Forecast Management – Doing the Math Part 6

Managing future risk and people are essential to business success. That’s why Doing the Math is so important. To accomplish this, you want to build a culture that does more than react – one that looks forward in preparation. You can do this using a combination of landscape business management software and a proactive forecasting process that:

  • Holds people to a high standard of preparation
  • Gives them feedback on performance and results (kudos and tough love)
  • Involves them taking ownership of their work (preparing for customer service and delivery)

Success relies, to a large extent, on planning – the ability to anticipate resource requirements like time, labor, materials and equipment. In my last few posts, we have reviewed the elements of a business management reporting system including: (1) financial budgets, and (2) reporting practices for Sales and Customer Management. In this post, we’ll establish best practices for planning.

We start with a Forecast KPI, drill down to function reports, and finally design a dashboard to drive preparation activities and accountability (see the graphic below – Forecast Management Reporting).

Forecast Management Reporting

Forecast Management (KPI):

This KPI allows you to assess whether:

  • The work and services currently sold and proposed will achieve your budget goals
  • You have the labor and equipment required to deliver those services when they were promised

It also manages your primary risks – too little revenue and/or too little or too much labor to meet your budget. By adding this Forecast KPI to your management practices, I hope you can see the strong connection to the Sales and Customer Management KPI’s. Together, these three provide the essential information for making plans today that produce financial benefits in the future – not to mention the benefits of improved employee morale that naturally come with proper preparation. (It’s not much fun to be a figurative firefighter every day – it gets old).

Forecast KPI

The Forecast KPI is based in dollars. The blue segment of REVENUE bar shows revenue sold, but not yet delivered. The orange segment shows potential revenue – bids in the sales pipeline. The REVENUE BUDGET bar shows the budget for that same time period – month, quarter or year. The LABOR and LABOR BUDGET bars show the dollars and hours required to deliver the services associated with the revenues. Sweet! Now at a glance you can make a pretty solid forecast of your future P&L compared to your budget P&L.

The next step is to forecast and plan at a more granular level by “drilling down” into:

  • Sold Service Work
  • Proposed Service Work.

These two reports do more than answer the basic question, “Do we have enough work and enough people to do it?” They outline specific types of work promised and when they need to be done. Total hours and dollars don’t explain the “devil in the detail” requirements that various services require – like different crew talents and unique equipment and material needs.

Forecast Reports

A Sold Service Work outlines sold work by service type. This is essential information because individual services types may have unique requirements for labor, materials, subs and equipment. It also accounts for specific seasonal timing requirements (i.e., the customer wants flowers installed in April not in May).

Sold Service Work (Pivot and List versions)

Proposed Services outlines those services that might be sold. These should be included in your planning as a “what if.” As in, “what if” we sell all that stuff in the pipeline? Could we get it done when the customer wants it done, considering all that we have already committed to?

Proposed Service Work

Now that we have this information, we have to make it available to the people who do the work and make decisions about preparation… and keep it current to maximize everyday awareness and personal accountability. That’s where dashboards are most useful as reports… in order to:

  • minimize the risk of customer dissatisfaction (services behind schedule), and
  • maximize efficiency (materials, people or equipment available/ready)

Here are a few essential dashboards:

Work Last Week – the services (revenue and hours) scheduled over the past week – were all scheduled services delivered?

Work This Week – the services (revenue and hours) to be delivered this week – are all forecasted services (mulch, clean-ups, flowers, etc.) now scheduled?

Work Behind – a list of services forecasted and scheduled (revenue and hours) that are past due dates.

Work not Billed – a list of completed services that are “un-billed” (these are typically enhancement, T&M, and per-service work).

CLICK HERE to see those four dashboards.

These are the best Forecast Management practices. Using a cascading reporting structure for landscape and snow business management, you can minimize surprises, build efficiency and increase your customer satisfaction – all while creating a culture of accountability where winning becomes the norm. This is landscape business management in real-time, as it should be.

Next up: the Profit Management KPI.

Customer Management – Doing the Math Part 5

It’s one thing to have a solid sales strategy, but what happens after that? RETAINING your clients is key to making money.

My analysis of landscape and snow contractor profitability – based on 23 years as a consultant – demonstrates that retention of profitable customers is the primary driver of Net Profits. This is absolutely true. Nothing is more important than managing what you ALREADY have and keeping it year after year. This means the way you manage the people who manage your customers makes all the difference in terms of financial results.

