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View Full Version : WTF? Is my bid that far off?


JimLewis
03-04-2011, 07:19 PM
I don't get it. I'm bidding a big landscaping job for a good well, qualified customer. $1Mil+ Home in the very richest community in our entire state. It's a $30K project overall, and about $7K of that was lighting for the entire property. I've cut out the rest of my bid, but left the lighting portion of the bid here. It's attached below. It comes out to $237.00 per fixture.

They really want to use our company. And they already told me they got 2 other bids and, as they expected, the other bids were a little lower across the board, for every portion of the landscape. We were generally a good 20% more for most items (which is about right for us). But they really wanted to go with our company and were just way more impressed with our work, experience, presentation, etc. than they were with the others.

The only thing that stood out to them, as they reviewed the bid, was the price I had for lighting. They said one of the other guys they received a bid for was 50% of my cost. It was a Kichler system too (although I seriously doubt it was LED, but who knows?) and this guy apparently came out at around $120 per fixture. The third contractor, apparently, didn't do lighting. Because they only mentioned getting a bid for lighting from one of them.

So since my costs were generally only a little more than these other guys on most items, they were okay with that. But since my cost on the lighting portion was DOUBLE, now they're kind of wondering how we could be so much more. Insinuating that they are getting ripped off or something. So I just got drilled over the phone as to why my system was so much more.

Now, unfortunately, I can't see that other bid. But he did say it was approx. the same number of fixtures. He also said it wasn't an itemized bid like mine. Only that it was Kichler and approx. the same number of fixtures.

But WTF? Is my bid really that far off? How do guys even do lighting that friggin' cheap! It just pisses me off that I might end up losing a really good landscape job - or at least maybe lose the lighting portion - because some other jerk is out there doing work at unrealistically low prices.

Am I wrong to charge list for my fixtures? Check out my bid below and give me some feedback. Do you feel it's way out of line somewhere?

JB1
03-04-2011, 07:23 PM
I think right now a lot of contractors are asking that question and second guessing their bids.

extlights
03-04-2011, 09:55 PM
Each companies price points have so many variables tied to them that it's really hard to know why the other quote is less expensive. I will say that if I were to bid it out based on just product we would be a little less expensive as well. Not half, but definately less expensive. Of course that is only based on your proposal without actually seeing the project, therefore I can't be completely accurate.

ilc79
03-04-2011, 11:53 PM
Sounds cheap to me, I use Kichler and i double the fixture price wire price and the transformer price to get my total for the job thats what the kichler reps preach too, not always do i get that if it is a pretty easy lighting job no boring or gettin in trees or on roofs i will do it a little cheaper the average kichler bullet light cost me 33 dollars in a 12 pack and i charge 66 dollars on the harder jobs and if its a simple job i charge around 50-55 dollars.A 300 watt transformer is around 190 dollars for me. im in ga.

JimLewis
03-05-2011, 04:50 AM
Right. So that's kinda what I figured. This other guy must be using regular Kichler, not LED. If they're really that cheap, then it makes more sense. But you can't get the Kichler LED fixtures for anywhere close to $33 or even $66.

RLI Electric
03-05-2011, 08:49 AM
Jim, I am sure you are awesome at what you do but I probably wouldn't buy it either. If this is exactly what your client is seeing, what is it they really see?
Less than a paragraph of items is costing them X amount of dollars. I am going to speak more from a marketing side than a technical side here but what you are offering light fixtures (and a little labor) for 7500 dollars. I am probably wrong but they might be thinking what else can 7500 dollars get me? A deck, an above ground pool, a home theater, a small patio or maybe a kickin firepit.
All of these things create a picture in their head. Not a list of fixtures. I am speaking for myself here. I do not talk electricity or fixtures anymore. I do not talk transformers or lamps anymore. I talk to them about the picture they are trying to create in a space. I just happen to be able to answer any technical question that arises and I will not bring it up first. This is what I see the difference between electrical work and lighting design. Notice I did not specifically say exterior. This turns our abilities into a commodity. This is the hole electrical contractors have created for themselves. Lets not do it to landscape lighting. It is too much of an art to become a time and material thing. Just my thoughts though.

Mark B
03-05-2011, 10:05 AM
In my opinion, I would not list the type of fixture or the model #, length of wire, connectors, etc.... I would be afraid they could go find them on the internet and see what they really cost.

