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Software solutions

October 9, 2019 -  By
Landscaper using an app (Photo:

Do your homework Consulting with other software users can help when deciding on the best fit. (Photo:

For landscape contractors, hardscapers and dealers looking for the latest technology solutions for their businesses, GIE+EXPO is the place to be. With more than 30 software exhibitors to visit on the floor, attendees can find the best digital tools to grow and improve their companies.

“We continue to go to GIE because the design-build portion of the industry is a market that does well for us,” says Eric Gilbey, product marketing manager for Vectorworks. “We enjoy being able to go out there and talk to the industry and provide education about how technology can assist in the design-build process.”

How to know when you need software

One of the most challenging questions landscape business owners face is whether or not they need to add or upgrade software. Change can be difficult, and deciding to take the leap can feel daunting.

For Wayne Epling, owner of Epling Landscape & Lawn Service in Bluemont, Va., the writing was on the wall. He says it felt like his company had outgrown the software it had been using.

“We just got too big for what we had — we needed estimates faster so we could make decisions faster,” Epling says, who ultimately chose Boss LM.
Jerry Schill, president and CEO of Schill Grounds Management in North Ridgeville, Ohio, was facing a similar challenge.

“Managing data that is a week or two old is looking at history — it’s too late to make any meaningful decisions at that point,” Schill says. “The need for faster data became increasingly apparent as we tried to start scaling and branching our business.”

Schill made the switch to Aspire when the company was just shy of $5 million, but he says that you can’t necessarily get hung up on revenue being the deciding factor. There is no magic number that will make it apparent that a switch is necessary.

Landscaper using an app (Photo:


In St. Louis, Buddy DeLong, vice president of administration for Bluegrass Landscape & Snow Management, was dealing with similar struggles related to processed data speed while also being bogged down by double data entry. He believed that by implementing new software, the company could increase efficiency.

After shopping around, Bluegrass chose Asset from Include Software, which eliminated the need for QuickBooks and allowed him to receive data in real time.
These days, real-time communication is important to customers.

“We live in an instant world where everything is done at the click of a button,” Schill says. “Today, things are measured in seconds. With our software system and with mobile technology, we are now managing our business in real time, and there’s no going back.”

Others who have implemented or upgraded their software echo similar sentiments.

“Using software has made us more profitable because we’ve been able to see what areas of the business need attention — and in real time,” DeLong says. “If we were not able to see which services were making money and which were not or whether our pricing was on point, I just don’t think we’d be where we’re at.”

Choosing the best software for your business

The wide availability of products might also make researching software options feel a bit overwhelming. The key is to take the time to do your research.
Mark Borst, president of Borst Landscape & Design in Allendale, N.J., says the research process should be about talking to companies that use the software.

“To me, the key to getting the real ‘ins and outs’ of how the software works is to talk to the people using it every day,” Borst says. “The end users can give you a better idea of what to expect.”

Schill also started off on a different system but believed it was falling short of meeting his needs. Like Borst, Schill stresses the importance of taking your time in the research process.

Consider visiting an end user, especially as the search gets more serious. Kevin McHale, president of McHale Landscape Design in Upper Marlboro, Md., says when he first started researching software options, the choices were not nearly as vast, and it wasn’t quite as easy to find so many users to meet with. But today, he urges, landscape business owners should take advantage of the possibilities and ask plenty of questions.

John Erbert, owner and founder of Erbert Lawns in Littleton, Colo., says that as his residential lawn care and mowing company gained accounts he had to switch software programs. So, he thought about the company at its current size — but also where it was going.

“If you’re looking for software, don’t just look for something that will help run your business, but look for something that will help grow your business,” he emphasizes. “Real Green Systems has undoubtedly helped us to grow … Where it has really excelled in our business is marketing.”

How to implement software

One of the biggest fears landscape business owners have about adopting software is implementation. Busy owners struggle to imagine handling a learning curve when their schedule is already so tight. The best way to handle implementation is with realistic expectations.

For DeLong, the first year was admittedly the most difficult. But he says his team went in expecting it to be this way.

“With a robust piece of software like this, you must expect it’s going to be a big learning curve,” DeLong says. “We resolved ourselves to using the software the way it was designed to be used — instead of bypassing features or falling into old habits. And that made it tough at first but paid off in the end.”

Given the learning curve, DeLong’s best piece of advice is to make sure to choose a software system that offers strong support.

Erbert agrees. He says the software support from Real Green Systems has been invaluable with troubleshooting problems that arise.

“(Implementation is) also very revealing,” Schill says. “Implementing software might bring to light some problems — such as redundant processes or other habits that need correcting. You should go in expecting it to be a big-time commitment.”

Schill says it can be helpful to assign ownership of the management of the software to someone within the organization to keep the process moving forward.

For Epling, that responsibility was split among several people within his company. He further broke the implementation process down by going “live” with his maintenance division first.

“Maintenance is about 80 percent of our business and the most critical segment for which we needed software,” Epling says. “So, in 2016, we went live with maintenance. By 2017, we went live with the landscape portion of the business.”

Ultimately, Epling says, the way you handle the implementation process can make a difference in the overall success or failure of getting software up and running.

“My only regret is that I didn’t start all of this sooner,” Erbert says. “The price tag of any great software system can be intimidating, but I think I would have grown my business even more if I’d implemented the system sooner.”

Sarah Webb

About the Author:

Sarah Webb is Landscape Management's former managing editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to her role at LM, Sarah was an intern for Cleveland Magazine and a writing tutor.

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