We’re going to tell you a story. If you’re a landscape contractor, it is a story you have most likely lived before, as it is all too common within our industry.
This story takes place on a Friday. It’s been a busy week and the weekend is going to be busy still. It’s spring and homeowners across America are planning big projects. This summer, it seems, they want to build, build, build. Flower beds, water features, paver paths, and retaining walls. They’ve been watching a lot of HGTV, and it shows in the lofty visions they’ve built in their minds.
You’re a landscape contractor, so this is great news! Business seems to be rolling in, and you’re getting calls all the time for new bids and estimates. It’s tiring work of course, but you hope the extra hours you put in now will pay off down the line.
You look at the clock. It’s going to be a long day.
That’s when one of your estimators, Mike, comes back from a site visit. Mike was already at the site earlier in the week, but he had to go back because he forgot to measure a section of paving stones. The error is uncharacteristic. Mike is one of your best landscape contractors, but it’s been a busy few weeks and the long days are starting to show in everyone’s work.
Mike grabs a cup of coffee, but before he has time to take a sip, you hand him another stack of paper forms on a clipboard, attached to another address.
‘Sorry Mike,’ you tell him, ‘got time for just one more estimate?’
Mike agrees, team player that he is, and he goes outside and hops back in his truck, his coffee left abandoned on his desk, nearly lost among all the files, loose drawings, calculations, and marked up pictures of site visits or aerials printed off Google Earth.
The phone rings, and it’s another potential customer. They want to know how much it might cost to install a Zen garden in their backyard. You take their information and tell them you’ll get one of your estimators out soon.
‘How soon?’ They ask.
You think about it. Mike’s going to be busy for the rest of the day. It’s Friday and he’s already working late. You could send your project manager, Carlos, but he’s had a problem on-site. He undercalculated the amount of mulch he needed that day and has left to pick up more. The homeowner is upset by the delay because she needed the project finished earlier that afternoon.
On the phone, the potential customer is waiting. You tell them honestly, ‘Soonest we can have someone out is early next week.’
‘Next week?’ They say, ‘that’s too long to wait.’ They tell you thanks, and they’ll try one of your competitors instead.
You hang up the phone and try to remember what you were doing before it rang. Normally, you’re a pretty organized person, but with the uptick in business and the barrage of problems it brings your desk is just dangerous stacks of cluttered, coffee-stained papers and drawings.
You take a look at the revised drawing Mike brought back; something isn’t adding up. In your gut, you have a feeling the estimate is low. So you go through the takeoff and find that Mike’s estimate for the job site, that he’s now been to twice, is $500 too low. $500 is a lot of money. You have two options: Eat the mistake or embarrassingly call the customer and tell them you are going to have to raise the price.
Bidding, Estimating, and Landscape Takeoff
Your bidding and estimating process sets the tone for the rest of the job. If your bid is stressful, rushed, or incomplete, potential customers might be worried about doing business with you.
And let’s face it, the old way of giving estimates can easily become all of those things.
Mountains of paper, bad math, sloppy measurements, extra stops, things missed – every landscape and irrigation contractor has had to deal with these things at one point or another. Before we blame Mike or Carlos, we should take a look at the way we do our estimates. Many landscapers are onsite using rudimentary tools, gut feelings, and best guesses on how much materials will cost and how long it will take to do the job, only to find out later that their estimates were off.
These days, customers have plenty of choices when it comes to landscaping companies, and if you want to make sure it is yours they choose, you need to streamline every aspect of your process, this includes bidding and estimating, which often is your most valuable first impression to potential customers.
A New Way to Takeoff
If you have been in the industry as long as we have, you know the problems that can come up with bids, estimates, and takeoffs. What you might not know is that there is software that helps you solve these problems.
Landscape takeoff software, like ours, directly addresses the problems that arise in the estimate process, It does all the tricky calculating, measuring, and cost projecting measures for you, either at the office or onsite and on the spot.
It starts with pictures of the site, either a landscape design PDF, satellite imagery, or by using the built-in drone support.
After that, quickly and easily segment and zone parts of your project as mulch areas, sod areas, or plant beds. Count or layout trees and shrubs with the touch of a finger. Draw paver paths, add plant features, and automatically calculate all your secondary costs like base stone, poly sand, and labor with fully customizable kits and assemblies.
Annotate your plan as you build it, adding features like fire pits or seating areas. With landscape takeoff software you can make sure your design and estimate are accurate and to scale. You won’t miss anything as you make and mark all aspects of the plan on one screen, as opposed to several sheets of paper.
LandOne Takeoff works instantly on the cloud. That means you’ll be able to give potential customers a thorough, accurate estimate in a fraction of the time and make a great first impression.
There are plenty more features to our takeoff software, which we will certainly explore deeper in later posts. But for now, we’ll leave it at this. At LandOne, we believe it should be easy to calculate your costs and provide your customers with an accurate estimate. And thanks to our landscaping takeoff software, now it is.