Upgrade your tech

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Tech in the field using software (Photo: The Greenery)
Tech in the field using software (Photo: The Greenery)
Implementing software on the go helps make techs and crew members more efficient. (Photo: The Greenery)

The search for a new software provider can be a challenge. Landscape Management talked to three landscape and lawn care companies about their experience in upgrading their software.

More than 10 percent

When Lawn Plus in West Alexandria, Ohio, started using Real Green Systems in the late 2000s, the company was only utilizing about 10 percent of the software’s features.

“We were using it as accounts payable and scheduled services,” says Bob Brower, general manager of Lawn Plus.

Lawn Plus provides lawn care, lawn maintenance, tree and shrub care, tree removal and stump grinding, seeding, pest control, excavation, site development and athletic field maintenance for a 90 percent residential and 10 percent commercial clientele. As the company grew, it turned to software to increase its efficiencies.

“You get to a point where there has to be a quicker way,” he says.

For example, Brower says a technician averages around 15 to 20 stops a day, and prior to Real Green, the tech would input those invoices into a Microsoft Excel system by hand. Now, the technician scans the invoice into the system with a handheld device and logs payment information. Brower says it’s also easier to schedule his team with Real Green.

“With this, you know your (client’s) last day of service,” he says. “There’s a map that shows all the dots for what area you need to service. It’s more efficient and more effective.”

Brower also tips his hat to the marketing capabilities within Real Green’s platform. Lawn Plus uses the customer assistant website where clients can log in to their account and pay bills and order services, which cuts down on phone calls. He also uses Real Green’s automated marketing assistant. He crafts emails and letters to go out to clients over the winter and then schedules them to send throughout the season for upsells. And, he says this year, he’s up 15 percent over last year at this time.

“We know that what they’re selling is helping us grow,” he says of Real Green. “You pick and choose how your business lines up, and they’ll have the software to provide that for you.”

Customer service on a cloud

Some software, such as Arborgold’s, allows users to integrate third-party applications (Photo: Arborgold)
Some software, such as Arborgold’s, allows users to integrate third-party applications (Photo: Arborgold)

Stephen Price, owner and operator of All Brothers Lawn Squad in Union City, Ind., says his company chose Arborgold field service management software when it was looking to upgrade for two big reasons — customer service and cloud-based data.

All Brothers is a full-service lawn care and maintenance company with a 75 percent residential and 25 percent commercial clientele.

Price says his technicians can access the cloud-based platform from anywhere and on any device. And, he’s been impressed with how responsive technical support is.

“I jump in a chat box that’s built in, and I have almost an immediate response,” he says. “When I needed something done, I didn’t have an hour to wait for a call back.”

Price says he’s been happy with Arborgold’s third-party app integrations to customize his experience. Price explains this concept with the analogy of a pickup truck.

“It’s kind of like if you brought all the good of a Chevy, a Ford and a Dodge work truck, and you built one truck out of it; you would have one super truck,” he says. “The software is the same way. We take the good from Twilio, the good from SendGrid, the good from other third-party software, and in the long run, you’ve got a stellar product.”

Doing its homework

Before The Greenery upgraded its operations and accounting software last year, the Hilton Head Island, S.C.-based company did a lot of research.

“We not only called a few other companies to ask about their experience, we even traveled to visit two companies that were not competitors in our markets,” says Janet Davoli, chief technology officer for The Greenery.

The Greenery provides mowing and landscape maintenance, design/build and landscape installation and turf and ornamental care for its 90 percent commercial, 10 percent residential clientele.

CEO Lee Edwards estimates his company spent a few years vetting different software providers before selecting Aspire for its operations software and Acumatica for accounting. The Greenery transitioned to both Aspire and its preferred accounting partner, Acumatica, within a couple of months last summer.

“We wanted to be on the new system for several months before we started the new year,” he says.

Davoli says the integration of Acumatica with Aspire shares and consolidates the data and cuts down on duplicate information.

“Before Aspire, our business software was siloed, meaning that the only way you moved data from one system to the next was by rekeying it, or downloading it to Excel, reformatting it and uploading it to another system,” Davoli says.

Edwards says he’s impressed with Aspire’s issue logging. For example, he says if he’s driving around and sees a limb that’s fallen or a drainage issue at a property The Greenery manages, he’s easily able to communicate that to the proper account manager.

“Now, I take a picture of it, create an issue in Aspire and it automatically goes to the right person,” he says.

— Christina Herrick

Bright ideas in holiday lighting

Software isn’t the only technology that’s helping landscape companies improve services for their customers. Innovations in holiday lighting are making it easier and safer for installers and customers alike.

