Patience is a virtue

Implementing a new software can be a tedious task, but a worthwhile venture to improve efficiencies throughout a business.

* Editor's note: Jennifer Day and Sarah Eckles gave their presentation "Steady software strategy" at the Lawn & Landscape Technology Conference in August. 

Implementing CRM software has made a major impact for The Finishing Touchez.

While it may have been a long process, Sarah Eckles, director of creative projects, and Jennifer Day, president and CEO, say it’s been extremely beneficial.

“Our journey was pretty challenging, and we expect yours might be too,” Eckles says. “We hope you won’t be discouraged if you run into certain failures.”

Before diving into software, most financial reporting in the office was being handwritten, and the company felt like it was behind the times. There was data being repeated and just inefficiencies everywhere.

“We had a really, really archaic way of doing business for quite some time,” Day said.

So, with some software background, Eckles decided to revamp the way things were being done. Finshing Touchez started working with a CRM designed specifically for the landscape industry,

“We decided all work and no play makes for a dull day,” Eckles jokes.

But Day admits, the first year the software barely got touched. Even with training, it wasn’t being embraced.

Eckles added that it took tracking progress and projects to really get the ball rolling. She took on the role of project manager to do this.

“People who are detail oriented are also very important, and if that data isn’t clear, concise and consistent the wheels are going to come off the wagon,” Eckles says of looking for the right project manager.

Eckles adds that anyone working to implement the new software should be in constant communication with one another.

Day and Eckles recognize that having the time to dedicate to a new software can be challenging. So, they decided to really fine-tune the process during the offseason in the winter.

Once things got on track, Finishing Touchez start utilizing service estimates and timekeeping logs within the software.

“It’s reassuring that we’re doing things right,” Eckles says of using these features.

With this real-time data, the business also rolled out a bonus program for crews who completed projects faster than the allotted time.

“Because we had this bonus pull, it incentivized the staff to use the timekeeping app correctly,” she says. “It was a good way to marry the objects we had with buy in from the staff.”

Day and Eckles admit that having this software in place when the COVID-19 pandemic hit was a relief.

“That confidence in the program and our processes was big,” Day says. “It allowed us to focus on whatever our staff needed during those uncertain times.”

They also recommend breaking the implementation down into phases so that it seems less overwhelming. Start with one segment of the business and track that for a season before moving on to the next.

“So, with the next phase it can be brought on a little bit cleaner and a little bit smoother,” Eckles says.

Also, it’s important to celebrate the little victories.

Eckles suggests any company looking to bring in software should start by establishing three things — an assignment log, software enhancement log and a monthly to-do list.

The assignment log lists due dates, priorities, and a brief description. It can also function as a meeting agenda by filtering for specific tasks or staff members.

“Anytime movement happened on a project, we just added to it,” Eckles says. “And we can all see it on a shared drive. It’s been a really instrumental way of keeping me organized.”

The monthly to-do list is also essential for Finishing Touchez.

“We have a lot of things that come up annually, so having a rolling que has helped bridge gaps with our software,” Day says. “Having those deadlines in place stopped us from having to recreate the wheel every time.”

Day says it’s also allowed the company to find gaps in the year where there’s downtime.

The enhancement log is where Day and Eckles keep track of any bumps in the road with the software. Therefore, they can paste any information learned in a place where everyone can find it.

“It also keeps are software company accountable to us,” Eckles says. “We can see how they’ve been serving us as their customer.”

She suggests sending a copy of the enhancement log to any new representatives you begin working with from your software company.

By adding this software, both Day and Eckles say it’s allowed them to get back to what they love doing — working outside with the plants. And spend less time worrying about the back-office tasks that need done.

“The road for us hasn’t been easy but has been steady and exciting,” Eckles says. “While any software journey is going to have its challenges — we hope we’ve convinced you it’s worth it.”

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