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INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
05-10-2010, 09:40 PM
Not sure how many of you got to "read all about it" in your email today. A link to this piece was sent to me today. This was written by Chuck Link (a guy who has been doing a lot of direct email marketing to sign up people to his newly founded lighting training program - and clearly hopes to drum up more business with this 'news') and is directed to a diverse group of electrical contractors, mostly people who are not currently involved in outdoor lighting. Take a read and see what you think. Personally I think this piece over simplifies our trade and profession. Just what we don't need any more of IMO.

A Business Opportunity That Is Brighter Than Ever! Outdoor Lighting

Despite the economy, the opportunity to profit from the outdoor lighting business has never been easier or better than it is today! The technological advances in low-voltage and the outdoor lighting products are moving forward at lightning speed. This is not the same industry as it was a year ago and, the fact is, in another two years it will have been re-invented completely once again.

The outdoor lighting industry is growing rapidly; sales are at a whopping $3.2 billion plus annually. This growth is being fueled by the huge demand for more economically efficient systems, and the push for a “greener” carbon footprint. So what does this mean to the Low-Voltage contractor no matter what your current product and service offerings may be.
Three important things:

1. If you are a licensed low voltage contractor and do not already provide outdoor lighting services, there is no better time to enter the market than today. If you are selling alarms systems, audio video equipment, or providing any other products or services for which you are required to be licensed; and you are not providing lighting services, you are leaving wads of money on the table each and every time you visit your clients. Whether it’s using lighting as an up-sell on new job opportunities, or going back to your previous and current clients, there is a load of profit just waiting at your fingertips.

2. If your client base consists of homeowners, home builders, architects, landscapers, commercial property managers, it doesn’t matter. They all need and want outdoor lighting. Due to the recent and ever-changing advances within this industry, design, installation and the efficiency of the latest and greatest products make lighting installation far more profitable than it was just a short time ago.

3. Installation methods and products that were ‘state-of-the-art’ two years ago are basically dead. If you are a low voltage or outdoor lighting contractor and are not using the most up to date techniques and products, not only are you leaving money on the table, but you are doing far more work than necessary. You should get educated, get ahead of the competition, and avoid being left in the dust.

By now you’re probably saying to yourself, “This all makes sense, but Chuck, how would I go about getting started in low voltage lighting, or taking my existing lighting business to the next level?” And that’s a fair question. One that many contractors struggle with…
Here are a few suggestions for you and some important points to take into consideration:

First off, let me tell you that with the rapid changes that have taken place recently (and the changes to come which will happen even quicker), you need ongoing training and a regular flow of concise and up to date information. And if you’re like most contractors, you probably don’t have time to take on the additional job of “keeping an eye on the industry on a weekly basis” and still do your job of making money as a low voltage contractor.

As one option, you could always purchase a franchise. Most franchises do a pretty good job of staying informed of the changes within the industry. However, even though franchises do have some benefits, there are the drawbacks. Franchises are expensive, and you are required to pay royalties on each dollar you bring in. In addition, even though there might be better products on the market, you are often forced to use the products available through your franchise company. That’s a big limitation. One of the most popular comments I hear when asking franchisees about the benefits they receive is quite simply the opportunity to network with other contractors, and have someone to call for technical help when needed. Those comments are often followed by comments such as, “but we only have one meeting or convention per year.”

Many contractors choose to ‘stay up to date’ by attending free seminars or workshops, which usually take place at a local lighting distributor’s location. These can be very valuable (especially since they are free), and there is typically some worthwhile information shared, and these events also provide the previously mentioned opportunity for “networking” with like minded contractors. However, there are some drawbacks to relying on this type of training and ongoing education as well. For one, the events more frequently than not are sponsored by a particular product manufacturer. This being said, the education is geared toward selling that manufacturers products and is not a true representation of what the other companies are doing. I’ve even witnessed these events turn into nothing more than a “sales pitch fest” for the products. Another drawback is that when attending an event at a local distributor, you are most likely attending with your competition since these workshops usually draw “the locals.” As you can imagine, the networking that takes place locally is usually much quieter than those events where you may be attending with other like minded contractors from around the country, but who are not your actual competitors.

Finally, what I believe to be the most viable option is to rely on an unbiased source who’s primary focus is to keep up with industry on a daily basis, and gather the pertinent industry updates and changes, and then put it to a concise and easily absorbable format which is distributed on an ongoing basis. There are numerous consultants in the industry as well as several national group memberships available. These models are not free for the obvious reasons, but usually cost only a fraction of the typical cost of a franchise. In some cases, these programs include monthly tele-seminars and newsletters, multiple live events each year for coaching groups, and most recently even live demonstrations and trainings via webinars. More importantly, these types of programs will typically offer the latest and greatest information from throughout the industry, not just what a single manufacturer has to say.

My hope is that you find this information helpful. More importantly: that you will take a look at how you are doing business as a low voltage contractor. And don’t forget: Despite the economy, the opportunity to profit from the outdoor lighting business has never been easier or better than it is today!