Minleon, an LED holiday lighting company, has been in the holiday lighting business since 2005. Augie Roper, factory representative for Minleon, explains that company released the first C9 bulb in the U.S. that year. “From there, the Christmas lighting industry hasn’t taken a step back in 15 years,” Roper says.

Wayne Wheeler, holiday lighting project manager at Reinders, a green industry supplier, says that programmable, mappable LED products are up and coming, but retrofit LED lighting is the workhorse of the lighting market. With more than 100-million-plus bulbs up on rooflines across the country, Wheeler says that Minleon is the go-to brand for many contractors for its performance and longevity.

Two years ago, a UL Prop 65 lab test determined that the bulbs have low levels of cancer-causing lead and mercury. To ensure safety for installers and customers, the company’s bulbs are UL rated and UV coated.

Follow-up service calls are a concern for installers as well, according to Andrew McClure, owner of Fort Worth, Texas-based Landscape Legends. The company provides 30 percent lawn care and maintenance and 70 percent holiday lighting to a 70 percent residential, 30 percent commercial clientele.

McClure says that holiday lights should have more of a snug fit in the socket, since looser bulbs require service calls and providers to get on a ladder to fix issues with the lighting product. To ensure a product can stand up to the elements, he tests them for several months to check for issues with heat, fading or corrosion before switching.

With an eye on safety, quality and performance, Roper doesn’t expect that the holiday lighting industry will take a hit anytime soon.

“It’s grown and moved forward, and even through the recession in 2008, we were still decorating,” he says. “Commercial properties are applying (lighting) to their budgets and homeowners are becoming more aware.”

— Abby Hart

Pro tips

Attend the events

Many software companies have a user conference. These, says Bob Brower, general manager of Lawn Plus, are excellent ways to learn from peers and the company itself. Real Green’s event, called Solutions, has many tracks, including lawn care, marketing and pest control, designed for different users of the software.

Brower says when Lawn Plus first started going to Solutions, only two people from the company attended. Now, he goes and brings along the company’s operations manager, assistant operations manager and office manager.

“You can pick up something every year,” he says. “We all go to different classes, and we all bring something different back to our employees to teach them. It’s pretty beneficial.”

Stress your needs

One element to consider when looking to upgrade your company’s operational software is how you plan to grow your business and where a potential software fits into that growth.

“Good business owners have a 10-, 15- or 20-year plan,” says Stephen Price, owner and operator of All Brothers Lawn Squad in Union City, Ind. “What does that look like? That (software) company needs to be able to grow with you.”

Price says he likes how responsive Arborgold is to suggestions. His company uses CardX to process credit cards because it can charge fees for clients who use high-reward credit cards instead of All Brothers absorbing that fee, which could be anywhere from 3.5 to 4 percent. Before CardX, Price says the first year his company accepted credit cards, it spent $18,000 on fees and reward fees.

Price suggested that Arborgold integrate CardX into its offerings because he thought it might help other Arborgold users. The software company listened.

“The ability of Arborgold to take that suggestion from me and put it into play — that makes me a little proud,” he says. “I’m able to keep using what I’m using. They take it upon themselves to push it up the line in their system to see if it makes sense as a company.”

Training, training, training

Janet Davoli, chief technology officer for The Greenery, says it’s important when adding software to take the time to educate your staff properly so they can use the technology as you intend.

“Train, train and then train some more so that the guys and gals in the field will be able to operate the system,” she says. “We knew that initially we would be focused on just the basics — getting employees paid, getting work tickets closed, getting clients invoiced and processing customer payments.”

But, she attributes the success of The Greenery’s adoption of the software to the teamwork mindset the company took when moving to Aspire.

“We had the buy-in throughout the organization to make it successful,” she says. “We accepted the fact that we would need to continually tweak the design as we learned more about the system. This meant we sometimes had to take a step backward to go two steps forward.”

— Christina Herrick

Abby Hart

Abby Hart

Abby Hart is the former senior editor of Landscape Management. A native Clevelander, she spent 10 years in Chicago, where she was operations manager of a global hospitality consultancy. She also worked as managing editor of Illumine, a health and wellness magazine; and a marketing specialist for B2B publications. Abby has a degree in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communication.

Christina Herrick headshot (Photo: LM Staff)

Christina Herrick

Christina Herrick is a former Editor for Landscape Management. A Journalist graduate from Ohio Northern University, Christina is known for sharing her insightful experiences on the road with her audience.

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