Since you cannot manage what you cannot see, you need data to analyze, compare and direct the work of these key people. That is where landscape business management software provides the tool to accomplish this – using data to drive actions that produce results.

Let’s return to the idea of cascading business reporting to define how you should manage the people who manage your customers. We start with a Customer Management KPI, drill down to two function reports, and finally review four dashboards that monitor the activities essential to good client management (see graphic).

Client Management Cascade

 

Client Management (KPI):

This Client Management KPI provides a summary at a high enough level to gauge the metrics that define client performance. It provides information on recurring contractual revenues or RUM (Revenue Under Management) by company, by branch or by Account Manager, at the beginning of time period and at the end of that time period. RUM is a metric that can be compared to industry best performers and is essential to leveraging overhead expenses – the key to increasing Net Profit.

Account Managers are expensive and increasing their RUM matters. Yes, increasing RUM may mean taking on a few more accounts. But this can be accomplished with mobile business management software that has all the account information your managers need to work more efficiently.

This Client Management KPI provides business intelligence on your:

  • Retention performance – revenue lost (if 5% lost, 95% retention)
  • New account performance – revenue gained
  • Extra sales  performance – revenue upsells

This is essential for benchmarking and comparing with your budget, retention and upsell goals. To render all of this more actionable, you will want to “drill down” into two Function Reports: (a) Renewals, and (b) Upsells. These are the first two reports you employ in managing your account manager meetings to answer the eternal question: “How are we doing?”

Client Management Function Reports

The Upsell Report is a scorecard (very similar to the business development/sales scorecard from the prior blog post). It provides information on account manager sales activity relative to proposed and closing goals and proposed and closed actuals for each Account Manager.

 

Upsell

The Renewal Report provides a snapshot of RUM to be renewed – as well as all details regarding the contract renewal process (for example, a job report with hours and margins actual to budgeted), the renewal status and dates (such as statuses includingavailable to renew, renewal proposed, remaining to be renewed, and sold and already renewed”).

 

Renewal

 

These reports provide actionable information. But if you are like me and trying to create a client services culture as well as manage your bottom line (no mean feat), you will want more “drill downs” to truly understand the best tactics to drive these results and shape behavior. It is, in fact, true that you get what you inspect.

These added “drill downs” are the dashboards. Dashboards provide real time insight into critical account management activities. There are four required dashboards necessary to manage the account manager’s actions: Open Issues, At-Risk Properties, Open Opportunity and Service Delivery.

  • Issues – This dashboard indicates how you are managing “quality.” Numerous property issues can indicate great service, but can also indicate great trouble. Account managers should be addressing issues everyday as a source of satisfaction and renewal probability – as well as a source of upsell opportunities.
  • At-Risk – This dashboard indicates risk as a result of conditions changing on a property – things like ownership, management and crew performance to name a few. Changes in these and other items you define can put that property renewal “at-risk.” You should monitor changing conditions frequently to be proactive in addressing them. But you must have a business management software that can capture and “flag” this info for easy detection.
  • Opportunities – This dashboard indicates potential sales success. Just like the business development-open pipeline from the last blog post, you must know the dollars and closing probabilities for upsells in the account managers’ pipeline.
  • Services – This dashboard indicates services delivery plans and problems. For example, an account manager should know what services have been delivered, services to be scheduled and services behind schedule to manage customer expectation. This dashboard provides a tool for proactive management of client expectations, which raises your service level and your probability or renewal – not to mention the likelihood of increasing upsells.

CLICK HERE to see the four dashboards.

That’s it! These are the best Client Management practices using a cascading reporting structure for landscape and snow business management. The whole purpose of this is to build a better account manager and a customer service process that increases net profits. This is landscape business management in real-time, as it should be.

Next week… The Forecast Management KPI.

Sales Management – Doing the Math Part 4

Picture this: Your Monday morning sales meeting:

How are we doing in new sales?”

Good.”

Are we close to getting any new work?”

Oh yeah!”

Really?”

Everyone I talked to is not happy with their current contractors.”

How many is everyone?”

A bunch.”

“What’s the plan for this week to get these guys?”

I have lots of meetings set up.”

 

OK, perhaps I am being overly glib here, but you get my point. That is NOT sales management.

