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David Gretzmier
08-23-2008, 01:45 AM
On sept 15 we will begin hanging our "super early bird" customers. Christmas light season is coming, and I hope all you guys are ready.

spent some time in the shop today getting ready for the season. doing inventory, looking over the trucks and noting some maintenance/cleaning needing done, did some electrical work, built storage racks and other misc. items.

trying to take things to the next level this year, and shooting for 50 new customers, 4, 2 man crews in the nov1-feb 1 season, 1 part time loader/gas/ shop guy and part time secretary.

I'm pretty sure I'll have to build an additional shop building next march, anticipating my current 2700 sqare ft x 8-12 ft tall will be full of storage for 180 properties or so. since about 360 square feet is office/bathroom, adding 3000 sqaure feet by 20-22 ft tall ( storage only, no office ), should take me to my final goal of 400-500 total properties for x-mas. at that point there will be no more room in the parking lot for 16-20 employee's cars and 8-9 trucks.

how are you guys doing on storage, growth plans and what to expect this year?

hotrod1965
08-23-2008, 11:24 PM
I'm not sure how much we will grow this year. I'm shooting for 30 new. I already have 3 plus I did an estimate today! So if that works out, only 26 more to go!

Next year we will be adding new storage,wanted to get it done this fall, but that won't happen. We have an acre with a 32x24 on it, so we have room to build a little more. My office and bathrooms are in the house :)

We are also looking at a retail showroom, but not sure if that will happen or not. Still working the numbers on that one!

Our major focus will be staying close to home!

David Gretzmier
08-24-2008, 01:25 AM
I'm afraid I am out to a 50 mile radius to get the 35-50 new customers I want this year.

the growing pains of this business are incredible. I have added 3 vehicles to my fleet this year, mainly because the 3 I currently have are very used and iffy. together they probably are one and half reliable truck/bus/van.
hopefully with 6 trucks I can keep 4 routes going Nov 1-dec. 12 or so.

we've only got a 3/4 acre commercial lot, and some of that is front "ditch" so after the new shop is built in march, I will then deal with parking issues. I measured out today, and we should have about 30 parking spaces when all is built and done. that will give me room for 16-20 employee vehicles and 10-14 business vehicles.

my plan is kinda multi year- march '09-sept'09 180 customers, build new building and add 2 more vehicles, march '10 ( 220 customers) build pallet racks to fill building and gravel rest of lot and add 2 more vehicles ( for a total of hopefully, 6-7 reliable vehicles or so), march '11, (260 customers), add vehicles as necessary. and so on until new building or parking lot is full.

in march '12 or '13 it would be nice to move to interstate frontage and new 10000 sq. ft 24 ft tall building with retail showroom, but even 4-5 years from now, at 300-350 customers, 8-9 2-man routes, and landscape lighting swinging hard in the off season, living my dream would cost 10-12 grand per month. I'm not sure if I can even do it then with revenues probably at 450k+ for Christmas and 250k+ for landscape lighting. 120-144k yearly for a shop just to have retail just does not make sense when my current shop payment wise costs me less than to 10k per year. I probably will have to move just for parking, but a retail shop only seems to make sense if you get walk up customers that buy product. my ego would like one though : )

Hotrod, it seems like you and I are the only Christmas installers posting right now. hopefully a few more will chime in as the season gets closer !

MRXMAS
08-24-2008, 10:01 AM
We are long overdue for some growth, for the past 5 years we have averaged 25-40 customers currently we are at @ 30 however our revenue has continued to grow for the past 8 years. We are working on one large municipal drive thru this year, but wont know results for a couple of weeks, and will know the results of the plaza I posted for info on commercial pricing a while back this week. We currently have 780 sq. ft. storage but need to get something larger and have had my eyes on a couple of properties for some time now. If its not close to home or in a good area we will just keep with what we have for now. Unfortunately growth is hard when you only have one truck and are the one doing the sales, installations, etc., and work 55-60 hours per week at another job. This year we did make a big move to update numerous jobs and will be sending out flyers etc. in the next couple of weeks. Any ideas on how to juggle this situation and grow by leaps and bounds this year guys?

