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INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
05-15-2008, 12:21 AM
Ok, I dont ask for much on this forum... I would really appreciate you all reading this and giving me your opinion on how you would handle the situation.

I have enjoyed a very good relationship with my distributor since I opened my business. I now purchase about 95% of all my outdoor lighting materials from them and this has been the case for some time. I am also recognized by this distributor as one of their largest clients in the Province.

I have just learned that my distributor is working with another company here in my market area providing them with free lighting designs and specifications for their jobs. I have also just learned that this company ( a landscape construction / maintenance business ) is investing in full time staff and assets to go into landscape lighting "full time" and that my distributor is providing their staff with free, onsite, intensive training.

As I see this, my distributor is reducing the lighting design / specification component of a job to the level of a free service and they are giving an unfair advantage to my competition. Now with this business going into the outdoor lighting market in a larger capacity I expect to be bidding / competing directly against them, only I have to account for the price/time of my designs etc.

I know that competition will always exist and sometimes increase and I dont have an issue with that. I do have a problem with my distributor going out and providing free services to my competition, essentially giving them an advantage.

I have talked extensively to my account rep and the distributors position is that they have been doing this for 20 years and it is their way of developing their market share.

So, if you were in my shoes, what would you do?
Do you think this constitutes an unfair business practice?

I would really like to hear a lot of different opinions on this.... There is a lot riding on my decisions right now.

dwightschrute
05-15-2008, 12:36 AM
looks a manufacture/importer already offers this for free

http://uniquelighting.com/customer_support/SDSP.htm

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
05-15-2008, 12:43 AM
Yes many manufacturers offer free design services, but that is not the question or the situtation I am talking about....

(I have railed against 'giving away' lighting design services in the past, I think it completely de-values our skill and expertise as designers and contractors and I think that in so doing, the whole industry is hurt by it.)

David Gretzmier
05-15-2008, 01:11 AM
You need to understand one absolute truth. everyone is out for himself, one way or another. The distibutor will do what they have to do to better themselves. If that means developing the market so they sell more product and in the end hurt you, they will do it. I really only have two local distributors and I buy little from them, mainly because of price. they are constantly having training seminars to train irrigation and waterfall guys how to install lighting. The only reason is so they sell more lighting supplies. NOT to educate the contractor.

And yes, I do believe they are providing your competition an unfair advantage. but the only weapon you have is to buy your product elsewhere. It is a weapon you can only use once. Use it wisely.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
05-15-2008, 01:23 AM
I understand your point there David... What I dont get it their "strategy"... Lets say there is a 2000 unit per year market here for them... and I am currently buying 1800 units per year from them and the other guy is buying 200. So now they come and give him an advantage, free designs and free training... but the market place doesnt change, still 2000 unit demand. But now I am pissed off and drop them... The new guy isnt going to pick up all the loss for sure as I am still in the game, in a big way...

So instead of them gaining more market by their actions, they have served to loose a big account by developing a small account.

I still don't quite know what I am going to do... keep the input coming please

Lite4
05-15-2008, 02:10 AM
Hey James,
I feel your pain. I have not had to deal with my local distributor going onsite doing lighting designs for others mainly because there is no one qualified to do it. The manufacturers sure hold a lot of classes that teach a whole lot of guys how to wing it, which just increases my service calls. I would ask if they have offered the same services to you, but I am very confident your knowledge of this industry far surpasses anything they could know. Therefore it would be irrelevant for them to offer this kind of service to you. David is right in the aspect that all distributors will do anything to increase their bottom line, which in turn will equate to a greater bonus at the end of the year. It still pisses me off that they breed mediocrity this way. What do you have for a backup source of material? Are they as reliable and well stocked as your current distributor? It is a tough decision to make, but what other advantages or benefits do you get from your current dist that you may not get elsewhere? Sometimes the only way to get the message across is with $, or in this case the lack thereof for the dist. If there is another good dist. in your area, you may be able to sit down with them and create a good product deal with them up front. Good luck James, I don't envy your dilemma.

Pro-Scapes
05-15-2008, 08:21 AM
from what I have seen of manufacture or dist based design assistance is they try to cram maximum product on a job or it leaves alot to be desired. Dist are there to sell lighting period. I agree with Tim 100%. They are usually salesman and many have installed very few if any fixtures. I have gone thru exactly what your speaking of already. I also have a contractor here that does lighting in 12 states.


If your company is as remarkable as you say it is I doubt you will see any loss of business from this. The One advantage they will have over you is they are already in the picture for the landscape and irrigation work and usually brought in durring construction or pre construction.

