T. Lake Environmental Design was founded in 1990 and became an Asset customer in 2003.
What motivated you to look for a new software solution?
As our company grew, our business software needs changed. Around the time we reached $750,000 in annual sales we realized we needed a much better system. Looking ahead, we knew that continued growth would require a more controlled and systematic process. We knew we had to consolidate and streamline our entire management process—not just on the financial side but across the board. We needed to eliminate wasted steps, catch things that were falling through the cracks, improve our customer follow-through, bill more quickly and accurately, be more efficient with service requests, perform more accurate job costing, and keep better employee records.
We started out using Excel and then Peachtree, a stand-alone general-business accounting system. But these options were too basic to effectively meet our needs. We then tried using QuickBooks with CLIP. However in less than a year we realized that this system was also inadequate. It lacked the ability to track, leave an audit trail, and provide the double-entry accounting system preferred by our controller and accountant. We were still banging our heads against the wall with Excel spreadsheets and spending way too much administrative time on job costing.
What was your process for selecting new software candidates?
Frustrated, we began to review other solutions. Our search consisted of three components. First, we asked peers inside and outside of our industry about what they use. Second, we engaged our accounting firm to help bring options to the table and to assist us in evaluating them. Third, we attended industry trade shows to see what was available.
Initially, our search team involved only our President and Office Manager. Once we started to get deeper into the search, we expanded this group to include division managers, office staff, and our accountant. The entire process took about 18 months. We looked at half a dozen solutions, including enterprise-wide, heavy-duty accounting systems, software for the construction industry, and a few lower-level landscape-focused software solutions.
Our team narrowed the list down to the top 3 finalists. We then spent the next 90 days intensively working with these software firms before we made our final decision.
With the assistance of our accounting firm, Asset was the clear choice. It included hard-core accounting software and was truly comprehensive. The other products were either too focused on maintenance-only businesses or the nursery industry, leaving them inadequate for our design/build/maintain service model. They claimed to be comprehensive, but they really weren’t. Nothing else on the market compared to Asset. It was truly the only software package we found that provided a total solution to meet our needs out of the box.
How did you decide on Asset?
Only Asset met all of our criteria and provided us with these solutions:
Provides double-entry accounting capability with an audit trail
Tracks sales by individual sales person
Fully links every step of the business process together
Integrates sales leads, proposals, job management, invoices, and tracking of all activities by job and by individual
Incorporates sophisticated reporting that provides a real-time view of all accounts and activities
What was the implementation process like?
Implementation was very smooth and the team at Include® Software was very responsive. The initial implementation required two intensive days to get us up and running. We planned to run our old software system concurrently for 6 months but ended up pulling the plug after 90 days. Unlike some other Asset users, we decided to install and use all modules right from the beginning.
How has Asset made a difference for your company?
Our return on investment has been very high. We have experienced growth of both sales and profits, as we’re now more capable of running our business efficiently. Prior to using Asset there were many things that we weren’t tracking or reporting because of difficulty and cost. The opportunity costs were huge.
With Asset, we were able to accomplish our goal of operating our business with a comprehensive management system. We streamlined the flow of management information and simplified several critical processes, including estimating, job costing, sales management, payroll, and human resource management.
Asset helped us to create a discipline that has made us a stronger company. Because of its strong controls, we can no longer be sloppy; we are forced to do things right the first time. We have also found the software to be flexible enough to meet our unique needs. We have a strong landscape architecture division and wanted some software adjustments made to support our needs in this area. Include® was very responsive and made software enhancements that worked very well for us. Their service and support is impeccable.