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View Full Version : Chasing down those maintenance contracts!


Mr. Quik electric
03-28-2009, 10:46 AM
I was driving to an estimate last saturday in one the most exclusive parts of the Indianaopolis area and kept noticing house after house that had what appeared to be good quality fixtures, (Unique, some vista and kichler) but I noticed most all of them had fallen into disrepair. (hats on pathlights knocked off laying on the ground, crooked fixtures, fixtures mis aimed, lamps out, etc...). It got me thinking, I may not have done the install but these systems I am seeing desperately need some maintenance. Perhaps, I am thinking more about system maintenance lateley because of the Electrical service company I am working for that specializes in small repairs and electrical system overhauls. I often forget that the real money in landscape lighting is not in the installs but in the long term maintenance of these systems. MR Quik electric used to be soley an installation contractor but the revenues were mediocre at best. When the owner converted to primarily a service company, their sales and revenue literally went through the roof and they have been doubling their sales consistently every year.

One of our on staff electricians was working on some internal work at a home and the homewoner asked about a landscape light that wasn't working and wouldn't work even with a new bulb. He called me up, I went over and 4 hours later had dropped in a new wire, new sleeve, rewired the hubs of a poorly installed Unique lighting system, lenses and louvers installed on the well lights and walked out of their with a nice profit for those 4 hours work. With things getting tight, I think this is a goldmine market to go after. I am going to a small piece just for this purpose. I will include it on our direct mail, TV and magazine adds, but I think a door hanger directly on the door of a house in need would be a good tactic as well directly for maintenance.

There is revenue out there, just find a way to go after it and get it!!

worx
03-28-2009, 02:15 PM
Would it be worth the price for a listing in the yellow pages advertising maintenance? How else could someone find a "landscape lighting" repair professional? If they received a postcard (probably trashed it) and a year later they need maintenance, how do they find you? Especially if your staring in business and you have yet to build a reputation. I have talked with realtors about lighting repair for homes that are going on the market, should they come across any.
Just a few thoughts I had after reading your thread.......

David Gretzmier
03-29-2009, 12:44 AM
I have replaced many a system that needed extensive maintenance, but it seems to go in stages. I usually end up replacing everything in the end anyway. You start by replacing all bulbs and checking voltage. then you try to balance load and run a few wires and replace a few sockets or fixtures. Then you end up replacing several if not all runs of wire because of poor connections and corrosion in the wire. then finally the timer, photocell, and trans and fixtures. This all happens over the period of a few years. There are exceptions, but I'm open to this type of work if it presents itself. I really don't advertise it, as it is easier to just put in a system from the get go, but maybe folks are more willing to drop a grand here and there than a few grand at a time.

Pro-Scapes
03-29-2009, 09:14 AM
I was driving to an estimate last saturday in one the most exclusive parts of the Indianaopolis area and kept noticing house after house that had what appeared to be good quality fixtures, (Unique, some vista and kichler) but I noticed most all of them had fallen into disrepair. (hats on pathlights knocked off laying on the ground, crooked fixtures, fixtures mis aimed, lamps out, etc...). It got me thinking, I may not have done the install but these systems I am seeing desperately need some maintenance. Perhaps, I am thinking more about system maintenance lateley because of the Electrical service company I am working for that specializes in small repairs and electrical system overhauls. I often forget that the real money in landscape lighting is not in the installs but in the long term maintenance of these systems. MR Quik electric used to be soley an installation contractor but the revenues were mediocre at best. When the owner converted to primarily a service company, their sales and revenue literally went through the roof and they have been doubling their sales consistently every year.

One of our on staff electricians was working on some internal work at a home and the homewoner asked about a landscape light that wasn't working and wouldn't work even with a new bulb. He called me up, I went over and 4 hours later had dropped in a new wire, new sleeve, rewired the hubs of a poorly installed Unique lighting system, lenses and louvers installed on the well lights and walked out of their with a nice profit for those 4 hours work. With things getting tight, I think this is a goldmine market to go after. I am going to a small piece just for this purpose. I will include it on our direct mail, TV and magazine adds, but I think a door hanger directly on the door of a house in need would be a good tactic as well directly for maintenance.

There is revenue out there, just find a way to go after it and get it!!

Tim I agree. Our home show is this weekend and I have about 4 people ask me to make service calls so far. One was an installed we did some of the lights and ours are working great but some of the additional lighting in a fountain that we did not install is inoperatable. She asked me just to take care of it and make it right.