There is definatly a market for the small company who takes care of thier client in a special way.

seolatlanta
05-15-2008, 08:37 AM
Well, speaking for myself only , it is my job to help out a contractor who needs my help and is going to buy the fixtures from me as well. I also find an opportunity to train somebody CORRECTLY from the ground up, before some other hack shows them how to daisy chain fixtures all into the 12v tap. I see it as a golden opportunity to get someone to focus on design and having fun with lighting and showing them the right way to do lighting from the start as I was taught.

James I would not be upset with your distributor at all, they are just doing their job. I would be more upset if they didnt do it , and you are fortunate to have an excellent local distributor. This company most likely wont be your competition as they will be focused on installing lighting on their hardscape installs and will have nothing to do with your customers. It will be obvious as to who the expert is and who the new guy is .

It is actually helpful to you either way, and your distributor has a job to do. I would suggest not ruining the relationship you have over this. It may turn out the other company ends up doing a couple of installs and then a guy quits and they dont do any more. It happens all the time...

Chris J
05-15-2008, 09:05 AM
Welcome to my world James! Although pretty much everything I would have to say about this has already been said, I will summarize. Business is business, and your distributor wants as many people as possible purchasing product from them. My distributor is mainly in irrigation, but they have a full time staff member that does nothing but design/layout for irrigation contractors. I wouldn't say your distributor is giving them an unfair advantage simply because the service is also available to you (if you needed/wanted it). Look at it this way: If you were the distributor, would you be content selling product to one company and limiting your sales based on the amount of work he could do by himself? Or would you rather recruit dozens of contractors, help them get started, then supply all of them into the future. In the long run, some of these contractors are going to be significant; therefore, the distributor will be in a better position financially by not having all of their eggs in one basket so to speak. The sum of business that several of them will do will eventually outweigh what you alone can do by yourself.
It's the same thing as asking Nightscaping to sell products to just your one company. In a perfect world, each of us contractors could have a manufacturer and distributor that was 100% loyal to just us. That's not going to happen, obviously, so you shouldn't get upset. It's just business and everyone wants to capitalize in every way possible. As David said, this may help you by giving outdoor lighting more exposure. You will lose some business over this, but healthy competition is a good thing (although it does suck).

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
05-15-2008, 09:06 AM
Of course time will tell what happens with "the other company", but they are a very large player here in the green industry and have been experiencing strong growth in terms of market share and company size. They have just invested in a new 'team' to focus on lighting and have the financial wherewithall to back that team up.

I fully expect to see them going after the 'lighting only' market very soon, and with the help of my distributor, their staff will be poised to compete from a very strong position.

1: My distributor knows about my product selection and installation style
2: My distributor is providing them with free design & specifications, giving the other company a competitive advantage
3: My distributor is training them for free (not a one day seminar... I am talking on site, one on one, intensive oversight and trainging here)

I am really pissed off about this situation.... We have had a decade long 'relationship' that I thought ran deeper then it obviously does. I guess I have been naive to think that another business would have my business' best interest in mind.

I have several PO's on my desk right now and the thought of sending them off to my distributor pretty much makes me sick.

Chris J
05-15-2008, 09:17 AM
Here is another way to look at it James: This new competitor is going into this business no matter who supplies them. If they are a major player, most anybody would probably offer the same service and/or help to get them started. Maybe you should be thankful that your supplier is the one. If they start to become more profitable as a result of this new business, you can re-negotiate pricing on materials cost.

Pro-Scapes
05-15-2008, 11:25 AM
Of course time will tell what happens with "the other company", but they are a very large player here in the green industry and have been experiencing strong growth in terms of market share and company size. They have just invested in a new 'team' to focus on lighting and have the financial wherewithall to back that team up.

I fully expect to see them going after the 'lighting only' market very soon, and with the help of my distributor, their staff will be poised to compete from a very strong position.

1: My distributor knows about my product selection and installation style
2: My distributor is providing them with free design & specifications, giving the other company a competitive advantage
3: My distributor is training them for free (not a one day seminar... I am talking on site, one on one, intensive oversight and trainging here)

I am really pissed off about this situation.... We have had a decade long 'relationship' that I thought ran deeper then it obviously does. I guess I have been naive to think that another business would have my business' best interest in mind.

I have several PO's on my desk right now and the thought of sending them off to my distributor pretty much makes me sick.


What do you want your dist to do ? Tell the other company no I cant sell to you because James solecki buys from me ?

You have said you have almost a full season of work lined up. Im sure if you asked your dist for this treatment you would get it as well. My dist when local here went out to a famous ahtletes house and had to tell another landscaper how to wire stuff up. Dont you think that 30k lighting job would of been better off in my capable hands ? probably but I cant hate the distributor for doing business can I ?

