Tim Johnson Landscaping

Case Study Interview

Pioneer - Tim Johnson, President

Location - Statesville, North Carolina

SiteRecon adoption - November 2020

Source of measurements before SiteRecon - Google Earth, Site Visits

Key benefit - Complete portfolio (over 600 properties) measured within 2 weeks

Turning around proposals within 24 hours regularly

Streamlined the sales process

Interview transcript

Hey, Tim! Thank you so much for being on call here with me today. Took a while for us to set this up. So as a way to get started, could you tell us all about your business and what you do at your company?

I'm Tim Johnson, President of Tim Johnson Landscaping, headquartered out of Statesville, North Carolina. We do have an office down in Charlotte now as well, which is showing some really great growth down there. And we do residential and commercial, maintenance, installation, you know, turf care, etc. Primarily, residential only on the install side. And then high end-residential, typically the properties that we're installing on the maintenance side with a focus on commercial - generally, the residential properties we maintain, or customers that we've extended through install, not necessarily just trying to move every yard in town.

Got it. So that was the commercial thing you said?

The residential is the high-end, kind of, real nice install that we're then following up with maintenance on and then commercial maintenance is a big part of our business that we have been focused on growing. We do a pretty good amount of retail commercial, HOA coming back in strong on the apartment business, and then hopefully continuing to build over towards some of the class A and larger POA stuff as well.

Good stuff. So let's talk about the system. The first time you heard about SiteRecon, like, who did you hear it from? What were your first thoughts when you came across this?

I'm pretty sure I heard about it from Steve Steele, who helped us with our Aspire integration, when we realized as we were getting ready to do takeoffs and whatnot to do our contracts and Aspire that we were in way over our head as far as timeline went on getting all that stuff done for that implementation. So he mentioned it. And then I followed up with Leslie and Daniel from Greenscape, and they spoke very highly. So we gave it a try, and it's been a been a great, great addition to our process.

All right. So when you heard about it for the first time, what was it like? Did you think like, does this even work that way? What are you guys talking about? 

Yeah, I had a lot of concern over accuracy more than anything. Well, first of all, when landscapes are ever evolving and changing, and there's a lot of new development. And so, yeah, I just assumed it would be a Google Maps kind of thing, and potentially have a lot of outdated properties. So I was pretty happy as we got into it and figured out you're using Nearmap on a lot of things, which is much more often updated. But the accuracy was my number one concern that I've got to give y'all credit for. You've got a good process for making sure you get it right. And then y'all have very much improved your process. Not that it was ever bad. But getting it right the first time, as you kind of learned our business, I guess is we've kind of grown together.

Yeah, the feedback from the first few customers were really was really key there. We got a lot from you as well. I remember when we spoke for the first time there was this big load of properties, you had to measure like, I don't know, few hundreds? And you had set a target for yourself. Like, you need to get this done by end of November or something like that? 

Yeah, yeah. Well, yeah, it was less than two weeks, we needed to get it done. And then unfortunately for you, we kept on finding properties that were that were not on the original spreadsheet as we were going through organizing. So I think that number grew from somewhere around 450 or 500 when we started, I believe, and ended up being over 600 by the time we were done.

Yeah. And that was one of the things that came up. You know, you have your database, these properties are being serviced for years and years. I think your dad started the business and he got in the first few of them. Right?

Yeah, we actually started together. This whole thing started really as me mowing my neighbor's grass when I was about 12 years old and kind of grew into something very different. 

Nice, nice. You've really lived that American dream, starting with a mower and making it work!

Absolutely! When I started out riding the mower from house to house. You have a truck at first.

Yeah, yeah. I guess you never forget that. Your first truck? 

Of course, not! Our first work truck was 94 Chevrolet Red Single Cab Pickup; I still remember it. And we still have the first two trucks from when we started. Yeah, when it's kind of part time and dad was playing with a little bit I was playing with it. But when we bought the first two Fords we decided that, you know, this was was going to actually be something. We actually still have both of those trucks. And the one is still running everyday right now. It's supposed to be a spare, but it's running everyday, and the other is actually getting ready to get restored. 

Nice. So going back back to measuring your portfolio, you kind of discovered that there are addresses in the list that don't actually reflect the real property on the ground. And like there was like real back and forth happening here. Is this the right address? Is this not? And I think, at the end of it, you kind of ended up leading up to that list as well, as a result, right?

In the end, you get a lot of times where you know, a property's multiple parcels, or maybe even the person's taking care of something that's not even really theirs. And so, you know, you kind of worked on a property a stream snip, and marked up if something was kind of out of the norm and kind of cleaning that process up and reduce some of the back and forth between us. Right

So that was how you got your portfolio mapped, and got the properties in Aspire.

Wow, that was a full team effort - all hands on deck. So essentially, we sent you the addresses. And then you know it was your process that created our process. So you know, you sent us the measurements, we reviewed them, and then once once we approved them, then Aspire has the takeoffs feature, so we would go in and enter them in the takeoffs for each property, which was probably the most tedious part of the whole process. But those takeoffs then automatically populate into the appropriate areas in our proposals. So that extra time on the takeoff for those who aren't in a spire then creates a much more efficient process when you're creating proposals. And then those were used, and automatically filling on all your proposals moving forward.

