Looking for software to help run your landscape business more efficiently? As a quick Google search will show, there are lots of options out there.
Whether you’re moving away from paper and pen, spreadsheets, or a mixture of the two, the search for new software can be intimidating. Making a change means investing a lot of time (and usually money) in the process, so buyer’s remorse isn’t really an option.
Finding the right landscape business software doesn’t have to be scary.
Making a plan—and sticking to it—can help you forge ahead.
As you evaluate vendors, pay close attention to the specific functionality they offer. While different platforms will excel in different areas, there are some foundational features that should be included for all serious contenders.
To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of the top five features you can expect from a landscape business management platform.
Let’s take a look at a few must-haves, regardless of the software you choose.
Inaccurate estimates cause landscape businesses to lose out on thousands of dollars in profit each year, and it’s not because they don’t care. Even the most competent employees aren’t fortunetellers—without access to the right tools and processes, building good estimates is extremely challenging.
Reliable estimating software can help. It should allow you to:
- Easily record all details about a property
- Create and customize templates for new opportunities
- Use custom takeoffs to measure properties
Bidding kits, like those offered by Aspire, can also help save time by combining your production factors with labor and material costs into a single item on the estimate.
For higher value customers, you may want to have a manager review a proposal before it’s sent. It’s great if your landscape estimating software can automatically require this for bids over a certain amount. Finally, your system should allow you to send estimates digitally to make approval as easy as possible for your clients.
Scheduling is at the heart of what you do, so if your software solution falls short in this area, your whole company suffers.
Creating and editing schedules from an intuitive, flexible interface makes things easier on your staff, and it can also help reduce costs by giving you better visibility into labor hours. In addition to the basics (like offering a calendar view, drag and drop functionality, etc.), your landscape scheduling software should:
- Allow you to shift entire schedules by a full day—or more—to account for weather delays
- Include a map view that helps you plan the most efficient routes
- Make it easy to handle recurring jobs, or make changes to individual instances
Most importantly, the platform should guarantee real-time updates so office staff and crew members are always working from the same source of information.
One of the first things to check with potential vendors is how they handle mobile access.
Since your crews work in the field, they need to be able to communicate quickly and easily with administrative staff. The best software solutions offer mobile apps or websites with real-time updates. Look for the ability to:
- Clock in and out of jobs from the field
- Add notes to individual jobs (text, photos, videos, etc.)
- Track equipment usage and record readings
If you can, test out the app or website on a variety of devices—iOS, Android, tablet, etc.—to make sure it runs smoothly. Crew members will appreciate (and be more likely to use) a tool that doesn’t frustrate them with slow load times, error messages, or too-small buttons.
Invoicing can be a real headache for landscape businesses. Streamlining the process with software can help prevent you from missing a billing—or letting a client slip through the cracks.
In evaluating landscape invoicing software, look for:
- The option to send digital or physical invoices based on customer preference
- User interface features like color coding that help you recognize invoice status at a glance
- Integration with common accounting systems like QuickBooks
While robust invoicing functionality is beneficial year-round, it can be a lifesaver during high-volume periods like a heavy snow season. When you’re constantly racing to keep up with snow events, having a system like this in place can help you stay a step ahead.
Access to accurate job costing data is critical to achieving success as a landscaping business.
Without real-time access to budgeted vs. actual expenses, it's hard to manage operations effectively. Most companies underestimate their job costs by at least 1%, leading to thousands of dollars in lost profit.
When reviewing your options, consider a platform's ability to:
- Automatically factor your own markups into pricing
- Send data from estimate directly to purchasing
- Use work tickets to track all activity on a job
To see how Monarch Landscape Management in Houston, Texas uses Aspire's real-time insights to manage their job costs and stay under-budget, read the article here.
These five features are a great place to start. To set your landscape company up for success, though, consider narrowing your search to only include fully functional business management systems.
What’s the difference between an end-to-end business management platform and other software options?
The key difference is in their scope. While there are plenty of programs out there to handle individual aspects of your business, using lots of disconnected systems is cumbersome.
A business management platform drastically simplifies the process by bringing everything (CRM, estimating, scheduling, purchasing, invoicing, reporting, accounting, job costing, equipment management, etc.) into one centralized location.
We know how frustrating it is to never have access to the information you need, or to feel like you’re forced to operate within a patchwork of software solutions and spreadsheets that slows you down and makes your job harder. With a business management system, all your data is housed in a single place, and connections are made automatically on the back end. That means you have access to all your business information, whenever you need it.
Want to learn more about landscape business management software? Download our free buyer’s guide below. It includes a list of resources to consult during research, important questions to ask vendors, and an outline of what to expect at each stage of the process.