You dont have propriety fixtures so you cant get mad if they use some of the same stuff unless of course you have a protected territory. One more thing your failing to mention here. Your DISTRIBUTING LED lamps now... are you in turn moving in on what could of potentially be a distributors market ?

If your business is as remarkable as you claim you shouldnt have any worries.

JoeyD
05-15-2008, 11:29 AM
looks a manufacture/importer already offers this for free

http://uniquelighting.com/customer_support/SDSP.htm

When are you going to grow a pair and tell us who you really are? Its obvious you got a good one against me and Unique, for whatever reason, you feel threatened so you choose to hide behind your TV fantasy. I shouldnt even adress you but since you are giving me free pump I will clear it up. This isnt even remotley close to what James is talking about toilet paper man.

SDSP is a design and specification program set up for architects and designers who have a plan and would like assistance in having us do a CAD design on plan. We offer this as a servie to assist our design and architectural clients who are either new to lighting or new to our system and would like to see how we lay out projects. We do sometimes recieve plans that already have the lighting designed we just help with the layout of the hubs, wiring, and tf sizing. This program was developed due to the numerous requests we recieved to help with designs over the years.

As for James' issue. This is a practice that has been going on for many years. In an effort to grow the lighting business, distributors partner up with manufacturers and attend training sessions to learn lighting themselves. I think everyone would agree that the more the distributor you buy from knows and understands the easier it is for you to get the correct product and the more you will rely on that distributor for advice. The downside is the distributor has the ability to assist not only you but your competition. So it can be a double edged sword but a guy like you James should not even worry. Competition will only breed more buisness as long as they are not coming in and undercutting you for the sake of winning the bid. There is positives to having good competition.

I know, spoken like a true manufacturer, but it is true. It's all in how you look at it. If I am you James, I wouldnt worry too much about it. You should be thankfull you have been the only guy up there doing this for as long as you have.

irrig8r
05-15-2008, 11:50 AM
Lots of manufacturers offer training, some for free. I've been to some pretty good seminars put on by FX/ Ewing, Vista/ with a small local distributor and I learned something each time.

The local FX guy does day or night site visits and has helped a few contractors I know break into lighting.

I've paid for Nightscaping University and it was worth every penny. The NS rep has done a couple of site visits with me too. They offer some free design services too... and they have a fast turnaround time. (I've used them twice.)

Did your distributor also help you to get to where you are now James? Did they ever help with your designs?

I recognize and reluctantly accept the fact that it's in both the manufacturer's and the distributors' interests to get more people installing lighting.

Personal relationships aside, business is business...

dwightschrute
05-15-2008, 12:02 PM
When are you going to grow a pair and tell us who you really are? Its obvious you got a good one against me and Unique, for whatever reason, you feel threatened so you choose to hide behind your TV fantasy. I shouldnt even adress you but since you are giving me free pump I will clear it up. This isnt even remotley close to what James is talking about toilet paper man.

SDSP is a design and specification program set up for architects and designers who have a plan and would like assistance in having us do a CAD design on plan. We offer this as a servie to assist our design and architectural clients who are either new to lighting or new to our system and would like to see how we lay out projects. We do sometimes recieve plans that already have the lighting designed we just help with the layout of the hubs, wiring, and tf sizing. This program was developed due to the numerous requests we recieved to help with designs over the years.

As for James' issue. This is a practice that has been going on for many years. In an effort to grow the lighting business, distributors partner up with manufacturers and attend training sessions to learn lighting themselves. I think everyone would agree that the more the distributor you buy from knows and understands the easier it is for you to get the correct product and the more you will rely on that distributor for advice. The downside is the distributor has the ability to assist not only you but your competition. So it can be a double edged sword but a guy like you James should not even worry. Competition will only breed more buisness as long as they are not coming in and undercutting you for the sake of winning the bid. There is positives to having good competition.

I know, spoken like a true manufacturer, but it is true. It's all in how you look at it. If I am you James, I wouldnt worry too much about it. You should be thankfull you have been the only guy up there doing this for as long as you have.


Im not sure I follow, where on your website does it say it is for people new to lighting or new to "your" system, whatever that means. Bottom line is it is a free design that pushes your method and your products. There is a difference with "help" vs. complete free design which is what your website states. And as far as who I am, I am Dwight, or you can call me Low Volt Pro.