I normally give the total of fixtures, what size tranny, then the total for the project. Most of the time for ME I got there through a referral, so they have already have seen my work..
Posted via Mobile Device

shovelracer
03-05-2011, 10:44 AM
Jim, I think we all know that they are not comparable bids. Even more so if someone is half how are they even considering both at the same time. A red flag should be held over one. That is like taking a printout from the kia dealer over to BMW and trying to use it to knock down the price.

I like that you include the energy usage, but there appears to be an error. I assume you are figuring 219watts of 12v dc usage. If so the actual usage is not that. It depends on how you load the trans. You would have to measure that as it varies with your hookup. Likely it is pulling a little more, like 3 amps or 360 watts 120v ac. Then the actual cost to customer is likely different. Maybe the juice is $0.105/kw, but there is most likely delivery at 6-7 cents. A more realistic number is $0.18 coming out to around $8 month, but since 4 hours of use is very low than they might be closer to $12-15.

Now with a comparable non-led setup they might be closer to $40 month pushing a 1200w trans.

This could be an additional selling point that could help further separate you from the budget quote. Your system would save them thousands over its life. Sort of makes a few hundred bucks insignificant.

emby
03-05-2011, 05:45 PM
Hey Jim,

You have some interesting threads going here.....

Some of the comments so far are helpful but the one that stands out the most to me is Bob's. That was a very good point of view for your business.
Landscape lighting is not an irrigation project or a landscaping project. In my opinion you have to treat landscape lighting totally different and the first rule of thumb is to NOT price per fixture to your clients.
You are designing with light and the fixtures and lamps are the tools that you will use. SELL the design not the fixtures. Your porposal package that you have attached does not reflect any information on design or what your going to do with light. It does not even tell me if you are lighting or tree or a shrub. What it is showing me is that you are simply selling fixtures and labour.
If you want to be successful at landscape lighting invest in some knowledge such as attending the Landscape Lighting Institute course or joining the AOLP as they both will provide you with a wealth of knowledge so that you do not find yourself in this position ever again.
Further more was a budget discussed with the client to begin with? This is one of the first items to be discussed with my clients and that budget indicates how much detail I can include into the lighting design. Fixtures are fixtures and when it comes down to it they are simply a tool that we use. Anybody can purchase fixtures including your clients, what they cannot buy is your personal design of their property. You have to raise the bar my freind or you will simply find yourself struggeling to make a profit selling fixtures.
Take it or leave it I am just offering some advice to a person who appears to have some interest in the joy of landscape lighting.

Ken

emby
03-05-2011, 06:08 PM
One other thing to note here is that we have a rule on page one of this forum and that is NOT to post prices as this is a public forum. Its very important for the other participants in here.
Thanks

Ken

JimLewis
03-05-2011, 06:24 PM
I understand that. But I thought the rule of thumb was not to post OUR prices on the forum. The prices I posted are LIST prices. Anyone can look up Kichler List prices. Has nothing to do with this forum. I didn't think I was letting any cat out of the bag there. Do people have a problem with LIST prices too????

We talk list prices in the other forums (hardscape, irrigation forums) all the time. Is there some reason that can be discussed there but not here?

steveparrott
03-05-2011, 06:47 PM
I agree with others in this thread. Itemizing the fixtures as you've done creates the following problems:

Invites the homeowner to check your prices online (and against the other bid). For example, I checked your first fixture online and in a few seconds found it for $118 - $27 less than you quoted. The homeowner knows you get it even cheaper than that, so the obvious conclusion is that your materials/expenses total is a deception.
It gives the impression that you are merely a fixture installer. That impression is strengthened by using the word labor - why not "Design and Installation"?
I don't know if you talked up your design skills in person, but there's certainly no mention of them here. Every lighting proposal should have a section on lighting objectives that include safety, security, beauty, task lighting, and energy efficiency. The next section should be a discussion of how you plan on achieving each of those goals. Specific areas and features of the landscape should be discussed. Specific techniques of lighting the architecture should also be mentioned. I guarantee that two or three pages of this type of detail will blow away the homeowner and they will understand why your price is higher - and they will see the value of your work.

JimLewis
03-05-2011, 07:27 PM
Thank you. I appreciate the help.