Ron

hotrod1965
08-24-2008, 11:07 AM
I'm afraid I am out to a 50 mile radius to get the 35-50 new customers I want this year.

the growing pains of this business are incredible. I have added 3 vehicles to my fleet this year, mainly because the 3 I currently have are very used and iffy. together they probably are one and half reliable truck/bus/van.
hopefully with 6 trucks I can keep 4 routes going Nov 1-dec. 12 or so.

we've only got a 3/4 acre commercial lot, and some of that is front "ditch" so after the new shop is built in march, I will then deal with parking issues. I measured out today, and we should have about 30 parking spaces when all is built and done. that will give me room for 16-20 employee vehicles and 10-14 business vehicles.

my plan is kinda multi year- march '09-sept'09 180 customers, build new building and add 2 more vehicles, march '10 ( 220 customers) build pallet racks to fill building and gravel rest of lot and add 2 more vehicles ( for a total of hopefully, 6-7 reliable vehicles or so), march '11, (260 customers), add vehicles as necessary. and so on until new building or parking lot is full.

in march '12 or '13 it would be nice to move to interstate frontage and new 10000 sq. ft 24 ft tall building with retail showroom, but even 4-5 years from now, at 300-350 customers, 8-9 2-man routes, and landscape lighting swinging hard in the off season, living my dream would cost 10-12 grand per month. I'm not sure if I can even do it then with revenues probably at 450k+ for Christmas and 250k+ for landscape lighting. 120-144k yearly for a shop just to have retail just does not make sense when my current shop payment wise costs me less than to 10k per year. I probably will have to move just for parking, but a retail shop only seems to make sense if you get walk up customers that buy product. my ego would like one though : )

Hotrod, it seems like you and I are the only Christmas installers posting right now. hopefully a few more will chime in as the season gets closer !


The retail space we are looking at is downtown next to some gift and flower shops so there will be lots of walk up potential plus a large window that faces the main street. It's only 600sq ft but has a basement. We would only be there for three months for a cost of around $3500 plus utl and such. So I think we an sell enough stuff retail to break even plus gain some more installs plus lower our quote cost by having people come in and pick out lights. So I think I can win on this one.

hotrod1965
08-24-2008, 11:11 AM
We are long overdue for some growth, for the past 5 years we have averaged 25-40 customers currently we are at @ 30 however our revenue has continued to grow for the past 8 years. We are working on one large municipal drive thru this year, but wont know results for a couple of weeks, and will know the results of the plaza I posted for info on commercial pricing a while back this week. We currently have 780 sq. ft. storage but need to get something larger and have had my eyes on a couple of properties for some time now. If its not close to home or in a good area we will just keep with what we have for now. Unfortunately growth is hard when you only have one truck and are the one doing the sales, installations, etc., and work 55-60 hours per week at another job. This year we did make a big move to update numerous jobs and will be sending out flyers etc. in the next couple of weeks. Any ideas on how to juggle this situation and grow by leaps and bounds this year guys?

Ron

Sounds like you need to make an investment in some staff! Maybe you train a couple installers and you go out and do sales?
One truck with two guys should be able to do 50 accounts. Maybe a little more if it is a three man crew. But it depends how far out the accounts are.

David Gretzmier
08-27-2008, 09:18 PM
Up until 3 years ago It was me and one super guy. I would work during the day hanging lights with him from 7am to 4pm, and he'd finish up jobs by himself sometimes while I went and did bids at night. I got to where I could do 3 bids a night, sometimes 4, and crash at 10pm or so. I added 30 new customers in 2005, and then he was done, it was just too crazy. The next year I went to 4 employees/2 crews and worked them a bit less, and they were slower as well, but got through it. added 35 customers in 2006 2 crews full time/overtime, 2007 3 crews +40, 2008 planned 4 crews and +50.