JoeyD
05-15-2008, 12:35 PM
Im not sure I follow, where on your website does it say it is for people new to lighting or new to "your" system, whatever that means. Bottom line is it is a free design that pushes your method and your products. There is a difference with "help" vs. complete free design which is what your website states. And as far as who I am, I am Dwight, or you can call me Low Volt Pro.

haha, OK? Low Volt Pro. You must be referring to my SN on LowVolt.org. FYI that was registered before I came back to ULS and I rarely frequent the site. So if you are trying to insinuate I use that name to secretly hide my identity you are wrong! I would gladly change it but the site is rarely active so I have never seen the point. Unlike you I am proud of who I work for and who I am. I do my best to never directly talk crap to anyone and try to represent Unique as best I can. What I did and do when i was not an employee of ULS does not mean anything today. I offered my opinions as any other contractor or lighting professional would have.

Well as you will, continue to be whoever it is you choose to be and hate on Unique and myself for whatever reason you must. Sorry if I ever cut you off on the highway or whatever I did for you to want to personally come after myself and Unique on Lawn Site. Believe me it doesn't affect my pay check nor my sleep so I could care less how you want to portray yourself as you continue to hide your real personality or lack there of.

Your turn..........:waving:

larryinalabama
05-15-2008, 12:43 PM
I dont know anything about lighting, however Im willing to bet all that stuff comes from China. You could probably find a supplier for about 1/3 of what your currently paying. You could for a small investment you could become your own supplier, and most likley sell to other contractors, designfor doit yourselfers etc.

Its a cut throat world, do put yourself on the wrong end of the knife

JoeyD
05-15-2008, 12:51 PM
There are lots of people already doing that Larry. Sometimes that ends up costing those guys more. You still have to buy a minimum ammount in most cases, and then when the stuff fails you have to find a way to warranty it or get replacement parts. Unless you are going to be a big time importer it doesnt always make sense for the average contractor to go direct to a Chinese Manufacturer willing to sell knock off copy cat stuff or even proprietory stuff.

Some contractors have had success with doing that but I think you open up a whole new can of worms trying to keep tabs on product shipping/importing, orders, quotas, pricing changes, availability, etc....... Sometimes paying a few bucks more for piece of mind and ease just works out better in the long run.

dwightschrute
05-15-2008, 01:15 PM
First, i have not insulted you or Unique, I just wanted clarification of what FREE designs meant. Please show me one negative comment I made about you.

As far as you not insulting or putting down another manufacture, here is YOUR post on another site under the name LowVoltPro:

If you like anything by CAST then you will love Unique , just know anything CAST was done by Unique first. CAST's whole system is a spin off of the Unique Power Management System which to me is very bullet proof in terms of producing 12 volts to each and every light on a job with about half the connections a traditional install would require. I love how the owner "Dave" of CAST says he created all of this stuff when in reality as the first Unqiue Lighting distributor on the east coast (Aquarius) he was befrieended and educated on everything landscape lighting by Nate Mullen. I know this history very well as a good friend of mine worked for Aquarius in the past when they were Unique distributors. It all started by stealing the F225 well light and then turned into CAST all while pretending to be Nate's friend!! Beware of shady buisness people


So are you speaking in 3rd person here? Wouldn't you say just call me? Who did you work for in May 2007?

LowVoltPro
Registered User Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 43

Tesla-

Next time you have a problem with any Unique products when you call in ask for Joey D., he will do whatever you ask, he knows the products inside out and is very easy to work with. The girls in customer service are great but sometimes they dont understand the products as well as he does.

I guess you were at Unique:

06-09-2007, 09:10 PM
Paul
Registered User Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Kingsland, TX
Posts: 89


I've known Joey for a few years and he is back at Unique since leaving Goya. He does know the product very well.

Alan B
05-15-2008, 01:39 PM
Well, speaking for myself only , it is my job to help out a contractor who needs my help and is going to buy the fixtures from me as well. I also find an opportunity to train somebody CORRECTLY from the ground up, before some other hack shows them how to daisy chain fixtures all into the 12v tap. I see it as a golden opportunity to get someone to focus on design and having fun with lighting and showing them the right way to do lighting from the start as I was taught.

James I would not be upset with your distributor at all, they are just doing their job. I would be more upset if they didnt do it , and you are fortunate to have an excellent local distributor. This company most likely wont be your competition as they will be focused on installing lighting on their hardscape installs and will have nothing to do with your customers. It will be obvious as to who the expert is and who the new guy is .

It is actually helpful to you either way, and your distributor has a job to do. I would suggest not ruining the relationship you have over this. It may turn out the other company ends up doing a couple of installs and then a guy quits and they dont do any more. It happens all the time...

