Over time, Ben Howarth has designed a simple yet effective irrigation design & estimating system that retains control over his profits and retains visibility of his projects, all while travelling with the family in semi-retirement.
As an employee, Ben began his career in the irrigation industry working for a larger national company. The company decided to turn their focus toward retail work but Ben was convinced that there was money to be made in commercial projects.
In 2014 he began Right Water Pumps & Irrigation, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Ben has been kind enough to share his ideas on how to shift from the all-too-common late night invoicing to building a process that enables the business owner to step away from day to day tasks.
Define your current challenges
In the beginning, Ben was using Paint (for anyone who may not remember, Paint was an incredibly basic graphics program) to design his irrigation systems alongside Microsoft Word to create quotes.
The issue? His design and estimating process was taking too long and became too complicated. He knew there had to be a better solution.
Ben put together a wish list of what he needed from a new system.
The wish list
1. Ability to handover the process to someone else
While Ben had developed a system that worked, it was lengthy and complicated, proving too difficult to teach someone else.
2. Estimate large jobs without having to print A1 plans
Printing large A1 plans is both costly and time consuming.
3. Spend more time with the family, while keeping visibility of the business
Retaining visibility of projects was crucial, but how do you keep an eye on projects, and handover responsibilities?
Find the right tools for your desired outcome
Instead of using several programs that weren’t actually designed for the task, now Ben uses a combination of Groundplan and Xero cut his design and estimating process down to a third of the time it used to take him.
“I googled it, you guys came up. Once we did the trial it was a no brainer."
Design & Quantify using Groundplan
These two easy-to-learn but powerful tools have slashed the time it takes for Ben to complete his irrigation design and estimating process.
1. Load up the landscape plan
Ben receives the landscape plan PDF via email and loads it into Groundplan. No printing. Team members can then be shared into the project.
“The new process takes around one third of the time it used to. I can see what the team has done and vice versa."
2. Load the Takeoff Templates
Stages for Right Water typically include:
- Main lines
- Control valves
- Turf areas
- Garden areas
3. Create the design
With the landscape plan loaded, the designer is then able to use Groundplan to overlay where the irrigation materials are to be situated on the plan, from power and water access, control valves to turf and garden areas to be covered.
“I wanted to be able to train another member of my business on estimating jobs.”
As the irrigation system is being designed, Groundplan is tracking the quantities. Once the design is complete, the list of quantities are found in the Quantities tab in Groundplan.
Managing quotes & invoices using Xero
1. Stage names and subtotals
The Quantities tab in Groundplan lists all the materials that have been used on the plan, including their associated costs, margins & totals, grouped into Stages.
2. Enough detail, but not too much
Ben takes the name and subtotal of each Groundplan Stage into Xero to create a quote. By listing the Stages and their subtotals, the client can see what’s been allowed for, without showing them a complete shopping list.
3. The complete package
A copy of the plan is also attached to the quote in Xero before it goes out so the client (typically a landscape designer) knows what their responsibilities are and what Ben’s team at Right Water has allowed for. Right Water can clearly display where they’ll require access conduit, footpaths, power and water availability and more.
By being able to provide such visual clarity presents well for the landscaper when the quote is submitted to the developer.
Control & visibility achieved
Now, the wish list has come to fruition. Ben has visibility across projects, control of the level of detail being provided to the client and, control over the pricing.
1. Control of profits
Ben has retained control over his profits while handing over design responsibilities.
“One of the greatest advantages is being able to lock in the prices."
2. Control of detail
Allowances, pricing, and a detailed plan are provided to the client without giving too much away.
3. Visibility of the project
Cloud-based software enables visibility within the business in real time, even while Ben is travelling with his family in their caravan.
“Being cloud based I can work from home or from the caravan - it doesn’t matter."
Handing over responsibility
Remember Ben’s checklist?
- Handover a simplified process - Complete.
- Remove the need for printing - Removed.
- Control & visibility - Achieved.
The team in the office now work collaboratively with Ben, often from afar. With the flexibility the new system has allowed him, Ben has achieved semi-retirement giving him more time to spend with his family and show them the sites from the comfort of his caravan.
We’d like to thank Ben for his time and wish Right Water Pumps & Irrigation every success.