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cgland
02-24-2006, 10:22 PM
How would you classify your company? Old School - Do your estimates/designs on a napkin, Everything done with a handshake, Use antiquated equipment and techniques because "it worked for this long"......OR........New School - top of the line design software, Signed proposals and contracts, Utilize the latest in technology and forward thinking.

Chris

mbella
02-24-2006, 10:48 PM
New School. We get signatures on our napkins, nothing less.

cgland
02-24-2006, 10:52 PM
Mike - The only reason you are New school is because you scan your napkins into your computer.:laugh:

Chris

mbella
02-24-2006, 10:58 PM
At least I scan something more than my butt cheeks.

Drafto
02-25-2006, 12:19 AM
New school, I have no idea how to do this stuff at all so I definately don't know the old way :rolleyes: . I don't really know anybody that does it "old school", come to think of it, Chris and Mike are the only ones I know that do this stuff anyway...........so that makes 2 out of the 2 people I know that do it "new school".

Just a hint of advice about the "new school" vs "old school" stuff. I do know people that run businesses extreme OS, they save up and buy equipment with cash, don't carry any debt, never took out a loan, if it rains it does not cost them a dime. I also know people that run it extreme NS, financed to the eyeballs, always owe someone something, keep seeing the payoff but get something else to push it further away.

I think the best road traveled, and I am speaking from experince, is to understand your business, your overhead, your budget, your goals, and whether you go at it OS or NS you will be successful. I know you were not strictly speaking about finances, but when we are talking business generally that is what it comes down too.

I have 2 very close friends that are the polar opposite as described above, they go at it all then time. The OS guy, has no idea about business, but has managed to be self-employed for 15 years, has money in the bank, and does whatever the he wants to. He has almost no overhead so when he doesn't want to work he doesn't have to.

Mr NS guy is a total disaster he has been in business for 2 years. Borrows, borrows, borrows, he makes great money but I don't know when he will ever have a nick to HIS name. Oh, he really doesn't know anything about business either, has no idea how to mark up his products, he thinks you win on some sales and you lose on some sales but in the end it equals out.

Yo! Total run-on, I am going to bed.

Dan

Green-Pro
02-25-2006, 01:13 AM
I guess for lack of a better category I'd have to say both :D We really just hit the tip of the iceberg at the tail end of last year with regards to expanding into the local hardscape market. We have jobs lined up to begin sometime in March and plan to continue to sell and grow.
That said I have tried to really pinpoint where to allocate precious resources and not get tight on equipment. We purchased a diamond blade saw (Target), reversible plate compactor, a variety of hand tools, etc. We use QB for accounting, estimating, and billing purposes, but have not purchased a truly worthwhile piece of design software yet. In trying to allocate what money will be used for, the design software has taken a back seat at this stage of the game from a Skid Steer, rotating laser level, etc.
When this year turns out 2 to 2.5 times better than last year we will likely look at the software end of project design.

YardPro
02-25-2006, 08:04 AM
where's the middle school option???

Green-Pro
02-25-2006, 09:00 AM
where's the middle school option???


Yep egggzactily!! :)

UNISCAPER
02-25-2006, 10:35 AM
Definitley middle right now.

I personally feel strongly that too much computer related garbage does nothing but remove focus from things that matter most. It seems to be the in thing to buy this program, that program and think doing so is that silver bullet that will make your business operations run the way computer sales people would love for you to believe. By using the computer as a tool to save time and money blah blah blah. Remember those ploys?
Our computers save us so much money that I am continually reminded of it any time I have to buy another thing or pay for support. Myth number one is, unless you have 10 employees or more, you can run your business just fine with paper and pencil at a frraction of the cost and never be held hostage. I realize this might be impossible to new high school graduates because they can't add, or perform basic math functions without using a calculator. On the other hand, I used a slide rule to go through calculous.

Ploy number 2 by the tech world is using the computer will save you all kinds of time. If computers save the amounts of time that computer geek salesman claim, we would all have 40 hours a day of free time that we could use any way we liked. An hour a day would be work time. Myth 2. Computers do not for a minute, save you time. The systems we worked 20 years ago are just as efficient and were computer free.

Computer geekery is simply like machinery, in a different way. Machinery makes money. Computer geekery takes money and creates problems. Said that, computers also solve certain problems, (never nearly as much as they are claimed to save) and I really beleive the bigger your company is, the more valuable the computer becomes. 10 employees or more, and you will see a saving with the computer. Many companies are fixed on scheduling programs for their maintenance company. Those are completely unecessary regardless of the size company, if you know how to run a white board and set of route books and can use a 2 way radio. I use the example of every garbage hauler in the city of Chicago, UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc, never used computers until the things came available. Yes, they all use them now, and save money and time, my point being, is if a trash hauler who has 100 routes could use index cards and white boards effectively, a lawn maintenance company do also do the same with no hassle of being locked out of your company on a screen. An d lets not forget everytime you are held out of ytour computer, you get the job of inputting all the data you could not do at the time it was scheduled to input it.