James, for what its worth, I completely agree with the post above and couldn't have said it much better. To add another couple points...
-Lighting is NOT a zero sum gain. In fact from my experience the more houses that get nice lighting, the more their neighbors realize how nice it is and decide to invest in it as well. I see it all the time, once one guys does his house up, the neighbors want it too. Sure your competition may get some, but i don't think your dist training is by any means going to be the cause of you losing business.
-secondly, you can't stop "progress" -- what I mean by that is you can't stop competition, technology, progress, things will move on and you can't permenantly give yourself protection. I know it tears you up since you have been loyal to your distributor, but do whats best for you and your business and focus on what you can do to keep your business moving forward. IF it is good for you to keep buying from them then do so. Although it hurts, I do not think you can hold it against them, they are doing exactly what they should be doing, in my humble opinion. Business is about constantly adapting and improving better than the other guy.

JoeyD
05-15-2008, 01:39 PM
Touche....You are correct. I did say that. And after looking you have proven me wrong. I could have sworn that when I first signed up it was long before 2007. Apparently I had only be reading and never been a member. I was wrong to do that and to say those things in public. Then I did not understand the power of a public forum in which case since participating here on LS I do.

I accept responsibility for making a bone head move. So I apologize to any and all I may have dissapointed in doing so.

You dug up some dirt on me but the only thing I am guilty of is being on Low Volt and voicing my opinion under a screen name that hid my name and work place. Since then I have said most everything under my own name so it is not about being afraid, it is about learning how the forum thing works. There was so much mis information going on regarding Unique that I felt compelled to try and offer up a defense and reasoning for what it is Unique has done and does.

So you got me Dwight!! One point for you! But dont pretend for one second that you came here with intentions of not trying to either bring up that Low Volt thing or that you really do like Unique. It is obvious in every comment you have made since you have been here that you are trying to undermine myself and Unique.

dwightschrute
05-15-2008, 02:13 PM
But dont pretend for one second that you came here with intentions of not trying to either bring up that Low Volt thing or that you really do like Unique. It is obvious in every comment you have made since you have been here that you are trying to undermine myself and Unique.

Yes, I have been waiting since May to bring that up, laughable! You stated that you don't bash competitors or use a schill screen name. I just used that to prove you were lying. I just like to keep it real and point out factual errors and lies when I see them (see 1838 post). I am sorry if you feel I am singling you out. Maybe you are just passionate.

It is easy and convienant to apologize after you called me out! You are quick to jab others and when you called on it you just apologize, thats the beauty of these forums, your words are out there. It is easy to look up your prior posts and if you think you don't critisize other manufactures products, methods, or sales tactics, please disagree so I can re-post them.

JoeyD
05-15-2008, 02:32 PM
Yes Dwight, when mistakes are made, accepting and apologizing are what should follow. I am in no part perfect. Do I defend Unique yes, have I made mistakes and said things I maybe should not have said out of passion or anger, yes. Although it may appear as I have lied, what really happened is I replied without going back and researching everything I may have said. Mistake made, you pointed it out and I accepted it. I think you have done well in proving your point. Not much I can say to argue you here.

Have I said things regarding other manufacturers over time? Sure I have, I try hard not to come right out and attack. In most cases my comments are usually made in response or in defense to anothers comments or some other event.

So you do as you will. Dig all you want. You may not have been laying in wait to attack me but it is quite obvious you have been putting in some time and research to make point that I am a liar and mis leader. You know you were saying things provacativly to get me to respond in defense, I should have seen that coming. I in no part have wanted any problems with you or anyone else, I just feel like here is a guy who comes onto LS, fake name, and all of a sudden feels the urge to make comments towards Unique which essentially are comments towards me. As sly as they may have been you and I both know you were not trying to gain insight but trying to point out or otherwise insinuate somthing else.

Regardless, I messed up by participating on Low Volt and saying what I did and how I said it. I should have been smarter and I should have never used that approach. I learned my lesson. What else can I do or say? Should I not own up, should I not apologize for making a mistake or saying something I should not have? Should I quit and move on to another profession? I think not. I think I will take this in and learn and apply it to my future to know to not respond to any more people who will not at minimum state who they really are.

Bill S
05-15-2008, 02:45 PM
Negotiate!

If you are truely buying most of the product they sell and you have no other demand on their sales staff (going out to do your designs at no additional revenues for them) negotiate a better percentage discount. Another 2 - 5% discount will make the difference in your design fees...

It is hard finding good distributors that keep stuff stocked and fulfill your orders in a timely manner. Don't cut off your nose to spite your face.

dwightschrute
05-15-2008, 02:46 PM
apology accepted, nothing personal. Like I said, I am just trying to keep it real and keep the misinformation to a minimum, I am not a fan of the Bagbad Bob approach of bogus reporting. Good Night and Good Luck.

NiteTymeIlluminations
05-15-2008, 03:59 PM
James,

Did anyone help you get into the business? Did anyone give you design help? Did a distibutor ever help you on a design or did you know everything before you started your business. This always comes up from veterans...I'll admit I didnt read every thread of this...but I hear this all the time...it used to happena ll the time on this forum, a newbie asks a dumb question and wham...they get comments like go hire an expert, hire a designer...and its usually the people who asked a dumb question 2 years ago and now declare themselves experts...

