Hey Nate, thank you so much for being on call with me.
So let's start with a bit of an introduction, what you do at Mainscape? What Mainscape does?
Absolutely. My name is Nate Hyde, Vice President of Mainscape. We are landscape maintenance and snow removal company. We oversee a lot of commercial landscape projects spread out, spread through 15 different states in the United States, overseeing large military privatized military housing, large homeowners associations and large commercial contracts.
When we reached out to you, I think it was sometime around the end of last year. I remember I reached out to you and you were one of the few who just instantly replied to the email, it appeared to me like you had this thought in mind before, about automating measurements. Is it true?
Absolutely. So this has been, this has certainly been one of those pinch points for us as a company. Previously, what we experienced was inconsistencies from person to person on our measurement standpoint, inaccuracies with the time investment from person to person, rushed measurements, inaccurate measurements, in some cases, no measurements at all.
So identifying the process and workflow that would empower us to take that responsibility off somebody who's already juggling, operational commitments, customer commitments, other sales opportunities, and truly get this measurement process very focused empowered us to allow the rest of our team members to continue to focus on the key points of their job without adding a piece that they have to figure out how to fit into their normal workflow.
So when when we first got in touch with each other, we saw that opportunity and knew that this was a problem we didn't have a solution for, and you brought it, you brought a really strong solution to the table, which is why I responded really quickly.
So you did think about it, but you didn't have a chance to really look for a solution and figure out what could help you solve that problem?
Yeah, I think looking for one and the reality from my perspective is, we didn't clearly identify that there was an issue. For me, I've been in the industry for about 25 years now doing the same type of work, landscape maintenance, snow removal, enhancement work on the landscape side. And the process has been the same for 25 years. There's been no innovation, there's been no adaptation. I've measured a lot of properties in my career. And it's the same process that our teams are doing now. It was a burden for me, it was a challenge for me trying to find the time to do my normal work, and do these takeoffs and do these estimates. And so, we knew there was a problem, but didn't see a solution. Hadn't figured out a solution yet. And so I think, you know, just identifying the opportunity that you had, it was a lightbulb moment. And all of a sudden, this is the innovation that we're looking for.
There was definitely some change in the industry a few years back, I think about a decade or so back when software's like Diamond Maps, Go iLawn and Google Earth kind of became center stage on how measurements are done. I guess before that it was mostly a measuring wheel process.
Absolutely. Yeah. And I've been a part of all of those processes.
There is a very interesting thing that you mentioned before like that some of your business developers would not be measuring properties at all. So that would be going onto a site and just eyeballing what it would take to do that site.
The reality is that is an average, that's not a reality. So side by side, it's very different. And it's very specific, and we're using the wrong averages. If we're guessing based on an eyeball approach, or “Oh, I've been doing this a long time” and kind of attitude, we're not putting forth our most accurate bid which has gotten us into bad situations picking up a job that's possibly lost us a lot of money. Conversely, not being awarded the job, because we didn't have good measurements and we didn't have a good price suitable to the potential customer and they chose somebody who had a more competitive price. Without good, actual accurate measurements, we're not putting our best foot forward.
When you heard about our solution, you must have thought about some use cases, I understand what intrigued you about it. But then you thought about implementing it right? You found certain specific use cases to implement it in and you kind of went for it. So, can you just describe that process?
Yeah, absolutely. And so for us, our biggest implementation to this point has been on the privatized military side, estimating larger, more complex areas with different footprints within one project, different housing sections that are pretty cumbersome and complicated.
One of the examples I remember, we looked at our averages, and I continued, I took the chance and started working with you guys. But I continued to build my separate estimate alongside of it to compare what would I have done if I worked based on averages.
And if I remember correctly, it was roughly a 0.03 acres per door difference, which equated to about a $150,000 price difference from what I would have proposed compared to what I did. And so down that path, one of the things that as I work through the process of deciding to expand and deciding to start working with you guys, it was the impartial nature, you have no skin in the game. If we get the job or don't get the job, you're just providing the most accurate measurements as possible. So that takes away somebody's chance of adjusting measurements, there's no benefit for you for accuracy or for inaccuracy, if you will. If a salesperson really wants a job and squeezes the acres down assuming all I can cut some corners here. That's a problem and that results in a challenge for us long term with our customers.
So being able to have really good, accurate and consistent measurements, that's really important in that example, on that military base $150,000 difference was a big difference.
Absolutely. And I think that $150,000 difference was just for turf. And then there were beds, edges and trees in the bid.
So there is definitely this value to measuring each and every feature on site, right? Not cutting corners at all, like tightly following the boundaries. Because then ultimately, that gives you accurate bids.
