Can Landscapers Trust Their Numbers? Part Two.

This is the second post in a three part series on business process and financial management for landscape contractors.

Your “Ticket” To True Numbers.

The only way to get true financial accuracy is to adopt a “ticketing” system.  You can manage a ticketing system with spreadsheets but it is time consuming and prone to human error as data must often be re-entered from one spreadsheet to another.

The other problem with this approach is timing as to when transactions are recorded to the job and when they are recorded to the financials.  This means…  yes job cost and financial numbers may not match at any point in time.

Remember, The System Is The Solution.

Aspire_Financial_Systems_For_Landscape_Flow

Click to enlarge

A ticketing system manages revenue and costs on a TICKET.  A job might have one or multiple tickets, but the basic concept remains…  no ticket, no work and revenue is earned as the actual costs are incurred – not as the revenue is invoiced and the labor and materials are paid.  

If your system cannot do this then your financials will provide a distorted picture of Gross Profit and provide ripe ground for internal arguments about expense “allocation”.  (This explains why your people keep track of their own numbers.)  

The Ticket Works So You Don’t Have To

The ticket originates at the Estimate/Contract.  It is slotted on the Schedule Board.  The crew puts time to it on the Time-Sheet, and buyers apply materials though a Purchase Order or allocation from Inventory.  At the end of every day every ticket unless it is complete is IN PROGRESS and only has earned revenue to the extent that costs were incurred.

No More Assumptions

In a ticket system there are no expense assumptions about what labor and which materials get “allocated” to the profit center. So instead of hiring people to manipulate spreadsheets, let the ticket do the work.  If you do this, you can trust your job cost numbers completely and they can be easily reconciled with the “accounting numbers” using an Over/Under revenue account and labor and material Holding accounts.

Make Sense?

Yes, you need a ticket based software system…  there are just too many transactions every month to be tracked any other way without making assumptions.  Stop making assumptions and your numbers will be accurate.

In the third and last part of this series, I’ll tackle dealing with paper.  Stay tuned…

New Aspire Website Redesign

The Aspire Software Company happily announces the launch of our new youraspire.com website redesign. We worked with our strategic web development partner on enhancements that make it easier for landscape contractors to discover and evaluate the Aspire solution. Here’s some info about the new additions:  (Click on any of the images to see them enlarged.)

A Fresh Homepage

The Aspire Software Company has grown and matured tremendously since its 2014 launch.  We wanted a redesigned homepage to represent this and better communicate how we help landscape contractors focus on what they do best.  Below is a top of the fold comparison…

Old Homepage


New Homepage


The new homepage also uses call out sections below the fold to make it easier for contractors to see how Aspire provides them with far more than just software.  Plus, it pulls in and displays the latest posts from the Aspiring Business Blog.

The New Aspire Product Tour

The goal of our tour is to help visitors learn just how powerful and comprehensive Aspire software is, in an easy to understand way.  So we broke out our product tour experience into nine modules.  Then we added:Aspire Software Tour

  • Enhanced Tour Navigation – Let’s you easily switch between modules.  Visitors can take the product tour in order or quickly jump between sections.
  • Video Demos – Each module has an explainer video that lets landscape contractor’s see how that module helps streamline their business.
  • At-A-Glance Feature Details – The module features and benefits are provided in tabs.  You can easily scan all the capabilities of each module and if desired, instantly get more detailed information.

The AspireCare™ Service System Tour

Aspire provides customers with multiple levels of service and support through our proprietary AspireCare™ Service System. The redesigned website now gives you an interactive peek behind the AspireCare™ curtain.  (Only Aspire customers can access it live).  It shows you:AspireCare Software Service System

  • The Quick Search Knowledge Base – This self-education center let’s you quickly find answers.  It pulls up documentation, archived webinars, spreadsheets, video’s, customer forum posts and other content related to our customer’s search or query.  Customers can also rate the helpfulness of all our knowledge base items which allows us to constantly improve them.
  •  Customer Community Support Forums – Learn how other Aspire customers are leveraging the software in their business.  Connect with an Aspire moderated community of your peers to learn best practices, ask questions and join business building conversations.
  • Dynamic Support Ticketing – Our user friendly, ticketing system let’s you get fast, direct response from the Aspire support team and your personal account manager. Everything is documented and organized so getting support is an efficient, hassle free experience.
  • Best At-A-Glance Info – The AspireCare™ Support System analytics engine surfaces the best voted support documents, most popular customer forum information and latest discussions so you can quickly keep up to date with the latest and greatest developments of the software and community.

The Aspire Team Pages

Aspire Software TeamWe thought it was time to share more info about the growing team behind Aspire software.  Clicking on a team member takes you to their personal bio page. And yes, we’ve been getting some compliments on the motorcycle photo…

Deployment And Other New Pages

The new software deployment page provides an overview of the roadmap and smooth managed process we use to get customers up and running on the software.