Alan B
05-15-2008, 04:52 PM
....true....so true.

NightScenes
05-15-2008, 05:31 PM
I would agree that you have room for negotiations here James or maybe the distributor is charging this new customer a higher percentage than you already which is probably the case. I know That I get a better price than any of my competition because of the amount of product I purchase and the fact that I don't need their design or technical help. Maybe I ought to check again though just to make sure.;)

Chris J
05-15-2008, 09:36 PM
I would agree that you have room for negotiations here James or maybe the distributor is charging this new customer a higher percentage than you already which is probably the case. I know That I get a better price than any of my competition because of the amount of product I purchase and the fact that I don't need their design or technical help. Maybe I ought to check again though just to make sure.;)

How would one check that? It's not like your distributor is going to tell you outright what they sell to others for, are they?

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
05-15-2008, 10:55 PM
James,

Did anyone help you get into the business? Did anyone give you design help? Did a distributor ever help you on a design or did you know everything before you started your business. This always comes up from veterans...I'll admit I didnt read every thread of this...but I hear this all the time...it used to happen ll the time on this forum, a newbie asks a dumb question and wham...they get comments like go hire an expert, hire a designer...and its usually the people who asked a dumb question 2 years ago and now declare themselves experts...

I started my landscape lighting business 10 years ago with some experience in live stage lighting and from working for 2 summers beside my Father-In- Law, Al Marysiuk, who owned and operated ADAM Irrigation & Lighting in Burlington Ontario. Al helped me design my first job, which I sold and then installed by myself. The following winter I attended a one day seminar on landscape lighting installations that was put on by my distributor. Since that time I have participated, learned and shared an awful lot on Nightchat, and other forums and associations. I have read a lot, and more importantly and impactful, I have done a LOT of trial and error/success.

My distributor has never helped me on a design, never once. I was not even aware that they offered on-site training until last week! I have never heard about it. My design & installation skills have all been self taught and have evolved over time... something I am very proud of.

I certainly have never claimed to know everything, and I am a firm believer in life long learning... a day without learning something is a day of missed opportunity.

I also don't dismiss other's questions as being 'stupid' or beneath me. I have asked some pretty dumb questions in my time, and I will probably ask some more before my time is up.

Chris J
05-15-2008, 11:13 PM
I believe that there is a common denominator among several of this forum's readers: No significant competition. In some areas, I've read that some people have no competition at all. I believe this is due to the fact that outdoor lighting, as a profession, is still in it's infancy. While some areas, like mine for example, are flooded with so called "lighting experts", the others that are not will soon feel the pain that I endure on a daily basis. Be happy while you can, and continue to enjoy the seemingly endless profits that you are now experiencing. I assure you there will come a day when you will climb down off your soap boxes and join me in wondering why you have to advertise so much. When I go to meet with someone about a lighting proposal, it is not uncommon that they have been solicited by as many as 10 or more companies. It simply comes with the development and popularity of the industry. I'm sure the irrigation guys from way back in the day can appreciate this concept. When irrigation was new, the world was their oyster. Now it is the most cut-throat business in town.
Good luck with the competition everybody! :laugh: :laugh:

NightScenes
05-15-2008, 11:14 PM
They'll usually tell me what percentage their charging me and what they charge others. I also check my pricing between the distributors that I use and their all very competitive with each other.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
05-15-2008, 11:19 PM
Okay so I have my knickers in a twist...

I appreciate the input that you have shared on this topic and it really got me thinking about the situation. I am still somewhat upset as I dont think anyone should be doing free designs for anyone. (my attitude on this will probably never change) however I decided to not dwell on the negative and instead focus on the positive.

Get this.... 100% true.... Today I had a meeting with an automation tech at a client's home.... we were working away together on an issue and he started asking me about relay modules... seems he is on another job that is not working very well.... designed by my distributor and installed by the landscaping company! The clients are not paying until the system works, nobody quite knows how to get the system operating on the automation system, and the guy who installed it quit last fall. (apparently to start his own lighting business up.) So I tell him some rudimentary info on relay systems and leave the site...

My next call I look over at the neighbors and see the automation tech's car in the driveway! So I walk over... he is on the phone trying to figure out what parts they might need to get this lighting system hooked up to the automation system... I decide what the heck and tell him exactly how to fix the situation in about 5 mins flat. My only request of him is that he tell the clients that JS from INTEGRA solved the problem for them. I am not sure if the guy will actually tell the client this, but I did call my distributor and let them know I took care of it for them. I hope the clients are happy tonight when their lighitng system comes alive (finally). I also made a point of letting my distributor know that maybe large, sophisticated lighting systems are best designed and installed by Lighting Professionals and not by Landscape Contractors.