And the way technolgy changes, it is very easy to suck yourself into the buy the best program every month when the next version of whatever you have is released. Then there is the learning curve of the new edition of that program...And the bugs that program carries, because many software manufacturers use you as the test pilot and then charge you for support to fix thier own self created problems.

I could go on all day about how backwards the computer has made work, life and society, but instead I will admit, I have had to cave in the the geeks false claims myself. I don't like it for a minute, I don't like the THOUSANDS of dollars that could have been spent investing in properties, or employee training, but it is what we had to do in this society.

I have held back on geekery and our company has reached that point where I feel we can expand our systems. So, I'm pulling 10 gauge wire to our office this weekend to make room for 3 new computers. There will be terminals of 12 electric plugs with 20 amp GFCI breakers on the floor of every desk. I hate freeken cords strewn all over as room. It reminds me of my old stage days. We are having built 3 Dell 120 gig dual drive models, fully equipped with that we need to operate, nothing else. We are going to use Dynascape software and I have 2-36" monitors, one for the designer and one for me, the other will have a 24"and that is going to the new building we are going to put up in a few months after the permits go through. We are connecting the day to day operations to a Zerox professional copy/printer (120 pages per minute) fax machine. And for the designer, a full color 36" wide printer.
I'm waiting with baited breathe to see for how long our company will be held hostage when all this stuff comes operational. We are going the route we are because it is the new way of the world. It's how you have to present yourself to impress and wooo clients, and, in the marekts we are operating, (very high end residential and commercial) the system should pay for itself in sales we would normally not get. My projection is we will have recovered about 1/2 the cost before some sales person calls and tells us why we need a different add on to enhance what we have. I've already made it very clear for those working on this project not to bother calling until they hear from me.
Sounds rather anit social, but these people know more than anyone how much I despise spedning this kind of money on something that is non revenue producing. If they call trying to sell something, it had best be free for a year or so.

Anyhow, that's my story, and that's how I think. You may not agree with it, but it is what it is and it has saved us thousands we could easily have spent on geekery we absolutley do/did not need.

mmacsek
02-25-2006, 11:55 AM
Thank- You Bill. I have minimal high tech "stuff" and hear all the time I'm living in the past. I struggle with all this stuff. If a new tool or piece of equipment can save time I have no problem buying it. I think half the problem is I'm 44 and was raised calculating math with a paper and pencil(big eraser). It almost seemed to easy when we were allowed to use a calculator. I guess to answer the original question , I'm middle schooled most of the time. Matt

hortiscape
02-25-2006, 01:16 PM
A combination really.
All design is done the old fashioned way, drafting table. All estimates and scope of work is on contract and 1/3 is required to schedule work. I have found design programs make me lazy in how i think about various sites. I like to bury myself in a proposed site and draw out all aspects of my anylazation of that particular site, ie. grade, interesting features, problems ect. It is true that many computer programs take in to account many aspects of the site which influence your design, but the process of hand drafting gets me closer to the site, somehow.
As far as equipement and debt. There seems to be a real benefit to operating newer equip. And of course new equip. often means debt. But to make monthly payements on equip. vital for the smooth operation of your company is cost effective if your down time is eliminated. I started out 20 years ago fresh out of college and had started my first landscape design/const. business with 1979 jeep j-20, 1979 f-250 dump, and 1956 dodge 4wd 5 ton dump.-(old state plow truck). I rented skid steers and exc. for each project. And over the years i always bought used. And for many years many trucks of all makes have driven me to.....Buy new! Now all my equip. is new and i trade at 32,000(under warranty)for the 3 trucks, and 500 hrs. on the equip. 236b, cat exc., and tractors. Why? many may ask why would you take a loss on the trade ins. When i send a crew to the job site, usually 3 crews of 2 guys. I want to know there will be no breakdowns and no holdups. I have learned over the years that releying on used equip. and trucks cost more through decreased productivity from breakdown. 1 crew of 2 workers for 3 hrs. is a payement on a new truck. The real question is weather your company can handle the debt load comfortably. This works for me, but there is always a better way, so it is interesting to hear other perspectives.

paul.

cgland
02-25-2006, 11:18 PM
Bill - On most occasions I agree with you, but.........................
Computers have streamlined this industry and make our lives easier, make our operations more efficient, and make our numbers easier to track. As far as todays software is concerned, I believe it has made the design process easier, faster, and more in tune with what todays generation of customer want's to see. CAD drawings that scarily resemble hand drawn plans with the added ability to make quick changes without having to redraw a whole plan. In some cases I believe that today's contractors try to "over-computerize" and in turn make things more difficult, but overall, without computers 80% of the landscape industry would come to a halt! (at least for a while) Just my .02

Chris

dtelawncare
02-26-2006, 02:00 AM
I am only 25, but I think my level would be Old School with New Rules. As far as using computers, how else could we all be linked together. Sure, if you don't know how to use computers it will slow you down. I think old school values with new tools and equipment are the recipe for success.

