Sept. 30 2019 06:00 AM

Mobile apps are empowering landscape companies to better manage their employees and day-to-day business.

Photo: Jobber


What’s an area of your day-to-day business that is a constant struggle? Is it the never-ending stack of receipts, contracts or training sign-in sheets lying on your desk that you’ve been meaning to file away? Perhaps it’s getting job quotes prepared and sent to prospective customers faster. Maybe it’s even theft of company time or equipment. No matter how big or small, these issues can begin to grate on you over time and could be costing your company big bucks.

Tackling a problem area within your company can seem daunting. But have you ever considered you may hold the solution in the palm of your hand? So much software offers mobile applications that can solve a multitude of issues. We’re not talking apps that can only perform a few functions of the full-blown software. The apps in this article have been developed to work seamlessly between computers and mobile devices.

In an industry that requires managing many employees in many locations, mobile apps are allowing management and employees to increase their efficiency and stay connected in a way they’ve never been before.

Jobber

Jobber is a field service scheduling software and mobile app based out of Edmonton, Alberta, that’s gaining ground in the green industry. Greg Brooks, owner of Brooks Landscaping in Atlanta, says that his business has changed tremendously since he began using Jobber five years ago.

“One of the biggest things that’s made a difference for me has been the way Jobber has developed its entire software to be mobile friendly,” says Brooks. “With Jobber, you can get work done in the field on a mobile device and be just as effective as if you were sitting in front of your home computer screen.”

The software allows management to schedule and dispatch crew members, provide quotes, manage clients and jobs, GPS locate employees, send invoices and receive payments.

The scheduling feature allows you to view every crew member’s schedule and availability. When a new job comes in, you can see what each team member has on their plate for the day so you can assign or reassign jobs to the right people. You can also check how many jobs crew members have completed out of the total assigned to them that day.

And the app isn’t just for management. Crew members use the app as their total source of information for scheduling and property details. They use the app to clock in and out of jobs, and the app alerts them to any changes made to their workday schedules with a push notification.

Photo: Jobber

The job details feature allows client and property information to be stored for each job so your team has a clear picture of what needs to be done. Crew members can add notes and attach files and photos within the app to specific client accounts and jobs. It also allows you to create custom checklists for each job to ensure crews cover all the bases.

One of Brooks’ favorite features of Jobber is the work requests form. A prospective client can request a quote immediately by clicking a link to the form that’s inserted on your website, social media platforms or marketing emails. Brooks says, “The work requests gave us a huge avenue on social media, which has become our biggest platform for acquiring new clients.”

Another feature he loves is the client hub. “When a new client submits a work request and you submit a quote to them, they become part of your database,” he explains. “The client hub allows you to track the quote from the time they open the initial email to any changes that are made back and forth about what services you’re going to provide.”

He says doing this on the app is a lot faster than driving to a property and returning to the office to prepare a quote. “Now, we can give an initial quote at the job site or sitting in our trucks, because we have the client’s information through the client hub.”

Brooks recognizes that not everyone in the green industry grew up in the digital age, but that doesn’t stop his guys from being able to use Jobber. He says his guys in the field rely on the app even more than he does. “I’m really impressed with the way the app has helped our employees, some of whom are older, utilize the app in the same capacity that I do.”

Brooks knows his business would not be where it is today without this tool. “It’s made it easier for us to be more efficient in the field, saving us more time and money. It’s also so user-friendly that everyone within our company is able to understand it. For us, that has been very, very helpful.”

PRO Landscape

The landscape design software PRO Landscape is a popular option for landscape professionals looking to wow clients on the spot. Based in Kansas City, Kansas, the company has two versions of the mobile app — the Companion App that’s included with the PRO Landscape software, and the Contractor App, a standalone app that offers the same power and functionality as the Companion App.

Using either version of the app, you can take photos of a potential client’s property and begin designing a brand new landscape. How? By dragging and dropping your ideas from an image library with over 18,000 objects. You can select local favorites for fast access to commonly used items, as well as add your own objects. You can even advance the landscape to see the projected growth of plants over the years

Photo: PRO Landscape

Transferring projects between the PRO Landscape software and app is totally seamless. Designs started on your computer can be transferred to your mobile device to present to a customer. Projects started on your mobile device can also be transferred to your computer so you can continue working on them in the office.

“I use the PRO Landscape app all the time, mostly for quick designs on the spot,” says Chris Walter, owner of Computerized Landscape Design based in Liberty, Missouri. Walter will usually go to a prospective client’s property early and do about three quarters of the design solo, and then he’ll design the last part of it with the client. “It gets them engaged in the process, but not overly involved,” he says.

Once your design is complete you can create an instant bid based on quantities and your own prices. Then you can print, email or save your bid.

Walters says one of the biggest advantages of the app is it’s quickened the process of winning a job.

He used to meet with a prospective client at their house to talk about what they were looking for, then he’d go back to the office, prepare the design and come back a few days later with a quote.

“Now you can design and give quotes right on the spot. You can fill people’s need right when they’re ready to spend their money.” He’s been able to close more deals with it and says it’s simply because “the more you impress clients, the easier it is to sell jobs.”

