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How Aspire Software is helping landscape companies thrive, even during a pandemic


Kevin Kehoe

Kevin Kehoe

While we wouldn’t wish a global pandemic or shaky economy on any business, the truth is a crisis is an opportunity to see whether your systems — especially your business management software — are up to the task of running your company.

“Sometimes it takes a crisis to test the soundness of the ship,” says Kevin Kehoe, co-founder of Aspire Software. He points to the need for real-time information and the ability to work remotely as vital during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Adoption of technology in this industry has been a slow process, but my sense is this crisis will make technology more important — companies have to figure out how to work without the old ways and patterns of doing things.”

Regardless of the crisis, margins are relatively low in the landscape industry, around 5 to 6 percent on average, Kehoe says. He believes companies should make 11 to 12 percent net profit.

“Profits reflect management decision making,” he says. “Aspire helps managers make better decisions quicker. With margins so thin, you don’t have time to make decisions slowly.”

Industry Software Investment and Net Profit Profile

For a commercial maintenance company with an annual revenue of $3 million, investing an additional $34,500 in software and applying the projected return on investment will produce the target net profit shown above.

To illustrate how Aspire works under pressure, we talked with several Aspire customers to see how the business management software is helping them succeed during the COVID-19 crisis.

Connectivity Counts

Prior to March 2020, when social distancing and remote work became the new norm for many businesses, the need for a cloud-based business management software system wasn’t as high as it is today.

“If it weren’t for Aspire and the other technology we’ve embraced, when this COVID thing hit, we would have been in a world of hurt,” says Marty Grunder, president and CEO of Grunder Landscaping Co., in Miamisburg, Ohio. His firm went live with Aspire on Jan. 1, about 10 weeks before the state implemented a stay-at-home order and mandated social distancing requirements. “Before, there is no way we could have worked remotely.”

Marty Grunder

Marty Grunder

Without Aspire, during the pandemic, the operations staff would have had to take photos of the schedule board in the office, look up information in file folders and share spreadsheets with one another via email — a recipe for confusion and bad information, Grunder says.

“You physically couldn’t do it (remotely),” he says.

Christianna Denelsbeck

Christianna Denelsbeck

Christianna Denelsbeck agrees that simply having access to a cloud-based system has been a life-saver for her company. She is the vice president of finance for Landscape Workshop, based in Birmingham, Ala.

“We have an employee that’s not able to come back to the office yet because of a child care situation,” she says. “Because Aspire is cloud-based, she’s able to do most of the things she would do in the office from home. That access right now during a time when a lot of people are working from home or have limited time in the office is huge. They can log in remotely and do what they need to do.”

Aspire also helps Landscape Workshop support its commercial clients who are working remotely. The system’s property audit function allows account managers to record quality standard information and share it with their clients if they choose.

“It’s a really good communication mechanism, especially during these times,” she says. “They can know that we’ve been to their site, if for some reason they’re not at the property to inspect the work we’ve done.”

Personal Productivity

It’s no secret the landscape industry faces a shortage of crew members, crew leaders and middle managers, making employee productivity a priority for every owner and manager in the industry.
Graphic: LM Staff

Aspire amplifies each person’s ability to get the job done more efficiently, users say.

For example, Landscape Workshop has kept its office staff head count consistent, even though the company is growing 8 percent to 12 percent a year.

“We had an employee leave the company, and we thought we’d have to hire a replacement, but we have saved so much on the payroll and timekeeping side,” Denelsbeck says. “Before, it was a 40-hour-a-week job to interpret what the guys were inputting on the back-end and getting payroll processed.”

Tony Batallan

Tony Batallan

Grunder Landscaping was also able to simplify time sheet processing and eliminate the need for a data-entry position. “We can gather that information in Aspire on a tablet using geotags,” Grunder says. He notes that the software also improves sales productivity and customer service response times.

“You cannot hide with Aspire,” he says. “You meet with a (prospective) client, you enter it in as an opportunity, and the time starts ticking from when you meet with them. It holds sales accountable. If there’s an issue, everybody sees the time ticking to get it resolved with a particular client.”

Tony Batallan, CEO of Property Works, a landscape and facility maintenance firm in West Palm Beach Fla., lauds the way Aspire “streamlines and equalizes” the bidding process for his team members, which improves their productivity and profitability.

“You can bring someone new in and the software helps ensure they bid projects almost exactly like another team member,” he says, adding that the approvals required in Aspire act as a safety net to ensure pricing isn’t “all over the place” and his team isn’t selling unprofitable projects.

“Before, we had approvals, but they were done in a cumbersome way,” he says.

Data-driven Decisions

Grunder likes to say “good managers make good decisions with good information.” Prior to implementing Aspire, his team members weren’t always sure if they had good information. With Aspire, they are more confident in the system’s data, and it’s leading to improvements.

Customize it

Aspire’s quality audit report has been an important tool for Landscape Workshop during the COVID-19 pandemic. It allows account managers to visually communicate the property’s status with their clients.

For example, Grunder Landscaping reduced its indirect time in the mornings to 20 minutes after seeing the data in its Aspire dashboard. It used to take between 40 and 60 minutes.

“Entrepreneurs run their businesses to a certain degree off hunches, and that’s good, but it’s a whole different feel when you’re managing human beings and you can show them proof of what’s going on,” Grunder says. “When you can say, ‘Your indirect time was this. The standard is this. What can you do the night before to be better prepared to get out of here in the morning?’”

Likewise, Aspire’s accurate job costing data is improving the bottom line at both Property Works and Landscape Workshop.

“We feel it’s a lot more accurate now and a lot more people have access to that information,” says Denelsbeck, noting that in the past Landscape Workshop did job costing within its accounting system, which wasn’t visible to everyone.

“Now, our account managers can look at their book of business and see how profitable they are on their jobs. It has affected the flow of information to our account managers, general managers and the operations team as a whole.”

Batallan agrees that the availability of real-time job costing data has been a boon to his business.

“You have to know while you’re still in the game if you’re winning or losing,” Batallan says. “You can’t wait until the end. We look at projects on a regular basis and say, what’s the trend? Just because you have a customer that spends a lot of money with you, they’re not necessarily your best customer. Others may spend less but have higher margins. Those are things Aspire has helped us determine.”

Estimate it

The Aspire estimating function ensures different team members build apples-to-apples estimates, providing pricing consistency across the company.

Viewing accurate job costing data helps Batallan’s team make tough pricing decisions, like whether to extend a discount to a client or whether to raise prices when the contract is up for renewal.

“When the year-end comes around and you’re looking to increase prices, we don’t think it’s right to increase prices across the board if the margin is in place correctly,” he says, noting an unnecessary price increase could prompt a client to put the project out for bid. “We only know that accurately through Aspire.”

“At the end of the day, it’s not an inexpensive alternative,” Batallan says of Aspire. “However, you get what you pay for, and I think it was a great investment on our part. It has improved our bottom line tremendously and enables us to have better control over the business.”

To learn how Aspire can help you gain full visibility into your business, make better decisions and increase your profits, visit or call (314) 720-5864.

This page was produced by North Coast Media’s content marketing staff in collaboration with Aspire. 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.

Graphics: Aspire Software