Three years ago, Olinda Ramirez was skeptical of learning new software. As an accounting supervisor, the change would impact everything she touched.
"My first thought when we integrated Aspire was this would be another thing to reconcile and manage,” says the CFO of Priority Landscapes, based in Austin, TX.
Fast forward three years, and she’s singing a different tune. “Why didn't we get this sooner? Our growth has been amazing,” Ramirez raves.
“I've become the poster child for Aspire.”
“Aspire’s our hub. If it isn’t in Aspire, it didn’t happen.”
Tripp Hamby started Priority Landscapes in 2013 to run his own business and pass his landscaping industry knowledge on to others. In the peak season, the full-service commercial maintenance company employs 30 to 45 people, including H-2B visa workers from Mexico.
Ramirez started as an accounting contractor at Priority in 2014 before coming on full-time in 2015.
“They called me the cleaner,” she says with a laugh. “I cleaned the books up and gave (Hamby) financials for the first time. I've been with the company for as long as it's been around, so I've seen it grow from a couple of trucks to a fleet.”
Priority’s journey with Aspire began in March 2021, with Ramirez and Hamby leading implementation. The team has since integrated the platform with PropertyIntel, Inova, Azuga, and QuickBooks Desktop.
Priority is known for its customer service and quality in landscape maintenance, and its irrigation department has recently taken off. Their financial goal for 2023 was $4 million in revenue, and it will surpass that goal.
“I think a lot of it has to do with Aspire and being able to job cost much better,” Ramirez says. “We’ve grown a lot, but we don't have a lot of people,” she says. “What we lacked in manpower, we needed to have in a centralized place.”
“Aspire’s our hub,” she says. “And our quote now is: ‘If it's not in Aspire, it didn't happen.’”
Seeing how the business comes together in real-time
Obtaining any knowledge about Priority’s financials used to be a waiting game.
“It was, ‘Let’s wait until the end of the month when Olinda closes out the books, and then we can see what we billed in revenue,’” Ramirez says.
Now, every Friday, she accesses the billing report and sends it to the management team, giving them an accurate marker of their progress toward their goal. The visual of where the business stands in real time clarifies why everyone needs to do their part.
“They think, ‘I get it; this is why I must complete tickets. This is how it all comes together,’” Ramirez explains. “Teaching them the concept, but then having that light bulb go on was the aha moment when everybody came together to work as a team.”
Ramirez attributes much of that aha moment to Aspire’s ability to provide real-time reporting and job costing and approve labor hours daily. Instead of searching for spreadsheets or work orders on paper, the team can pull up work tickets or opportunities in Aspire and make decisions based on the data.
The new process with Aspire has also taken the company’s job schedule from an often inaccurate whiteboard to a real-time schedule board in Aspire and Aspire’s Mobile app.
“Our scheduling has become so much more efficient,” she says. “Now, I see the production managers and foreman saying, ‘We've got to make hours this week.’ It's a motivational tool.”
Ensuring accuracy and efficiency with PropertyIntel, Inova, and Azuga
It’s easy enough to see how human error and manual data entry affect payroll, so Priority took steps to automate this process with Inova.
“We had some struggles,” Ramirez recalls. “You can miss or transpose a number every once in a while. Integrating with Inova makes it as simple as a couple of clicks. Your payroll is in, and no data is manipulated.”
Similarly, the team has discovered new efficiencies with GPS tracking and automated route optimization with Aspire’s Azuga integration. Production can easily manage drive time and hold crews accountable for their non-billable time.
The company is a few months into using PropertyIntel, which they integrated to address delays when following up with leads. The aerial views and precise measuring tools help estimators save time traveling to properties and measuring them manually.
“Not only does it give accurate measurements, it also gives us a map to attach to our proposals that shows what we’re servicing,” she says, noting that in the event of a question or a complaint, PropertyIntel provides the documentation in a professional format.
When they encounter tight time constraints, the company uses PI Complete, PropertyIntel’s done-for-you measuring service. The salesperson can then review the property details and fine-tune the bid to meet the client’s requirements.
“The turnaround time is amazing,” she says. “(The measurements) give us a basis. There are only so many working hours, so we must be effective and efficient. That's why PropertyIntel is valuable to us.”
A culture of transparency
Because the platform is centralized, it holds the team accountable and motivates them. “We can think to ourselves, ‘We can do better.’ Or, ‘Next time, I'll bid at this margin.’ The transparency empowers them to see what they bid and what it comes in at. They can see everything, even when the job gets paid. They're able to see the whole process.”
“Transparency is key to (our team), and that's what Aspire provides,” Ramirez says.
This year, Priority’s main goal was culture-building, so they had to consider the essential building blocks of that structure.
“Everybody wants to be important and appreciated,” Ramirez explains. “To manage their hours and be held accountable using Aspire gives people a buy-in. We just gave all our crew members bonuses, which were the best we've ever paid."
Transparency in the organization has been the most significant change. “We’re showing the team that we're holding them accountable, but we're appreciating their efforts,” she says.
It’s transformed Priority Landscapes so much that Ramirez has recommended it to contacts in other industries.
“I have a colleague in the steel industry, and her business does what we do—job costing and delivering a final product,” Ramirez says. “When I speak with anyone not on Aspire, I ask, ‘Why aren’t you on Aspire?”
Spoken like a true poster child.
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