Another lady knew she had 10v at the fixtures. How she knows this I couldnt tell you but I promise I will be making a visit out there this week. Lot of quality leads from my main service area this year. We are prequalifying more and when we look thru the portfolio with them we let them know that this project went for this price and this project went for that price. I am getting away from that "systems start at around 2k" because what I have seen is you get out there and its obviously going to need 15k in lighting and they have 2k stuck in their minds.

MAGLIGHTING
03-29-2009, 11:54 AM
We are talking 2 distintively different things here. Maintenance and repair. There are opportunities for both. There is a fly in the ointment though. Most calls I get from people asking me to maintain their systems (that I have not installed) are not in a condition to be succesfully maintained. They need complete remodeling at substantial cost.

Unlike other trades that have standardized and accepted practices, and inspections to make sure that they are followed ie-plumbing, heating, interior electrical systems etc. Landscape LV lighting does not.

Just about everyone who calls me and who has an existing system that has failed will expect that all I will need to do is to put in new fixtures and they will have a great system. Nothing could be further from the truth. Always, the cable is not viable, because the system hasn't been engineered properly, isn't enough of it or is of incorrect gauge and most of all connections haven't been properly terminated. Transformers, even if everything else were to be made right do not have the capability of delivering the goods etc.

So these people are in for a rude awakening. It depends upon how much pain they are feeling, how bad they want it right and how much money they care to throw at it.

I have seen way too many "recently installed" systems where there is not 1 part even salvagable. Total 100% loss of investment on the part of the homeowner.

Most times it's their own fault for not doing due diligence and or being cheap.

So, usually a significant investment must be made on the part of the homeowner regarding these orphaned systems before it can be put on a regular maintenance schedule if the system is substandard and most of what's out there is unfortunately.

If you are able to land some of these re-do's and you can get them on your service plan they will become great customers and will bring a steady stream of income by way of maintenance and referrrals to you.

irrig8r
03-29-2009, 12:36 PM
Re-dos/ repairs/ upgrades are the mainstay of the lighting side of my business.

Mr. Quik electric
03-29-2009, 09:04 PM
Mike, this is true. What I am speaking of are repairs to existing systems. It is an established fact that the customer is already interested in lighting, they may however now realize they made a poor choice in contractors to install. It just seems to me that it is worth going after. I have met with 3 people in the last week that had their system installed improperly only then to be left on their own with no one to reach about repairs and service. You are right though about it being painful for the homeowner to have to chuck down more $ on something that should have been done right to begin with. Perhaps spending the time to educate them on what was done wrong and how it can be avoided is worthwhile. From my experience, when I encounter systems that can be rewired, the homeowners just want them to be working again. I think they would rather just pay to get them working right rather than to scrap the whole thing - "if this indeed is possible". Some cheap fixtures are just too far gone.

MAGLIGHTING
03-29-2009, 09:46 PM
Mike, this is true. What I am speaking of are repairs to existing systems. It is an established fact that the customer is already interested in lighting, they may however now realize they made a poor choice in contractors to install. It just seems to me that it is worth going after. I have met with 3 people in the last week that had their system installed improperly only then to be left on their own with no one to reach about repairs and service. You are right though about it being painful for the homeowner to have to chuck down more $ on something that should have been done right to begin with. Perhaps spending the time to educate them on what was done wrong and how it can be avoided is worthwhile. From my experience, when I encounter systems that can be rewired, the homeowners just want them to be working again. I think they would rather just pay to get them working right rather than to scrap the whole thing - "if this indeed is possible". Some cheap fixtures are just too far gone.

Bottom line is the cost to re-do it. For the most part they don't really care what needs to be done to make it right because it's technical and even with your best efforts explaining they are going to have a tough time understanding. "So what if all the lights are one one cable, they come on". "I don't want to re-invent the wheel here" (meaning they want to go on the cheap and cut corners which is what got them there in the first place). It is really easy to tell the people who got unjustly burned from those that brought it on themselves with pinching pennies. Those that unjustly got burned are willing to pay what it costs to do it right the second time without cutting corners again and those that are not willing are those that brought it on themselves and deserve just what they paid for.

Pro-Scapes
03-29-2009, 10:48 PM
we did one 2 months ago that was wired all wrong and failing. Client wanted me to just put new fixtures.

It is cheaper and more cost effective to let me just install a new system rather than try to track down what joe blow did and spend days trying to figure out why he has 4 T's on the same 10ga wire and its looped back to a 12 ga with 500 w.

