Technology that’s changing the landscape of the industry
In landscaping, there’s no substitute for a hard-working, loyal crew on the job site, but when it comes to managing a busy landscaping business — as many QuickBooks Time customers do — technology has an increasingly important role to play.
For companies like Livingstone Landscaping in Manitoba, Canada, mobile apps like QuickBooks Time have become a vital part of their daily operations.
“I never have enough time in my day,” said Michelle Berg-Wotton, of Livingstone Landscaping, who started using QuickBooks Time in 2014 to make it easier — and cheaper — to track the hours of her company’s 15 construction and maintenance crews, truck driving division, CAD design service, and landscaping supplies dealership.
“We’ve always been quick to adapt and evolve to embrace new technology,” she added. “My favorite thing about QuickBooks Time is that it has allowed me to free up some of my time to keep things moving.”
Michelle’s accountant is QuickBooks Time PRO Rachel Fisch who says when it comes to landscaping, QuickBooks Time is the first app she recommends to her clients.
“QuickBooks Time is our go-to app,” she explained. “And referring people to QuickBooks Time is very easy. I have a great support team at QuickBooks Time, and as well as having a really engaging partner program, it’s a really effective app.”
Now that mobile technology is firmly finding its place in the industry, what other apps can landscaping experts add to their smartphones and tablets?
Best for Time Tracking and Scheduling:
What is it?
QuickBooks Time’s time tracking and scheduling software is built for landscaping companies. It’s flexible, easy to use, works anywhere, has sophisticated GPS mapping, and offers a fully integrated job and shift scheduling system. No surprise then that it’s the #1 employee rated time tracking app in the QuickBooks app center and on the planet.
What does it cost?
QuickBooks Time tracking is free for 30 days and then costs just $4 a month per user with an annual subscription. Scheduling can be added for just $1 a month per user.
QuickBooks Time is ideal for landscaping companies because the app goes wherever their employees go. It works anywhere — even when there’s no internet or cell service. It’s easy to use, keeps timesheets accurate to the second, integrates with a slick new job scheduling system, and makes payroll a breeze.
All of this adds up to more productivity and big cost savings — as much as $50,000 a year in the case of Livingstone Landscaping. (More on this below …)
But perhaps the most popular QuickBooks Time feature among landscaping companies is the GPS map that pops up in the Who’s Working window, showing where every employee is working — and even which job they’re doing — whenever they’re clocked in from a smartphone.
“Everybody loves the GPS tracking,” said Fisch. “The recent upgrades to the Who’s Working window are fantastic.”
Livingstone Landscaping has been quick to adopt it.
“We’ve already been combining scheduling with the GPS feature of the Who’s Working window to find out where people are located,” explained Berg-Wotton, “and that’s been very useful because sometimes our job sites are up to an hour away from the office.”
“It’s very important to know if it’s cost-effective to have someone to do a task that you need done or if you should ask another employee instead,” she added. “We used to use another program that was installed into each vehicle, which meant as soon as the employee left the vehicle you weren’t sure where they are — but people don’t tend to leave their phones behind.
“I’ve been able to quantify time saved on the human resources side as well as the man-hours saved that were being billed to the company and it adds up to $40,000 to $50,000 a year. We’re trying to utilize every ounce of QuickBooks Time that we can for this coming season.”
Join Michelle and thousands of other companies like hers across the world by starting your free QuickBooks Time trial today, and start tracking your time the smart way.
A common challenge facing many landscaping companies — especially in the U.S. where the economy is approaching full employment and the construction industry is currently recruiting almost 40,000 workers a month — is where to find new employees ahead of the busy summer season.
What the internet has done for dating, it is now also doing for companies looking to attract new recruits. According to a 2014 study by Jobvite, 43 percent of all job applicants now use a smartphone or a tablet to search for new jobs.
In response, many big recruitment websites have released their own apps. Monster released its Monster for Employers app (available for Android and Apple operating systems), which can give companies easy access to a large number of potential recruits.
But what if you just want to get a quick job advert of your own out there as cheaply as possible?
InstaJob is one of the fastest ways to do this. Described as the “Instagram of recruitment,” the app lets you take or upload photos to create simple job adverts in a flash that you can then link back to your company website and share on social media.
“It’s a fact that posts containing pictures drive more engagement to your social media channels,” reads the blurb. “So make them more visual with InstaJob.”
In other words, “InstaJob instantly makes your social recruiting more social.”
If you’re looking to recruit younger employees, the app is a good place to start. A study by Cielo Talent found that 73 percent of 18-34 year olds found their last job through social media.
Best for Reference
What is it?
Landscaper’s Companion is a quick reference guide you can carry anywhere your work takes you. It lists more than 26,000 plants and has more than 21,000 pictures — all stored on your phone so you don’t need an internet or cell connection to use it.
