If you’re like most landscapers, you probably don’t relish the office paperwork that comes with running a business. You’d rather be out on a job with your crews, meeting with clients, checking on plants and other materials, drawing up a new landscape plan, or perhaps even on your way home for the day. If that’s the case, you should see what the latest computer technology can do for you, your employees and your bottom line.
Where to begin
Scott Prewett, vice president and chief technology officer, Exaktime, suggests a good place for business owners to begin the process of running a tighter ship is by measuring driving time to and from jobs. “The most important thing to cut windshield time is to know how much you actually have to begin with,” Prewett says. “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
Exaktime’s PocketClock System tracks drive time as well as how long a crew is at each location. It provides a travel report summarizing the time spent driving between jobsites. “Wasted drive time is easy to see and correct in the future,” he says. He adds companies can also save time and money by selecting a system that allows workers to wirelessly transmit records to the office, which can then import them into their accounting system instead of entering time records manually.
“With our system, exactly how much time is being spent at each location, performing each task is reported accurately each week,” Prewett says. “You don’t have to wait until the end of a quarter to know where you may have underbid or where your most profitable locations are. You can know it right away.”
In business for more than 25 years, Real Green Systems specializes in developing software for the lawn care, pest control, landscape and maintenance industries. The company’s Mapping Assistant is a GPS routing and scheduling system designed to help drivers take the most efficient route and make each truck in a fleet more efficient.
Crews can be more productive and safe with tighter routes, overview maps and turn-by-turn directions. Each map can highlight important customer information such as new customers, customers with past-due accounts, priority customers and those that need extra care. Their Route Total Window makes it possible to analyze routes and calculate exactly how much revenue each stop generates and how many stops crews can make in a day.
How a new electronic tracking and timekeeping system is introduced to workers has an enormous effect on how it is received, according to Prewett. “There are a multitude of reasons to automate timekeeping other than keeping an eye on workers,” he says. “It streamlines the entire payroll process, eliminates calculation errors, automates overtime calculations, assists with job costing, exports records directly into their accounting system and eliminates the need to hand enter records into a PC.” He suggests explaining these benefits to employees up front to prevent an attitude that “big brother” is watching.
Dedicated employees will support the company’s efforts to become more efficient, he says.
“If you do the simple math on losing just 10 minutes a day, it adds up to more than a full week of lost time by the end of a year,” Prewett says. He says there is seldom any love lost for the old-fashioned way of tracking time. “I have never met an employee who switched to our system that complained they missed filling in their timesheets by hand each week,” he says.
Going one step further
When combined with their Service Assistant program, Real Green Systems’ Mapping Assistant can link mapping applications with marketing. Integrating the two systems allows landscapers to perform block leading (gathering property information) and neighborhood marketing.
Because neighbors of existing customers are the most likely prospects to become new clients, landscapers can design routes to include new prospects along with existing service calls or design a route just for marketing purposes. Drivers can drop off a door hanger or literature for potential clients with individualized pricing while in route.