I just tell people if I cant do it right I wont touch it. If they want a bandaid on an over loaded system they can call someone else. Im not touching it.

Now I have reinstalled salvageable systems with pretty good results but came to the conclusion it wasnt much of a cost savings to the client once you factor in the additional labor of removing the old system and taking it home with you to clean it up then reinstall it again all while ordering parts and seals for a brand you normally dont use.

MAGLIGHTING
03-30-2009, 12:37 AM
we did one 2 months ago that was wired all wrong and failing. Client wanted me to just put new fixtures.

It is cheaper and more cost effective to let me just install a new system rather than try to track down what joe blow did and spend days trying to figure out why he has 4 T's on the same 10ga wire and its looped back to a 12 ga with 500 w.

I just tell people if I cant do it right I wont touch it. If they want a bandaid on an over loaded system they can call someone else. Im not touching it.

Now I have reinstalled salvageable systems with pretty good results but came to the conclusion it wasnt much of a cost savings to the client once you factor in the additional labor of removing the old system and taking it home with you to clean it up then reinstall it again all while ordering parts and seals for a brand you normally dont use.

Bingo ! :clapping:

David Gretzmier
03-30-2009, 09:57 AM
All true. But perhaps folks are just wanting a starting point to recovery. If i have the choice of sitting home and doing nothing ( which is the case here at least 1 or 2 days a week now) or something that earns me a living, I am willing to start somewhere as long as the homeowner is on board for the cost of the end result.

It is easier to scrap it all and replace. All of Mike G's comments are true, usually it is all junk. but give me a serviceable trans, PVC pipe already run under sidewalks and drives, and a day, I can make a great impact on a homeowner afraid to spend larger money in todays economy.

Like mike said, many folks will be upset they have lost 100% of what they invested just a few years ago. If I can come in and replace/repair 25% of thier system on the majors, that goes a long way to building trust for the rest of the 75%. maybe they won't do the other 75 % today, but next month, next year, If what you do works, They will want you back. And it beats staying at home typing on lawnsite.

MAGLIGHTING
03-30-2009, 09:04 PM
All true. But perhaps folks are just wanting a starting point to recovery. If i have the choice of sitting home and doing nothing ( which is the case here at least 1 or 2 days a week now) or something that earns me a living, I am willing to start somewhere as long as the homeowner is on board for the cost of the end result.

It is easier to scrap it all and replace. All of Mike G's comments are true, usually it is all junk. but give me a serviceable trans, PVC pipe already run under sidewalks and drives, and a day, I can make a great impact on a homeowner afraid to spend larger money in todays economy.

Like mike said, many folks will be upset they have lost 100% of what they invested just a few years ago. If I can come in and replace/repair 25% of thier system on the majors, that goes a long way to building trust for the rest of the 75%. maybe they won't do the other 75 % today, but next month, next year, If what you do works, They will want you back. And it beats staying at home typing on lawnsite.


Nobody said they had to do it all at once. I am a believer that a little bit of the pie is better than nothing at all as you are hopefully building a long term relationship(as long as the project is being done properly with materials that will last and there is some profit there). Billy and I share the same sentiment of not getting involved with a failed system when the client is not commited to doing the job right. Damage to my credibility by band aiding someone elses botched work is not worth my reputation and the follow up headaches because as soon as you touch it you own it. In the client's mind the last who touched it is responsible including pre-existing conditions. It's just not worth it.

Mr. Quik electric
03-30-2009, 10:52 PM
Nobody said they had to do it all at once. I am a believer that a little bit of the pie is better than nothing at all as you are hopefully building a long term relationship(as long as the project is being done properly with materials that will last and there is some profit there). Billy and I share the same sentiment of not getting involved with a failed system when the client is not commited to doing the job right. Damage to my credibility by band aiding someone elses botched work is not worth my reputation and the follow up headaches because as soon as you touch it you own it. In the client's mind the last who touched it is responsible including pre-existing conditions. It's just not worth it.

I agree wholeheartedly. 100%:clapping:

Pro-Scapes
03-30-2009, 11:32 PM
True story I kid you not.

I was doing an install 3 yrs ago for a doctor who works with Ashley. I was installing cast lighting. Another doctor across the street came over and asked me if I had any grease filled wire nuts he could buy. I asked him what he was doing and he said fixing his lighting wire again. I went over to look at it and his malibu lights has been spliced up about 15 times across a walkway. I asked him if he was interested in a new system that would be trouble free and his reply is.

