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Mike M
07-15-2009, 08:30 AM
I am planning a business model to provide installations over a large geographic area. Anyone have experience with this?

Recommendations for the most reliable halogen bulbs and controllers suited for "phone" assistance to adjust timers, troubleshoot, etc., would be appreciated.

I can definitely see the benefit of using LED's. I am thinking of putting together a laminated quick reference page and providing a dedicated period of time after an installation to educate the client or designated person on moving fixtures for plant growth, proper cleaning materials, programming controllers, and a recommended yearly schedule (during spring clean-up time or every labor day, etc.). So the more reliable and simpler to operate system, the better.

I could leave behind a little kit with an organic cleaner, extra 10,000 hr bulbs if halogen system, laminated instructions for the timer, or just put my contact info, service tips, and all instructions/warranties in a nice folder. I could schedule an automatic email annually to remind people to inspect/service their systems, or hire a handyman or landscaper if that is available to them.

I am not saying I would not provide ongoing service. I am just looking for practical tips for long-distances and remote locations.

JoeyD
07-15-2009, 11:13 AM
Sounds more like a consulting business.......Better up your wireless plan! LOL

jshimmin
07-15-2009, 04:52 PM
How are you going to obtain the proper licensing for the local areas? I'm fed up with installers that do not have the required low voltage license for our state.

Mike M
07-15-2009, 05:55 PM
It's all in one state. I'll get whatever lv license I may or may not need, plus business licenses for every town or county that wants them.

I'll put in all Unique stuff, and I'll just give them Joey's number if they have any issues over the lifetime of the system. Including bulbs, timers, lens cleaning, re-positioning, etc. (hehe)

JoeyD
07-15-2009, 07:31 PM
You wouldnt be the first Mike! hahahah

extlights
07-16-2009, 11:54 AM
What is a large geographic area Mike? How far are you thinking about going? We do service a pretty large area between 2 states and it has worked out fine. I would say that the key is selling maintenance plans. If you can install quite a few jobs that are somewhat in the same local, but further away from your normal service area it makes the justification to travel much easier to swallow. I'm sure most contractors wouldn't mind driving 75-150 miles for a full days worth of maintenance contracts. It also puts your mind at ease that hopefully you'll only have to drive out there once a year to service the systems. We do leave extra bulbs behind and really educate the customer on the system.

So yes it can be done, but remember that you have to remain committed to that customer. You wouldn't want to venture out of your normal service realm only to have your business name tarnished because you didn't want to drive all the way back to service a system.

Mike M
07-16-2009, 01:22 PM
Dave, thanks, that's reassuring. Your concept is basically what I am looking at. If I go ahead with these plans for 2010 installs, I'll try to book 1 or 2 year service contracts and do the service calls at the same time the following year(s) along a consolidated route. As for a remote fly-in prospect, I'll have a different model with LED's and longer service intervals with more education & materials behind.

David Gretzmier
07-18-2009, 01:48 AM
I have to chime in here and say I am really not into this. if someone came in here and sold work from say, 3 hours away, then left instructions expecting the client to help maintain the system, I can't say I'd like that competitor.

To me, this is not just an install business, but a philosophy to stand behind the work. I think I am more behind the local guy who really takes care of the customer, whether a bulb change, timer reset, or just reaiming a light you notice has been moved.

I'm not opposed to doing work far away, as I have a Christmas light client 2 hours or so away up in Missouri, but I still provide the same service as I would someone 2 minutes away when they need help.

If you need more sales, I'd suggest moving to a larger population area or set a branch office and manager to service clients in other cities.

Lite4
07-18-2009, 09:17 AM
I have to chime in here and say I am really not into this. if someone came in here and sold work from say, 3 hours away, then left instructions expecting the client to help maintain the system, I can't say I'd like that competitor.

To me, this is not just an install business, but a philosophy to stand behind the work. I think I am more behind the local guy who really takes care of the customer, whether a bulb change, timer reset, or just reaiming a light you notice has been moved.



Dave,

In Northern Alaska 3 hours away is very local, and I don't think a person that is living on their own personal lake that requires float plane access is going to misunderstand the difficulty in just "stopping by" to check on things from time to time. A combined effort and understanding between the homeowner and installer is probably assumed in these cases. Anyway, unless it is a year round lodge or something it will probably only be used when the residents are there on vacation or something, so if it is off a good portion of the year, lamp burnout is probably not going to occur as rapidly.

It is no doubt going to take some effort though and you will have to really build in the travel costs, but hey it's a luxury item right? You should look into getting your pilots license and float plane rating Mike.

I also can't imagine too many competitors up in your neck of the woods either....You are the go to guy for lighting there!

Mike M
07-18-2009, 06:58 PM
We'll see.

The idea I like best so far, is to have a circuit mapped out for annual service, regardless of distance. AK has a vast road network. I could do annuals for those customers.

Fly-ins would be 100% LED with a self-help kit and education, with an up-front rate for 3 or 5 year service calls, or free service call with a minimum add-on purchase.

Think of places on this planet where you could travel and offer lighting for a few months each year, places where people have second homes and money for lighting. For example, you could spend a couple months each winter at the same tropical island, returning each year for more installs and servicing your systems.

David Gretzmier
07-18-2009, 07:59 PM
The LED assumption being they will be less maintenance? I don't think the information available supports that assumption safely. The one or 2 LED's that worked for James for barely a year are no longer available. James has a new LED that may work, but not even on the market yet. I have a client that emphatically wants LED, yet I have no product to offer that has any track record whatsoever.

I guess I really don't understand the scope. If the systems don't run when the clients are not home for 10 months out of the year, then maybe it is ok to install and not come back for a year? I really don't have any experience with this, so I cannot know if it is a good idea or not.

Mike M
07-19-2009, 07:39 AM
Dave, the points you bring up are all valid, and it's why I am posting here. There may be things I need to think carefully through. Everything is new to me too, so I have to do a lot of research.

All I can say is that I need to increase the reliability of my systems significantly if I want to reduce call backs between annual (or longer) service. This may mean going low-tech using consumer-friendly mechanical timers with photocells, or making a refrigerator magnet with Aube "tips" (like dst), or simply a website with go-to basic instructions and tips, with contact info via email and phone.

Inside the transformers I could throw in some wire nuts, 24" of wire, and flags, and instructions for the timers. Before leaving, I demonstrate a splice and review the timer. If a landscaper or the owner cuts a wire, they can mark it with a flag and perform a basic splice. Upon an annual visit, I can replace it with my own splice.

Educating the client, providing them with some key materials, and being available to communicate with them, will all be key to distant installations.

JoeyD
07-20-2009, 02:02 PM
If you do install Unique Products you know I will always be here to be a reliable souce of assistance for you and your homeowners Mike! I deal with homeowners everyday calling in asking how to reset timers and change lamps. In most cases I refer to a contractor if the questions become to in depth but I have no probelm helping with the basics of troubleshooting and maintaining a system.

Mike M
07-21-2009, 12:14 AM
Thanks, Joey! Got some pics tonight for you on another thread.

JoeyD
07-21-2009, 11:40 AM
Saw them! AMAZING! Great work, and great photography!

Mike M
07-21-2009, 04:28 PM
Saw them! AMAZING! Great work, and great photography!

Thanks, Joey. Those tiki's are great focal points, plus, they illuminate a nice sized area.