I see. So that got the Aspire system set up. I think you then started using it for live opportunities that were coming through as well, right?

We did. And so that was part of the reason it grew as well, because we realized pretty quickly that it was going to be an effective tool for us, despite all the reservations and multiple phone calls we had going in. So pretty much as soon as we submitted that list and started getting properties back from you, we understood exactly what it was and what a benefit it was to us. So yeah, we started, you started getting live properties almost immediately behind that initial big dump of properties.

Right. And one of the questions I come across is, for residential properties, it does not take a lot of time if you want to measure them on Google Earth, or find lot size and all with these software out there. So you knew about the systems, right? What made you think that you know, that SiteRecon is a better option?

I think if people want to be really honest, it takes them more time than they want to admit it takes. And I think that there's a large amount of value in whether it takes you five minutes or 15 minutes or 30 minutes. You can get those minutes back to devote to something else that maybe somebody else can't do for you. And you know, the big part about it is, is it's almost got its own check in it. So by us sending it to you, we're then reviewing it when it comes back. And it almost eliminates the second person to double check that we have to have in-house. So there's there's multiple layers to it, but it's really helped our efficiency. And it's helped us we've gotten significantly faster in getting maintenance proposals out because of it.

Understood. There's also this thing about even though it takes less time, you need to find time to put it into your calendar, right? Like you want to spend some time doing measurements. So you want to put that in your schedule. Now it could be later in the day to day, or it could be tomorrow or the day after that. Would that also contribute you know, you just put that into the system, it comes back, you know, when it's gonna come back? And so does that also contribute to the process?

It does, because here's the big thing, a company our size, even they weren't growing, we don't have somebody that is dedicated to taking those measurements. And sales, people generally don't want to take the time to take those measurements, they'll put it off, they'll get whatever's kind of the lower hanging fruit, you know, to no fault of their own. But it's just kind of human nature to take whatever is going to come and easier. Likely your admin staff in your office is probably very, very busy and spread thin, and they're going to get the measurements when they can. So unless you're going to have a dedicated estimator, to me... And we didn't do it for years and years, and I almost kicked myself for not doing it sooner now, because that is that's your job, you're essentially the person. I mean, you're not entering the proposal, but you're essentially doing the estimating, and all we've got to do then is create a proposal when we get back. A lot of companies have what they call a contract administrator in the office, and they are very comfortable creating those proposals, probably more so than doing, you know, going on to Google Maps or Google Earth or whatever you want to use and taking those measurements themselves. It keeps people doing what they're what they're good at.

Right. Makes sense. Is there any sort of a training or learning curve that you came across when you started using this system with your admin staff using it?

Not really, I mean, we had the initial call with you, Diane and I both attended. And if I remember that was a 30 or 45 minute Call it well, if it was over that it wasn't much over that. And we've pretty much taken that call and run with it. The system's very straightforward. You know, pretty much anybody can hop in and do it, I still occasionally will put one in. And you know, our operations manager has a time or two hopped in her chair and put one in if she's been behind, or she's been out. And it's very simple and straightforward to do.

Understood, there's something else that people say, Hey, I have something that works. Why do I need to switch? That's, that's another argument. I've come across like, Okay, oh, that's new.

Oh, and I respect that. One of my big challenges to my management team has been let's not do things just because we've always done it that way. Let's continue to look for what is the best way? How can we improve? How can we get better? I listen to some Dave Ramsey stuff and he always says he reserves the right to get smarter. And so that for us was the change. I guess, honestly, it really for us, started out of a necessity to get into Aspire and not have to pay for an extra month of implementation. But we realized quickly, it was a better way. Yeah.

And who all in your team have come in touch with it like, Diana? She takes care of administration, she puts in the orders, then what happens afterwards? Like what does the workflow look like?

So, I mean, Diana probably handles 99% of all things SiteRecon. We've gotten one step further in our process, and now not only is she entering the takeoff, but she is also attaching the color coded map in the file on Aspire. And the good thing about that is that it allows if we've got a new form and go into a site, and for some reason, his supervisor can't be willing to show him what's going on. He then has the ability on crew mobile to pull up the color coded map that you've created. And know, okay, this is the grass I've to mow. Even if we haven't had our route book created, or maybe he doesn't have the route book or whatever, it's just a quick resource for them to use. But what we do you know, Diana does takeoff and then she creates the proposal. Then the proposal is reviewed by either generally either me, dad, or our operations manager. And then from there it is distributed to the salesperson or the account manager, depending on, you know, if it's a new customer, or an additional property for a commercial client or something like that

Understood, and then they take that proposal and visit the site?

