs we’re concerned about in the landscape estimate are all the costs the landscape business is paying. How much does it really cost a business to complete a landscape design? And more importantly, have you, as landscape business owner, accounted for all of those costs?

“It’s important to know your numbers, know where you need to be and know when to say ‘when’ on lowering a price,” says Jim Huston, president of J.R. Huston Consulting.

Pricing can be a common frustration for any kind of landscape business. Not only are you dealing with competition and trying to beat low-ballers, but you have to be fair and honest yourself. Your business has expenses, costs and labor to pay out. And cutting from that every time is a quick way to dry up any revenue you may pull away from a job. That’s why it’s so important to know your costs and how to work with them. Landscape software can help define those costs and make sure they are a part of each budget as you prepare estimates and proposals for your clients.

Get Your Break-Even Point

There are some companies that just try and break-even on every job. Employees get paid, and the owner gets his hours in from being part of the crew. The problem is, there is no scaling up of the business, no wiggle room in pricing and no recovery of other overhead or emergency costs. What happens if something goes wrong at your expense? Whose hourly wage is covering for that?

Before you can even start thinking of a price for a landscape design, you need to understand all the costs going into it. Do you have an office space? How about the people in the office answering phones and completing paper-work? What about your estimators who are working off designs and converting them into proposals? There are truck expenses, gas, oil, equipment rentals and so many other overhead related costs that often get ignored.

“It’s important for contractors to understand how to calculate a break-even point,” said Frank Ross, a financial management expert who specializes in the Green Industry. “This comes from knowing your numbers. But then it’s even more important to understand how your break-even point will be impacted by some of the decisions you make.”

By taking into consideration all these overhead costs, you’ll be able to come up with a break-even point on every job. The amount of revenue you need to generate per project, to recoup all the costs you are paying out. Landscape software calculates that using many different recovery models. It gets you to a break-even point, and then you can start adding on mark-ups for products and services.

Add Your Profit Margin

With your break-even point set and your overhead covered, you can now start adding mark-ups to your products, labor, services and materials. In a healthy environment, Lawn and Landscape Magazine says you can apply a 20 percent net profit margin to the break-even point. Once again, you can set your mark-ups in your landscape software in order to automate the process of marking up each item by a specific amount. Materials could be by 20 percent, labor by 15 percent and plants by 10 percent. Each time an estimate is created, the mark-up happens automatically.

More importantly, because you did the break-even point first and then added a mark-up, you now have room to move when a competitor comes in at a lower cost. When customers ask, ‘how low can you go’, you can still maintain a level of revenue that is acceptable to your business by decreasing the mark-up, without touching the break-even cost. That will give you confidence knowing that on each job, you won’t be losing money.

“If I have a job that is purely labor, no materials, I still want to make money,” Huston says. “You should make sure your labor is appropriately priced instead of trying to make up for underpriced labor with a heavy markup on landscape materials.”

Maintaining Your Margins And When To Walk Away

To scale your business properly, sometimes you need to walk away from business. By setting your profit margins, you will know how much profit per job you are making, covering overhead costs as well. When there is more competition in an area, prices can be driven down by discount landscape design businesses. Sometimes you can turn a customer over and make them understand the value. Sometimes you can’t, and you need to know when to walk away because there isn’t enough profit in this particular job.

By knowing these numbers, which can be set up in your landscape software budgeting tools, you know exactly where to draw the line. How much of your margin can you cut before the job is not worth taking on anymore? You want to be winning more bids, but not at the expense of your profit margins and revenue streams. With a shortage of skilled labor, taking on the most profitable jobs is important in order to scale your landscape business. Accepting every job that comes through can be a dangerous practice and lead to you getting the discount brand tag.

Always Know Your Numbers

The best way to know your numbers is to use a landscape software. DynaSCAPE’s Manage360 has a budgeting and sales tool that will give you the breakdown of each job you are estimating for. Know your break-even point, establish your mark-ups, and if needed, tweak your margins so that you are still generating acceptable profit from the job, without cutting yourself short. Landscape software and budgeting is something many older landscape businesses are turning to in order to make proper decisions for their business moving forward.

