When It Comes to Profitability, Ambler Industries Doesn't Rely on Gut Instinct

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PublishedDecember 12, 2023

When It Comes to Profitability, Ambler Industries Doesn't Rely on Gut Instinct

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When Chad Kirk joined Ambler Industries two years ago, the Philadelphia-area residential landscaping company was at a crossroads: Should it shut down its mowing division?

“We could cut down on the number of guys, number of crews (we had),” Kirk, now the general manager, said. “(There were) a lot of operational benefits if we were to scale back in that area.”

Sure, they all knew that the mowing division posed some challenges, but nobody wanted to leave money on the table. Talks stalled as Kirk and his team struggled to make a decision.

That’s because Ambler wasn’t using software that could deliver accurate data around profit margins. Kirk and other leaders had to rely on gut instinct versus facts to run the business.

Things changed at the end of 2022 when Ambler joined Aspire.

With Aspire, Ambler was finally equipped with real-time, hard data around labor hours, pricing, equipment costs, and profits. After running reports around the mowing crews and individual employees, Kirk was ready to decide the mowing division’s fate.

“We know now, without question, that we make the right margins on mowing, and it is something we have no interest in dropping,” Kirk said. “The amount of information Aspire helps us gather takes a lot of the guesswork out, making our jobs a lot easier.”

Deciding the future of the mowing division isn’t the only challenge Aspire has supported. 

Insights from the field

Before Aspire, it was a struggle for Ambler’s team to keep track of labor hours. 

“When you look at the mowing division of our company, we have seven crews running,” Kirk said. “They're hitting a property for 15 minutes and bouncing to the next one. For someone to gather all that information any other way than through an app (would be) nearly impossible.”

That’s why Aspire Mobile has quickly become one of Kirk’s favorite features. The tool allows crews to track their hours, equipment, and job notes on-site and instantly communicate with the front office team. 

This rapid exchange of information gives Kirk reliable, up-to-date metrics he never would have been able to access before using Aspire.

The mobile app is good for those in the field, too.

Crew members can use the app on their tablets or mobile devices to check their schedules, which have live updates to reflect changes. The app also lists exactly which parts and equipment crew members need for that day so they arrive prepared for every appointment. 

Profitability as a feature

Aspire is loaded with tools to help companies grow. Here’s how Kirk has leveraged the software to level up Ambler Industries:

  • Revamp your accounting: In the past, Ambler ran off a cash-based accounting system, which was challenging to oversee. After switching to Aspire, it was easier to transition to accrual-based accounting, which better tracks profits and losses. 

  • Find the right customers: This year, Kirk is excited to update contracts for 2024’s green season “because there are so many clear answers for what needs to change,” he said. He can understand which contracts are worth renewing to maximize profitability using historical data.

  • Software ready to grow: Before using Aspire, Ambler relied on an older software system not designed to handle the company’s growing size. Reports took hours to generate, and the software couldn’t support Ambler’s snow and construction divisions. Today, Aspire powers all areas of Ambler’s business and can crunch P&L data in moments.

Don’t sell yourself short

As consumers continue to experience sticker shock on everything from eggs to landscape design, knowing how to price services can be difficult.

With costs rising, even Ambler’s seasoned professionals, who have been estimating jobs for years, sometimes feel unsure if they’re bidding projects correctly.

Aspire helps remove doubt: With trusted job costing data, Kirk can clearly see gross profits for all jobs and the make necessary adjustments to keep those margins high.

“I can see services that look expensive on paper, and we have a gut reaction to quoting a higher price because it sounds so high to us,” Kirk said. “But when you actually compare that (price) to the gross margin you're making on that property, it gives you a little bit of (reassurance).”

If returning customers have questions about the price increases, Kirk can point to actual data and assure them Ambler is tracking projects at a granular level and offering a fair price.

It’s just another way having information at his fingertips helps him know he’s making healthy decisions for Ambler.

“The amount of insight I have into our purchasing, invoicing, and time spent on jobs gives us so much information in all aspects of our business; it is just incredible,” Kirk said. “And I know that (a year in), I'm only scratching the surface.”

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