So as I think about how I'd do this, I have a problem. We itemize all of our bids like that. Not just for lighting. But for sod lawns, planting, mulching, pavers, etc. 90% of the time bidding this way works in our favor. That's why I switched to doing it that way a few years back. I found that if we just wrote, "Replace existing lawn with 1500 sq. ft. of turfgrass; $2200.00" or "Remove old concrete patio and install 500 sq. ft. Paver Patio; $7500.00" People would often just look the total price and say, "That seems really high. How did you come up with that price?" So I just started showing them how I came up with that price. Once I started itemizing every cost, then the customer would look at it and say, "Wow. $7500 Total??? Let me look here. Oh, yah. Remove old concrete, haul away 7 yards to landfill.... $250.00 ok....6 yards of gravel at $60.00 each yard...makes sense.....500 sq. ft. of pavers at $2.50 per sq. ft....yep.....edge restraint.....sand......labor.....Ok. Yah. I guess all that just adds up to $7500.00, doesn't it? Ok. Well, that's a little more than what I was hoping to spend but I really like the way you broke it down for me. Nobody else has done that. I think we'd like to move ahead. What do we need to do now?"

That's a fairly typical response a lot of the time. People really love our detailed bids. It helps us land jobs because it differentiates us from the guys who just go take a quick look and give a quick total price without explaining it at all.

So when I give a bid for a larger project that involves say 5 different items (which is exactly the case in point). I am giving them an itemized bid. Every part of what we're doing is segmented out. One section for the lawn renovation, one for the irrigation, one for the lighting, one for the planting, etc. I'm not sure I want to change the way I am doing bidding for those other items because people seem to really like it. I can't tell you how many larger jobs I land each year - even though we're the high bid - simply because I bothered to create such a detailed bid. I have people tell us that's one of the main reasons they hired us, all the time. So again, not sure I want to totally change that.

So how would I do this, then? Just give a detailed bid for everything else but then when it comes to lighting, don't list out my materials at all? Seems like it would be odd to do that when the rest of the bid would be so detailed.

I like what you said. And I agree that maybe it creates a problem. I'm just not sure how to incorporate that with my existing bidding structure and look right. Maybe I just don't list the exact fixtures and use hot-links for the fixtures. Maybe not quantify the wire, etc. so much.

As an example of a larger bid with different projects in it, I've attached another recent bid we did where I've itemized all of the different parts of the job. On this job, we had no problem selling the lighting. In fact, we did another 8 fixtures in the back yard too. Turned out great.

David Gretzmier
03-05-2011, 07:33 PM
I really do not think it is unusual at all to find "competitors" that bid jobs with similar materials even as low as 500 bucks above whatever they paid for materials. that may be half, or less, of what you bid in this case. I have seen everything, and it no longer surprises me. while it may be sad, it is everywhere in the green industry. mowing, irrigation, installation, hydroseeding, chemical application.

I have always told folks up front that I am never the cheapest and usually the high bidder. If price is even remotely an issue, I tell folks to hire someone else period. I am fortunate in the landscape light area to only have one competitor in this area who does good work, is a landscape architect and he is sometimes higher on bids.

I only do Christmas lights and landscape lights, and I sell myself as a lighting specialist.


you've probably heard all this before, but the bid packet we present is better than just about any I have seen. I am always in a clean dressy uniform when bidding and presenting. I sell the effects of the lights and the quality of the install. I try to give names of folks in the same neighborhood with phone numbers and tell folks to call them. the bridge you are trying to get folks over is -do they give you the same respect and trust they would give any premium brand such as lexus, mercedes, ferrari, etc. most wealthy people have no problem spending more money for something if they perceive it to be the best. You have to project that you are the best at what you do, period.

JimLewis
03-05-2011, 07:46 PM
David, I think you are right. I really need to work on that part a little more. Especially on lighting. Usually, I don't have to worry about selling myself too much on work we do. People around town know our company name, have seen our work or at least our portfolio and/or website, etc. We do provide a very good list of references in their area. But I don't usually work too much on walking around and selling them on what we would do in terms of technique and effect. I guess, for lighting at least, I need to work a little harder on impressing them that we really are lighting specialists and that I really know how to light up their landscape and structure better than others. I can see where that could make a huge difference.