Wrapping Up the Season and Preparing for the Next

Wrapping Up the Season and Preparing for the Next

Patrick DuChene, founder of DuChene Design Solutions LLC and DynaSCAPE’s landscape design guest blogger, is committed to providing cutting-edge 2D and 3D design presentations for landscape design/build firms; he’s also a consultant for business owners who are looking to grow, compete and succeed in the industry.

Wrapping Up the Season

The season is quickly coming to an end, and many of you are in the process of completing as many projects as possible before the weather shuts you down, or your clients “check out” during the holiday season. Once the season does come to an end, we’re faced with 3-4 months of downtime. This is where we begin to focus on how to improve upon our successes from this year, as well as implementing procedures to avoid the mistakes we’ve made along the way. As a landscape design business, I do not have to deal with as many logistics as design/build firms, but this doesn’t mean I don’t have my share of practices that can make or break my business. I want to describe two of these that I want each one of you reading this article to work on immediately that will guarantee you a better and more productive season next year!

 

Organization and Consistency is Key

I have had the opportunity to train many people on DynaSCAPE’s landscape design software and consult landscape companies on efficiency. One weakness I commonly see is a lack of a well-organized file structure where things such as contracts, drawings, site photos, etc. are not in a location that is easy to find. This may not sound like much, but it’s very difficult to watch someone try to find a drawing when asked to locate it, or find any kind of document in their computer system when they don’t “remember” where they put it. This [not knowing where something is] will bleed productive time out of your day, week, month and season. 

Internally, as well as with many of my clients, my design team uses a file structure that allows each one of us to very quickly find any document within seconds so we can all maintain as much productivity as possible. Let me suggest a very simple structure with which you can start, and you can modify as needed for your own circumstances. When you are working with a client, that client should have their own folder in your network, or Dropbox, Google Drive or whatever host you use for all your data.

Let’s call this client Joe Salemi! You visit Joe on-site, gather all your data such as photos, elevations, and notes and return to the office. When you return to the office, a new folder for ‘Salemi, Joe’ should be created. In this folder, sub-folders such as “Befores”, “Scans and Surveys”, “Drawings”, “3D Modeling and Rendering”, “Inspiration Images” should all be created, and the pertinent information should be put in these folders immediately. With this structure, it is extremely easy for you (or anyone) to access whichever files you need by following a very simple and CONSISTENT path to the files. This structure must be communicated to everyone on your team and in your organization so there are no inconsistencies.

If you create this simple file management structure, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to find things, how little confusion will arise in your organization or with your client, and you will have a clutter-free desktop without the countless icons that can make one’s eyes go crossed! I promise you, spend some time establishing this structure, stick with it, and it will be so much easier to do your work!

 

The “Secret Sauce” of Success

The second item on which I want you to focus is paying more attention to your customer than your competition. I have watched a lot of interviews of Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and one thing that always stands out to me is what he talks about as Amazon’s “Secret Sauce.” In an interview from 2018, Bezos states, “the number 1 thing that has made us successful, by far, is an obsessive-compulsive focus on the customer as opposed to obsession over the competitor.” Focusing on your customer will give you a much bigger advantage over your competitor as opposed to focusing on your competitor. 

Many of us follow others on social media, or we try to pattern ourselves after other companies or individuals, and we spend a lot of time worrying about what the “other guy” is doing. Meanwhile, we’re not putting enough time into worrying about our own customers. 

My focus has always been exactly this; worrying about what everyone else is doing does nothing for your clients and is a waste of your time. Great communication, responsiveness, loyalty, honesty, and follow-up are what I have always focused on. I think these things are what has made my company what it is today, and I guarantee they will make yours better as well. Running a successful business isn’t rocket science. In all honesty, in the landscape industry, those who call people back and do what they say they’ll do will dominate and succeed. Period. The more you focus on how you can provide your client the best experience possible, the more your business will flourish.