From your phone to the job site


Who says online shopping is only to be done on Amazon? Some landscape suppliers and retailers, like Lowe’s and Home Depot, have mobile apps you can use to quickly select and purchase supplies from your phone or tablet.

SiteOne Landscape Supply’s mobile app allows you to order irrigation, turf and landscape supply products. You can choose to pick up your order from a SiteOne branch or have it delivered. You can also leave special instructions or requests in your order notes to the branch manager.


Through the app, you can manage your open orders, view your order history and edit your account preferences at any time. If you know exactly what product you want, the quick order feature can be used to add it directly to an order. Your entire product purchase history can also be reviewed if you need to reorder an item.


The app’s list feature lets you keep your favorite items ready to order or organize your projects more effectively. If you frequently buy certain products together, the assemblies feature can help you keep those items handy when you need them too.


Greenius

Greenius is an online training program and mobile app for companies in the green industry. Over 1,100 landscape companies in the U.S. and Canada are using Greenius, says Michael Artz Sr., business development manager for the company whose U.S. headquarters are in Milwaukee. He says it’s been implemented by companies with as few as two members to firms that have thousands of employees.

There are no limitations using the Greenius app, says Artz. “Anything that can be done through the online portal can be done through the app.” Management begins by creating accounts for their employees and assigning them any of the 50 online training courses, available in both English and Spanish.

Training topics cover every aspect of a landscaping business from operating zero-turn mowers and skid steers to defensive driving. Training can be set up to be completed as a group or individually. Artz says most companies will assign a crew member five or six trainings at a time and set a deadline for a few weeks out. Management is then able to track the progress of each employee’s learning through the app.

Each training is a three-step process. First, the employee watches a video segment, which contains pop quizzes in the middle. The employee then takes an exam on the material. As the final step, a supervisor will observe them doing whatever task they just trained on to reinforce knowledge and test retention. The supervisor can go through a checklist on the app to make sure the task is completed correctly, and then the employee will sign off directly in the app to certify they’ve completed the training.

Specific tools are available to supervisors or foremen. For example, the tailgate talks feature offers over 100 different topics to choose from and allows attendance to be taken for these trainings directly in the app. Supervisors can also take training tailored to their roles on topics like working with difficult employees, customer service and meeting budgets.

The app’s newest performance tool is a 15-minute employee review. Management can set up custom review criteria or use a template on the app to conduct monthly, quarterly or yearly reviews. Employees can also fill out a job satisfaction survey in the app to give feedback on manager performance. All metrics from the reviews can be tracked, measured and compared.

Artz says one of the biggest advantages of using Greenius is that all the training is documented, meaning each employee has records of what trainings they took and when. “The reporting is a big feature,” he says. “When you get audited or OSHA comes in, you have to prove your employees were trained. With Greenius, you don’t have to prepare a paper report, you can just pull it up online.”

Greenius also offers annual recertifications to make sure each employee stays up to date on training. Artz says training through Greenius is “so much easier because everybody has a smartphone. You can literally use it anywhere.”

Linxup

Efficiently scheduling your fleet’s daily activities, accurately tracking time spent on the job, and equipment theft are all common sources of frustration for landscaping companies. That’s why many managers are turning to GPS tracking to manage their fleets and equipment. Chesterfield, Missouri-based Linxup is one company that provides GPS tracking hardware, software and a companion mobile app so companies can monitor their trucks, mowers, trailers and other power equipment.

Using the app, you can view the real-time GPS location of any vehicle in your fleet equipped with an active Linxup GPS tracking device. Linxup is integrated with the Google Maps platform, which allows you to choose between a map or satellite view.

After selecting a specific vehicle, you can replay the vehicle’s route and view a breadcrumb location history from the current day, previous day, past 48 hours or a custom timeframe. Clickable icons and an overview report provide information on the vehicle’s speed, direction, mileage, idling and stops it took.

One benefit of using the app is opting to receive mobile alerts for a variety of instances. You choose to receive alerts for unsafe driving behavior or when a vehicle moves outside a designated area, is in use after hours or breaks down on the road. The app can also help with fleet maintenance by sending you reminders for things like oil changes and tire rotations.

You can also access a safety report for each vehicle. The app provides a safety score based on its speed, acceleration and braking history. These performance scores can be viewed for individual drivers or for your entire fleet. Tracking driver safety through the Linxup app can help you pinpoint areas where your company needs to make improvements to operations and safety.

Looking forward

It’s a technological world out there, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the enormous amount of software and apps available. But landscape pros who have adopted these apps into their operations can’t imagine their businesses without them.

Is there a software you use now whose app you’ve disregarded? Or maybe there’s a new app out there with the potential to make your life easier. As the summer busy season begins to slow down, take some time to pinpoint an area of your business where using a mobile app could improve your efficiency. Do your research and don’t be afraid to reach out to the companies who have created them. Hopefully, these apps will give you a place to start.

The author is digital content editor of Irrigation & Green Industry and can be reached at
sarahbunyea@igin.com.

Go paperless


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Expensifylets you easily track your receipts and manage expenses. Just take a photo of your receipt and the app automatically transcribes the details. Expensify can categorize and code each receipt and has the option to automatically submit business expenses to your company for approval and reimbursement.


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