In this case, the clients told me they had a $20-$30K budget and the landscaping portion only came out to about $20K. So I figured if the lighting came in at $7K it wouldn't even be a problem. It seemed like a slam dunk job as they were really well qualified and seemed to easily have the budget to do what they wanted done. So I didn't work too hard on trying to impress my expertise or anything. Maybe I take that for granted sometimes.

We'll see what happens. But I really appreciate everyone's feedback. I'm still learning when it comes to selling lighting. In the past, it's only been a small part of what we do. But that's starting to change. We did about 2x the volume in lighting last year as we had ever done before. I've been trying to put more emphasis on it. I really love lighting. But I am still learning the nuances of it, still learning technique, and especially the sales part of it. I really appreciate everyone's feedback. It's what this forum / site is all about.

emby
03-05-2011, 10:42 PM
Hi Jim,

Really take some time to make your company remarkable and starting with a proposal package that is detailed and impressive is a start. If you really care about learning about landscape lighting invest in some training and courses. They reallly make a difference.

Ken

RLI Electric
03-05-2011, 10:58 PM
If I may add something about the detailed estimate. I don't believe in it. I haven't done it for 11 years since I took a course and was taught how to handle that. It may not be for everyone and I can appreciate that. I will give a lump price for a project ( or a lighting composition) but not a breakdown. We can talk for days on this but it boils down to this. Proprietary information. What stops that client from going to the next guy and say "Beat this by 5 dollars and the project is yours." Think it doesn't happen? Ask anyone who estimates this way. How did you lose the job? "I don't know, someone else underbid me for the exact same thing." If someone wants a price breakdown I tell them it is a minimum 4 hours at X amount of dollars per hour. That is for electrical work. If someone wants a price breakdown, that is a design fee. You name your price. Only you know your companies break even point and what that number should be.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
03-06-2011, 12:58 PM
Jim, I am sure you are awesome at what you do but I probably wouldn't buy it either. If this is exactly what your client is seeing, what is it they really see?
Less than a paragraph of items is costing them X amount of dollars. I am going to speak more from a marketing side than a technical side here but what you are offering light fixtures (and a little labor) for 7500 dollars. I am probably wrong but they might be thinking what else can 7500 dollars get me? A deck, an above ground pool, a home theater, a small patio or maybe a kickin firepit.
All of these things create a picture in their head. Not a list of fixtures. I am speaking for myself here. I do not talk electricity or fixtures anymore. I do not talk transformers or lamps anymore. I talk to them about the picture they are trying to create in a space. I just happen to be able to answer any technical question that arises and I will not bring it up first. This is what I see the difference between electrical work and lighting design. Notice I did not specifically say exterior. This turns our abilities into a commodity. This is the hole electrical contractors have created for themselves. Lets not do it to landscape lighting. It is too much of an art to become a time and material thing. Just my thoughts though.

Great points you make here Bob. I can sum it up with "Sell the sizzle, not the steak". Bottom line, if you are a fixture salesman, then continue doing as you are now. You will continue to be bid against by others, and you will continue to loose jobs to trunk slammers and low ball quotes of others who sell hardware.

Hey Jim,

Some of the comments so far are helpful but the one that stands out the most to me is Bob's. That was a very good point of view for your business.
Landscape lighting is not an irrigation project or a landscaping project. In my opinion you have to treat landscape lighting totally different and the first rule of thumb is to NOT price per fixture to your clients.
You are designing with light and the fixtures and lamps are the tools that you will use. SELL the design not the fixtures. Your porposal package that you have attached does not reflect any information on design or what your going to do with light. It does not even tell me if you are lighting or tree or a shrub. What it is showing me is that you are simply selling fixtures and labour.
If you want to be successful at landscape lighting invest in some knowledge such as attending the Landscape Lighting Institute course or joining the AOLP as they both will provide you with a wealth of knowledge so that you do not find yourself in this position ever again.
Further more was a budget discussed with the client to begin with? This is one of the first items to be discussed with my clients and that budget indicates how much detail I can include into the lighting design. Fixtures are fixtures and when it comes down to it they are simply a tool that we use. Anybody can purchase fixtures including your clients, what they cannot buy is your personal design of their property. You have to raise the bar my freind or you will simply find yourself struggeling to make a profit selling fixtures.
Take it or leave it I am just offering some advice to a person who appears to have some interest in the joy of landscape lighting.
Ken

I agree with Ken too. Stop selling a package of components with some labour attached. Instead paint a picture and sell that. Sell a lighting system. By doing so you will not have any competition. Did Monet compete with Renoir? Of course not, they each were artists and each would have their own interpretation of any given scene or object. Do the same with landscape lighting. At its highest level it is an art form. If you are not confident enough of your ability to design to this level, (one where your systems stand apart from all the others) then take some programs and learn more about design.

