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The Lighting Geek
11-23-2008, 01:37 PM
I have been thinking about how things will be when we pop out the other end of this economy. Many contractors are dropping like flies here and bankruptcies are rampant. But for those of us that make it, what is the business climate going to be like?

I think we may see even more low ballers in the lighting business than before. With no real capital to start up, people are going to start out small with minimal overhead and probably no insurance. Meaning we survivors may not be out of the woods just because the economy is picking up. I do believe it won't affect the higher end of the contracting business as much, because quality and reputation are always paramount. I do think it will be feeding frenzy in middle to lower end of the contracting business.

What do you think? What is your plan if this is the case?

NightScenes
11-23-2008, 04:00 PM
I think you may be right Tommy. I remember that I started out with about $200 in the bank but I had a good relationship with a couple of distributors that sold Hadco and Kichler products so I was able to charge materials. Most of those trunk slammers have to pay for their equipment up front and with the credit crunch they won't have room on their credit cards to sustain them.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
11-23-2008, 07:57 PM
IMO: Things are very much going to depend on what segment of the market you have served in the past, or plan on serving in the near future. I really cannot see how the middle of the market is going to support the landscape lighting industry very well over the next 2+ years. I think that most middle and upper middle class home owners are going to be focused on maintenance and functional / utilitarian improvements and additions to their homes. Adding things like landscape lighting is going to be pretty low on the list for most.

Diversification and vertical integration into an industry is going to be very important for niche market contractors like us to survive. Instead of focusing all of your efforts at generating income in a narrow spectrum, you will want to find ways to generate revenue from multiple streams or a broad spectrum within the same industry.

Finally aim high (high-end that is). Those at the top, who have large, ornate, extensively developed and managed properties are, for the most part, likely to continue to maintain and improve their assets. They also have the means by which to do this. So you want to capture their interest. Detail oriented service along with consistant recommendations for improvement and expansion will be key to keeping revenues coming in.

Survival is key... because when things do turn around, and I think they will (only it might be in a completely different direction then what we are accustomed to) it will be those contractors who have weathered the storm, changed with the times, altered their operations and adapted to adversity that come out on top. Your future clients will appreciate your tenacity and reward you with the jobs.


1: Service, service, service
2: Renovations and additions for your existing clients
3: Branch out into other areas of the lighting market (use your experience and knowledge to your advantage) without taking on risk or undue overhead.

See you on 'the other side'. :)

David Gretzmier
11-25-2008, 06:21 AM
I do believe the high end will be who hires us, but I continue to believe they make poor and uninformed choices.

I have several Christmas light clients who have had landscapers do lighting for them, and it is par city with nightscaping trans. I know some folks on here love pars, and nightscaping has some good stuff, but when I see those plastic cans and blue labels on stainless, I almost know without picking up my tester what I will find on the voltage side.

It funny about marketing. I hear two things- In oom times-I'm so busy I don't have time to market, I'm already turning work away, and it is so slow, I can't afford to send a postcard ! keeping marketing going in slow times is hard, but the jobs that are out there to be done will be gotten by the person that is in front of the customer. That can either be us by postcarding, or the lawn guy that is there every week mowing, or the landscape guy that is there mulching. I know this, if I had a mulching service and times were down, I would definetly start knocking doors of current customers for add on services.

I met a gentleman last night who had a run of privacy fencing with posts but no pickets. he complained about a guy not coming back and finishing, etc. I offered to finish it when Christmas Install is over, and he was thrilled. I have probably a couple of dozen leads for lighting in the spring from Christmas lights, and a confirmation on many of those for jobs ( but no checks collected), but I am not turning down anything I am capable of to stay alive. I still consider myself a lighting specialist, but I am not ashamed to use the skills I have learned over the years in irrigation, water features, maintenance, and woodworking to keep the bills paid.

Pro-Scapes
12-07-2008, 10:40 AM
well said Dave.

I dont know about the rest of you but December is one of our buisiest times. Here I am on a Sunday writing a proposal for a 53 fixture job and tmrw I need to go install conduit under the driveway before they pour it on another job. I sold a job this week that will be installed after Christmas lights come down and have another one I am playing phone tag with that called back to ask when I can install it.

3rd year in a row december has done this to us. All a sudden the phone goes crazy. I did more in dec 07 than in the 3 months leading up to it.

Mike M
12-07-2008, 10:55 AM
If you combine James' reply with Dave's, you get a great package of advice. The only thing I find with the high-end customers, in my market, is they are not in a good spending mood these days. Who knows, maybe they are stuck with property on the market, multiple mortgages, or maybe they had a big stock portfolio. Whatever it is, they either have less money, or simply a bad taste in their mouth about spending at the moment.

I will spend a little to keep my name and number out there, but I won't spend a ton on lighting marketing. I have brought up "diversifying" ideas many times. I think I need to educate myself on new services I can offer to pre-existing clients and their neighbors, such as holiday lighting for next year, irrigation service, more full-service lawn accounts (add-ons are built into this, such as hedges, fertilizing, clean-ups, etc.).

If I really had the capital or the guts, I would market a complete property management service, which is a strong business model around here. People with second homes, vacation homes, investment properties, etc., like to hire one company to do everything from landscaping to pool service to indoor cleaning. But that's a big commitment and not for a solo or very small outfit.

Mark B
12-07-2008, 12:39 PM
Pool service could be a good add on for you. I know a few guys here that do really good with pool service only.

Eden Lights
12-07-2008, 09:41 PM
I do believe the high end will be who hires us, but I continue to believe they make poor and uninformed choices.


Amen, I have a client right now that has a 9 month old job that needs 15K to get it where its acceptacle, plus roof repairs. The magic question is how do we educate the public? Many times I will take over a problem child, but the client still doesn't call for references, visit my work, or even read my info package.