For Blackjack Horticulture, landscape business software enhances and streamlines management of high-end residential and commercial landscaping projects, ensuring quality from start to finish.
The $6 million Birmingham, Ala.-based company uses both Aspire business management software and LandOne Takeoff design software to more quickly create accurate estimates, improve team communication, and effectively manage and execute complex projects.
Blackjack Horticulture onboarded with Aspire 5 years ago, after the growing company realized it needed centralized management software. In 2021, Aspire acquired LandOne, and an upcoming integration means users will be able to seamlessly use both platforms.
“We realized that at the rate that we were growing, and the jobs that we were performing, an Excel spreadsheet would only get you so far,” says Eli Nichols, Chief Estimator of Blackjack Horticulture.
The company began in 1998, started by the Gorrie family as Blackjack Gardens, Inc., and obtained its name from the Blackjack oak trees growing along the Blackjack Ridge. In 2004, Bryan Word became the company’s owner.
Today, the company functions as a full-service landscape company, with about 60% residential and 40% commercial clients. The company offers landscape design and construction services, including masonry, hardscape construction, in-house irrigation and landscape lighting, maintenance, and floriculture.
How Aspire improves team communication
Aspire enables Blackjack Horticulture to seamlessly bid and manage projects at all stages.
“I think the biggest thing is just a streamlined communication over all aspects of our company, all the divisions of our company,” says Eli, who has worked at the company for two years.
Once Eli bids and wins a construction project through Aspire, the project manager takes the information and creates specialized work tickets for different scopes of work on the project. The project manager uses the purchasing assistant to procure the materials, using Eli’s estimating notes that include material sources. More often than not, the company wins the property’s maintenance contract.
“Everybody can go to the same property and see the same notes, the same materials, and the same durations of different projects,” Eli says. “Just having a centralized, streamlined management software that anybody on our team can use—whether it’s me, whether it’s our project manager, whether it’s our maintenance operations manager, whether it’s the crew leader. I think that helps tremendously, rather than having to get on the phone and call different people and ask different questions. All that information is tied together in a centralized location.”
As an example of how Aspire provides transparent project oversight and streamlines communication, Eli references a recent large, high-end construction and masonry project. While it began simply, the client adjusted the scope of work, resulting in 18 change orders.
“We’ve got basically three different crews, working at different times on the same property,” Eli says. “Everything’s still all centrally located where I can go there, and add change orders, or piece things together, or see what was done, or see what hasn’t been done.”
Building better estimates with Aspire and LandOne
Eli has used several other bidding, estimating and takeoff programs, and feels both Aspire and LandOne are simple to use but provide the right capabilities.
Aspire helps Eli create proposals faster because of the ability to add kits and materials to his catalogs. The purchasing assistant allows for detailed lists of materials, sizes, and quantities, and the software simplifies the tracking and invoicing process once the bid is won.
“I can add different subcontractors, different material kits, different hardscape kits,” Eli says. “I don't have to build things each and every time.”
He cites Aspire’s ease of use, and says it’s easy to train other employees on the software.
“Everything's just clean and neat, it makes sense, and it’s easy to read and see,” Eli explains.
Blackjack Horticulture’s previous takeoff software was difficult to navigate, leading the company to switch to LandOne.
Eli appreciates how he can save items or conditions to a catalog in LandOne, which saves time creating estimates. For instance, if he uses the same plant on 10 different estimates, he can begin typing the plant specification and it auto-populates. Similarly, he can use software features to save the proper depth, square footage, or spacing for different items.
“Quantities are spot-on just about every single time, from even a volumetric standpoint,” Eli says. “It is just accurate, and it’s easy to use, and has saved us from not having to do a lot of guesswork.”
He’s involved in the beta testing of the Aspire and LandOne integration, which will allow users to measure from an aerial image and sync the values into Aspire, which keeps the property information for future estimates. A second phase includes the ability to start an estimate in Aspire, automatically create the project in LandOne for a takeoff, and then import the quantities back into Aspire to instantly price the project.
The Blackjack Horticulture team relies on Aspire and LandOne to help them work faster and more efficiently, so they can build customer relationships and grow the business.
“We want to grow,” Eli says. “We want to surpass last year’s sales numbers. We knocked it out of the park last year, and we’re on track this year to do even better. And that’s due to just the way we’re able to work a little bit faster in LandOne and Aspire, and just building that network, and that trust in the area.”