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Satellite images improve estimates for lawn care

Pat Patera

When people think of home lawn care they think of a guy with a mower and a rake. Not of computers, satellites and tracking software.

But that’s business as usual at Reno Lawn & Landscape. And when a company does just shy of 1,000 yards a week spread across Reno, Sparks and Carson City the old way, working off three by five index cards, just doesn’t cut it, says Jeff Fisher, president and chief executive officer.

The Internet now display satellite images that allow anyone to get a birds-eye view of any property at either of two Web sites: maps.cityofreno.net and Google Earth (www.earth.google.com/).

An estimator at Reno Lawn can take advantage of those free Web services when having a detailed conversation with a client, says Fisher. They may pull up a satellite image to view the placement of trees, grass and shrubs, while the homeowners specify what’s wanted in the way of mowing or trimming.

And how do customers react when they learn that a company rep is looking at a satellite photo of their yard and rooftop?

“Customers are not surprised we’re automated,” says Fisher. “Affluent customers are aware of the technology. While some are shocked and others blase, the majority is pretty indifferent.”

In addition to GIS, the company uses GPS to track the trucks that work crews drive. The plotted route display improves efficiency and identifies delays caused by road construction. Within three years, says Fisher, that capability will reside right in the truck.

The company is current with accounting software as well, that automatically tracks man hours at each job to prepare invoices, says Fisher.

While the bread and butter of the business is lawn maintenance, there’s increased interest in renovations, what Fisher calls enhancement work.

“People are treating lawns as more of an outdoor living space,” he says.

Now gazebos, spas, barbeque pits and even outdoor kitchens are coming into vogue. Some of that he chalks up to the influx of Californians, but much is due to general affluence.

Ironically, another strong trend, says Fisher, is the no-lawn look. “We’re seeing more lawn removed and more xeriscape.”