One other thing to note here is that we have a rule on page one of this forum and that is NOT to post prices as this is a public forum. Its very important for the other participants in here.
Thanks Ken

Again, Ken is correct. Nobody should be posting their component costs here. This is a public forum. Posting the prices you are paying for components is just shooting yourself in the foot and hurting your ability to build a profitable, long term business. It contributes to the "race to the bottom" and convinces more people that all they are buying when it comes to outdoor lighting is a basket of parts that are installed by labourers.

None of this is meant to demean or insult anyone, instead all we are trying to do is to inform you and elevate your level of professionalism in this field. By opening up and learning from others, you will be better positioned to make a lasting career and a successful business in the Outdoor Lighting Industry.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
03-06-2011, 01:05 PM
If I may add something about the detailed estimate. I don't believe in it. I haven't done it for 11 years since I took a course and was taught how to handle that. It may not be for everyone and I can appreciate that. I will give a lump price for a project ( or a lighting composition) but not a breakdown. We can talk for days on this but it boils down to this. Proprietary information. What stops that client from going to the next guy and say "Beat this by 5 dollars and the project is yours." Think it doesn't happen? Ask anyone who estimates this way. How did you lose the job? "I don't know, someone else underbid me for the exact same thing." If someone wants a price breakdown I tell them it is a minimum 4 hours at X amount of dollars per hour. That is for electrical work. If someone wants a price breakdown, that is a design fee. You name your price. Only you know your companies break even point and what that number should be.

Great advice and a good way to work around this obstacle. Back to the artist analogy: Does a portrait artist break down their price/commission by the type of paint and canvass they use? Do they charge by the brush stroke? No, of course not. They are hired because the client likes their ability to interpret the scene or object. Same goes with professional outdoor lighting systems. The fixtures are just the brushes, the lamps are the paint and the landscape is the canvass. Now go out and paint some pictures.

Snyder's Lawn Inc
03-06-2011, 01:44 PM
Big jobs like that I tell homeowner to have a meeting with all people that turn bids in and check apples for apples You will find out people will cut corners on there bids I seen put a price in like for seeding and can t tell how much seed they going to use
When bid job The homeower will get all tickets what I used on there job wont show my price just retail price

steveparrott
03-06-2011, 03:23 PM
Jim,

I respect that you've had success with your current method of itemizing your bids - it's even worked better for you than your previous lump sum attempts.

In fact, if you are bidding large commercial projects then itemizing is required, so it's not like there's a hard and fast rule that residential projects must all be lump sums (although that's what we typically teach, and what works better for the majority).

Perhaps the best route for you is to blend the two methods.

Continue to itemize the lighting along with the other services, using retail prices. Instead of labor, say, "Installation and design". In fact, I'd use those terms for any of your services that have a significant design component.

Then, add the lighting design section (as I suggested in my previous post). In fact, it wouldn't hurt to add design sections for your other landscape design services as well.

If you haven't already, you can download the CAST sample lighting proposal from the protected area of our business articles section (http://www.cast-lighting.com/learning/articles/8_article_90). (Though I must admit it tweaks me a little if you use it for our competitor's products :) )

JimLewis
03-07-2011, 12:06 AM
Again, Ken is correct. Nobody should be posting their component costs here. This is a public forum. Posting the prices you are paying for components is just shooting yourself in the foot and hurting your ability to build a profitable, long term business.

Ok. Again, like I said above. I NEVER POSTED MY COSTS!!! My bid I posted had LIST PRICES - not contractor cost.

Here is an excerpt from the sticky message at the top of the lighting forum;

Dear new contractor or homeowner.