As for the future... well I have started to figure out my strategy to compete with 'the other company', and I am feeling pretty confident that I can maintain a leadership role in this industry here in my marketplace.

Thanks for all the opinions!

Chris J
05-15-2008, 11:20 PM
They'll usually tell me what percentage their charging me and what they charge others.

No offense Paul, but if I was your distributor I would tell you that as well as long as you were going to believe it.
On a side note, I'd be pretty PO'd if my distributor shared that info with a direct competitor (or anybody else for that matter). That would be giving someone a direct advantage when bidding against the other for the same jobs.

Chris J
05-15-2008, 11:32 PM
Paul, check your PM.

Chris J
05-15-2008, 11:36 PM
That's right James. Be the better man and karma will take care of you. If you are truly better, this will be well known throughout the community. If this other company is bad, you will look even better than before simply based on the principal of relativity.

sprinkler guy
05-15-2008, 11:51 PM
I believe that there is a common denominator among several of this forum's readers: No significant competition. In some areas, I've read that some people have no competition at all. I believe this is due to the fact that outdoor lighting, as a profession, is still in it's infancy. While some areas, like mine for example, are flooded with so called "lighting experts", the others that are not will soon feel the pain that I endure on a daily basis. Be happy while you can, and continue to enjoy the seemingly endless profits that you are now experiencing. I assure you there will come a day when you will climb down off your soap boxes and join me in wondering why you have to advertise so much. When I go to meet with someone about a lighting proposal, it is not uncommon that they have been solicited by as many as 10 or more companies. It simply comes with the development and popularity of the industry. I'm sure the irrigation guys from way back in the day can appreciate this concept. When irrigation was new, the world was their oyster. Now it is the most cut-throat business in town.
Good luck with the competition everybody! :laugh: :laugh:

I had a similiar conversation with a peer today who also does only lighting. I've dabbled in the lighting industry since the mid 90s, but I was first and foremost a sprinkler guy for years. A little over 6 years ago I threw myself into the lighting business, because sprinklers had lost their sex appeal. I mean who cares if a sprinler zone has even coverage, perfect pressure, the cool rotating nozzles, etc. If the grass is green you get a very casual, "thanks for the good sprinkler system." But a well done lighting system?! Now that is something to ooh and ahh about! I may be like a lot of guys here who get the most fun out of doing nice lighting over any other aspect of the green industry. And since it is so satisfying, as well as financially rewarding, we will continue to see more and more people focus on lighting. I'm sure landscape companies get sick of seeing your truck pull up on one of their jobs. I get asked alll the time by other landscapers "Can you stay busy enough doing just lighting?" " Can you make any money just doing lighting?" I modestly play off that it does okay, but in reality, it does pretty well.

There are a lot of landscapers and gardeners putting in lighting. My frustration doesn't come from them doing such a hack job, more so from them using the exact same material as me and doing if for one third the price. Yes, 1/3rd the price!! Most of these are guys who were taught by the local distributor how to hook up a basic lighting system in a 3 hour class hosted by a manufacturer, or worse, just the in-house lighting guy.

I'm lucky to be in a market with enough customers that appreciate quality and knowledge over a low bottom line. I still hear the "wow, I didn't know it was going to be so much", or "my gardener can put it in for a lot less" comments, so it's not a cake walk to contract signing. I try to focus on the years of training and product knowledge, and the service, etc., etc... These are all things I'm sure you have done over the years, Chris, so I'm not trying to suggest you don't already know this. It sounds like your market is flooded with more lighting-only guys eating at a smaller pie, and I don't have an easy answer for that, especially if you continue to be undercut.

Chris, are you partnered up with any other contractors in your area? Landscapers, pool guys, masons? So that you are THE lighting guy that goes in on every one of their jobs, instead of having multiple guys bidding to the homeowner. Just a suggestion, if you not already doing it that it.

Chris J
05-16-2008, 12:09 AM
Chris, are you partnered up with any other contractors in your area? Landscapers, pool guys, masons? So that you are THE lighting guy that goes in on every one of their jobs, instead of having multiple guys bidding to the homeowner. Just a suggestion, if you not already doing it that it.