No data, no details, no facts, no math, and no real plan. What’s the probable result? No sales. 

I’ll say it again: you cannot manage what you cannot see. Whom you manage must be held accountable if you’re having conversations like the one above. You must have data, facts and math to plan. That is the function of a business management software: data drives actions. Actions produce results.

To define the cascading reports for sales management, we go back to the beginning – your budget. Your budget determines your new sales goal (for our industry, I am referring to all new snow and green season service contracts). We start with the premise that falling short of the new sales goal is not an option.

Cascading Sales Management (KPI):

 

Let’s start at the top with the Sales KPI shown here. This KPI tells me at a glance (by any time period I choose) that which is proposed and sold in relation to the Sales Goal.

In this case, the KPI is telling us we are ahead (110% of budget) in proposal dollars, and behind (90% of budget) in closed business dollars.

This is good information, but it is insufficient for three reasons: It  (1) doesn’t hold a salesperson to account, (2) can’t predict the likelihood of success, and (3) doesn’t define a plan.

We need more detailed Functional Sales Reports to make this happen. We need to drill down into the KPI.

There are two Functional Sales Drill Down Reports I like to look at: (a) the Score Card and (b) the Open Pipeline.

Score Card

This first report shows monthly performance – budget to actual – for proposals and closes. And by clicking on the February actual number ($205,993) I can see each proposal that makes up that number.

These are the details required to assess (1) closing probability, and (2) potential gross profit dollar contribution.

It’s not the perfect report because it only shows history.  What I also need is present status regarding proposals. For that I need – the Open Pipeline.

Open Pipeline

This report isolates proposals still “in play.” This is important as some of proposals on the scorecard may already be “lost,” and some may be so old they will never close. This report helps to determine the best plan of attack for the sales team based on present conditions.

So far, so good. Doing the math, I now know how many, how much, and whom. Now I need to define how.

How will I translate information into action? To do this, I will drill down to assess the actions that can produce results. I access this drill down through dashboards (which are more simple lists than full reports).

Dashboards provide details on activities that drive the scorecard and pipeline results. Specifically, there are three dashboards I like to dig into to make the best plan: touches, prospects and losses.

  • Touches tell me whether we are doing enough (or too much) of the right things at the right times to advance the sale to a decision.
  • Prospects will one day become proposals in the pipeline – when these numbers decline, sales also decline about six months later.
  • Losses teach what we can incorporate into our selling process, and a loss becomes a prospect (and maybe a win) in the next sales cycle.

CLICK HERE to see those three dashboards.

That’s it: the whole sales management cascade for business management best practice. The whole purpose is to build a better sales team and sales process. This is green/snow business management in real-time as it should be.

Next week: Client Management Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

The Evolution of Aspire – Version 3.3

Since Aspire is proud to be launching Version 3.3 this week, we interrupt our regularly scheduled “Do the Math” programming to bring you a quick look at the new features of our latest product upgrade!

 

Being a part of Aspire is all about evolution: everything gets better with each new iteration. This applies to our company, your company, and most importantly, our software and support.

The Aspire Software Co. was founded in 2014 by Kevin Kehoe and Mark Tipton. There were only four team members in those early days. As a new start-up, the company made its home at the Economic Development Center in St. Charles, Mo.

Now, three years later, the company has evolved into a much larger team with its own office and a brand new version (Aspire Version 3.3) of its green/snow business management software.

Aspire Version 3.3 has some very important evolutionary changes:

Business Budgets       

                                   

3.3 allows you to set up your budgets by branch & division and roll those budgets based on “actuals” the software can help you manage in real-time. You can oversee all aspects of your budget in one place including overhead, cost of goods sold and revenue invoiced and/or earned.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

As you know from last week’s post – Key Performance Indicators are how you keep track of your budget items and identify variables that help you run your business better. With that in mind, 3.3 helps you keep your eye on the KPIs with new homepage configuration, new secure access to the information, and budget reporting tools already set up for KPI functionality. Just as a reminder, the Aspire KPIs include:

  • Overhead Recovered
  • Client Management
  • Profit and Loss
  • Forecast
  • Labor Efficiency
  • Sales Scorecard

Customized Forms

Most contractors must collect and report information for government entities (for example: chemical applications or DOT compliance).  Aspire now provides the ability to customize the system so that these forms can be completed in the field and reports generated automatically.