The jobs I do range from pretty large ( 5000 c-9 bulbs plus commercial ) to smallish- hang 2 wreaths, but I find a crew of 2 can do one and 1/2 of our average jobs per day, plus a repair or 2 in a 10 hour day. when you figure 90% of people want their lights hung from Nov. 1 to Nov. 25, I am looking at adding a crew every year now. I still work from 7am to 10pm most days between Nov. 1-Dec. 5th or so, but now all I do is sell.

I think you have to reach a breakout point at 35-50 customers or so that you have to have 2 people working without you there. you need to buy a dvd video recorder this year ( 400 bucks ) and film every job you do with you talking about where the job is located, how to get there, and talk while you film about where the plugs are, what product is on the house and how to wire it and put it up and take it down. then buy a portable dvd player for your guys to play the dvd's next year ( 100 bucks ). it will be like you are there.

David Gretzmier
08-27-2008, 09:24 PM
Hotrod- I'd love to find a high traffic commercial location that I could sell out of for 3600 bucks or so. most of the locations I am looking at are closer to 3-5 grand a month and they will only do a 12 month lease. so for me I am looking to buy if possible. I've found a 4 acre lot with a ton of interstate frontage that could be my "retirement" property ( I'd sell it for a few million and retire )in 20 years or so. but I don't have 400 grand laying around, or the 150 grand it would take to build a metal storage building/showroom retail space. so I wait. when I am forced to move in 4-5 years, I will have more cash flow ( I hope !) and more options.

razor1
08-27-2008, 09:32 PM
Do you guys use some type of bucket lift?

hotrod1965
08-27-2008, 09:36 PM
Only if I need one, then I would rent one.

David Gretzmier
08-28-2008, 12:12 AM
I've done work both ways, and used man lifts, and ladders/roof work is always faster.

hotrod1965
08-28-2008, 12:33 PM
If you can easily get up on the roof and just motor along putting up C9's, that is the way to go!

DeepGreenLawn
08-29-2008, 10:13 AM
what kind of safety measures do you take on a 3 story house if any? Or do you just put as much body surface on the roof as possible?

hotrod1965
08-29-2008, 12:47 PM
You will want to make sure you are insured for 3 stories first. We can only go 2.5 stories under our insurance.

DeepGreenLawn
08-29-2008, 01:12 PM
what kind of insurance do you need for this work? I have insurance for my lawn care business but is there something else that I need to look into?

So does that mean you don't go above 3 stories? I have a feeling I know the answer to this question.

hotrod1965
08-29-2008, 04:32 PM
I currently don't have a client that is over three stories. We have a lot of 2.5 stories. I think the limit is 32ft high to be exact.
If you have a guy fall from three stories and you are not insured for it, you may be liable out of your own pocket.

I would talk to your insurance company to make sure your lawn care insurance covers the light end of it as well. I only do lights, so I don't have the answer.

David Gretzmier
08-29-2008, 06:08 PM
Our lawn care insurance only covers 8 foot tall and is much cheaper than electrician insurance which ours is 40ft. we also have a commercial rider for commercial buildings with roof hatches when we do not use ladders up to 120ft. the tallest building we do is 6 stories, so we're covered, but we can't do more than 20% of our sales in commercial work or we have to redo our policy.

hotrod is right, if your guy falls off a ladder or roof and is not doing lawn work, you will have to pay out of your pocket. I had 3 guys fall in 2006, all requiring mediacl care and one in the hospital for a few weeks and recovered at home for 2 months. all were experiecnced roof guys, one of them me. It can happen.

turf hokie
08-29-2008, 09:22 PM
I think it all depends on your area and the laws and regs. We are covered under a seperate landscape policy, no restrictions as far as height and an electrical apparatus rider to cover any possible fires etc.

