Faddegon’s Nursery, Inc., is a successful 100-person business with three related but diverse divisions. It is also a company that knows what it was like to “wander in the dark” and now be able to see clearly where it is going.
Faddegon’s retail division sells all the things that you would expect to find in a traditional retail nursery: plants, plant material, gardening tools, and so forth. But it also has considerable sales in non-traditional items such as collectibles, jewelry, and lamps. In fact, there are 12,000 separate items on the shelves in Faddegon’s retail division.
The landscape contracting division does landscaping for individuals and businesses. This division issues estimates and work orders for jobs, needs to track costs (such as time and materials) and change orders, and then must invoice the completed jobs.
The indoor plant maintenance division handles the installation and maintenance of tropical plants in malls and offices. The 25 people who work in this division need to keep track of recurring billing, contract expiration and renewal and planned replacements for some 400 different contracts.
“Before 1990, we ran our business basically by the seat of our pants,” says Joan Graves, Secretary/Treasurer, of Faddegon’s nursery. “We were very much wandering in the dark as to the actual status of our business. We never knew with any precision what we had in inventory or how profitable a contract job was.”
In 1990, Faddegon’s installed a Xenix system with a primitive network. “It took care of basic accounting functions,” Graves says, “but little else. We still had no inventory control and no point of sales interface.”
She adds, “Even worse, financial statements were extremely slow, often trailing by as much as four months. When we closed the books at the end of the year, we would be hard-pressed to get our taxes filed by April 15.”
The delay in getting financial information also had more serious consequences. “We do 30% of our retail nursery business in the month of May. If we can’t tell what is selling and what’s not selling, we are essentially flying blind,” Graves said.
In 1995, when Faddegon’s found that their existing system could not add any additional printers or terminals, the company decided to install EXEControl from Ebeling Associates.
“It was a difficult transition at first,” Graves says, “because we are not particularly computer savvy. We needed some serious handholding, and Ebeling Associates supplied it. In addition, when we found that a particular function wasn’t quite what we expected or needed, the folks from Ebeling said, ‘Okay, we’ll fix it,’ and they did.”
She adds, “The impact of EXEControl on our operations has been extraordinary. Across all divisions, financial control is just marvelous. We can run profit and loss statements at any point in the month and know where we are.”
In the retail division, EXEControl has given Faddegon’s a much better handle on inventory. “I can print a report and see if we’re about to run out of some critical item during our busy time,” Graves says. “I can also see if a particular item is not moving and decide if we need to put it on sale.”
The Ebeling system also gives the retail division very powerful tools for controlling pricing. Items can be put on sale by product line, by vendor, by market code, or individual item. Items can also have special pricing by virtue of the nature of the customer. Employees, for example, get a discount, and Faddegon’s Preferred Customer program gives certain customers advantageous pricing on selected items. Sales discounts can be structured by percentage off, dollars off, or quantity. EXEControl makes it easy to execute pricing changes that instantly appear at the point of sale registers.
The system has also allowed Graves to become much more sophisticated in her marketing. “With the Preferred Customer cards, which identify people individually, and the point of sale system, I can tell who is buying what, and I can do data mining and create special offers from that” Graves says. For example, preferred customers who purchased roses last year might be direct-mailed a special offer on a new variety of roses.
In the contract landscaping division, EXEControl records crew members’ time, helps generate estimates and work orders, and even creates picking lists for materials to be used on a particular job. The biggest impact, however, has been on cash flow. Previously, the billing of a contract landscaping job might be delayed 30-60 days, at which time both the customer’s and the crew foreman’s memories may have gotten a little hazy. But with the estimating and change order capabilities built into EXEControl, most contract landscaping jobs are billing within 10 days of completing a job.
In the indoor plant maintenance division, recurring billing is handled within a couple of hours each month, thanks to the Ebeling Associates system. Contracts and renewals are sent out in a timely manner and priced to reflect increased expenses where appropriate.
The upshot is that any time it is desired, Faddegon’s Nursery, Inc. can get a clear, timely, and concise picture of how the company as a whole or any division is doing. “The capacity of the system is beyond what I imagined,” Graves says. “I’m still discovering what it can do.”