Join Patrick DuChene in Charleston, SC on January 14-16, 2020 for a 2.5 day workshop in which he’ll dive deep into the following topics:

  • Prototype setup;
  • Working with surveys;
  • Creating the base sheet;
  • Starting the design;
  • Tools to do the drawing;
  • Figure libraries;
  • Doing the drawing;
  • Plant and material labeling and favorites;
  • Preparing the drawing for DS|Color;
  • Presentation prep; and
  • Site + drawings info.

Space is limited and time is running out to register for this unique workshop. Click below to secure your spot:

3 Landscape Business Ownership Types (Who Are You?)

3 Landscape Business Ownership Types (Who Are You?)

LANDSCAPE BUSINESS MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

Most professional landscapers can find themselves in one of three ownership groups. They are:

  • Senior owners, who have been in the business a long time
  • Younger owners, who have taken over a business
  • New owners, who just started their landscape business

What type of owner you are and the experience you have will affect your approach when looking at technology solutions. Especially when considering landscape business management software. Depending on how much experience you have in the field and in business, looking at landscape software might not be on the top of your list. We are here to tell you why it should be at every level.

Regardless if you are a new owner or have spent decades designing landscapes and providing lawn maintenance, you need to be thinking of some form of landscape business management software. Even more so if you are looking to pass your business along, or get it started off on the right foot. Let’s take a look at each owner and see where they fall on their needs for landscape software.

Senior Owners

There are many landscapers today who have spent 25 or more years in the field and continue to do things the old fashion way. If it isn’t broken, why fix it? That can be everything from doing designs by hand on paper to estimating with a spreadsheet and calculator, to planning out jobs based on knowledge of how long they take to complete. And there is nothing wrong with having the experience to know how long it will take to get a job done. Especially when talking with clients and reassuring them you can meet deadlines.

However, there is an obvious problem that comes up when one owner holds all the information on a business. What happens when that owner is no longer around? Perhaps they decide to leave the business, selling it or passing it down. Or they want to step into retirement. Or sadly, something unfortunate occurs suddenly. Where do you go when all the business knowledge is locked away in the owner’s brain?

That’s why senior owners need to be thinking of a landscape business management software. It’s a transfer of information from their own head to a landscape software that can run their business. Being the only one with keys to information doesn’t make for an efficient business. If the owner is the only one who knows how to estimate properly or explain what needs to be included in a project, then they are vital to all aspects of the business. Should they leave, the business goes with them. But by putting it in landscape software, that knowledge can be shared with everyone. And that senior owner can begin to transition away from aspects of the business that depended on them so much before.

Young Owners

These owners have some experience under their belt and are often family members taking over the family business. They have experience working beside the senior owner, but they want to make a change. Many DynaSCAPE customers fit into this ownership type, as they are taking over the business and want to add landscape business management software. That’s because they want to harness all the information they can get, add automation tools, and find ways to be more efficient.

These young owners aren’t stuck in their ways in how to do a job and often seek out landscape software to find a better solution. That includes speeding up design drawing, the time it takes to estimate and how they perform their jobs in the field. With a foundation of a business already set, these young owners don’t have to start from the bottom and fight their way up. But rather, they are looking for tools to improve what is already being done.

They don’t want to sit at the table at night typing out quotes when a landscape software can do that for them. They want greater insight into the business so they can make changes. And that’s why landscape business management software is a tool they are after. That way, they can start to find every efficient way to run a business that was doing good before but will do even better after.

New Owners

As a new owner, you have started your landscape business from scratch. You may have experience working for someone else or be brand new to the industry. Whatever the case may be, landscape business management software might be what you need from day one. It’s one of those, get off on the right foot situations. By implementing landscape software early in your business process, you have an established system in which to do things. There are no gaps in information and history is definitely always on your side.

Many new owners are a little hesitant about getting new landscape business management software, simply because of the cost of a start-up. With new pricing changes for DynaSCAPE, however, it’s more accessible to get into landscape software. And that way, you are working with a tool from the beginning and not trying to adapt to it later on. That’s the difference in finding and replacing inefficacies, and just not having them at all.