Would you also say that, you know, when you develop an operational strategy, and you say, “hey, these are the equipments I want to buy, these are the kind of branches I want to have and these are the kind of properties I want to sell with that investment”, if you are not able to kind of map the right properties and map the right measurements to those investments, then they are also not giving you the best ROI? So let's say you invest in a bigger mower, because that's gonna, service that area of turf quickly. But then, if you do not multiply that more efficient production number, with a better measurement, then the estimate that you end up getting, doesn't really help you with that investment at all.
Absolutely. So our operational plans are built off of years of experience. When I go on to a job site, I have an idea of what that equipment profile should look like. But then I always take our measurements, and I confirm and I look at based on the measurements, here's how many mowers I need, here's how many crews I need to build associated with that mower fleet and to manage this many acres of the property. If it's a smaller project, here's how many hours a crew will need to show up and this is what that profile looks like. So we look at it from two different perspectives.
The only consistent perspective that delivers results every single time is being able to trust the measurements. My opinion, my eyes can be wrong, my plan can be slightly off. What I look for now is I've shifted my focus to building an equipment profile based off the measurements and the maps that you and your team provides. And then I confirm it with my eyes and identify are there challenging areas that I need to augment the profile? Are there areas that are wide open and easy that I can bring in another larger mower that can service these areas? If so, how many acres and what does that look like so I truly can build the best equipment profile to again put forth the best estimate, build the best equipment plan with maximum utilization on each piece of equipment, and truly get the best return on investment. So all of those things come into play when we're building our estimates.
And speaking with our customers, there's a certain level of confidence when you're going into a bid meeting to speak with a potential customer, having accurate maps and being able to show up with maps, showing them the color coded areas that we've identified all of the trees, all the beds, all the turf areas, all of the sidewalks, roads and lots for snow removal, it really empowers us to build and show them a clear picture of their property. And what we've identified is, they usually don't have that. And it's separated us from other competitors, who can't tell the customer how they've come up with the price, how they've measured the property. And we're coming in with a very professional document that publishes the maps of their properties that again, they don't even have.
This seems weird to me, because the customer is on site, right? They would still have, oh, I think they have PDF maps, and they don't have trees and turf mapped out, they would have buildings and parking lots in PDFs and that would be it.
Yeah, their focus is typically on what we've seen with all of our customers, is their focus is really on what their total footprint is inclusive of buildings, inclusive of wood lines, inclusive of everything else that goes on on the property, because their focus is managing the entire property. We only manage the landscaping, snow removal. And so being able to provide them with these maps, and in this accurate information has really separated us.
I see. Another interesting point that you mention is folks don't do that. Your competitors are doing those meetings without those maps. It could be that they would be getting those maps. But when they have that pre bid meeting, they don't have that map, they probably get that map a few days afterwards. Is that how you would say it would be for them?
I see. So that sets you apart and then also kind of helps you justify what you're doing, it helps you get a more accurate cost. If you just look at the way a customer makes a decision, would that process of interaction that he has with you, where you look more intelligent about servicing the property, be a factor in winning the bid? Or it mostly boils down to the cost that you provide them and they just look at the competitive numbers?
Our ideal customer is focused on a problem, they come to us with some sort of a pain, whether they're unhappy with their current provider, whether they're not being treated, the way they want to be treated, the way they want to be serviced quality issues, that there's a long list of what those challenges are. And our mission as an organization is to help be a good partner to our customer, by solving those challenges. So each customer has a unique challenge. In every instance, I've never, I've yet to encounter a customer who says, I've got an open cheque book, I don't care how much it costs, as long as you can do this, everybody's very focused on solving my problems at the most competitive price point possible. So pricing accuracy with a bid is always a factor.
Our ability to have accurate maps, show specific areas and have good strategic conversations when we get into business minded conversation with business people, we're very different. We're not just a company who's going to come in and cut the grass. We're a company who understands your specific business needs. And we're able to adapt. So now when I have a great set of maps, I can pull up the map, I can change big acres of turf in the back - 40 acres that aren't in the public eye. They're not up by the main clubhouse office, they're not key areas. When we can sit down and start talking about changing the scope and augmenting our recommendations to work within a certain price point, now we're having good business conversations and we're getting to a resolution together. That's really when we make that connection with the customers.
So you end up coming across technically smarter than your competitors. So then there's a technical aspect to the bid and then there's the financial aspect to the bid. Financially, you were able to get more accurate with the right measurements and then technically you can be more focused and help solve a problem because then you can move on different parts of the property into different kinds of solutions and optimize the solution itself.
Absolutely. We are Value Engineering, we're able to value engineer the best proposal for the customer in partnering with the customer.