You’ll also see new additions for the “Why Aspire“, “Aspire University” pages with more to come…

This website redesign is just one of the many things happening at Aspire right now. This includes the release of Aspire Software Version 2.5 and the roll-out of our GIE Business Breakthrough Conference on October 19th in Louisville.  Look for information to signup in the coming months.

Contact Kevin:  kevin.kehoe@yourasppire.com for more information.

Can Landscapers Trust Their Numbers? Part One

This is the first of a three part series on business process and financial management for landscape contractors.

Can you trust your numbers?  Maybe you can…  but maybe you shouldn’t.

I suggest you check.  Drill into the numbers in your Accounting software.  I bet you will find at least a few areas where they are not accurate… that lack of accuracy is usually a function of assumptions or mismanaged transactions in your system and work-flow.

Assumption – method by which numbers are handled.  For instance, tracking all crew time to a profit center regardless of where they work or using some percentage to charge a profit center.

Transaction – step in the process where numbers are created, entered, reviewed, and approved.  There are five major transactions areas in a landscape business:

1) Estimate

2) Work order/ticket

3) Purchase

4) Time sheet

5) Invoice

In simple terms. your numbers are only as good as your assumptions and the way you manage these key transactions.

The best way to get consistent and trustworthy numbers is:

MINIMIZE the number and type of assumptions and MONITOR transactions at the source.

I spoke to this idea at the GIE 2015.  The response was, “It’s scary to see how wrong my numbers might be!”

The System Is The Solution

To get things right you start with a system overview (See the chart).  This shows how things should work.  Looking at the chart, it is easy to see that your Sales and Operations people have as much to say as the Administrative people do about the accuracy of your numbers.  Sloppy assumptions and transactions must be removed to make the system work.

In the next two blog posts of this series, I will outline the proper approach.

Introducing the Aspire Landscape University

Aspire University LogoAspire University is a partnership of Envisor Consulting and The Aspire Software Company.  It’s first educational offering, teaches the skills and practices of the landscape industry’s best account managers. 

The Account Manager’s Most Important Job Is?

Make no mistake the Account Manager’s most important job is renewals. Your clients renew because of you. Not because of the company’s name or price or something else… but because of you.

How Do You Spend The Client’s Money?

Nice landscaping is important. But it’s the way you “spend” the client’s money that matters. As a landscape company CEO once told me… “… just don’t stink at the landscape thing, excel at communicating what you are doing, and what you can do for them”… and translate that into a return on investment.  So how do you do this?

Go From Account Manager To Asset Manager

Let’s start with the idea that the property is an asset and that this asset your responsibility. This makes you an asset manager. So, you need a way to manage that asset. That’s why you must master the Client’s Budget. The Client’s Budget is an asset management process that integrates (1) site-walks, (2) upsells, (3) renewals, (4) service recovery (issues) and (5) improvements in one place for the client.

This is only one thing you will learn at the two-day Master’s seminar and the follow on year-long training program when you enroll. Given that there is so little training for AM’s… it’s no wonder they take a long time to master the job. So why not supplement your on-the-job training approach with a practical training program that is low cost and effective?

Contact: Kevin Kehoe for more information… or register and enroll here: http://www.envisorco.com/events/account-manager-masters-series-dallas/

GIE And The Future For Your Landscape Business

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  – George Santayana

What Does The Future Hold For Your Landscape Business?

If the past is an indicator, then human nature will be what it always has been, and the business game we play will get even tougher – primarily as a result of a dysfunctional body politic and increased competition. That being said, what can you do to finish this year and get ready for the new one?

Find the Future At GIE

If you are going to the GIE, then spend your time wisely and focus on bringing back ideas that address the future.

I have found the (1) the Breakfast of Champions, (2) the lobby of the Marriott Hotel and the attached cocktail lounge, and (3) selective educational sessions are where you need to be (unfortunately too many of the sessions rehash old ideas).

What should you look for? Here are my top four that will make a difference in your landscape business in the future:

  • Culture is everything: Look for ideas to help you build an organization that knows how to win.
  • Speed wins: Look for ideas that help you respond and anticipate the customer better.
  • Information in “real time”: Look for ideas on systems that provide timely information.
  • Salesmanship: Look for ideas about how to transform a production-driven business into a sales-driven one.

I run a business, and this is what I’m looking for at the GIE. Sure there may be other areas but these are the ones that really matter. Good hunting!

 

GIE: Landscape Company Culture Conference

We all agree that a winning landscape company culture is somehow connected to the higher profits we see every year in the best companies in the Green Industry. (NOTE: Kevin Kehoe conducted and published an annual Benchmark Study for more than 15 years: 1996 – 2013: 2012 and 2013 with Frank Ross of the Three Point Group).