Landscape professionals need landscape business management software

No matter what type of owner you are or where your business is, landscape business management software is a tool that will help you scale your business. From the most experienced landscaper to the youngest, there are definite pros to working with a landscape software and adding automation and efficient functionality to your business. Check out DynaSCAPE’s solution today and see how our landscape business management software is helping every kind of owner scale their business to where they want it to be.

Landscape Design Software is All About Saving Time for Perfect Landscapes

Landscape Design Software is All About Saving Time for Perfect Landscapes

Landscape Design Software

Christian Brown’s brain thinks in two ways. “How can we save time and how can we cut out waste,” said the CEO of Perfect Landscapes.

Perfect LandscapesThat is the rule of business for many professional landscape companies who are looking to increase revenues. It all comes down to the simple concept of saving time or reducing overhead. For Brown, who started his landscape business over 23 years ago, that is what he thinks about all the time. That’s because he has seen first-hand what wasted time can equal to in the landscape industry, and more importantly, how easy it can be to solve these problems with landscape design software and business management tools.

It’s the reason Brown first started off with DynaSCAPE’s landscape design software before moving into the business management software. In both cases, he was able to save plenty of time on both the designing and management of projects once the estimate was won; that’s kept him motivated and moving forward ever since.

It’s about the business – not the art

At one point, Perfect Landscapes employed a landscape architect who was hand-drawing all of the designs. The process was extremely slow, and took way too much time for Brown, especially when changes had to be made to the design and sent back to the customer in a timely manner.Landscape Design

“It was painful to watch,” said Brown. “He was more of an artist than worrying about getting jobs sold.”

A neighbor of Brown’s was using DynaSCAPE’s CAD-based software for their designing. After conversations about the software, Brown booked his first demo and started learning the landscape design software on his own. Through training videos and many long nights, Brown learned how to design landscapes using DS|Design. He parted ways with his architect and taught himself the CAD program.

“I spent many long nights watching the training videos and pausing them and mimicking it and taught myself the CAD program,” said Brown. “I sold a ton of work by doing that. That’s how I got turned onto the landscape design software.”

Managing after the design

The next step was the estimating process, which, like many landscapers, Brown didn’t have a process for. He and an employee built kits in an Excel spreadsheet to make the bidding and estimating process easier. But, like Brown’s original point, it was a lot of time being wasted doing the bidding process.

Shortly after, DynaSCAPE came out with Manage360 as part of their landscape design software package. Included in that was the automated estimating integration from DS|Design, straight into Manage360. Now Brown was saving time on his designs, and on his estimating bids. With the use of kits, labels, coloring and the cost book, he was creating designs and proposals a lot faster than he ever did before.

“In the way DynaSCAPE talks to Manage360 when you’re labeling designs, it just saves so much time,” said Brown. “When I export the labelled drawing over to Manage360, it just saves a ton of time. It all evolved using DynaSCAPE’s landscape design software.”

Look at the time saved over the cost

Brown’s advice for anyone looking to purchase landscape design software is to not look at the cost, but rather, the time it’s going to save. That’s because the time you save will pay for the software on its own. By removing manual processes, such as drawing and estimating, Brown has saved his company plenty of time and money; it has won him a lot more business by getting proposals to clients faster than the competition.

He also suggests utilizing the entire landscape design software and Manage360 tools, not just a small piece of it.

“Whatever landscape design software program you go with, you need to understand it and implement 100% of it,” said Brown. “I notice a lot of people purchase landscape software and only go 20% in and get it working to where it is functional, but they are not using the entire program. They are really shorting themselves out by doing that.”

In the end, the reward is a more efficiently-running business, less time being wasted, and a better overall process. Brown even joked on a reference call that the landscape software works so well, people could lose work in the office because it’s being replaced by the software, or someone else can now do the work of two people with the time being saved.

“The reward on the back-end is huge with the time saved,” said Brown. “Your estimators are going to be able to estimate more accurately because you can create templates, so they will save time. There are so many reasons to use a landscape design software, especially if they are using a DynaSCAPE program already, with the way it talks to each other.”

