Logo: AspireThree landscape professionals share the technology tools making their companies more productive and more profitable.

It’s no secret the landscape industry is in the midst of a labor shortage. Good managers know that happy employees are ones who are productive, feel valued and, in turn, have the potential to earn more for their efforts. That’s why savvy landscape companies are looking for ways to attract and retain talent, while improving productivity.

John Munie headshot

John Munie

One way they’re doing this is through technology, including leveraging business management systems like Aspire and using other programs and apps as needed.

“Like most landscaping companies, we’re dealing with a labor shortage in St. Louis, so achieving past production numbers with inexperienced team members has become a big focus for us,” says John Munie, president of Focal Pointe Outdoor Solutions in Caseyville, Ill. “The more information we have and the more timely the information is, the better we can coach and improve performance.”

Munie is not alone when it comes to using data and information systems to drive his team toward productivity. Fellow Aspire users, like Greenscape in Holly Springs, N.C., and Cincinnati-based GroundSystems, are taking a similar approach both in the office and out in the field.

In the office

Rachel Rorie headshot

Rachel Rorie

At GroundSystems, much of the firm’s office-related productivity comes from having a business management system that takes jobs all the way from estimating through invoicing, which Aspire does.

“Everything is being entered into one place as opposed to being entered in about five different places,” says GroundSytems President Rachel Rorie, who especially likes the Mobile Time feature that allows crews to clock in on a phone or tablet. “Companies I worked for in the past would use paper time sheets, for example, and an administrative person would spend almost a day entering time sheets into the system, so it saves us a lot of time that way.”

Munie agrees. The lack of paper shuffling and data entry are huge time savers, as is having the correct production rates built into the system. This information allows Focal Pointe to accurately schedule the proper workforce to efficiently complete projects.

Photo: Greenscape

Other office improvements at GroundSystems have come from shared document storage with Dropbox and using Go iLawn for remote takeoffs and measuring. Rorie is also looking forward to the benefits that will come from implementing GPS fleet tracking technology later this year.

Daniel Currin headshot

Daniel Currin

At Greenscape, CEO Daniel Currin likes to drive productivity with accountability. He does so by using Aspire in conjunction with Traction Tools, a software program for companies that run the Entrepreneurial Operating System, a model popularized by the book Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman.

“Aspire runs the business and Traction Tools runs the management,” Currin says, noting his company plugs in numbers from Aspire, QuickBooks and some of its other systems to make up a scorecard within Traction Tools. “It’s a really good accountability tool because we meet every week on that rhythm and at the end of the meeting we determine any issues we need to discuss and solve.”

Personally, Currin uses Trello to track his action items and provide input to his direct reports on the projects they’re managing. The company also uses Trello in the sales department to manage the sales team’s “work in progress” chart, which used to be a whiteboard.

Photo: Greenscape

The team at Greenscape uses Trello in the sales department to manage the sales team’s “work in progress” chart, which used to be a whiteboard.

“There are multiple people involved in the sales process, going from opportunity to sale, so this tracks who’s working on it, what’s done, what needs to be approved, etc.” Currin says. “At any moment you can see where the sales team is at, moving through the design/estimating phase.”

Productivity and software

There are two productivity ratios that a contractor must manage: Labor Productivity and Overhead Productivity.

Productivity is calculated as the dollar value of RESULTS produced by the dollar cost of the ACTIVITY required to produce that result. Contractors incur ACTIVITY expenses for people (labor) who do the work (you have to pay them to drive, load, mow, etc.), and for people (overhead) to manage the work (plan, schedule, sell, administer, etc.).

Software and technology can increase productivity as it must document RESULTS in reports, and coordinate and communicate ACTIVITY in an efficient workflow. Managing results and activity maximizes accountability to drive profit margins.

Here’s an example of the impact on profitability as a result of an incremental five percent improvement in labor and overhead productivity. Without business management software it’s hard to build the processes and culture to sustain productivity gains.

“An investment in software will produce long-term ROI far greater than any other investment,” says Kevin Kehoe, Founder of The Aspire Software Company.

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Out in the field

Sometimes, something as simple as sharing information with the right people at the right time is enough to improve productivity.

“In real time, our operations managers know exactly how their crews are doing and can provide feedback to maximize their performance and adjust the next day’s schedule as needed,” Munie says of Aspire’s capabilities.

As another example, Rorie says the software’s Daily Plan feature shows crew leaders a list of all the materials they need to load for the day, instead of doing it the “old way,” when they’d sift through multiple hard copy job folders to see what they needed to gather to get their jobs done.

Photo: Greenscape

Currin’s team has been exploring new ways to display details from Aspire and other programs using Microsoft’s Power BI, a data visualization program.

This tool allows Greenscape managers to create charts and graphs to communicate data points by branch, by profit center, by crew or by other factors so team members can quickly grasp them and make better decisions.

One simple chart Greenscape has been displaying companywide this year is a list of drivers who speed the most.

“It’s changed driving behavior even more dramatically than using sticks or carrots or talking to people about it would,” Currin says. “We’re just saying ‘here’s the information, make better decisions.’ Sharing information visually is something we’re just getting figured out, but our hope is to expand it.”

To learn more about The Aspire Software Co. and request a demo, visit www.yourapsire.com.

This page was produced by North Coast Media’s content marketing staff in collaboration with Aspire Software Co. NCM Content Marketing connects marketers to audiences and delivers industry trends, business tips and product information. The Landscape Management editorial staff did not create this content.

All photos provided by Greenscape