Mobile Time

Keeping track of your crews is one thing, but 3.3 allows you to produce a daily crew work plan – right on the mobile smart device they use to keep time and materials. This allows for better planning and less forgetting of things like supplies and equipment required to perform the work.

Real-Time Inventory

One of the hallmarks of the Aspire System is to have a live view of time and materials as the projects progress through the day. We’ve improved our real-time inventory tracking to monitor purchase variance (if purchase cost varies from standard cost or if that cost changes). We also equipped 3.3 to show this purchase variance in the End of Month report and allow you to update your purchase cost in bulk based on a rolling schedule (12 month or custom-defined).

Payroll Integration

In using Aspire 3.3. to help manage your payroll, you can now Export your numbers to your bookkeeping software, automatically have employee updates sent to Aspire for payroll purposes and, most importantly for this update, integrate Worker’s Comp audit reporting to help you and your employees save on premiums.

Let’s Evolve!

While we might not have an epic white beard or a boat called the Beagle, Aspire constantly pushes the evolution of our company and our products for the sake of your business.

And while 3.3 was just released, we’re not done looking to the future. This October, at the Green Industry Expo in Louisville, we invite you to join us at the release of Aspire Version 4.0.

Without giving too much away, let’s just say that companies will have even better features to manage construction projects, equipment, and snow – just in time for winter!

So how about it – are you ready to evolve your business with Aspire?

KPI’s in a Landscape Business – Doing the Math Part 3

KPI: Sounds pretty important, doesn’t it? That’s because KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are important. They are the first level “drill down” in the reporting cascade for a good Landscape Business Management Software (see below).

BIG PICTURE

Rolling Budget

Business KPIs (Key Productivity Indicators)

Functional Reports (Sales, Client, Production, Finances)

Process Dashboards

LITTLE PICTURE

KPIs are used to identify the sources of the variations in your rolling budget so that you can make the adjustments needed to reach your goals. There are six critical KPIs: overhead recovery; client management; job – service and profit center margins (P&L); labor efficiency; sales management; and work forecast. Let’s briefly look at each one and why they are essential.

Key Performance Indicators

Overhead Recovery – If I am the boss, I want to know: (a) I am generating enough gross profit to cover fixed expenses, and (b) whether I can “flex” my pricing because I have it covered.

Client Management – I want to know (a) how much recurring contract revenue we have under management, (b) what we have lost and why, (c) what is at risk of non-renewal, and (d) how much upsell revenue we are generating as a percent of current contract revenue . I want to know if our client revenue will achieve the budget goals.

Job – Service P&L Management – I want to know (a) where I make and lose money, (b) the nature of my gross margins in detail, and (c) whether my labor rates and projected labor spending dollars are within budget. As I discussed in the last post, no cost variance will cost me more than poorly trending labor. I can tell you this from a client experience last year – a very painful and costly experience at that. The lesson learned: When it starts to trend badly, don’t wait. Act!

Labor Efficiency – I want to know (a) where we are over or under on job hours, and (b) whether that over/under is due to field performance and/or estimating accuracy. I also want to analyze these trends down to individual crews and the jobs.

Sales Management – This is major variance problem #1 (labor is a close second).  Therefore, I want to know where my new sales are coming from: (a) is there sufficient pipeline activity to meet the revenue budget, and (b) if we are bidding the right stuff at the right margin, and closing at an acceptable rate.

Work Forecast – Finally, I want to look forward and play sensitivity analysis (a.k.a. “what if”). Specifically, I want to know, based on what has already sold and some of what is currently proposed, whether (a) there will be enough revenue to achieve the budget, (b) if we have too many or too few production crews to match the revenue budget, and (c) if the combination of these two will produce the gross profit dollars required to pay for my overhead.

 

Bringing It All Together

Budget variances point me to where the problem is and the KPIs tell me what it is. And dipping back into my bag of the clichés, “a problem well-defined is a problem already half solved.”  I learned this at the same time I learned to always do the math.

Why do the math and go through all this reporting and analysis? Because everyone has an opinion and a rationale. This is fine by itself, but opinion and a rationale are no substitute for facts. When it comes to smart budgeting, only numbers matter. So I listen to the opinions and rationales, then ask, “Can you prove it to me with the numbers?”  That’s why we do the math.

