Case Study:

Andy Vande Hey Finds the iCalibrate Peer Group Helps Him Get the Most out of Asset—and his Business

Being a part of a peer group can be incredibly helpful when it comes to running your landscaping business. It’s something that Andy Vande Hey, president of the Vande Hey Company in Appleton, Wisconsin had been thinking about for a while. In fact, he was trying to decide whether it made the most sense for him to be in a professional business peer group—or one that was landscape specific. The opportunity to be part of iCalibrate Peer Group, specifically designed for Asset users, ended up being a wise choice.

“I felt it was better to be with other industry professional who understood the seasonality of the business and some of the specifics of our industry,” Vande Hey shares. “On top of that, since everyone in iCalibrate is also using the same software, it really allows me to maximize what I’m learning. We can all share what’s worked for us.”

Learning Together

Actually, that concept of “learning together” is where the idea for iCalibrate Peer Groups was initially born. Asset users have always benefitted from informal networking at industry events or even Include Software meetups. But many Asset users felt they could strongly benefit from having a more structured peer group program in which they could dig into specifics.

“This idea came while chatting with clients at an industry event,” says Nanette Seven, vice president of Include Software. “Asset users were looking for a formal and strategic way to partner with one another and use Asset to the fullest.”

The whole focus on iCalibrate Peer Groups is helping landscape business owners and managers to “calibrate” their business with the assistance of data and key performance indicators (iKPI) from Asset. The Peer Groups are facilitated by James Cali and Jason New of McFarlin Stanford, a green industry-based management coaching and recruiting firm in Dallas, Texas.

“Considering the fact that everyone in this peer group is utilizing the same software really helps members get the most out of this opportunity,” says New. “Asset is an expansive system and offers so much in terms of streamlining business operations—but so often, it’s not being used to the fullest. Sometimes people just ‘don’t know what they don’t know.’ But the peer group helps us to dig into what others are using—as well as what they’re not using. The focus is on, what can we do to help get the most out of the software?

New says that iCalibrate also helps peer group members to learn best practices. After all, certain features might not be used to their full extent—or properly. Many times companies are using excel spreadsheets in their business to get reports they would like

“Maybe you’re using a feature—but not the way it was intended to be used,” he adds. “In order to get the most out of the system, it also helps to learn best practices and to make sure we’re using features to the fullest while exercising efficient ways to get the information needed.”

In turn, Seven says that this helps landscape business owners get the most out of their business, too. After all, Asset is set up to help owners streamline every aspect of their operation and ensure everything is running as seamlessly and smoothly as possible. With peer group participants using new features they haven’t used before—and implementing best practices—business operations are improving.

Getting the Most Out of Meetings

Vande Hey says that even a “single good idea” can really revolutionize a meeting—and make the entire investment of time and money in the peer group “worth it.”

“It’s not about having 25 great ideas—although, maybe that will happen,” he says. “But it’s usually about the one or two amazing ideas that you learn that are going to give you great ROI. After all, when you invest time and money into something, you want to get it back.”

Vande Hey also says that getting “different people to the meetings is important.” You don’t want to be the only one who is excited about new ideas.

“When you come back from one of these meetings, you’re usually pumped up and full of good ideas but now you have to implement them,” he says. “If the team drags their feet because they’re not as excited as you, it can slow down that momentum. So, it helps to bring different team members when you can. Get them involved in the ideas—and just as excited as you are. It can make a really big difference in getting buy-in from the rest of the team.”

New says that each meeting has a different focus—it could be sales, operations, finances, or human resources. So, it certainly makes sense to bring key team leaders into the different meetings.

“We work on every single department of the company as a whole because we’re working to improve the business across the board,” New says.

With McFarlin Stanford bringing their long history of experience in the green industry to the table as well, they’re also able to offer different perspectives and provide industry benchmarks for success. At the end of the day, the focus is on continual improvement.

Learning from One Another

Of course, the main objective from participation in peer groups is to learn from one another. Vande Hey says that nothing beats talking to someone who has “been there before.”

“Everyone is always so open and honest—and it really makes a difference,” Vande Hey says. “We have some pretty big hitters in this group but when you hear them say, ‘Wow, can I borrow that idea?’ you realize that everyone has something to learn. It’s really diversified, and the truth is, we don’t all have all of the answers. The $50 Million Dollar companies have things to learn from the $3 Million Dollar companies—as much as it goes the other way, too.”

 Vande Hey says that a peer group can also be a valuable sounding board. He and other group members have shared decisions they were struggling with and gotten the group’s opinion.

“Whether there’s a team member you’ve been struggling with or maybe an acquisition you want to go after, you can lay it out for the group and get their thoughts,” he says. “Sometimes that little extra nudge is all you need to take action. Or maybe the group will tell you why it might not be the right move. They might have been there before. It’s helpful in making decisions.”

It’s also powerful in helping landscape business owners feel less isolated. After all, the expression that it’s “lonely at the top” can ring very true. But with a peer group—you aren’t alone.

“Being an owner can sometimes make you feel alone,” Vande Hey confirms. “But the peer group connects you with peers that relate to exactly where you’re at. Just last weekend I talked to a member of the group who took time on a Saturday to talk through some stuff with me. That relationship doesn’t happen overnight—it’s a process. I think that’s why they ask you to sign up for a two-year commitment. You don’t build connections in one meeting.”

Looking Ahead

Vande Hey says that he sees great things for the future of iCalibrate Peer Groups. He was part of the first group—and he says that it was a smart move on his part.

“My best advice with this or any peer group would be to put in the time,” he says. “You’ve put money into this, now put the time in, too. That’s the only way you’ll really get the maximum value out of it.”

Seven says that Include Software is excited about the future of iCalibrate. As more Asset users join, there are exciting opportunities to streamline business operations, improve efficiencies, and get on an even-more-successful path for the future.

Seven invites Asset users who are interested in learning more to reach out and connect.

Vande Hey also says that he’s available to answer questions from anyone who might be considering joining an iCalibrate Peer Group. You can connect with him via email at

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