Technicians and techies: These simple tools will change how you do business

Photo: PexelsPhoto: Pexels

Landscape business owners have incredible potential to build a thriving business. The problem is, most landscapers are skilled technicians, not “techies.” In other words, they’re gifted in working with their hands and creating beautiful landscapes, but they often avoid using the latest gadgets and apps that will grow their business (especially if they’re still using a flip phone from 2009…you know who you are).

It can feel stressful to embrace new technology, especially when it’s unfamiliar territory. However, there are a vast array of tools available to help business owners and their staff operate faster, easier and more strategically. Whether you’re a landscaper, a tech wizard or somewhere in between, you deserve the opportunity to leverage these game-changing technologies to help your business run more efficiently and improve your bottom line.

This article outlines programs and apps in five different categories: health and safety, staff, operations, communication and continuing education. Using at least one suggestion in each area can help you take your business to the next level.

The Beginner’s Guide to Using Technology in the Landscape Industry:

HEALTH AND SAFETY

Greenius www.gogreenius.com – Greenius is an online suite of tools for training, onboarding and performance excellence, with over 50 videos for crews and supervisors. There’s also an extensive “tailgate talk” library to get your crew equipment-trained and safety-ready.

Vault – https://www.vaultintel.com/ – Vault is a way to manage your risk, health and safety responsibilities. The cloud-based software has a number of solutions to create a safer workplace.

STAFF

Evernotewww.evernote.com – Evernote allows you to capture and prioritize ideas, projects and to-do lists so nothing falls through the cracks. It can be loaded on multiple devices and the program syncs seamlessly between the devices when connected to the internet.

HR Downloads – https://www.hrdownloads.com/ – HR Downloads offers thousands of HR tools and deocument templates, legislative updates and management resouces

OPERATIONS

App Sheetwww.appsheet.com – This app building software is easy to use and can transform your workplace by helping you turn paper documents into an app on your employee’s phones (ie. circle check form, accident reporting, etc.)

Fleetiowww.fleetio.com – This all-in-one fleet management app can help you track your fleet and maintenance, all in one place regardless of fleet size.

Tom’s Plannerwww.tomsplanner.com – This free app allows you to plan your entire landscape business. It can be used for design-build projects or planning your maintenance business for the entire season. It gives you the ability to then share it with your team.

Landscape Management Networkwww.golmn.com – This landscape-specific software helps with budgeting, customer relationship management, estimates, mobile time tracking and much more.

Go iLawnwww.goilawn.com – This online property measurement service is a great tool that creates efficiency in your estimating process.

DOZRwww.dozr.com – DOZR is an online marketplace for rentals of heavy equipment. It’s like Airbnb for bulldozers and excavators. You can rent the equipment you need or offer your own equipment for rent.  It’s a perfect example of the new shared economy that we are living in.

COMMUNICATION

Voxerwww.voxer.com – This walkie-talkie app can replace the old push-to-talk cell phones we used to have. This app offers secure real-time communication that can be used with groups or individuals. It’s a great tool for your snow operations.

What’s Appwww.whatsapp.com – This international messenger app works on all platforms and allows you to text, send photos and voice memos, and make phone calls – all for free! 

Slack www.slack.com – SLACK is an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge.” This set of team collaboration tools and services allows you to communicate to groups or individuals. It results in fewer meetings, less internal e-mail and provides a space to share documents and information with your team.

Skitchhttp://www.evernote.com/products/skitch- – Skitch helps you communicate visually to your staff and customers by allowing you to take a picture, mark it up using arrows, text and colour and then send it out. This is a huge time-saver in your operations.

Hoot Suitewww.hootsuite.com – Hoot Suite manages your company and personal social media accounts. It makes scheduling, managing and reporting on social media as easy as laying sod!

CONTINUING EDUCATION

Blinkist www.blinkist.com – This app allows you to listen to educational material in the areas of personal growth, history, management, leadership, communication skills and motivation.

Grow the Benchwww.growthebench.com – GTB is an online professional education development platform built for landscape and snow contractors. It offers courses on many different topics from time management to conflict management. New content is added regularly.

Downcastwww.downcastapp.com – This one has been a game-changer. It allows you to subscribe and listen to podcasts anywhere you go during the day, so you can always be making the most of your time with a helpful podcast.

This list is only the beginning ­– there are more industry apps and programs out there and the list is growing constantly. It’s important after reading this article to take even one step forward to integrating technology into your business strategy. Enjoy watching how even the smallest changes can improve efficiency, strategic planning, internal and external communication and ongoing learning for you and your teams.

Implementing technology

New technology will only be useful if it’s implemented in a way that works for everyone. Be sure to follow these three steps before jumping in:

  1. Choose software as a leadership team, getting input from each division. Ask each division to create a list of what technologies would help them work more effectively and efficiently. Review these lists, going back for additional information until you have a clear picture of what you need from your technology.
  2. Set up an implementation team that meets regularly to follow through on the use of the new technology and set clear goals and expectations around it. The leadership team must commit to using the new app or program routinely so the implementation process doesn’t become stalled. Don’t forget to track the downtime or shop time of your crew staff in order to get an accurate sense of the time being put into the implementation.
  3. Implement accountability standards with your staff to follow the documented process and steps. For example, your sales teams may not want to put their leads into the CRM system because it takes too long. If this is the case, the sales team isn’t understanding why the use of this new software is essential to improving their own work and how it affects the company as a whole.

Learning new technology takes time. Be patient with yourself and your staff, especially when mistakes and learning curves happen (and you can be certain they will).

Too many owners get frustrated and impatient and scrap change for the comfort of their usual routine. However, doing things the way you’ve always done them is not the way to grow your business. Hang in there! As for your staff, they will need to be trained well to use it properly and recognize its value.

A word of caution: you will experience a range of responses from early adopters and enthusiasts, to the open but cautious individuals, to groups of outright opposition. Take each stage as it comes, knowing that it’s an essential part of growing a sustainable business. It will be short-term pain for long-term gain.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written by Grant Harrison, founder of Nextra Consulting. Harrison possesses a unique combination of landscape experience and business knowledge. He can build a deck and build a budget. He understands Latin terms and financial terms. He can plow snow like nobody’s business and he can help make yours more profitable.

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