UNISCAPER
02-26-2006, 11:31 AM
Chris:

Respectfully, I can only agree to a very small certain extent. Let me explain.

"Computers have streamlined this industry and make our lives easier, make our operations more efficient, and make our numbers easier to track."

Having come from the days when my uncles father would go out on their porch at 4AM before work and enter in the daily ledger with a pencil and pre printed spread sheet, the time he spent is actually less than the time I spend in QB. He knew his numbers because when he went to school, the teachers axctually had a cirriculum that benefitted kids in relation to what profession/trade they were entering into. In this regard the computer and the calculator have made us incredibly mind dead, because rather than doing the math in your head repetitively, you rely on the machine to do it for you.

Where it may take a day to write Einstiens theroy off relativity on a black board, a calculator could do it in an hour. The down side to calculators is that the mind has become numb in the process.
Said all that, aside from haing the numbers in his head and able to recite them as he saw fit to do, he had them in black and white. He did not have to spend $3K on a system to do it for him, and not having top spend that, he surely did not need tech support or more useless plastic discs.

"As far as todays software is concerned, I believe it has made the design process easier, faster, and more in tune with what todays generation of customer want's to see."

Only to the extent that when it is time to make changes, they are all saved and you don't have to manually erase/cut/paste over anything. With an extemely difficult client, I can see where this is effective, but then I have to ask why I want difficult clients.

"In some cases I believe that today's contractors try to "over-computerize" and in turn make things more difficult, but overall, without computers 80% of the landscape industry would come to a halt! (at least for a while) Just my .02"

You hit it on the head. We live in the age where every technological piece of crap is seen as necessary to conduct business. When in fact, the businesses survived all those years before and were just fine. 80% of the industry at a halt? Not for a minute. The only ones comming to a halt would be the ones not creative enough to find another or in some cases, better way.

I do beleive the magic number for truely seeing computer efficiency is around 10 employees, and over 1.5 million. Businesses under those numbers can run just as well without them if they are willing to try. The problem comes now in that everyone is so connected. When your competitioon has all the bells and whistles, and you don't, the perception of value in the consumer mind is one that favors tech stuff. Thus, why we will soon be yuppified. I only hope I don't live to regret it.

cgland
02-26-2006, 08:43 PM
Only to the extent that when it is time to make changes, they are all saved and you don't have to manually erase/cut/paste over anything. With an extemely difficult client, I can see where this is effective, but then I have to ask why I want difficult clients.



Bill - I certainly see your point, but I could not fathom doing my daily routine without a computer. (This could be a bad thing:p ) As far as your quote, Having to make changes is a daily part of our industry. I have dealt with countless customers that were not difficult at all, but required changes to their plan be it for financial, aesthetic, or other reasons. This is why there are charges for revisions. And I guarantee you that (all things equal) I can spit out an identical plan in 1/2 to 1/3 the time it takes for you or your designer to hand draw it, plus my program does all of my take-offs for me. Please do not mistake this for poor mathematic skills. My math skills are very good, but time is of the essence and if I can save 15-20 hours per week on design work and estimating, I can spend that time concentrating on efficiencies for my company that will make me even more $. Again, my .02 my friend!

Chris

paponte
02-26-2006, 09:06 PM
All new school as of this year. Utilizing pda's in the field, as well as me carrying a laptop in the truck for design and consulting. I can already see a huge difference, and the season is just starting. :)

UNISCAPER
02-26-2006, 11:15 PM
Chris:

How long does it take you to do a plan from start to finish?

cgland
02-27-2006, 10:14 AM
Bill - Lets say that I am doing an entire propety overview plan with beds, trees, a patio, and buffers and that I already have done the measuring of the site. I can sit down at the computer and have a customer ready design with page border, title block, and all the plants labeled in an hour to an hour and a half. This is just computer time. I'm assuming that I already have a design in mind. I have a good friend that is a designer for a competitor and it usually takes him 3-4 hours to do a detailed plan and God forbid you should mention the word "revision" to him!