Wholesale pricing to those in the trade is confidential and should not and will not be disclosed in a public forum. We, the lighting design and installation professionals kindly ask you to respect that and do not post wholesale pricing in public. Please, we kindly ask you do not post pricing nor inquire about contractor costs.


WHOLESALE PRICING. I never posted wholesale lighting fixture pricing anywhere! I only ever posted LIST prices. So why is everyone jumping all over my back about this? I'm playing by the rules set forth by the forum! Dang!

shovelracer
03-07-2011, 08:43 AM
Personally I understand the reasoning behind the policy, but think putting it in writing only makes them question it more. It is no secret that contractors get a contractor rate for almost everything except fuel, mulch, plants, pavers, lights, etc. Let me know if you figure the fuel one out without a large fleet. Truth is that in todays world anyone can purchase products at prices very close to what a contractor rate usually is. Almost always the internet discount is a good chunk below retail, and in todays market I have regularly seen equal or greater discounts at the end retailer just to keep products moving.

So I said you can save money if you purchase over the internet. Is this a reason to get upset. Hardly, there are reasons the cost is less. One less hand to pass through, possible reconditions or seconds, overstock items, or just buying by the truckload not cases. The reason the end retailer or wholesalers pass along savings is because the contractor will buy products for multiple customers which helps keep the inventory moving. The retailer holds onto it less and therefore the cost goes down as well as remaining costs made up through volume sales.

Should your contractor buy through the internet. Most likely not. Increased waiting delivery time, longer return or warranty claim waits, shipping costs all tend to kill the deal. When I need supplies i go to the local guy. My cost may at times be greater, but in the end it has saved me a ton.

We have been in the market for a new vanity light. We looked at the 2 box stores and saw moderate fixtures around 60-100 bucks. We looked at one of my light suppliers. The price was significantly more for a comparable style fixture. Even with my contractor rate it came out to be quite a bit more. Now if a contractor told a customer that they are charging 200 for a light they are purchasing at a light store, but can get at HD for less than 100 they might feel burned.

Lets dissect this situation. First the two lights are different. The internal components are not the same. Most important the finish is not comparable. The lighting store item will last 30 years on the finish being subjected to bathroom humidity and cleaning products. The box store light will start chipping and flaking within the first couple years. Now with the light store you take it back for warranty and it gets taken care of on their dime, and it will get taken care of because they value the customer. With the box store you need to call around, get an authorization #, return it possibly on your cost, and wait for them to inspect the item. Could be 2 months with no guarantee of replacement.

What does this mean. I dont know. I havent had my coffee yet. This whole numbers thing is silly. Should be understood anyways. Do think a customer is happy to see a paver for $2/ft and get it installed for $18.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
03-07-2011, 09:26 AM
Jim: I was referring to ILC79's post. But hey, if he is buying $33 fixtures and installing them for $66... I guess that is his problem. Best of luck with that.

Alternatively, you could say that such a 'business plan' could negatively affect us all. If more contractors subscribe to that model and provide that level of service to the market, it will only tarnish the reputation of low voltage outdoor lighting and those who install it.

Thankfully there are alternatives. Low ball installers will always be out there, you just have to continue to educate your market and prospects as to why you are better and worth the extra investment.

Have a great day.

David Gretzmier
03-07-2011, 10:02 AM
I think Jim tried to comply with the letter of the rule, but like James pointed out, but when you post what your mark up is, and then they can see what you charged, you can do the math.

I have always asked out loud here if it were possible to talk privately about costs to each other we could only help ourselves.

I am ok with posting what we bid jobs at, and really, any item that can be found at dozens of online sites like wire and connectors probably should be fair game for public cost discussions. tools and costs should be ok too.

although transformers and fixture pricing can be found online too, that should be kept quiet.

