Blooms for the well-being, software for growth

Feature Article | May 2, 2007 by admin

“Nothing says hello like flowers and greenery,” says Mike Senneff, CEO of Plant Interscapes, a plant services company based in San Antonio, Texas. Plant Interscapes’ customers know the presence of lush foliage and colorful blooms don’t just make people feel good, they can increase profits, too. Senneff recalls a commercial landlord who needed help finding tenants. Plant Interscapes filled the building’s lobby with tropical plants and flowers, and leases increased. “The plants are not just there to look nice, but to help differentiate one business from another,” says Senneff.
When you have over 1,400 office interiors to manage, ensuring the right set of plants get to the right customer in the right decorative pots requires a solid solution for sales tracking and delivery. Furthermore, sales teams out in the field need to access the home office database for the most up-to-date pricing and product availability, and customer service managers need to make sure requests for service are being handled in a timely manner – after all, plants are perishable. When its legacy system couldn’t keep up with ERP, business intelligence (BI) and customer relationship management (CRM) functionality, Plant Interscapes turned to SAP Business One to support the information needs of its growing organization.

Cumbersome legacy system

Every week, Plant Interscapes’ 3.3-acre San Antonio distribution facility receives tropical foliage shipments from Hawaii, California and Florida, which are then distributed to customers across the state. Beyond distribution, the company – which also has offices in Austin, Houston, and Dallas – offers a service package every seven to 14 days where plants are watered, trimmed, fertilized, or replaced. These accounts are divided into 40 separate service routes, and Senneff is constantly working to fine-tune these routes for maximum cost savings and efficiencies. Senneff says it was cumbersome to view information in the company’s previous DOS-based legacy system, and the problem wasn’t just on his end. When sales teams would meet with architects and designers to select their plants, containers and maintenance services, they were unable to generate quotes without going through several steps. Even then, reps had to print reports in order to view them. “The old system affected everyone in the company, from outside sales to internal accounting,” he explains.
Convinced he needed a new solution, Senneff evaluated three products to meet the company’s needs: QuickBooks Pro, Great Plains Dynamics and SAP. QuickBooks was quickly eliminated due to the limitations on number of users. Great Plains lacked CRM functionality, and the pricing was based on a modular system, which made the cost of entry higher, according to Senneff.
SAP’s fully-integrated application with CRM functionality and its affordability for a small to mid-sized company were the two biggest factors that led Senneff to implement SAP Business One. “SAP had it all together under one package,” he says. Senneff also cites SAP Business One’s scalability and flexibility for third-party add-ons as significant benefits. He has peace of mind knowing SAP Business One will grow with his company, and is not limited by how many users can function within the system. “There’s really no end in sight,” he says.

Immediate SAP support from all over the world

Plant Interscapes worked with SAP partner Express Information Systems (EIS) on an implementation that took just six weeks. Even with a Microsoft SQL Server upgrade, Senneff says, “We had absolutely no manual entry of anything from one application to the other.” Currently, a total of 20 employees run SAP Business One, from account managers, branch managers, sales and accounting staff, and customer relations.
One obstacle Plant Interscapes experienced post-implementation involved an out-of-date interface with a third-party software. The glitch prevented Plant Interscapes from sending their first-of-the-month invoices – which represented $350,000 in critical cash flow. Senneff says, “SAP bent over backwards to help us. We had people dialed into our server – over a weekend – from the U.S., Israel, and the Netherlands. We are a small company, and it was impressive to me that I had SAP support from all over the world, in different time zones, helping us solve the problem.”
With SAP Business One, Senneff was able to reduce his corporate office staff by one third, and estimates he reached his return on investment in twelve months. “Three people used to spend 21 hours processing invoices,” he says. “One person now does it in an hour.” This increased efficiency translates to savings for customers. “Fewer staff members in accounting translates to keeping our costs down, being more competitive in the marketplace and being able to take on more work,” says Senneff. He also reduced the time spent accessing customer records 80 percent by eliminating the multiple search fields required with his legacy system. “We can now drill down quickly to individual lines of information and answer questions on the phone, rather than saying, ‘Let me research it and call you back.’”
SAP Business One’s CRM functionality enables Plant Interscapes to offer unparalleled customer service, a promise the company backs up with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. “These are live plants that are maybe needing our attention off a typical routing schedule,” says Senneff. “Now, these service calls can be assigned conveniently and under one umbrella.”

Poised to become a statewide market leader

Another benefit that appealed to Senneff is the scalability of SAP Business One, and Plant Interscapes is already utilizing the system’s capability to grow. Senneff recently added the XL Reporter tool, which enables more flexibility for uploading, editing and overriding budgets, and soon his company will be upgrading to a new version of SAP Business One. “We have market share in two of the four cities we operate in,” he says. Utilizing the business intelligence of SAP Business One, Plant Interscapes is poised to meet the challenge of becoming a statewide market leader.
Senneff, who started his plant company as a 23-year old California surfer with a watering can, delivery truck and a horticulture degree, built his business on selling and providing excellent service to his customers. Studies show that plants in the workplace promote employee innovation, creativity, and feelings of wellbeing, and in the midst of running a $6.5 million company, Senneff still takes time to walk out to the greenhouse to see the plants before they make their journey to his customers. “Seeing the beauty of our product, it’s very rewarding,” he says.

Ian Alexander

Ian Alexander

Britta Alexander

Britta Alexander

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