View Full Version : How Long to Build Your Business to full time?

David Gretzmier
05-22-2007, 08:24 PM
My main background is lawn/landscape and Christmas lights.

It took about 3 years to build my first lawn care company into a full time gig for me and a helper for about 8 months out of the year. Litle or no advertising, just yellow pages.

It took about 3 years to build the Christmas light division inside a later, larger multi purpose lawncare/landscape company ( about a million in sales) into something that kept 2 guys busy from Oct. 1-Jan. 31. I then left the company and took it with me.

4 years later and the Christmas Lights are an 6-8 employee deal with me doing mostly sales and management, and we keep hopping from mid september thru feb. 14

After doing some installs for Christmas customers last year and this year, and I did a dozen or so back in the day of the big company thing, I am ready to build this thing to support 2 employees. How long did it take you guys to reach that level?

Chris J
05-22-2007, 09:05 PM
Technically, I could have probably supported two employees after the first year if I had done it right. For me, however, I was a bit too tight with my money and/or couldn't get off the "if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself" thing. I still have some of that going on today after 7 years in the biz. If you can build a million dollar business between the months of Oct-Jan 31st with Christmas lights in just 3 years, I would say that you can do what your wanting to do with this business in a matter of months....Seems to me that you have what it takes as long as you have the market to support it.

Mike M
05-22-2007, 09:21 PM
Good question, David...

I'm trying tofigure how long it may take me to break even with my current salary (about 46,000 plus benefits). That's why I want to develop a good base of full-service lawn accounts to help with going full-time with my business.

I work in a year-round school, so I get lots of 2-3 week breaks plus 6 weeks June/July. Perfect for installs.

It is essential to my mental health and quality of life to go no more than one more year working in education. 11 years special ed and I'm toast from my caseload and all the paperwork. :hammerhead:

David Gretzmier
05-22-2007, 09:49 PM
[QUOTE=David Gretzmier;1838528]My main background is lawn/landscape and Christmas lights.

It took about 3 years to build the Christmas light division inside a later, larger multi purpose lawncare/landscape company ( about a million in sales) into something that kept 2 guys busy from Oct. 1-Jan. 31. I then left the company and took it with me.

I need to clarify- the 2 guys did not do 1 million in sales of Christmas lights. the whole company did over 1 million in all divisions. the Christmas light division did about 85k.

It now does about 250k. I'd like to do that or more in landscape lighting in the off months- feb.14-Sept. 15.

Chris J
05-23-2007, 08:54 AM
I don't want to take this string off in another direction, but I am concerned when you say "doing landscape lighting in the off months". I currently do not do Christmas lighting for one simple reason: Sept-Dec is the busiest time of the year for me with landscape lighting, and I can make a whole lot more on these installs than I can with Christmas lights. Now I'm in Florida, so I'm sure this is not going to be the case with everyone, but I've talked with others that agree that Christmas lights is a waste of time that could be better spent on bigger profits. I'm not suggesting that you ditch your Christmas crew, but I certainly wouldn't turn my back on landscape lighting when Christmas time rolls around...
To answer your question, I grossed about 100k my first year doing it alone and without even trying very hard. Had I done it properly with more advertising and a more aggressive approach, I probably could have had the two employees and doubled that amount in the first 18 months of being in business. Of course this is all hind-sight, but I'm sure it could have easily been done with a little more effort on my part. You have to understand, however, that when I started this business it was only supposed to be a part time gig to supplement my income from Westinghouse. It just exploded right out of the box! 2 cents...

David Gretzmier
05-23-2007, 01:00 PM
I don't plan on turning my back on it, but we have trucks, a bus and trailer for the Christmas lighting biz, and I want to use them in the off season. If Landscape lighting takes off like I hope, then Yeah, we may do that year round, but until then all jobs I bid for Landscape lights in September-January are put on the board for after Christmas light season is over on 2/14.

If clients are willing to wait on the installs, I'd love to backlog a month or two's work and just keep the Christmas crews busy after 2/14. I always have one or two temps that are smart, show up on time out of the group of 6-8 that I hire that I'd really like to keep.

Turf Troll
05-23-2007, 08:32 PM
Now I'm in Florida, so I'm sure this is not going to be the case with everyone,

I have the impression that landscape lighting in Florida is more active than my area or your's Dave. I wish it wasn't so or I hope I am mistaken.

I was just going to get a list from info usa, renew my bulk stamp, I would like to do it by July,

Chris J
05-23-2007, 09:34 PM
That may be so Turf, but remember that I also have a couple hundred competitors trying to get the same business in a niche market. Unlike the lawn business, not every one has to have lighting nor does every one want it. When you have a lot of competition in a big-ticket market, it can really test your skills.
The mass popularity of it will surely find its way to you. When it does, hold on tight because every body and their mother will be starting a lighting business in your area. Better to be well rooted before this happens (trust me on that one).

David Gretzmier
05-23-2007, 10:34 PM
It amazes me how dark some of these neighborhoods are here. we have several neighborhoods that have gas streetlamps, and these are 400,000 plus homes. the only lighting in those neighborhoods are the cheapies from lowes and home depot. I'd like to be rooted in , but I'm not.

Yeah, I'm the Christmas guy around here, but I want to be the landscape light guy too. I figure in 3 years or less one or more of the Landscape light franchises will be here.

A few landscape guys put in lighting, but I have not met one of them that understands voltage. they run 10-12 guage cable from the tranformer at the 12 volt tap and that's it. if one fixture has 12 volts and another 8, who cares?

I understand my opportunity, but I am low on money this year to do any kind of advertising campaign.

Chris J
05-23-2007, 10:36 PM
Do some Demos for some people! Once you get the snow-ball effect going, it will catch on quick!

Chris J
05-23-2007, 11:13 PM
By the way, is AR Arizona or Arkansas....I know, Florida redneck don't know the silly stuff.

05-24-2007, 01:55 AM
Uhhh hemmm AZ = Arizona
Hey Chris .... Jacksonville eh? One of my brothers lives there.
Take Care!

05-24-2007, 02:02 AM
.............and besides....with a name like Fayettville you know its gotta be Arkansas. Sorry David I didn't mean it! I have been down in your neck of the woods up between Bella Vista and Harrison. Nice Area!

David Gretzmier
05-24-2007, 10:19 AM
I am doing a demo in one of those neighborhoods when I get back from memorial day weekend next week. I am hoping to do a letter/mailer in that neighborhood as mentioned in the other thread going about marketing dollars.

with a sign in the yard and that letter, I am hoping to pick up a few jobs. that neighborhood needs it.

05-24-2007, 10:22 AM
yard signs...

Ours have been effective ONLY when we lit them up. Sometimes you can graze them with an existing light but we find a 10-20w small accent light to be just the ticket.

We were unable to light signs on 3 jobs... ZERO responce. On jobs we have litt he sign we have gotten 1-2 calls per job

David Gretzmier
05-24-2007, 06:10 PM
yeah, the sign I have out on the job we did last week is unlit, no calls on it. the sign is near the road, which is easily 250 ft and over 2 driveways from the transformer. I was thinking of a solar spot on the sign, but that is like the worst form of advertising.

I just noticed the comments on Arkansas, It is beautiful here, one of the "tree cities USA.

for the record there is also a Fayetteville in: Georgia, North Carolina, New York, Texas, Tennessee, Ohio, and Pennsylvania