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Summit Lawn & Landscape, based in Kansas City, Missouri, implemented its first accounting software in 1994.

“We had to have an accounting program to track all our assets and our receivables and our payables. Up until that point it was spreadsheets – pen and paper,” says Terry Shaffer, owner and CEO of the company.

“Not knowing anything about accounting and accounting software, I’d say it did a lot,” Shaffer says. “As I was learning more about accounting, and as it relates to my industry and job costing and all that, I guess the biggest thing I learned was how vital of a tool it was to have a good piece of accounting software. Because your numbers are how you survive. You’ve got to know your numbers to be able to grow. So just the ability to have that at your fingertips to make decisions is very important.”

Implementing change.

Christianna Denelsbeck, finance and operations manager for Landscape Workshop out of Birmingham, Alabama, says it’s important to include everyone when implementing accounting software.

“It’s really important to have buy-in across the company from the beginning of the project,” she says. “I think it helps with getting everyone acclimated.”

She says when they implemented accounting software, they just focused on the back-office users, but now a lot of branch administrators use it as well.

If they could go back and do it again, she says they would have involved a broader audience. She also suggests keeping everyone in the loop with memos, calls, meetings, etc.

“When you’re going over such a large change … just really almost overly inform everyone of what’s going on and what to expect,” she says.

Summit Lawn & Landscape only has three people on its financing system, but managers and field personnel can access the umbrella system, which allows them to see their personal numbers.

“There’s information that’s sensitive that you don’t want everyone to see,” Shaffer says. The accounting information can only be accessed by him, the bookkeeper and the accountant.

JJ Fitzgerald, business manager for Landesign Construction & Maintenance in Santa Rosa, California, says the change is a reminder of how much sensitive information you have.

“When you roll out new software like this, it really forces you to think about all your security settings and who has access to what,” he says.

For that reason, Fitzgerald’s team was hesitant to roll out the accounting software to everyone, until they realized they’re able to provide field and job costing information to some staff, and the sensitive info to others.

“Everyone can have access to the information that they need,” Fitzgerald says. He adds that all the information updates as one system. “Everyone has access to the information that’s live and current, so everyone’s on the same page.”

Know your facts.

Before diving into the first accounting software you see advertised online, do your research.

“I did a lot of research before choosing the software and I tried some out and did different demos,” Fitzgerald says. “Talk to customers using the same software.”

Talking to other companies is something Landscape Workshop did as well.

“We’ve kind of reached out to other landscaping firms,” Denelsbeck says. “How are you using the system, what are things to look out for, what are things you like and don’t like … just to be knowledgeable.”

Once you find a product to use, Shaffer says it’s important to stick with it.

“One of the biggest things I learned was really trust your software. Trust your program,” he says. “You get into a program and it’s not always going to do what you want it to. They build these software programs to what they know and it’s hard to accommodate everyone, but if you trust where they’re going as a company and you trust they’re going to develop more as they go along, it really does work for you.”

Fitzgerald also suggests choosing a product with functionality can accommodate your company as it expands.

“It’s a huge project and a big undertaking, so choose something you know you can grow into,” he says. “If you chose something that’s only going to meet your current needs, you’re going to do the whole implementation thing again in three years.”