Learn From CEO’s That Built Great Cultures

Instead of just talking about the theory of landscape company culture, why not hear about it from the CEO’s of the very companies who live it every day by getting a little bit better on the way to becoming the best? That’s what we have lined up a half-day conference set for Wednesday PM October 21st in Louisville.

Ask Them Anything

The program is a hands-on and inspirational session with an Expert Panel of successful CEO’s who will talk about how they are building a winning culture one process at a time.

  • Mike Russo CEO of Russo Lawn & Landscape will focus on their best practices in improving and rewarding Crew Productivity – a very important topic in today’s world of labor shortages.
  • Ken Thomas / Ben Gandy of Envisor Consulting (and former owner of several landscape companies) will talk about Discipline – using simple yet powerful examples from his “Start Clean – Finish Clean” system.

We’re excited about this program and looking forward to a great session followed up by an informal Meet And Greet with adult beverages.

Kevin Kehoe will kick off the show and introduce the Expert Panel.

Better, Best! Culture

You become what you are. It is almost cliché. We hear it on every sports-broadcast these days… “These guys have a culture of winning – It’s built into their organization”. Even though its cliché, it’s still so important that we all want to know how to get it or make it. Here’s how we think about building a winning green industry business culture.

Values

Values are virtues. At our company the key values are SERVICE, DISCIPLINE, RESPONSIBILITY, PRODUCTIVITY. In simplest terms everyone is focused on:

  1. Making the customer happy.
  2. Following a process to consistently deliver on that promise.
  3. Taking the initiative and using creativity to do their job.
  4. Working as long as it takes (nights or weekends)… all to make the customer happy.

Values are who you are and who you want to be. They can make you the best… or a mediocrity.  What are yours?

Leadership

Leaders reinforce the value through example… especially in the way they treat employees, partners, vendors and customers. I am the company’s chief officer and salesman.

On a recent sales call with one of our staff, I was actively talking the prospect OUT OF BUYING our product. After the call she said that in all her years she had never seen a sales person do that. In fact a day later the prospect called me and said the same thing. Why did I do it? It was the right thing to do… the product was not a great fit. Sure I could have closed the sale… but later on they may not have been very happy. Our #1 value, as you recall… make the customer happy.

People

Most people want to be part of something great. They want to invest their valuable time and energy in the pursuit of personal as well as larger organizational goals.

The trick is to find people who share your values, and then look for relevant experience or the ability to learn what you do. It is easier to teach people your business, than it is to teach them values.

So how do we hire people who share our values?  We first interview for our stated values. We try to involve as many people in the process so we get a good feel that a candidate “is like us”… and they fit it. Only then do we look at job and educational experience to determine if the candidate is worth pursuing.

Values, leadership and the selection and nurturing of our people are central to our efforts to build a culture that will drive our business success. Nothing is more important or worthwhile. Life is short… we want to spend our time in the pursuit of greatness with great people – or fail in the effort.

If you want to be the best, focus on culture from the start.

Better, Best! Landscape Business Customer Service

What’s makes you better competing with the other guy in the green industry when it comes to Customer Service?  What defines the best landscape business customer service?

Surely faster and better responsiveness is near the top of the list. Almost nothing succeeds in creating loyalty like quickly, happily and professionally fixing a problem or responding to a request.

The Best Are More Than Better

However, responsiveness while making you better may not make you the best! What do the best do when it comes to customer service? In other words, are they better than just responsive?  They are… they anticipate problems and/or requests before customer experiences them for themselves.

Now while it is not always practical or even desirable to anticipate everything, there is a level at which it is superior and creates customer value and fierce loyalty. How do they do it???? Client budgets are one of type of best practice that embodies and delivers on the anticipation promise.

Client Budget

At renewal time they not only provide a renewal budget, they provide a list of improvement and remediation ideas that educates the client regarding WHAT the client can do, and HOW MUCH it will cost.

Process

At renewal time, provide a simple one – two page document outlining the costs and benefits of the ideas with photos and text.  We can discuss and display the format of this document in a future article.

Benefit

Assuming your competitor is not doing this, you – with a simple document – get to demonstrate in concrete terms your superior customer care and your expertise.

Keys

The keys are:

  1. Produce a professional document with simple and accurate information.
  2. Deliver it to the customer with the proper description of your intent, your reasoning, and the benefit to the customer.
  3. Train (and re-train) your Account Managers to become expert at it… the document is nothing without the salesmanship that brings it to life.

If you want to better retention there is no better way than building fierce loyalty by anticipating the customers needs and providing ideas about how they can maximize the value of their investment in their landscape.

If you want to be the best – provide client budgets.