DeepGreenLawn
08-30-2008, 12:03 AM
Our lawn care insurance only covers 8 foot tall and is much cheaper than electrician insurance which ours is 40ft. we also have a commercial rider for commercial buildings with roof hatches when we do not use ladders up to 120ft. the tallest building we do is 6 stories, so we're covered, but we can't do more than 20% of our sales in commercial work or we have to redo our policy.

hotrod is right, if your guy falls off a ladder or roof and is not doing lawn work, you will have to pay out of your pocket. I had 3 guys fall in 2006, all requiring mediacl care and one in the hospital for a few weeks and recovered at home for 2 months. all were experiecnced roof guys, one of them me. It can happen.

I take it electrical is pretty high compared to landscape?

What is a rider

I think it all depends on your area and the laws and regs. We are covered under a seperate landscape policy, no restrictions as far as height and an electrical apparatus rider to cover any possible fires etc.

What is this apparatus rider? Is it the same as the other one asked about and what does it do with fires?

turf hokie
08-30-2008, 11:39 AM
A rider is a clause added to the standard insurance to cover something that would normally fall outside the limitations of the standard policy.

My policy add "electrical apparatus" that means that in addition to the standard landscape policy I am leaving cords, lights etc on site. The insurance company call these items electrical apparatus. It does not cover the material itself that is a seperate policy all together. What it does cover is any damage that may occur to the homeowners property etc that is a result of damage caused by the failure of the lights cords etc that are ours on the property, this would include fire, etc.

Keep in mind you will not be able to cover the entire business with one policy.

I have multiple.
Workers comp (self explanatory)
General liability (self explanatory)
Inland marine (for replacement value on large ticket items over $xxx, like my large pre-lit trees etc)
Auto (self explanatory)
Disability Policy (need to have along with the workers comp in NY)

It seems more complicated than it is. most of this is pretty standard around here. I have all this for my lawn care company as well.

DeepGreenLawn
08-30-2008, 11:55 AM
WOW... I was thinking an actual kind of apparatus...

It all makes since now... thanks for the clarification...

hotrod1965
08-30-2008, 12:55 PM
Your insurance agent will be able to tell you what you need to have in your area.

DeepGreenLawn
08-30-2008, 01:08 PM
yeah, that's basically how we handled my current business... I will just have to sit down with them on this one too... is it a seasonal coverage or do you have to do it year round?

hotrod1965
08-30-2008, 04:05 PM
I have it year round. But we also offer weddings and such for our lighting services.

DeepGreenLawn
08-30-2008, 04:12 PM
I have it year round. But we also offer weddings and such for our lighting services.

your a genius! I didn't even think about that!

hotrod1965
08-31-2008, 11:18 AM
your a genius! I didn't even think about that!

Wow, could you tell my wife that!

I just set up an install for 100 sets of lights to folks for an engagment party.

David Gretzmier
08-31-2008, 11:35 PM
Hotrod- I've had a few calls for weddings, but I must be pricing way too high as I've never done one. can you tell me what you charge for mini's for weddings? and how do you get into that market? thanks, dave g

hotrod1965
08-31-2008, 11:57 PM
On this job I billed it like a normal christmas job, as we will be leaving these up through christmas. (It's at a very large house, so they will use them as thier christmas lights this year) I charged $25 per strand of 50L. Then I gave them my normal 10% off early order discount since they will be using them for christmas.

But for normal weddings I would figure out how long it takes for the job, and bill them for the time, 70-100 per hour depending on how hard it is, how many guys I'll need... Since I rent all my christmas lights out, I already have the lights do get it done.

I would talk to local wedding planners, flower shops and wedding halls and give them your info.
I only get a call once in a while for this as we just started this year targeting this area. Hopefulling as we get a little more well known we can get a few more jobs a year doing this.

DeepGreenLawn
09-01-2008, 12:02 AM
Old houses used for weddings might be a good place to go too. My wife and I got married in an old historic house down town, as did my brother and his wife, and many other people for that matter, and they had a whole bunch of wedding "plans" to choose from, depending on the $ you wanted to spend. So they might want to include you in on this as well being the people I have dealt with don't seem to be the kind to do this work themselves. And then they are likely to use you to decorate their house for christmas if they are into that kind of thing.