When is the right time to add landscape business software to improve your company?Does my company really need landscape business software? It’s a question that we’ve heard asked many times before. It’s likely a question that you may have even asked yourself or other professionals as you contemplated the growth of your own business, or maybe even as you began your search for software solutions.

It’s also a question that TURF magazine recently covered in an article about investing in landscape business software. In the article, that question was posed by a reader and answered by other landscape professionals. Not so surprisingly, the responses ran the gamut.

The article did a good job of covering the common and varying feelings toward software. It also shed some light on the question as to “at what point is software really needed?” Since Include Software has been working with hundreds of landscape companies that have asked this very same question over the years, we wanted to weigh in as well.

Do I Need Landscape Business Software When I Reach a Certain Number of Customers?

Small Business Concept through Magnifier on Old Paper with Blue Vertical Line Background..jpegIt’s quite common for landscape professionals to assume that there might be a specific number of customers when landscape business software begins to make sense. In fact, the reader that posed that question in TURF magazine wanted to know “what’s the magic number?” In other words, how many customers do you need before landscape business software becomes “worth it.”

But the truth is there is no magic number. It’s more about the size of your business than it is about the number of accounts you have. So what size should your company be to make software highly beneficial? Our response to that question is usually $1 million in annual sales. That’s typically the number that we find makes software a good fit for a landscape business. Once you reach that number you may find that it’s hard to grow without software.

But some companies come to that conclusion sooner. Any time that you find you’re entering information from one program to another, or performing any other type of repetitive data entry, then that is a big red flag that you’re wasting time that software could save.

Can I Manage my Business With Multiple Tools Instead of Landscape Business Management Software?

In short, yes. That may even already be what you’re doing. It’s what a lot of businesses do and it can work—but not necessarily very well. Between spreadsheets, whiteboards, Outlook, Quickbooks, and maybe even Word for proposals, you can muddle by with multiple tools. But the problem, as mentioned previously, lies in the amount of time that is wasted with repeat data entry.

Each of these tools is going to require you to enter data, again and again, because these systems do not “speak” to one another. There is no integration and therefore each of these methods of business management and communication is its own stand-alone tool rather than a comprehensive solution.

When is the right time to add landscape business software to improve your company?Besides the fact that this is incredibly inefficient (after all, you’re manually required to enter the exact same data again and again), it also leaves a lot of room for error. Repeat data entry is cumbersome and it’s quite likely that someone, somewhere along the way, is going to enter something wrong. That could mean that your operations manager is not using the same data as your salesperson—and that can lead to a lot of problems.

Paper and spreadsheets are also more likely to get misplaced, crumpled and coffee stained (illegible), or outright lost. And there is no ability to update information in real time when you have your team working via printed paper or a whiteboard in the office.

So, yes, while you can manage your business with multiple business tools, it’s likely not the best way to do so. It might work while you’re a smaller company but as you grow, you’re going to reach a point where it’s just no longer efficient or feasible.

Here is a question that we often pose to landscape business owners that are considering landscape business software:  Why do you sharpen your blades on your mower? Because when they’re not sharp, they’re not operating as well. That decreases productivity and the quality of services you are rendering. The same thing happens with your business tools. When you find that your productivity is taking a hit, then it’s time to re-evaluate your business tools.

What About the Learning Curve?

This is undoubtedly a common question we get asked. Anyone that has started the landscape business management software search has likely asked this question and they may have gotten varied responses.

Here at Include Software, we do not sugarcoat things. There will be a learning curve. But isn’t that true of everything? When did you ever implement something new and not have to deal with a learning curve? If you’re told there won’t be a learning curve with a product you’re considering, you should question the validity of that response.

Regardless of what product you’re exploring, chances are, it’s going to be challenging to learn it. Software, in general, can be a big change for folks that are used to doing something a certain way for so long. But going into the process with realistic expectations is important. Your team should know that this is going to be a challenge, but it’s one that you’re all going to get through together and that will make you better in the long run.