Sean,
Unfortunately I did not do a whole lot of this type of networking over the years, and this is only because I never had to. When I started, I was much like some of the guys here. Very few doing lighting, and virtually no one advertising such. As time passed, I have had the opportunity to work with a few builders, architects, landscape designers, etc and those people will still call on me because they know the difference. As we speak, I am in the process of introducing myself to these types of people. They have all heard of me, but I have never taken the time to extend an invitation to a partnership. I know this was a big blunder on my part in the beginning, but what the heck did I know? I'm now righting this mistake, so hopefully everything will all come together nicely in the coming months. I just hate that I waited so long to do it.
On a positive note, the people who attached themselves to the builders and architects are now systematically going out of business because they were relying on the GC's and LA's to provide work for them. It's no secret that the builder's market in FL is in the crapper, so everyone who has been hanging on their coat tails wish they would have done it my way.
To the Future! :drinkup:

sprinkler guy
05-16-2008, 12:23 AM
Ok, I dont ask for much on this forum... I would really appreciate you all reading this and giving me your opinion on how you would handle the situation.

I have enjoyed a very good relationship with my distributor since I opened my business. I now purchase about 95% of all my outdoor lighting materials from them and this has been the case for some time. I am also recognized by this distributor as one of their largest clients in the Province.

I have just learned that my distributor is working with another company here in my market area providing them with free lighting designs and specifications for their jobs. I have also just learned that this company ( a landscape construction / maintenance business ) is investing in full time staff and assets to go into landscape lighting "full time" and that my distributor is providing their staff with free, onsite, intensive training.

As I see this, my distributor is reducing the lighting design / specification component of a job to the level of a free service and they are giving an unfair advantage to my competition. Now with this business going into the outdoor lighting market in a larger capacity I expect to be bidding / competing directly against them, only I have to account for the price/time of my designs etc.

I know that competition will always exist and sometimes increase and I dont have an issue with that. I do have a problem with my distributor going out and providing free services to my competition, essentially giving them an advantage.

I have talked extensively to my account rep and the distributors position is that they have been doing this for 20 years and it is their way of developing their market share.

So, if you were in my shoes, what would you do?
Do you think this constitutes an unfair business practice?

I would really like to hear a lot of different opinions on this.... There is a lot riding on my decisions right now.


James,

Trying to put myself in your shoes, this is probably how I would handle it. All good advice so far from the other guys:

first, I would make sure I was buying at a price advantage over the competition. At this point, I would think you have a good enough relationship with this distributor to establish if this is the case or not.

second, look for another source of materials that is competitive with your current number one. If you can find one, I would drive home the point to the current guy by quoting a project, then only buying one or two line items from them. When they ask for the rest of the order (which they should), just casually play off, "thanks, but I already have that covered." If they press for "who from and why" explain that much like they need to diversify their customer base, you need to diversify your supplier base.

Third - keep doing what you're doing in terms of designing, selling, and installing, making sure to emphasize that the person designing is the same person installing. "The intention of the designer will be realized with the installation, because it's done by the same person. You won't get that from anyone else." I'm not putting words in your mouth, you have undoubtedly said this many times over the years. Make it a more prominent aspect of how you sell a job, if it's not already one of the key elements.

Lastly - focus on more unique products, that your current supplier may sell, but doesn't really use or understand the same way you do. I work in a market where a lot of guys use FX, as I do. Most use the basic MR-16 bullet for their uplight. I prefer the bi-pin T3 xenon fixture that has the same housing, but gives a totally different effect. Two different suppliers stock that light just for me, and sell very few to anyone else. The rare occasions I do a demo, even if its 3-4 lights, I always show what I'll do with the T3 xenon, and what "the other guys" will do with MR-16s. Just one example of doing things a little different to try and set myself apart.

The one upside to your supplier teaching someone how to do lighting patterned after your habits is that the systems will be quality designs, using better quality product. Be glad you don't have Chris's problem of every hack out there doing it half-a$$ed.

Just my two cents. Thanks for reading.

John Pletcher
05-16-2008, 04:11 PM
James:

What is eating you up right now did the same to me for years.

The first of which is not being compensated for the creativity we walk in with by the client. And the other being the whole dilema of feeling some sort of loyalty from your distributor. As of now I have come to no conclusion on either.

It tore me up until I realized that I may be only hurting myself in the end.

There is always going to be someone who can't design, install correctly or maintain a system trying to do lighting and screwing it up for alot of us, hence we do "free" designs. And for some reason a distributor is always going to sell to someone else, even if the person buying it doesn't know a thing about the art that light can produce or how to price it.

The point being: Your art has to stand on its own. Your passion for lighting is not held by everyone and as long as there is money to be made in anything, there will always be somebody there trying to make it, wether their intentions are sincere or not.

The clients that are lucky enough to work with the few lighting professionals that really care about what the final lighting system looks and perform like are truly the lucky ones and the other clients just need more luck.

TPnTX
05-18-2008, 12:10 AM
uh-huh james wears knickers.

now I have to poke out my minds eye.