Chris

landscapingpoolguy
02-27-2006, 02:46 PM
Here What I Learned from experience

Pro Landscape, a clean appearance, and plenty of referrals will land me 95% of my jobs
If I dont have a contract I wont get paid in full.
We use string lines for every job. But I always keep a laser in the truck.

Chuck

How would you classify your company? Old School - Do your estimates/designs on a napkin, Everything done with a handshake, Use antiquated equipment and techniques because "it worked for this long"......OR........New School - top of the line design software, Signed proposals and contracts, Utilize the latest in technology and forward thinking.

Chris

UNISCAPER
02-27-2006, 09:06 PM
Chris:

I just finished a hand drawing, 1/4 scale, full sheets, hardscape sheet, irrigation, drainage detail, details of fireplace and built in BBQ w/ pizza oven, sink, 6 keg beer towers, swimming pool with glass vanishing edge, planting and light plan in 8 hours. Time wise, your software is going to be about even, but then now comes the part when the owner sees what's what and we ahev to do as builts, changes and such. That's when your software will blow my doors off.

I still maintain you don't need to spend ooodles to do what we do, and, if your belt needs to be tight, my money is staying in my pocket, pencils and paper are cheap and don't need support. My focus is going to be on bringing my numbers up by concentrating on systems and operations, BEFORE the software is implemented.

This is going to be interesting about July or so when we get this software and network up and running....

Drafto
02-27-2006, 09:10 PM
Chris:

I just finished a hand drawing, 1/4 scale, full sheets, hardscape sheet, irrigation, drainage detail, details of fireplace and built in BBQ w/ pizza oven, sink, 6 keg beer towers, swimming pool with glass vanishing edge, planting and light plan in 8 hours. Time wise, your software is going to be about even, but then now comes the part when the owner sees what's what and we ahev to do as builts, changes and such. That's when your software will blow my doors off.

I still maintain you don't need to spend ooodles to do what we do, and, if your belt needs to be tight, my money is staying in my pocket, pencils and paper are cheap and don't need support. My focus is going to be on bringing my numbers up by concentrating on systems and operations, BEFORE the software is implemented.

This is going to be interesting about July or so when we get this software and network up and running....

Bill,

I will anxiously be awaiting your summary in August. Do you use any estimating software that calculates your materials quantities? I know you use QB's for your accounting, what other software do you use on a regular basis that is integral to your business?

Dan

UNISCAPER
02-27-2006, 09:22 PM
Dan:

QB is it. Everything is listed in assemblies, parts are priced as needed, and everything catagorized. I do somethign very different than most with QB. Every single part is itemized, as is labor to install that particular component. We use this for two reasons. 1st, it works for our billing sytem, which, is generated every 3 days of work. 2nd, and as important. If in the event that God forbid you get into a proverbial pissing match with a client, and that goes to court, the only parts than comes in question is the part(s) that were itemized and that is all that will be scrutinized and damages asked for. If you bill for a job in one lump sum, the entire amount can be thrown before the court and questioned. You stand more chance to loose more with #2.

Where some companies will present a 100,000 job on 1 1/2 sheets of paper, ours would consume 15 sheets. The last reason is it is easier to show a client the proper componentry of how the job is assembled and costs associated with it. Some folks are just bottom liners. I don't let them get past the interview stage. Then there are some who look at value. Those are keepers.

Drafto
02-27-2006, 09:31 PM
Dan:

QB is it. Everything is listed in assemblies, parts are priced as needed, and everything catagorized. I do somethign very different than most with QB. Every single part is itemized, as is labor to install that particular component. We use this for two reasons. 1st, it works for our billing sytem, which, is generated every 3 days of work. 2nd, and as important. If in the event that God forbid you get into a proverbial pissing match with a client, and that goes to court, the only parts than comes in question is the part(s) that were itemized and that is all that will be scrutinized and damages asked for. If you bill for a job in one lump sum, the entire amount can be thrown before the court and questioned. You stand more chance to loose more with #2.

Where some companies will present a 100,000 job on 1 1/2 sheets of paper, ours would consume 15 sheets. The last reason is it is easier to show a client the proper componentry of how the job is assembled and costs associated with it. Some folks are just bottom liners. I don't let them get past the interview stage. Then there are some who look at value. Those are keepers.

Just so I have this straight: When you present an estimate it is totally broken down to the pin pricing for a retaining wall? And you present all this detail to the customer?

I was doing that for a while when I started, but I felt some of it was entirely too much information for the costomer take in. In fact, I normally keep my hourly rates a secret if I can. I also feel that it gives any and all negotiating power to a customer, if they know $$ for labor and $$ for materials I don't think I would ever sell a job for list price. I would definately like to see a estimate you provide to your customer.

I break it all down for myself in QB, but when I print it out only the total shows. Maybe we have more "bottom liners" in this market.

Dan