Tech success

Caretaker Landscape and Tree Management has seen steadfast growth and has worked to implement systems and technology that measure up to its growing company.

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Since 2013, Caretaker Landscape and Tree Management based in Arizona has seen a $20 million jump in revenue. In just a year, they’ve also moved to No. 50 on our Top 100 list, up from No. 77 in 2017.

As the company grew, the leadership team realized they were beginning to outgrow their systems as well.

“We really grew out of things quickly,” says Matt White, CEO. More employees were hired to match the scale of the company, which now employs a total of around 384 employees.

“When you are getting bigger and bigger, you need more and more systems,” says Mark Wordley, president. “As we push $40 million, we are growing our systems to keep up with that.”

Wordley says as they hired new employees, they were relying on people who didn’t necessarily have the same experiences as employees who have been employed with company for a while. So, in 2016 the company implemented a CRM software, new accounting software and a paperless timecard system among other things. A year later, they made improvements to their inventory tracking system and most recently, in 2018, Caretaker rolled out a systemwide update to gather real-time data from the field.

The systems and technology Caretaker uses are based on the “old way” of doing things. Wordley says they take manual processes and transition them into automated processes, making their operations more efficient.

Custom systems.

When making the choice to implement new technology, Wordley says a company can go one of two ways. Some may opt for an “out-of-the-box” type of system which is readymade and able to be used right out of the box. Another way to implement software involves purchasing software that can be built up and customized to fit specific company needs. Caretaker chose the customizable route.

“Customizing can cost more money,” Wordley says. The company needs to pay someone to build the custom parts of the software on the backend. White says the company hired a third party to help customize the software and in turn help train the employees.

White says he realized the importance of selecting a system that can grow with your company. In 2016, they quickly outgrew the software they were running and had to enhance the software they were using to accommodate their growth.

“We tackle issues head-on and come back and regroup,” says Mark Wordley, president, Caretaker Landscape and Tree Management.
Photo courtesy of Caretaker Landscape and Tree Management
Training strategies.

To implement large software changes, Caretaker uses a process that allows room for improvements. New versions of the software are launched for small groups at a time, whether it be one branch or one division. The company meets regularly to discuss any issues the pilot groups are experiencing, and from there they are able to make adjustments. Wordley says this can take several months before all the kinks are worked out.

“It’s much better to learn by doing rather than conceptualizing. We tackle issues head-on and come back and regroup,” he says. After the pilot groups test the programs, the software is rolled out in various stages. Wordley says it’s important that the company is open to discussions about the changes that need to be made.

The company aims to get one “expert” trained on the system so that the trained expert can teach others. Different experience levels can create a challenge when it comes to training employees. “We want to get them to embrace (the technology),” White says. It may take some employees longer to learn, and some may be apprehensive to switch over to a new way of doing things.

$20 million: The amount in revenue that Caretaker Landscape and Tree Management has jumped since 2013.

“Overcommunicate with your team,” Wordley says. “You’re asking them to do the same job with new software that may not work perfectly the first time.” He notes that it’s important to communicate what the benefits of this new process will be. He recommends picking the champions of your company – those individuals who are well respected – to help with the transition.

“We usually have about 60 percent (willing to transition), 40 percent (not willing to transition) and another 20 percent that are on the fence about it,” Wordley says. When the company sees pushback from employees, these individuals usually come around once things are up and running.

“You have to communicate why you’re making changes and what the benefits are going to be,” Wordley says.

Generally, employees want very little change in the way they do things, and Wordley takes steps to ensure they don’t get stuck in a rut of the same old processes. “We do figure out if the old way truly is better or if it’s just what we are used to,” he says.

“You have to communicate why you’re making changes and what the benefits are going to be.” Mark Wordley, president, Caretaker
Increasing productivity.

Technology advancements at Caretaker are made to remove what Wordley calls “non value-added activity.” When you remove one of those activities, like keeping track of timecards with pen and paper, you free up labor. The person assigned to that role can then move to a role that does have added value.

Caretaker replaced paper timecards with a system that allows an employee to clock in from the field via an iPad. A GPS tracking system was installed to ensure the employees really are on the job when they clock in. Without having to manage hundreds of timecards, payroll is completed quicker, and employees are able to monitor any discrepancies as they come in. This helps them to avoid last-minute changes and delays to the payroll process.

The new accounting system implemented in January links data from the original estimate to the completion of a project, so there are no surprises in terms of cost or profit. The technology also reduces variance for Caretaker. Once you remove the variations of your costs or bid estimates, you are able to use historical data to predict future values.

White notes that when automated systems are rolled out, anything measurable usually improves. “The systems give you much better visibility (into your company),” he says.

With a company as large as Caretaker, thousands of transactions are happening each week, whether it be bids being made or purchase orders going out. Automated systems allow the business to hold everyone accountable.

“It’s a series of small steps to create the discipline,” Wordley says.

May 2018
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