The next level in a cascading business management software reporting system is a drill down through the KPIs – otherwise known as Functional Reports (e.g.;  Detailed Sales, Client, Production, and Cost reports). These reports will provide real insight into actual transactions (the “scene of the crime” details) essential to correction, action, accountability and ownership of problems/solutions.

I will discuss these reports next time.

If you have questions or need more information about any of these KPIs, please feel free to contact me at kevin.kehoe@youraspire.com.

Future Vision: Visibility and Accountability

You can’t blame the office anymore.

Garbage in, garbage out – it’s cliché but true. Sure, information is great, but only if it’s accurate and in a report that people can use. We all know that inaccurate reporting creates problems – the biggest of which is distrust. It’s not just distrust of the numbers (the report is useless), it’s distrust of management (see bottom: KITD FOHS). That is a far worse problem.

Accurate reporting provides visibility (you can’t manage what you can’t see), but visibility is useful only when the data is accurate. Reports are based on information. Information is based on data. Data is based on data entry. This is where distrust in reporting starts – at the data entry source.

How Data Entry Can Kill Trust

In traditional “accounting-centric” software systems, the office has to integrate spreadsheets, paper, and often a few unconnected applications to generate the data that becomes information for reporting. It is the office that deciphers, interprets and re-enters data created by others. And even when they are not the data source, they can be held accountable for reports nobody seems to trust. This is very frustrating for them because it is not easy work and often leads to a situation where everyone else maintains their own data and information from their own trusted reports. Not a recipe for teamwork – as you have probably experienced.

Can this situation be changed? Today’s integrated software systems can change this by removing the office from most of the data deciphering, interpreting and data-entry steps. With this software, sales and operations (the field) are instantly doing the data entry with every transaction they create, review and approve, like these basic transactions:

  • Estimate
  • Time sheet
  • Work order
  • Purchase order, etc. (See chart below.)

Fewer Touches

This is one reason why you invest in mobile-integrated software: less administrative data handling delivers more accurate information. Information becomes the responsibility of the field, not just the office. This is a big change for many companies, and the transition can be painful.

Another reason you invest in mobile-integrated software is to build teamwork – the kind where everyone takes responsibility for what shows up on reports. This is essential to realizing the strategic promises of better service and more efficiency that integrated software provides.

Visibility (reporting) requires accountability (transaction management) so information on reports can be trusted. It is the common responsibility of the field and the office to make this happen. If the numbers seem incorrect, look no further than the way data is being managed in your company. That’s where it starts.

Is it as simple as that? Yes!

Trusting numbers and management starts with integrated workflow and data discipline – this is best practice. Otherwise: Garbage in, garbage out.


KITD FOHS

During the Vietnam War, there was an American Air Force intelligence unit that believed they were providing critical battle plans to field commanders. In fact, they were providing disinformation over open channels for the Viet Cong to intercept – feeding them bogus information during the lead-up to the Son Tay Prison raid. There’s no problem with this tactic in war, but the odd part was that the unit was completely unaware that the intel they were relaying was fake. Of course, when they found out, they were not happy. Responding to their situation with humor, they designed a special unit patch for their uniforms (a pair of eyes looking up from under a mushroom cap) to describe their specialized mission:

KITD FOHS – Kept in the Dark, Fed Only Horse Sh**.


 

Future Vision: Service

Let’s look into the future and envision how software will improve customer service. This is important because customer service, not software, provides a competitive advantage. But, the right software can provide the platform you need to out-compete the other guy by delivering better service.

When it comes to service, your account managers are your most valuable assets. They are customer service personified. What the account managers do, how they do it and when they do it accounts for your clients’ experiences. Superior service produces results measured in dollars: renewals, referrals, upsells… not to mention goodwill and satisfaction.

Of course, we all want A+ account managers. The challenge is that there are only so many A+ account managers out there. There is a far larger pool of solid B+ account managers who, with the right tools, might perform like A+ account managers.

Is this possible? It is.

Breaking Down an A+ Account Manager

Let’s start with what makes an A+ account manager so valuable. In my experience observing them, there are five things at which they excel: time management, salesmanship, anticipation, responsiveness and economics.

