Giving Your Team Central Control of Irrigation

A veteran landscaping industry executive talks about his experience retrofitting conventional controllers with ETwater smart irrigation and the operational efficiencies it brought his companies.

In growing a landscaping company, finding talented Account Managers who are capable of and ready for your clients is tough! They are the hardest to hire and the hardest to keep. Why? Let’s face it, the role they are responsible for is difficult and relentless in some cases. Frankly they are not paid enough for what they do. To compensate, we have to empower them with resources and support, so they can be successful in their role. This will pay dividends for your landscaping company and your client. Using ETwater helped my team grow at fast pace and maintain our standards for excellence…

Before ETwater technology, managing water with traditional controllers was one of the top three challenges for my account manager team. Controllers were locked in garages, mechanical rooms and pump rooms. This created issues – a series of missed inspections and needed repairs, not updating water schedules, not testing rain/freeze sensors. Add to that the complexity of the different types of controllers in the market. Does this sound familiar to you? It was a daunting task to train my team how to use all the different controller interfaces. Thus, we couldn’t deliver a quality landscape because we weren’t able to manage the water consistently. Guess what, warranty became huge! We had to solve this!

And we did. The ETwater smart irrigation retrofit solution (released in 2011 as the ETwater HermitCrab smart controller), became the primary resource that empowered my team to grow from nearly 100 clients to over 300 clients. We required all of our clients both commercial and residential to install it – much like a cable company requires you to have a HD cable box. We included the cost on our service – and it became a competitive advantage. Retrofitting with ETwater smart controllers took less than 15 minutes each to install, and was easily done during a normal irrigation inspection time.

After using ETwater, I was able to increase the number of clients that each Account Manager led from about 30 to over 42 clients. This is an over 30% reduction of salaries, benefits, vehicles, etc. In addition, we removed one of their top three challenges! With their reduction of time, my team could then focus on the client relationships, while improving the landscape maintenance results as well as anticipate their client needs by proposing more enhancements. And let’s not forget the other financial metrics – sales by our account managers of additional services and enhancements increased by 30% and the warranty for mismanaged landscaped reduced from 5% to less than 1%.

We learned some lessons along the way – first, to get the fastest results, retrofit your controllers by account manager. If you just do a few or half, it still puts them in a position to handle multiple controllers and training was still intense. Install using the predictive technology that the ETwater technology provides – once set up correctly, the need to tweak schedules based on weather patterns virtually goes away. And, do not try and sell these one by one, include the cost in your service for the hardware, and the operational benefits will provide the added profit. You need to roll these all out by account manger, and selling one by one will take you a decade at least.

Lastly, my irrigation check team was reduced by half! It only took one inspector to do the prior job of two – because they had their smart phone to drive the controller through the inspection – and thus no need to access the controller.

How do you quantify all of this? Well, our payback period went from a planned 36 months to 7 months. I challenge you to find a faster payback in our industry than this one. Empower your account managers with technology – and let them work on driving a happy clientele. Pick your first account manager and roll this out today!

JasonNew3Jason New is a Principal of McFarlin Stanford, Dallas, TX. Before founding McFarlin Stanford, Jason was the Vice President of Landscape Services for Lambert Landscape Company and Vice President of Garden Management for Southern Botanical. In addition, he held roles earlier in his career with The Brickman Group and ValleyCrest. Jason also leads the Landscape Management Committee and is a Trailblazer for PLANET- the national association for Landscaping.