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What landscaping professionals should look for in business software

Landscape-specific software allows businesses to be better managed and more profitable

March 6, 2024  By  Mike Jiggens

Photo credit: GCShutter/Getty Images

Tapping into modern technology – such as computer software that allows operations to be more efficient – is something more and more landscaping businesses are doing today. The means to better keep track of customers, manage the books, deal with human resources matters, and keep tabs on inventory and equipment can be achieved through specialized software. 

It was an avenue Sean Cooke decided to explore upon becoming general manager at Avalon Landscapes, a commercial landscape maintenance, construction and snow removal company based in Idaho. He spoke about Avalon’s willingness to embrace technology at the 2023 Lawn & Landscape technology conference in Las Vegas.

He said that when he was hired as the company’s general manager, a change in business operations was needed. Avalon was doing good work but made little money.

Founded in 2001, the company employs 85 people. Avalon shies away from residential work, preferring to stick with commercial properties, HOAs and hospitals. It realized $5.5 million in 2022 revenue and was projecting revenue of $6.5 million in 2023.


To improve the business and make it more profitable, he recognized five areas that needed addressing: operational efficiency, accounts management, bookkeeping and financial management, human resources, and physical resource management.

“We wanted to find platforms and solutions that addressed those,” Cooke said. “Budgeting hours and time management is a daily need we have in our business so that we’re being efficient and staying under budget. An hour wasted a day turns into a lot of time over a year. When there are 85 people wasting an hour a day, it adds up quick.”


He said that when he joined the company, Avalon was averaging about 400 hours a week in overtime. 

“It had a huge impact on the bottom line.”

Avalon has since whittled down its overtime hours to about 100 a week which, Cooke said, is “rather tolerable” considering the company employs 85 people.

By reducing its overtime hours, Avalon increased its hourly rates and allotted more time for its employees to spend with their families while still making comparable money without having to work 14 or 15-hour days.

What Cooke sought was a software platform that would support all of Avalon’s services and departments – each of which had specific needs.

Seeking the right software
The software needed to help with quality control which included photo documentation and being able to make operational notes and those from the bidding process. Access to the software had to be available to both management and those working in the field.

The software also needed mobile capabilities.

“What good is having all of this if you can’t access it while on the job?”

It needed to be easily usable by phone and tablet, either through an app or via web access.

“We wanted to have real time visibility” and to be able to track materials and inventory. “Being able to track inventory allows us to plan better and be more efficient and be more profitable.”

On the account management side, the software desired had to keep track of customers and properties as well as upcoming projects, and to be able to do estimating. Tracking costs and hours was imperative.

The ability to invoice, collect and job cost was also paramount. 

“We wanted our operation platform to sync with our accounting software and be able to match up so we could accurately keep track of our money. We now get our invoices sent to us automatically by our vendors.”

Where overhead and direct job costs are going needed to be plotted by the software.

The platform’s ability to deal with human resources matters was just as important, Cooke said.

“Being able to automate your onboarding process, job postings and application processes is a huge time saver.”

He added it’s also beneficial if the software can send out company notifications and recognize employees who have done good jobs.

A software program that can manage inventory and track when fleet servicing is required is an asset, Cooke said.

Taking everything into consideration, he said a comprehensive, landscape-specific software package was needed that would especially address necessary changes in the company’s accounting practices. Some of the software Avalon looked at didn’t properly communicate with its accounting program. What was needed was something that allowed the company to have better visibility between its management software and its accounting software and to be able to communicate regularly.

“We had to implement one while we were implementing the other. That was a real challenge.”

In January 2023, Avalon rolled out its new human resources platform and went live with its management and accounting software simultaneously the following March. In May, the company’s GPS and fleet management solution was enacted.

Getting the team involved
Each member of the team must become involved in the company’s new technological direction, Cooke said.

“They all have to buy into this work to be successful because they all have to use it. If you do all this great stuff and only half the people use it, it’s really more detrimental than beneficial.”

Cooke advised that when a company decides on a program it likes, it must ensure it gets what it signed up for and that the integration of the software includes each of the company’s processes and service lines, such as lawn maintenance, snow removal and tree care.

Services lines are different. Maintenance involves year-long contracts as companies understand their mowing frequencies, but construction contracts tend to be shorter term. It makes the billing process different between the two services. Learning how to set up construction projects inside a company’s software is critical, he said.

“You have to make sure you can change something if you make a mistake. Make sure you have the ability to do that. You want to make sure that if you make mistakes, they’re not set in stone.”

Cooke said knowing the needs of the company and each of its departments is the first step toward executing a plan. 

This article is part of the Technology Week.

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