Yes, So if we're really good, they've got that takeoff and proposal before we've ever been there. And then they verify it when they go to meet the customer for the first time. If they've already been there, then they'll review it and give feedback if it's right, or if it needs to be adjusted. But then, you know, they've got a proposal almost immediately, once that takeoff entered. They can go meet with the client, propose it and I mean, we are turning around proposals in 24 hours on a regular basis. Real detail, not pulling numbers like just, "Oh, yeah, that looks like that should take, you know, that looks like a two hour property and 40 yards of mulch. I mean, it's real square foot production rate estimates that are accurate, and you know, trackable.

Right. Does it impress the customer and lead to a better conversation when you're on site?

It does and we prefer that face to face meeting with the client. We're big on relationship. So we want we want to go deliver that proposal in person and continue to build that relationship. And of course, we've got commercial properties that are obviously managed out of the area or out of the state. And you know, then as soon as we get a proposal, it's sent and emailed and followed up with a phone call or something like that, but we still like to go out and do the proposal in person whenever possible.

Understood. And just to conclude, whoever came in touch with the system, so Diana has come in touch with it, the account manager comes in touch with it after the proposal is created, of course, like he looks at the data. Does the group comes in touch with it, when they service the site?

They are starting to. So originally in that big data dump, most of those properties were having to kind of go in and do that on the back side. But yes, we're attaching that color coded map in the customer files so they can reference what they're actually supposed to be taking care of on their own side. We're realizing that it is becoming a very big asset for us, and eliminates a lot of questions and potential mistakes can be made on a new property, or if you got a form and fill it in or something like that.

Yeah, and that's sort of what I was hinting towards. Like, it becomes a common context that people in your team can share. Everybody looks at the same map. It's not like everybody is looking at something different. 

Yes, it's all about streamlining information.

True. And you haven't had to deal with that market where customers expect quote on the call, like they call in and expect to get a quote?

That is not our target customer. I know, the on demand market is growing. But as I said, typically, these larger commercial properties and higher end residential properties, they understand that there's a process involved in providing an accurate estimate and detail that is going to require a conversation to get an accurate proposal. 

Alright. So to go through the list of benefits very quickly and get your feedback on them: you mentioned accuracy was your big concern to start off with and given the updated maps, that's something you have overtime seen that, you know, that's something you can trust.

Absolutely, and I give y'all a lot of credit. your process is great. You know, there was a little bit of challenge in the beginning, I think learning what properties in our area were like, and y'all pick that up very quickly. But as part of your process from day one, you send it to us for us to review and approve before it is finalized, which gives us the chance to make sure it's accurate before we're creating a proposal, which I think is a huge benefit. Its that is that check and balance that we would have on our internal system anyway, that is provided through your system.

Right? The feedback workflow, like you don't like something, you put in a feedback, and it gets updated.

Yeah. And you're not waiting forever for an adjustment. It's a quick turnaround. Yeah.

You've seen the speed of sales go up as well?

Yeah, I mean, it's just maintenance. A lot of times first person there has a pretty good chance of closing. And you know, it allows us to be the first person there with a proposal much more often.

Yeah, true. This, stat I read somewhere about, you know, people who respond first, like 75% of them and getting the job. It was related to online businesses, though. But I think it applies to what we do at landscaping as well.

I would say, I would say that's very accurate. I think, you know, you establish expectation what a customer can expect from you on the service side through the sales process. If you're not able to quickly respond and in a professional and accurate manner through the sales process, and they're probably not going to think you're going to be able to do that on service side.

True! To kind of wrap up what I'm discussing so far, the biggest benefits when you zoom out and see it from a high level, what would you say has been the biggest benefit for for your company?

It 100% let us streamline our sales process and as we're beginning to add more salesmen other than just me and dad, and when we have other people selling things, it eliminates the room for error. And it streamlines the process where everybody knows what the process is. The process is same for everyone. And it works through and it is done in an efficient manner.

Understood, What would you like to say to your competitors? Oh, well, not competitors. But let's say the peers across the industry who are sitting on the fence and wondering whether this is for me or not?

Well I started to tell you earlier, I didn't know how good I want to tell you this was because I feel like I'm giving away one of my secrets. But, it's been a huge tool for us. We like the pricing structure, how the credits work, we like the turnaround time. Give it a try. I think if anybody gives it a try, they're probably not going to go by. 

And let's say going forward, it also helps you do some other good things, like putting on notes on the map, helping the account managers keep a track of what's going on site. And it kind of becomes the centerpiece on which you communicate all things that are related to a property. Would you say that's a fair evolution of the system?

It would be great evolution being able to mark up. So we're kind of doing that now, but not in a streamlined process, you know. So all of our managers are using Microsoft Surface.

Right. So that's the word Tim. It's about to come out. I think you might like it. I think that's it. I think we have come to the end of the question the head. Tim, it's been great working with you guys. And if we have contributed to your growth, we have been grateful for the opportunity.

Well, and we appreciate the help. It is definitely it's definitely taken a load off of us. It's definitely given us some time back for the things that we need to be doing. So we appreciate it and look forward to continuing to partner with you in the future. 

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