“As someone who works as a landscaper and nursery retailer and buyer, this is most helpful for my customers,” wrote Landscaper’s Companion user Jessica from New Mexico.
The information in the guide is split into 17 categories covering North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia. It includes detailed information on every plant — all of which is searchable — including common names, scientific names, USDA zones, sun exposure, water usage, growth rate, bloom times, deer resistance, and mature height width.
You can also add your own plants and pictures to the guide and create your own plant lists, which you can share by email.
Best for Translations
What is it?
Google Translate is an app that can translate up to 90 languages for you in either direction.
Landscaping is often a multilingual industry, attracting workers from many different countries around the world. If you want to be sure everyone on the job site is on the same page, it’s a good idea to carry a translation app with you as a backup.
There are several good translation apps out there and one that we’ve recommended before is iHandy Translator (read more about this here), an inexpensive option with easy-to-use features, but since Google acquired Word Lens, Google Translate has become pretty hard to beat, especially because it’s free.
Using the mobile version of Google Translate, available for Apple and Android devices, you can get translations between 90 languages by typing text into the app, 40 languages using two-way automatic speech translation, and 26 languages by taking a photo of the text you want to translate with the camera on your phone or tablet. You can also save your most useful translations on your device so you can come back to them whenever you need them.
Best for Design
What is it?
PRO Landscape is landscaping design app that landscaping professionals can use to create and share designs while they’re on the go.
What does it cost?
There are two versions of the app. PRO Landscape Companion is free to download, but you need PRO Landscape to run it, which costs $1,495. PRO Landscape Contractor is free to download but has in-app features available for purchase.
Not every landscape company does its own computer aided design (CAD) but for those that do, one of the few CAD systems with a mobile app to go with it is PRO Landscape.
PRO Landscape Companion, as the name suggests, is designed to be used alongside the main software package while the Contractor version works independently. With PRO Landscape Contractor, you can do everything from creating designs while you’re away from the office — using actual photos of your client’s property — to preparing and sharing price quotes with clients.
Best for Measurements
What is it?
Geo Measure lets you calculate the size of any property, or part of a property, by drawing the shape of the area you want to measure on a map.
What does it cost?
Geo Measure is $1.99 from iTunes and Google Play and $4.99 from Microsoft.
Knowing the size of the project you’re about to work on is a fundamental starting point for pricing any landscaping job, and working this out from a blueprint used to be a painstaking task that required an architectural ruler, a steady hand, and a good dose of patience. But now there are several apps available that can do this for you.
One that we’ve recommended elsewhere is PlanGrid, an app for smartphones and tablets. It not only stores all of your blueprints for you but lets you annotate them, add punch list items, and — once you’ve added the correct scale — calculate the size of any area on the drawing, even if it’s an irregular shape.
A cheaper alternative, if you’re just looking to make quick area measurements, is Geo Measure. The app works on Apple, Android, and Microsoft devices. It’s a simple tool that you can use to calculate the area of any property or piece of land by adding adjustable points to a satellite map to create the shape you want. The app is calibrated in acres, hectares, square feet, square yards, square meters, square miles, and square kilometers.
Important pricing, offers, and disclaimers
*Offer terms30-day free trial First thirty (30) days of subscription to QuickBooks Time, starting from the date of enrollment is free. To continue using QuickBooks Time after your 30-day trial, you’ll be asked to present a valid credit card for authorization, and you’ll be charged on a monthly basis at the then-current fee for the service(s) you’ve selected until you cancel. Each worker is an additional $[8/10]/month depending on your selection of QuickBooks Time Premium or Elite. If you add or remove services, your service fees will be adjusted accordingly. Sales tax may be applied where applicable. To be eligible for this offer you must be a new QuickBooks Time customer and sign up for the monthly plan using the “Try it free for 30 days” option. This offer can’t be combined with any other QuickBooks Time offers. Offer available for a limited time only. To cancel your subscription at any time go to “Account & Billing” in QuickBooks Time and select the “Close Account” tab then “Permanently Close My Account.” You will not receive a prorated refund. Terms, conditions, pricing, special features, and service and support options subject to change without notice. **Product InformationPhone Support: For hours of support and how to contact support, click here.System Requirement: QuickBooks Time requires a computer or a device with a supported Internet browser and an Internet connection (a high-speed connection is recommended). The QuickBooks Time mobile app works with iPhone, iPad, and Android phones and tablets. Devices sold separately; data plan required. Not all features are available on the mobile apps and mobile browser. QuickBooks Time mobile access is included with your QuickBooks Time subscription.Terms, conditions, pricing, special features, and service and support options subject to change without notice.