With no prior knowledge of the green industry, Dan Wolf was able to join a multimillion-dollar landscaping company and transform its business intelligence processes.
How? Because he understood technology was the key to better profitability.
Gachina Landscape Management
The company Wolf joined four years ago (Gachina Landscape Management) is a landscape maintenance and enhancement business with five branches and seven locations in the Bay Area of San Francisco.
Started in 1988 with a team of two, Gachina now employs more than 400 landscape professionals and serves commercial clients, large residential properties, retail shopping centers, municipalities, schools, and more.
Creating sustainable landscapes is a major focus at Gachina, where its processes are designed to save water, reduce waste, nurture the soil, conserve energy, create wildlife habitat, and protect water and air quality.
This emphasis on sustainability has become a defining feature of Gachina’s business practices and helped it connect with customers who are committed to similar goals.
Creating a senior management role in technology
When Wolf came on board in 2017, he had years of experience in technology—and zero experience in landscaping.
He’d worked in a variety of settings, including General Electric Nuclear Energy, the semiconductor industry, a hospice provider, and an international work exchange and au pair company for students and young adults. When he heard about Gachina, he reached out to learn more about the business—eventually hitting it off with CEO Jaclyn Ishimaru-Gachina.
“Obviously I’ve worked in a variety of different roles, but the synergy and camaraderie in the senior management team and the senior operations staff is something to be jealous of in my experience,” he says.
Gachina was at a critical juncture and knew prioritizing technology would help get them where they needed to go. They created a new role —Director of Information Technology—and brought Wolf on to spearhead their efforts.
How Gachina uses technology to run its landscaping business
When Wolf started, Gachina was already using Aspire. As early adopters, they’d been on the platform for several years but weren’t getting as much out of it as they could.
“We were not using it correctly in the way it needed to be used,” Wolf says. “We had the basics down, but there was a lot of cleanup that we had to do. And a lot of figuring out how to better utilize reports.”
As Wolf got to work revamping most of Gachina’s technological systems, he started learning everything he could about Aspire. Over the next few years, he was able to transform the company’s use of the software with the support of Aspire’s customer success team.
Here’s how he did it.
Setting the system up correctly
While successfully onboarding new software is possible without a dedicated technology expert, it’s a lot easier when you have one.
Even though Gachina had already onboarded Aspire, much of the work Wolf did early on was cleaning up existing systems and rebuilding the infrastructure. Once a solid foundation was in place, he could pull any information he needed and create consistent processes across the team.
“Putting in end-of-month policies, practices, and procedures (and reviewing that) was something that just wasn’t even happening before,” Wolf says. “So leveraging Aspire on the technology side for the reporting, gross margin management, and things like that was extremely important.”
As anyone who’s ever tried to change a company-wide process knows, implementation is one thing—adoption is another.
For Wolf, getting everyone on board with new systems had its challenges, but he found ways to facilitate adoption by easing people in and then highlighting the benefits.
“I had to simplify it in the beginning,” he says. “I had to make something that was realistic that they could bite on to, then over time, I was able to show them that we were able to manage our gross margins, watch them more closely, and the advantages of that.”
Gachina started using Aspire’s mobile app for time entry and work tickets about two years ago, and they’ve seen good adoption on that front as well (even though they occasionally run across teams where the manager’s still inputting time for crew members).
The key to equipping crews to use technology in the field, Wolf says, is patience.
“We have to have patience, understanding, and empathy with respect to how they’re looking at it,” he says. “And so I’m fortunate to have a very strong IT team.”
Immersion in the program
Since Wolf was new to landscaping when he joined Gachina, he’d never used Aspire before.
There was plenty to learn about the robust business management system. As soon as he was able, Wolf started to focus on exploring the program, attending conferences, and asking questions.
It didn’t take long to find his way around.
“Aspire is a very easy application to work with, in my opinion,” he says. “It went fairly quickly once I put my actual focus on it.”
In addition to his initiatives in Aspire, Wolf reworked all of Gachina’s technological systems. And one of the most important steps in that process was ensuring integration among all systems.
“You bring business systems in, but it’s really important with a company this size to be able to have them integrate,” he says. “So we’ve tied Active Directory together with ADP, with NetSuite, and with Aspire.”
These integrations are possible thanks to Aspire’s API, which allows enterprise clients to build customized systems designed to meet their specific needs.
Tailoring the solution to fit
Wolf realized pretty quickly that the number reports and processes Aspire offered were great, but his team didn’t need to use all of them.
In setting up end-of-month processes, for example, he initially added a lot of reports based on what he learned from training sessions. Eventually, though, he weeded out several that weren’t necessary for Gachina’s specific approach.
“I had to take that and simplify it to get it to a point where I could get my team to digest and work with it,” Wolf says. “We’re getting all our work tickets cleaned up, we’re managing our opportunities, and it’s actually a very tight ship now compared to where it used to be.”
Using the resources Aspire offers
Wolf didn’t stop leaning on resources from Aspire once he was comfortable with the platform. Instead, he’s continued attending the annual client conference, staying up to date with product news, and meeting regularly with his customer success manager (CSM).
(Every Aspire client has a dedicated CSM for monthly meetings, and receives additional support whenever it’s needed.)
“I feel like there’s a true partnership between Gachina and Aspire because of the level of support with our CSM,” Wolf says. “She bends over backward for any requests that we have.”
Where Gachina’s headed next
Now that he’s an Aspire power user, Wolf’s next project is helping account managers handle their properties and opportunities more efficiently.
His advice for other landscape businesses interested in using technology to see higher profits?
“Get onto Aspire, go to those conferences, work with your CSM, and you’ll see the magic happen when you have a system that allows you to properly manage and track your profitability,” he says.
If you’re interested in seeing how Aspire can help take your landscaping business to the next level, sign up for a free, customized demo using the link below.