  • Time management – This is the most critical skill because it provides the structure for the other four. Account managers are the busiest people in the company … and often the least productive. This is bad for you and worse for the customer because service suffers. Clients end up waiting for everything.
  • Salesmanship – This ability is the key to communication. What retains customers is their relationship with the people in the company – that relationship is built and maintained by account managers. The ability to listen and recommend increases the service value an account manager provides.
  • Anticipation – Providing communication and information that anticipates needs and prevents issues increases the service value your account manager provides. Remember the last time you sat on a delayed flight waiting for some news from the pilot? That’s how customers feel when timely communication is missing.
  • Responsiveness – Providing speedy feedback with fact-based solutions and multiple options increases the service value they provide.
  • Economics – Providing guidance on money decisions by demonstrating where and how the customer can best invest and spend their landscape dollars increases service value.

The key to increasing service is communication. The key to communication is information. Customers require it. They want to know when services and proposals will be delivered, when problems will be resolved, how their property should best be managed and how much it will cost. A+ account managers always seem to have the answers and an intuitive feel for communicating those answers when they are needed. B+ account managers can do that, too, with assistance from your software systems.

Providing accurate and timely information is central to both your customers’ experience and the AM’s performance, productivity and morale. Today – for too many account managers – the information the customer needs is not easily available … at least not without making the client wait while looking in several places for files, emails, documents and spreadsheets.

The Vision

How do you change this inefficient situation, which is frustrating for both customer and account manager, and make information available in one place all the time? Systems. Systems that today’s cloud-based integrated mobile technology can provide when you marry them with process and your culture. Let’s look at what I mean using an example of essential information in a single system:

All the essentials need to be on a smart device the AM uses in the field. This is just like the technology major package/delivery companies use to manage routes and tracking every day – except the platform above is designed for landscape AMs.

I could add more on that here – and will in future posts – but looking back to my prior posts, I described Millennials and Dinosaurs:

  • Millennials want function instead of formality
  • Dinosaurs want decisions instead of excuses

Today’s software systems are at the intersection of these two wants and needs. They promote the marriage of technology and decision-making that can raise your customer service game and develop your B+ AMs into A+ AMs. That’s the power of visibility and accountability that integrated systems can deliver.

This is the future. This is now. More on this next week.


THIS JUST IN: Aspire is proud to be included in an article on “Next Level Software Solutions” in Landscape Management magazine. Click HERE to take a look on LM’s website.

Future Vision: Service, Efficiency, Accountability, Visibility

You can’t manage what you can’t see.

Today’s business management software uniquely provides visibility that simply wasn’t possible when you were juggling spreadsheets, crew tracking devices and QuickBooks to run a business. Today’s business management software allows you to see what’s happening… NOW!

New Tools, Right Tools

Business management software is the tool that allows you to manage and lead – and not just a tool that is accountingcentric, but sales, service and productioncentric. The combination of integrated cloud data management and mobile technology makes information available to everyone (not just the accountants – God bless them; they work very hard). And real-time information is key, because it delivers better customer service, greater efficiency and personal accountability.

It’s hard to believe I’m writing this, but business management software alone provides no unique competitive advantage. Read that again. Having a tool – like software – that no one else has is not nearly as unique as the way you employ it and integrate it into your culture. In other words, it’s how you use the tool to drive action that matters.

Delivering the Goods

We talk about the importance of culture, but what really is it?  In my mind, culture is a collection of accepted visions, traditions, beliefs and practices. Cultures are unique – if you travel to other countries, you know this to be true.

It is the same in business. Every company has a culture. But is yours the one you want? In business, a great culture delivers the goods. There are three goods that really matter: service, efficiency and accountability. These high-value deliverables are essential to success.

Vision and Insight

But how does software affect culture? Let’s go back to visibility – you can’t manage what you can’t see. If you can’t see, how can you act?

  1. Make a guess.
  2. Do what you have always done.
  3. Wait and see.
  4. Do the best you can, and fix it later.
  5. None of the above.

Any answer other than E is costly from a service and efficiency perspective – and worse, it confuses accountability. Nobody is responsible, because everybody is “doing the best they can.” Sound familiar?

If they can’t see it, how can you expect to manage it? A great culture starts with vision. Vision means to see – but see what? Seeing the information that drives the goods – service and efficiency. And it’s not just what you see that matters – when you see the information can help you correct mistakes before your team makes thousands of “A, B, C, D” decisions every week that could cost you customers and money.

That is the power of visibility. If you want everyone to see your vision, think about this: Vision starts with visibility, and visibility is essential to accountability – the third good in a great culture.