Choosing the Right Landscape Software

Choosing the Right Landscape Software

LANDSCAPE SOFTWARE

Professional landscaping has come a very long way. According to IBIS World November 2018 Landscaping Services Industry Report, the landscape service industry has annual revenues of $93 billion. On top of that, it represents over a million people and over 513,000 businesses. What’s powering the industry today is still the same quality designers and hardworking men and women in the field. But landscape software is helping these people do their jobs more efficiently than ever before, and that is helping to drive revenue growth year over year.

So, the obvious question is, how do you choose the right landscape software? Firstly, you need to decide where your business is, and who you are as the owner. Are you taking the reins of the family business and looking to innovate with new technology? Or are you a start-up who wants to set the foundation of your business with a software solution? Maybe you’ve been in business for years and it’s just time to move away from the manual tasks that are taking up a lot of your time.

Whatever the answer may be, most people looking to buy landscape software are choosing ones that tick off many boxes:

  • Better design solutions
  • Integrated quoting functions
  • Project management
  • Maintenance scheduling
  • Billing and invoicing integrations

All of these elements require plenty of labor if you aren’t using some form of software to either automate or reduce the work/time needed to complete the tasks. Let’s look at some of the questions landscape business owners are asking when choosing the right landscape software for their business.

What Services Does Your Landscape Business Offer?

Depending on the type of service you provide, your choice of landscape software will range. According to Lawn and Landscape’s 2018 State of the Industry Report, 85% of respondents to a survey said they perform landscape maintenance. Another 85% said they provide lawn care and chemical applications, while 73% said they provide landscape design and construction. Some companies may provide only one service, while others will have crossover and provide numerous services. While each one has their own unique needs, they can all benefit from landscape software.

For those who only provide lawn maintenance, managing your crews, their schedules and their invoices can be labor-intensive. To build in more scheduled calls and keep your crews on top of their contracts with customers, a scheduling tool would definitely increase their efficiency. Manage all of your crews and individual workers from one maintenance scheduler and use a routing tool to create the best route possible, limiting the amount of time spent driving between jobs. It’s a simple way to add more calls into your day, keep your crews busy and optimize their schedules.

If you provide design services, or construction and install services as well, then having the ability to control your entire business from one landscape software is key. Know how your project-based work is affecting your bottom line and what percentage of your business is made up of lawn maintenance. Where are your sales coming from? How are you scheduling all of your people for all of these different jobs? The more you offer, the more a landscape software is going to open up visibility into your business that you need to succeed and grow in the future.

What Do You Want to Get Better At?

When you want to go with a landscape software solution, you generally want to get better at something; that means reducing the time it takes to complete a task or to elevate your game in certain areas. For landscape designers, that means ditching the hand drawings in favor of computer-assisted design. That’s a large step for some designers who believe in their hand-drawing ability, and are afraid to put down the pencil, but from a business perspective, there are many benefits of going with a landscape design software.

For starters, designs can take weeks to produce, and if changes come in, designers often have to start again or break out the eraser. That’s plenty of wasted time doing a drawing again when it was already completed once. Instead, with landscape-specific CAD software, changes can be made instantly, and designs can be updated without needing to start over. It can be a few short hours to apply changes to a design, rather than days of hand-drawing.

Furthermore, having that design software connected to your cost book in your management software speeds up the bidding process. Owners don’t have to look at a design and count each tree planted, or the square feet of paver stones they will need. Instead, the design elements can be exported into a quoting system tied to a cost book that automatically produces the cost of each element of the design. That is done in a fraction of the time it would take to produce it by hand, using Excel spreadsheets for cost books and estimating. Speed equals time saved, and time is money. The faster you finish, the more money you are saving on these tasks. All the while, you’re getting a quality design and proposal in front of your customers quickly.

Which Solutions Do You Need?