Wow. I think mostly salespeople in your team come in touch with the maps, do operations guys also come in touch with the maps?
Absolutely. It's something that during the sales transition, when you know, when we take it from a sales opportunity, and we close the sale, we are awarded the bid, at some point, all of that information that the salesperson found out, gathered and compiled in this proposal that needs to get transitioned, on to the delivery team, to the guys who are actually doing the work. And what we found in the past is in the past, we tell the guys, here's the new address, we're maintaining this property, and they'd show up and they wouldn't know the boundaries, they wouldn't know the footprints, they wouldn't know the expectations. Now, when we're able to sit down and be brief and provide our teams with the maps and with the footprints in the areas, they have a better, clearer picture of what's my responsibility when I show up, where is the property line? Now, the understanding is instantly better, our transition for our customer is instantly better. And as an organization, we look a lot more professional. Our sales team has communicated everything to the delivery team, and the delivery team shows up in those with their expectations. It's a lot more fluid of a startup process.
Understood. And I remember one thing that came up in our conversation previously is business developers were measuring the site. And then, I think they had to get it approved from the operations managers that they got the estimates and the measurements, right. That workflow is still in place.
Yeah, absolutely. So it's, it's changed slightly. Again, going back to the measuring accuracies in the past, we've worked through situations where a salesperson has measured the property, we had our idea of what the equipment profile is, and the measurements didn't support the equipment profile. When we went back and started to re-measure the areas, we identified that on this 100 acre property, the salesperson missed 40 acres, that's a substantial gap in what we thought it should be with where the bid would have gone out if we didn't have this process in place. But now we're able to take those maps, review that with our delivery team, at the point of that estimate, at the point of discussing the operational plan, discussing the equipment profile, discussing the estimate before it goes to our customer, we're able to take those and accurately line everything up in a more fluid manner. Our delivery team doesn't necessarily have to be on the site to see everything. So it's saving us some travel time back and forth to go look at the site. It's empowering us to truly sit in a room, pull up the maps, pull up the satellite imagery, pull up the different polygons to see what areas we are servicing and building an operational plan together that we all stand behind. That all makes sense to us on both the sales side and the operation side.
And when the business developers were measuring the property before. Now, I guess, since they don't have to measure the property, it saves them a lot of time. And they probably go back to doing more like higher value activities, prospecting, lead nurturing and closing.
Absolutely. And that was, again, one of those pinch points of the flow of the sales process, we were identifying that in that estimating that mapping process for a salesperson was taking probably two days, plus or minus depending on the size of the property. But let's call it two days, two to five days for them to measure and build an estimate.
Now the workflow process has changed so that they make the request, we get the maps back. And now we're down to one day to analyze the maps to build an estimate to work through an operational plan. So in that extra four days that we've just gained back for them, they're able to make contact with more customers, they’re able to get into more opportunities, they're able to have good strong conversations about what our customers pain points are, and really focus on that, because they're not distracted by the mapping process.
And do you think there is something very specific about the mapping process that could only be handled by someone who has prior landscaping experience? Because like we don't, we are essentially mapping guys. We know how to map properties. Do you think there's something very intrinsic in the mapping process that would require someone with a landscaping experience or like others can handle it too, as long as they know how to do it.
I think it sucks out some of those historical ideas that people have had where “Oh, I just want to enter this area, because it's close to the woodline”. It takes a lot of that emotional and distorted views, I'll call it, just views that sales people have had, it takes out that personal touch, and it actually puts it down to a very accurate and logical measurement. And from my perspective, it makes the mapping process a lot more accurate.
When we do a production review, when we look at the maps, we are assessing Okay, well, this is a pretty steep slope or difficulty in this area is higher, so we'll make an adjustment to the hours necessary. But that needs to be done based on a difficulty, not augmented and adjusted in the measurement side that's led us down the path of inaccuracies.
And we've struggled then, on the backside to really dial in what are our company's production rates are, what does it take us when we have jobs that don't have measurements, we don't know if we're winning or losing, because we don't know how long it takes us to mow an acre on that property. Those are the challenges that we bumped into. And this has been a strong solution for us.
So let me share my screen Nate, I want to just talk about some of the ROI that you would be getting from this. And let's say you pay a salesperson hundred thousand dollars a year and expect to get about a million dollars in revenue for him. Is that how your model looks like?
For a model like that, you would expect to get about $19,000 of revenue, per business developer per week. And just to give you an idea if they spent an hour, so if I just bring this down into the ROI that you're getting from the salesperson in one hour, that's about 480 dollars.
And if this was spent on measuring properties, you would lose out on that for $480. And the same data you can get from us at $7. Right? That's like the first ROI. Correct?