"No this has been pretty reliable. I only need to fix a connection or change a bulb once a month. Thats pretty good for this low voltage stuff":laugh::laugh:

He got a bit upset when I wouldnt work on the system. Even back then I knew better.

klkanders
03-31-2009, 01:13 AM
Sounds like the doc was pretty proud of his repairs Billy! He didn't happen to be a surgeon did he? hmmm

Keith

Pro-Scapes
03-31-2009, 09:31 AM
No , The home I was installing belonged to the surgeon.

EOL
03-31-2009, 07:16 PM
I started selling these customers on the 24 volt system by unique. As you know you go up to the first fixture and it might read 12.5 volt and down to the last one it might read 7.5 volt. Well instead of rewiring everything to make it right and running out more homeruns to compensate for the load, you can eliminate that because now you can put more fixtures on a single homerun and your voltage spread is greater on a 24 volt lamp. I save them money, I gain a life long customer, and I don't have to rewire the whole system.

Pro-Scapes
03-31-2009, 08:14 PM
Efrain. I can see your point but you are still giving them the most expensive part of the system.

I also encourage you to strip back some of that insulation and take a good look at that wire that has had bad connections for years. In my experience it is oxidized and corroded not to mention sometimes brittle which I am attibuting to being either cheap wire or over loaded.

You can also never know how many times it has been spliced between the trans and the first fixture. I applaud you for getting them into a new system vs trying to fix junk but you wouldnt go out to buy a brand new car that had a junk transmission and driveshaft. That is esentially what wire does.. Transfers power from the engine (transformer) to the parts that actually move you (fixtures)

I am pretty sure we have all reused some portion of wire especially when it is unreplaceable without alot of disturbance to the property. I myself am very careful about reusing old wires. It has usually been spliced a million times.

MAGLIGHTING
03-31-2009, 08:41 PM
Efrain. I can see your point but you are still giving them the most expensive part of the system.

I also encourage you to strip back some of that insulation and take a good look at that wire that has had bad connections for years. In my experience it is oxidized and corroded not to mention sometimes brittle which I am attibuting to being either cheap wire or over loaded.

You can also never know how many times it has been spliced between the trans and the first fixture. I applaud you for getting them into a new system vs trying to fix junk but you wouldnt go out to buy a brand new car that had a junk transmission and driveshaft. That is esentially what wire does.. Transfers power from the engine (transformer) to the parts that actually move you (fixtures)

I am pretty sure we have all reused some portion of wire especially when it is unreplaceable without alot of disturbance to the property. I myself am very careful about reusing old wires. It has usually been spliced a million times.


Billy, you are wise way beyond the amount of years you have been doing this work. Excellent post ! :clapping::clapping::clapping:

MAGLIGHTING
03-31-2009, 09:07 PM
I started selling these customers on the 24 volt system by unique. As you know you go up to the first fixture and it might read 12.5 volt and down to the last one it might read 7.5 volt. Well instead of rewiring everything to make it right and running out more homeruns to compensate for the load, you can eliminate that because now you can put more fixtures on a single homerun and your voltage spread is greater on a 24 volt lamp. I save them money, I gain a life long customer, and I don't have to rewire the whole system.

If you have 5 volts between your first and last fixture you will still have 5 volts between your first and last fixture no matter what voltage you put to your first fixture. No transformer will compensate for poor wiring technique. I am positive Unique will tell you the same.

Perhaps a 10% drop is palatable to some. With 24V that's 2.4V compared to 12V and 1.2V drop (which to me is not acceptable, I hit .5V spread on each and every fixture on each and every project).

There is no cutting corners or a free lunch. I am sure Unique is not teaching this method. Nate has always been festidious when it comes to power distribution and load balancing.

EOL
03-31-2009, 11:49 PM
I do have to do some minor adjustment in rewiring for some, but you get the point. Billy I do understand about the old,brittle, and corroded wire do to age and years of being over loaded. I'm not saying every maintenance job can be done this way, its only an option if the existing system is right for it.

MAGLIGHTING
04-01-2009, 12:03 AM
I do have to do some minor adjustment in rewiring for some, but you get the point. Billy I do understand about the old,brittle, and corroded wire do to age and years of being over loaded. I'm not saying every maintenance job can be done this way, its only an option if the existing system is right for it.


Thanks for clarifying Efrain.