When choosing the right landscape software, it all comes down to which solutions you need. What exactly do you need/want landscape software to do for you? Many landscape businesses are looking at management tools to gain more visibility into their business than they’ve had before. That includes more insight into their budgets, crew performance, sales pipeline and how their business is doing overall. Landscape businesses today are a lot more than just the amount of revenue you brought in last year. With landscape software, you can start to dive deep into your business’s performance, and see the areas you need to improve on.

For those looking at landscape software, it’s best to choose one that can handle it all. Remember those services you provide? What if you wanted to grow or add more services? Do you really want to start adding additional software for those, or would you rather have one that handles it all? An all-in-one landscape software that can manage your business and provide stunning design outputs that integrate seamlessly is the answer. So gear up with a landscape software solution that tackles your problems today, and any future ones you might have tomorrow.

Landscape Software for Professionals

Landscape Software for Professionals

landscape design software professionals

At DynaSCAPE, we design software that helps landscape companies do their work more efficiently and professionally. We have both design and business management solutions in our suite of landscape software that are specifically tailored to meet the day-to-day needs of landscape professionals. As a landscape company, your focus is on winning projects and completing them to your customers’ total satisfaction. Our job is to provide you with the tools to help you win those projects and make them not only outstanding but also profitable.

Our overall mission is to help raise the level of professionalism in the landscape industry with our landscape software. Our greatest satisfaction is knowing that every day, those tools are helping our customers to win new jobs and achieve new levels of excellence. Designs completed in DS|Design, and projects that DynaSCAPE users create and manage with our landscape software are well planned, well presented and in many cases, award-winning.

The Tools in Landscape Software

The very first tool that we created, DynaSCAPE Design, is a CAD-based program that helps you draw spectacular information-rich designs. It saves you time by automating all of the repetitive aspects of landscape design preparation and its output features crisp line weights, professional symbols and an artistic flair that makes it hard to believe that you didn’t draw it by hand.

Add value to your drawings with DynaSCAPE Color by letting you show your landscape ideas in full and attractive color. With it, you can add a hand-colored look and feel to your drawings using an entire spectrum of color swatches, textures, opacities, and shadings.

DynaSCAPE Sketch3D takes landscape design to a whole new level by letting you showcase your design ideas in full three-dimensional splendor. It imports your 2D CAD drawings into SketchUp and adds an immense library of landscape-specific 3D components to your design toolkit including plants, ponds, pools, rose arbors, and more.

Manage Your Landscape Company Efficiently

In our landscape software, we’ve also developed a tool to help you improve the way you run your company. DynaSCAPE’s Manage360 is a comprehensive business management system built specifically for landscape companies. It helps you to follow best practices to manage your sales pipeline, prepare estimates, recover your overhead, manage your jobs and track the profitability of your business. It dovetails seamlessly with DynaSCAPE Design and is entirely web-based for easy access from any Internet-connected location or device. DynaSCAPE truly creates end-to-end landscape software for every aspect of your business.

The Industry Standard in Software

We’re proud to say that we’re the technology solution of choice for thousands of landscape companies with hundreds of new DynaSCAPE users joining our community every year. Our landscape software is used as the industry standard to teach landscape design and management in over 100 schools across North America. Some of the top landscape companies are using our landscape design software and it’s helping them to not only win jobs but also awards.

In addition to the landscape software that we’ve developed, DynaSCAPE also offers a full range of related services. We support our landscape design software with a responsive help desk and informative instructional documents and videos. We also do a lot of training, both in-person and online, for beginners and more advanced users. In addition, we also offer consulting services on a variety of topics related to landscape business management.

In the landscape community, we support the education sector by providing affordable landscape software to schools and students, and we’re proud to partner with professional industry organizations like the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association, the National Association of Landscape Professionals and the Association of Professional Landscape Designers through sponsorships and other initiatives.

Today, DynaSCAPE is recognized as the standard of landscape professionalism. Our landscape design software is always continuing to evolve with the latest advances in technology and our ear is always to the ground concerning best practices in both landscape design and business management. Our goal is to provide our customers with the tools to operate at a level of excellence and professionalism that gives them a real competitive advantage.

We’ve helped thousands of landscape professionals do just that and we look forward to doing the same for you.