Jan. 16 2012 09:36 AM

Challenges in an Evolving Industry

Landscape companies of all sizes are being pushed to achieve increased capacity and better margins. Today’s business climate requires contractors to squeeze higher volume and productivity out of the same 24-hour day.

“It used to be that you bid a job, established a relationship with the customer and if you did a good job, then you got more work,” said David George, vice president of operations for Engledow Group. “Now it’s all about the numbers.”

Even successful companies like Engledow can no longer rely on reputation and brand recognition alone to drum up sufficient work. Enduring relationships between customers and their contractors will always be paramount in the landscape industry. But, as George asserts, the bottom line has claimed a place of elevated importance.

One source of this shift is economic. In a sour economy, customers are especially prone to comparison shop bids, holding out for the most favorable terms. Savvy contractors expect a shifting business climate. Those companies nimble enough to dodge the scythe of bankruptcy are the ones who allow their business plans the flexibility to evolve with the times. The challenge then becomes to craft a system wherein Engledow can turn around a high volume of bids at a lower margin.

Enter Go iLawn.

Digital solution for the digital age

Go iLawn is an online measuring tool that helps landscape contractors streamline the processes of estimating, marketing and bidding. The system, developed by GIS Dynamics, Cincinnati, Ohio, allows contractors to look at a property online and save views and measurements taken from different angles. A company like Engledow can use Go iLawn to take all the necessary measurements on a scaled digital picture of the property. Those measurements can then be exported to Microsoft Excel, along with any notes the contractor recorded about the site.

Go iLawn also includes proposal building that allows contractors to come up with photos and site conditions which, in turn, can be used to generate a formal bid.

“The goal that everyone here has in mind is to help contractors grow their business and increase efficiency,” said Alle Rorie, business development associate at GIS Dynamics. “Go iLawn makes site visits a lot shorter, which gives contractors time to sell more work.”

Before Go iLawn, contractors had to do all of their measuring work in the field. They couldn’t take any steps towards finalizing a bid without sending a crew out to gather the necessary data. It was a slow and often inefficient process.

A subscriber can access the Go iLawn website from any device with internet connectivity (the one caveat being that the system requires Flash Player and is thus incompatible with many Apple products). From there, a street address is all the contractor needs.

With one click, Go iLawn produces a satellite image of the location, along with high resolution aerials. A toolbar on the site offers a number of shortcuts for measuring area, linear distance, change in elevation and square footage.

At Engledow, Go iLawn has increased bidding volume and decreased turnaround time.

George says that the system gets used frequently. For certain types of jobs, Go iLawn has eliminated the need for preliminary site visits alto gether.

When the details of a job force a site visit, the ability to view the maps beforehand and take early measurements saves both time and money.

“We use Go iLawn for winter snow bids without visiting the location, but I would never do a landscape job without attending the site,” said the industry veteran. “That’s not to say Go iLawn isn’t still vital.”

In other words, Go iLawn provides the kind of low margin/high volume solution that the market demands.

“It’s critical,” said George. In business today, “you have to turn more bids out and improve your odds.” To that end, GIS Dynamics’ innovative product is being used exactly as the company intended.