Yeah. And that ultimately is one of those calculations that made this a no brainer for us. Down the same road, there's actually now a cost associated with qualifying. So our sales teams are seeking out better opportunities. They don't necessarily want to chase after the folks who say yeah, just give me a bid because they know there's going to be a cost associated with it. So the opportunities that are not real, the opportunities that are just a request for proposal process. They're disqualifying them, they're truly seeking what I described earlier, the customers who are looking for a partnership, the customers who want the solution, the customers who are willing to take the time to talk with them, and actually the good opportunities, and they're investing the dollars, they're choosing, they're making better choices on that qualification process, which actually drives up the ROI from my stance, our close rate is increasing instead of decreasing.
Oh, interesting, very interesting. And this is like another model to look at. So if you just do manual measurements, this is the ROI that you're getting from the salesperson $19,000. And let's say he spends about 20% time measuring properties, one out of five days. Yeah. And that time goes back into, let's say, nurturing leads and any of the other activities that lead to higher sales, then that number goes up by about $3,000. And this is like not accounting for the increased close rates and not accounting for the fact that you might get a contract, like a multi-year contract. So then the ROI then kind of goes up for those cases.
Absolutely. And the reality is that lead nurturing really, truly just drives, again, that better qualification process, but it also drives more opportunities. And so when they're processing more opportunities, we do have a very specific funnel that says if you put this much into the funnel, you get this many opportunities. This many opportunities turned into this many proposals and this many dollars close when you propose a certain proportion. Ultimately, our close rate was 10%.
Every lead now, now we're able to widen out the bottom part of that funnel and have a better close rate. We're also putting better, more qualified leads in the top of the funnel. And frankly, seeing our close rate increase that 20 to 25%.
Wow, you think it was a consequence of accurate measurements? Or, like more time to speak to the customers? Like strategy conversations? Like you had to put your finger on..
Yeah, I think I think both to some degree, obviously, again, the price is always a concern. So accurate measurements are very important.
But being able to actually speak to more people is probably the most important part in that process. If you're only able to work on, let's call it five things in a week, because you're spending one day measuring. Now all of a sudden, you can work on 10 or 20 things in a week because you're not doing those measurements, I really believe that our guys have a greater capacity now to talk with more people, stay engaged with more leads and opportunities, and just work a better process not having to focus or spend time on there.
Make sense. So how do you know, see your team using the solution going forward?
In the same manner we are right now and frankly, expand to expand that, as is our mission and vision as an organization, we've partnered with you quite a bit on a lot of the military housing side, there's a lot more opportunities, as we increase bids in some of our existing markets on larger projects.
And even as we drive into new markets, our ability we've grown through pulling into different states, when a customer says, I need a solution over here, it's not always conducive when we're based out of Indiana and somebody is asking for a bid in Maryland for us to go out and take a look at the property in Maryland, that's a substantial amount of travel. So for us to be able to really qualify it and get support from you and your team on the measurement side, it really makes that process of securing work outside of the state that we're operating in a lot easier, that's going to continue to be our focus, that's going to continue to be our mission as we move forward on the sales side
Is expanding into new markets one of the business goal that you have?
Absolutely, yeah, increasing density in existing markets. But that, for us, the true way to growth is by expanding into new markets, that's where we have the biggest opportunities and the biggest room for growth is what really drives that needle forward for us the most.
And for us as a company, our focus over the next 10 years is very strongly on growth and doing it naturally through existing relationships through a solid sales process, not through acquisitions. So when we're focused on that, that means we're going to have to make a lot of contacts with our sales team, we're going to have to process a lot of opportunities, we're going to have to measure a lot of sites in order to get the growth targets that we've set forth. So we're really excited and definitely focused on expanding into new states.
Awesome. And what would you like to say to your peers in the industry, you know, something for your competitors, and maybe for the folks you love?
Yeah, absolutely. The folks I love certainly! The reality is, this is a great service, great product. And regardless of the competitive advantage that I think I'm getting right now, I think Utkarsh, you've done a phenomenal job building this team, and building the service for us and for us in this industry. And I think this is one of the only solutions out there that fills this need and closing this gap a little bit.
So I think it's a big opportunity for anybody in the green industry that is truly looking for a resource like this. And I'd encourage anybody to consider it truly assess the return on investment associated with generating more time for your salespeople to be salespeople, and less time spent on measuring which, you know, which you and your team have figured out really well.
Thank you so much Nate for that, thank you so much for the trust, I think we would not have been where we are today without that trust. And we love the support that comes from you and we want to grow with you.
Awesome. Thank you.
Thank you so much.