What about the Setup Process?

When is the right time to add landscape business software to improve your company?The implementation process is certainly going to be a challenging time. As we mentioned, that’s not a fact that we will try to deny. Anyone that tells you that software implementation is simple is probably not giving you the whole truth.

But one thing that we tell new landscape business software users is to use the setup period as an opportunity to clean things up. Use this time to clean up the client data in your company files before you enter it into the new system you’ll be using. At Include, our new tagline is “simplicity through technology,” and that’s something we really believe in. We’re creating simplicity through integration and eliminating the need for multiple systems. But ultimately, your data is only as good as the information you enter and the set-up period is critical for getting it right.

Most companies come back and tell us that cleaning up their files was something they now realize they should have done a “long time ago.” They may have had inaccurate data or even just inconsistencies that were slowing them down. But taking that time to clean it up can make a world of difference.

With cleaned up data and the efficiency of software, you should now be able to keep much better track of jobs—knowing what’s making you money and what’s not. You can look at what areas are most important to your company and really focus on making those spectacular rather than getting bogged down by bad information.

How Does Weather Impact Scheduling?

We all know the weather is unpredictable and it can make scheduling a huge challenge. When a sudden change occurs, it can throw everything for a loop. But with landscape business software, changes are simplified. You can easily make changes to your schedule based on weather, and those changes can be seen by everyone in real time. That would be impossible to do with a whiteboard or a paper schedule.

Is Landscape Business Software a Want or a Need?

This is likely the big question that you’re trying to answer. It really boils down to some of the things that we have already mentioned—whether you’re operating as efficiently as you can or whether you’re bogged down by repeat data entry, inaccurate or missing data, or even just a lack of real-time communication.

While outdated methodologies like whiteboards and spreadsheets might be feasible if you have just one crew and it’s easy for everyone to communicate because they see each other every day, then that’s fine. But the bigger you grow, the more you’ll find that those methods no longer work for you. That’s the point where software is no longer just a “want,” but it’s a true need. It’s something that is going to make your business grow.

We always like to use the 80/20 rule to help potential users determine whether landscape business software is truly right for them. Is the product going to do 80 percent of what you need it to do?  If so, then that’s probably the right product for you—and it’s more than just a want.

The 80/20 rule is important to consider as you weigh your options. Be wary of a company that claims their product can solve 100 percent of your needs. No such product exists. Seek out the product that is going to solve most of your needs, and your most important ones, at that.

Making Improvements with Landscape Business Software

When is the right time to add landscape business software to improve your company?At the end of the day, the decision to adopt landscape business software usually boils down to these very questions we’ve discussed. Folks want to know if the cost is worth it or if it’s going to be worth learning something new.

The best way to answer all of these questions is to take an honest look at your business and what you think it will take to make it better. If you’re using outdated business tools and you’re beginning to struggle as you grow, then software very well might make you better.

To use another landscape analogy: why do you change the oil in your machines? To keep them running. Well, you’ve got to keep your office machine running too. If you find that it’s starting to show some wear and tear or it’s really slowing down, then you’ve got to grease it back up. An integrated software solution just may be the tool to do that. If that’s the case, then it is worth the cost and it is worth learning something new.

Of course with software, there are a lot of products on the market and they certainly are not all created equal. If you wind up with a software product that does not integrate well with your business or that has facets that do not “talk” to one another, then it just may not be the answer you’re seeking.

Asset is a comprehensive solution. If you think your company may benefit from landscape business management software, then let’s start the conversation. While these questions we discussed are ones you must ultimately answer for your own business, we are here to help you work through them. We don’t claim that Asset is right for every business, but is it right for yours? That’s a question worth answering.

If you think your company may benefit from our landscape software products, contact us for a free demo or give us a call at 800-475-0311.

Landscape Software Buyer's Guide

Image Sources:  T. Lake Environmental Design

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