When it comes to managing a successful landscaping company, getting into the (right) weeds is just as important as maintaining a bird's-eye view. You need to be able to gauge how your business is doing at a glance, but you can’t stop there. In order to make informed, proactive decisions, you’ve got to have access to the details, too.
That’s where pivot reports come in. (Pivot reports are built on data that lives in pivot tables; for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll use them interchangeably.)
What’s a pivot report?
Pivot reports are fully configurable and allow you to quickly filter, group, and summarize data at different levels for analysis. This flexibility and opportunity to see data from multiple levels at one time is what sets them apart from standard reports. A standard profit and loss report, for example, will show you revenue and expense transactions for a certain timeframe, while a work ticket pivot table allows you to dig into budgeted and actual numbers by property, customer, manager, crew member, or virtually any other metric you desire.
Aspire offers four fully customizable pivot tables: sales, purchases, work tickets, and hours. Each contains a long list of fields (46-85 are currently available for each) to use in building out each aspect of the report—from columns (the data you want to see for each variable) to subdivided rows (the variables you want to evaluate). Custom date ranges and filters allow you to exercise even more control over the final report. And when it’s finished, you can share it with individual users or roles. Data is always accurate thanks to automatic “refreshes” that occur daily.
The work ticket pivot report pictured above is one of the most popular in Aspire and offers 85 fields to choose from.
If you’re used to handling complex reports in Microsoft Excel, you’re probably already familiar with pivot tables. They’re a great way to organize, present, and make sense of large volumes of data. Pivot reports are particularly useful when they can be:
Granularity, or the ability to drill down into the details, is extremely useful for pinpointing problems and eliminating guesswork. If you’re over budget for the year, for example, you can get very specific in identifying the root causes by looking at customers, managers, divisions, labor dollars, etc.
When reports are completely customizable, you’re not stuck with an out-of-the-box solution that doesn’t address your current reporting preferences or fit your business model. You can get rid of data points that aren’t relevant, add areas of particular interest, and adapt over time as your company’s needs change.
Since reports can only reveal problems, not solve them, dynamic updates are critical to maximizing the effectiveness of pivots. The more frequently data is reviewed, the easier it is to identify and solve issues. Having accurate data means having data you can trust, and that opens the door to a more thorough, consistent analysis process—and quicker fixes.
How to create great pivot reports
If you’re ready to unlock the power of pivots, here’s a few things to keep in mind as you get started.
Know what you want to know
It’s easy to jump into a report and start adding fields or moving things around. In fact, that’s a great way to learn! While pivot reports aren’t hard to build, there can be a bit of a learning curve at the beginning as you determine your preferences for structuring and formatting the data.
When it comes time to actually build the report you need, though, don’t start by opening the software. Make a list of the questions you want this report to address. Be as specific as possible, and take as long as you need to develop a comprehensive list. Then, connect those questions to the relevant data points. Questions about a certain division’s performance, for instance, might be addressed by monthly revenue data, service type breakdowns, work ticket status information, and estimated vs. actual hours.
Once you have a list of data points, you can take them back to the platform and build a report that meets your needs.
Decide how granular to get
As we mentioned at the beginning, it’s important to be able to get into the “weeds” of your business—but they’ve got to be the right weeds. Granularity is one of the key strengths of pivot reports, but it should be used judiciously.
Including too much detail can defeat the purpose of a well-made report, burying valuable insights under superfluous information.
That’s why it’s important to know the story you want your report to tell, and the data you need to tell that story as effectively and efficiently as possible. Rather than adding every layer of detail to every report, consider building reports that vary in scale and scope based on their audience. Salespeople may need more or less information than managers, who may need more or less information than business owners.
Build reports that can be shared
Most employees aren’t going to make their own reports, and they shouldn’t need to. Creating pivot reports that address individual needs can help staff members across your company stay on the same page. Consider building reports that can be accessed and monitored by certain users or roles (e.g., account managers, salespeople, office administrators, or estimators).
When it comes to sharing reports, you may need to be able to pull data out of your system to use in other ways. Pivot reports in Aspire, for example, can be exported and shared as PDF files or Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.
Consistency in data analysis across departments is important—after all, you’re ultimately working toward the same goal of overall business growth.
Some landscape businesses with complicated payroll systems use the hours pivot report to export labor hour data.
With a landscape business management system like Aspire, pivot reports are more powerful than ever before. They take the functionality offered by software like Excel and transform it into an enterprise-level solution for complex business needs. And because it’s centralized in a single location, information is always accurate and up to date. You don’t have to worry about duplicated data entry or separate systems that don’t talk to each other.
If you’re interested in seeing what Aspire can do for your landscaping business, request a free, customized demo today.