David Gretzmier
05-10-2010, 11:08 PM
Does chuck know his stuff? googled him.

on his website it appears for 3 years he did some landcape lighting as a franchisee of Nitetime Decor ( and from Christmas Decor), and owned a lighting distributorship for 3 years then sold that . So I am confident he understands and remembers the marketing and systems he learned from Christmas and Nitetime decor. They know sysytems period. although, legally, through his franchise contract, when he sold that business, he is not supposed to share any of that knowledge via their franchise termination agreement. They are not just easy about that, they make you write that in blood. perhaps the noncompete, or statute of limitations is out on that one.

I am not so sure 3 years actually doing landscape lighting qualifies you to be a consultant, or owning a lighting distibutorship 3 years does that either. he also seems to have owned 2 other businesses that he built and sold. he seems to do something for 3-4 years then sell that and move on. so he has experience in how to teach folks how to build a business to sell. I would say he is a good consultant to hire for that.

he also has a vague, mysterious gap in his business timeline from "late 80's" to 2001.

There is a new electrician with a catchy franchise name that began installing LV here last year. they are getting a share of the market and are doing poor work. those jobs will come back to me in a few years.

The bottom line is whoever does lighting, electrician or not, has to do it well, use good products, and then over time maintain the systems they put in. there is a shortage of people on the earth who care enough about this job to do it well consistantly. I am not so sure that farming out the electrical trades is going to discover more folks who care enough to do a good job. most electricians I meet don't like working outside because of the changing nature of the weather. they are used to being under a roof and working 9-5 everyday, 12 months out the year. LV ain't that.

RLI Electric
05-11-2010, 07:26 AM
I have been doing electrical work for 19 years. I started dabbling in outdoor lighting about 4 years ago and 3 years ago, I got hooked. This is something that I believe you can make money at if you want to but the reality is it is more than just that. It is kind of a cliche in this industry but this is an art. Fortunately for me in CT, it is an art I am licensed to do. I think you can have skills to do the technical part but the artistry you need the eye, the drive and the passion. When we are in a tree at 10pm at night adjusting a light, it is more than just the money that gets us up there. You turn the fixture an inch and the tree comes to life and the homeowner goes "Whoa!" That isn't necessarily something that is taught or learned. The drive that gets you up the tree in the dark is either buried there inside you and discovered (as in my case) or it explodes and you know it beyond a shadow of a doubt. In the electrical trade we have the same kind of franchise type of companies teaching you about making the business all residential service or all generator installation or all home integration. The money only will keep one around for so long. When the long hours of the summer and the late nights in trees and mulch beds start adding up that is when you see the people that did this just for the "easy money left on the table" start looking in the direction of the next easy homerun.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
05-11-2010, 09:04 AM
Well stated Bob! Not bad for a Sparky. :-)
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steveparrott
05-17-2010, 12:09 PM
Chuck makes some good points but I would like to put in a few words about how most successful non-franchise lighting companies have become successful.

1. Good solid business planning - no business will succeed without it. I work with hundreds of contractors on a regular basis; the ones who succeed have solid business plans, sound strategies for sales and marketing; clear and reasonable goals for growth; a committment to quality operating procedures and quality products, and (most importantly) a committment to superior customer service. None of these items are lighting-specific and there are numerous local and online resources for these basic business skills.

I encourage everyone to read my article "Writing the Business Plan for a Landscape Lighting Company. (http://www.cast-lighting.com/learning/articles/8_article_23)" Especially pay attention to the many useful links at the bottom of the article. (Note: you will need to register and login to view the CAST business articles.)

2. Ongoing education in installation and design techniques. While hands-on and classroom training are extremely useful, most growth in these skills comes with experience. Most importantly, the designer must have the willingness and drive to learn - to ask questions, to seek guidance - to challenge him or herself.

In my experience, the most successful designers are the ones who are on the phone with me or one of our sales managers, asking questions, seeking help. Or, they are on this forum, asking questions, sharing ideas. They are also the ones who never repeat the same lighting design twice - always experimenting, always pushing themselves and their people to make every project better than the one before.

I also encourage everyone to check out the CAST articles on lighting design (http://www.cast-lighting.com/learning/articles/3) and installation (http://www.cast-lighting.com/learning/articles/4).

3. Passion for lighting. Landscape lighting is not a profession for someone who is not passionnate about lighting, or is not willing to become passionnate. It is not an easy get-rich-quick business. It is not a quick in-and-out business. It is a service business that, if you put your heart and soul into it, will be profitable and extremely fulfilling on every level.

Again, I don't mean to take anything away from Chuck's program, let's just be sure we realize that the success of any business depends on what we put into into it.

David Gretzmier
05-18-2010, 09:38 PM
Steve- The above link for your article takes you to a page which requires you to register on the Cast website, which I then did, and then it appears it requires Cast a day to "review" the registration. I hope I meet muster and get approved so I can read your article. Always wanting to learn !

dave g