Next week, I’ll tell you how to start delivering the goods in your Green/Snow company, starting with Service.

What do Companies Want in Landscape Management Software?

In the face of new inventions and old challenges, what do landscape companies want in a software product?

From day one at the Aspire Software Company, we have designed our systems around what we know. Based on our team’s firsthand experience in the Green/Snow industries, we created the software to ease pain points for landscape/snow management companies so they can focus on what they do best.

But just as our products evolve over time, our industry is also evolving. New technology allows one person to do the work of three. Smartphones and tablets are everywhere. And mobile apps manage everything from route optimization to inventory management to drone scheduling. Yes, you read that correctly: drone scheduling. While we were popping wheelies on our zero-turn mowers, robots were quietly being taught how to mow grass, mulch leaves and spread salt.

Follow the Research

To gain insight on what landscape companies need from their software in these changing times, we turn to organizations like Software Advice. They provide research and user reviews on software applications, allowing readers to pinpoint the best software for their needs out of the seemingly endless sea of options. Aspire, in turn, uses their in-depth research to ensure our products surpass our clients’ needs.

Software Advice researcher Andrew Friedenthal surveyed hundreds of landscape business workers to see how they use software.

The results highlight the industry’s ongoing transformation:

  • Almost three quarters of respondents use specific landscape industry software to manage their companies.
  • Of those, almost half use it only sporadically, relying on other software programs to handle accounting, scheduling, CRM, human resources, etc.
  • Of the respondents who use industry-specific landscape software frequently, they most appreciate programs that already integrate billing/invoicing, landscape design, CRM, team management, work tracking, payment collection and scheduling/dispatch.
  • In addition, they wish their programs were better equipped to handle payment collection, proposal generation and accounting integration.

Long-Story-Short

This means that landscaping workers and managers are looking for an all-in-one program that seamlessly integrates billing, design, team management and overhead details such as maintenance, supply and HR.

In the words of Mr. Friedenthal himself: “To stay ahead of the competition, landscaping companies should try to find an industry-specific landscape management software which can also provide capabilities that are not as industry-specific.”

While we’re waiting for someone to invent a better lawnmower robot, this is good advice to follow.

Dinosaurs and Technology: The Future Part 2

Can dinosaurs thrive in today’s changing technology environment, or are they doomed to extinction (to be replaced by Millennials)?

Make no mistake about it – dinosaurs (the real ones) were perhaps the most successful species in the history of the planet. Today’s “dinosaurs” – all of us born between roughly 1950 and 1970 – are also pretty successful. But we are not as natural or adaptable to new technologies as Millennials are. That is a fact.

Many dinosaurs can recall a time before copiers (B.C.) – we used mimeograph machines (I loved the smell of those things). Millennials cannot conceive that this “technology” existed until relatively recently –  or that there was a time when a person was able to exist without a smart phone.

Smart Phones as a Case Study

We dinosaurs actually know a life before smart phones, and it worked – up to a point. So, are dinosaurs reluctant to adapt new technologies? Yes – my observations suggest this is true. Are they stuck and unchangeable? No. They can adapt and change, but only when they want to.

Until four years ago, I used a flip phone. I actually took pride in resisting the purchase of a smart phone because, “It’s just a phone, and I only need it to make calls.” We don’t need no steenkin’ iPhone!

Hullo?! Yes … yes we did. And today, I cannot comprehend functioning as efficiently and effectively without it.

What happened? I realized that I had completely missed the point of adapting to technology. The adaptation wasn’t to serve me. It was necessary to serve everyone else around me who needed to work with me. Using the technology made everyone else around me more effective and efficient. There were fewer miscommunications, fewer dropped balls, and more tasks completed in a day – by everyone.

Masters of the Universe

So consider this, fellow dinosaurs: if you are like me, you like nothing better than getting more things done in day (and/or having people running around doing those things with complete transparency as to what they are doing, so you can make sure they get done). Get it? That’s the purpose of this new technology, and it can help you be a master of the universe! Well… that may be over doing it a bit, but you get the point.

The technology can’t impart wisdom – that is earned through experience. But it can leverage that wisdom by giving you the tools and the reach to direct, monitor, coach and decide in real time. That way, everyone wastes less of everything, gets more done, and most importantly, gets more of what they need from you – leadership.

Yes… It’s a brave new world… but there’s no school like the old school, either.