emby
03-07-2011, 05:37 PM
Whoa Jim,

I was not referring to any of your posts in this thread about posting prices or costs.
I can only speak for myself but I am sure the others who have posted responses feel the same way as I do and that is we are trying to help increase the level of professionalism in this industry.
I am not selfish and in fact I want to share my experiences with others here so that we can all learn. In return and working as a group we can raise the bar so to speak so that everybody realizes that lighting is not just about planting fixtures for bucks but rather creating a memorizing, custom lighting scene for all of our clients.
So back to the original topic...I had some very good help (Steve P from Cast) help me design what I think is one of the best proposal packages. I spent almost two months making it spectacular so that it would make sales. I provide lots of detail about what I am going to do with the light and what I am going to illuminate. I provide them with a view using my own words with every proposal. I take a lot of time to prepare for each project no matter how small or large because at the end of the day I want it to be better than my competition. So far its payed off well.
Learning this business has been tough but all the people that contribute here are always more than willing to share their experiences and from that you can take what you want and leave what you want.
Establish a budget with the client, discuss what features they want illuminated, the larger the budget the more detail I can provide, write on paper and describe what you are going to light, break it up into small managable zones or sections and attach prices to each area. Discuss a design fee, make the presetation to the client. Sign the dotted line.
Have I missed anything here anybody?
I will say this again for everybody to see....landscape lighting is NOT irrigation or landscaping and you have to spend some time making your lighting division or business nothing but spectacular.
I hope this helps you out Jim.
Just my 2 cents for today.

Ken

JimLewis
03-07-2011, 06:50 PM
Yes, that does help. Everything in this thread has helped. I'm re-thinking how I present lighting and lighting bids. One of the members of this forum was nice enough to share with me one of their custom presentations / proposals. Which was way more elaborate than I had ever even considered before. So I will come up with something along those lines to help create my presentation and proposal with.

I'm learning a lot. Bear with me. Thanks for all the help.

AOLP
03-08-2011, 09:03 PM
what a great thread. Jim, I could see you benefiting from joining the AOLP. There are some members near you that might be helpful. As Chapters continue to pop up you will be able to get the face to face support that so many like about the AOLP conference. Mybe you can make it to Orlando next February. I believe the conference committee is working on offereing some classes on these issues at the next conference. I know it's not an overnight solution but something to plan for the future. James put it very well, you're an artist and they don't sell paint. I imagine it's difficult on large projects to change gears.

Elegant Outdoor Lighting
03-09-2011, 11:42 AM
Jim,

Your prices seem to be in line, at least for out here in northern CA. I read that you like to itemize, but like everyone else is saying, it is about the lighting portrait, not the equipment count. What I have found to work well is to focus more on the description of the effect in my proposals...I kind of write a story about how their project will look like on the bid. Yes, it includes quantities, but mostly descriptions.

hope this helps, hang in there, those low-ballers are cutting their own throats.

JimLewis
03-09-2011, 03:46 PM
Thanks Scott. Yes, I agree. I am definitely going to change the way I present my lighting bids. At least on everything but small jobs. I seem to land the smaller ($2K-$4K) jobs just fine with lighting. It's the larger ones that I have been having troubles with. But I am definitely re-thinking my entire presentation and way I quote on those.

One thing is for sure, I won't be mentioning exact model numbers, itemizing fixture prices, using hot links to internet, etc. anymore.

I think we're still going to get this big job, by the way. It's just been a lot more hassle to convince the homeowners than I had experienced in the past. And that's my fault. I didn't sell ourselves, my technique, or why they should chose us for the lighting portion. I was just relying on reputation and our presentation overall, which generally works well for me. I realize now I need to work more on lighting presentation. And I will definitely be doing that more in the future.

Dr.NewEarth
03-22-2011, 06:24 PM
I always think there is some-thing fishy when the potential client says, " We really want to use your company...but...This other bid was half your cost."
I nicely say "Well you better sign them up before they change their mind."

I recently did a maintenance estimate at a very large strata (hoa) in a ritzy area. The President called and said the other guys price was half of ours, would I meet it. They really wanted to "use" my company. He told me the supposed exact amount.

Now I know what my costs are and what was required for the property and what they wanted. I couldn't lower my price. I wasn't even charging a return on investment as things are so tight right now.

What I did was offer them twelve months to pay for a nine month contract.

They went with the half price company. (will they be in business long?)

I don't like to lower the prices when they are already low. That's when you get
P.I.T.A. problems and lose money and hair.

When I estimated the back math, I figured that the other guy was only charging $14.00 per hour before taxes.
That's the average starting wage at alot of companies around Vancouver
and that wouldn't cover things like overhead, return on investment, fertilizer or truck gas and insurance. (gas today 1.33 a litre)($5.32 a gallon and a new tax on the way yahoo)

Mandatory deductions like unemployment insurance, Canada Pension Plan and holiday pay etc. add 20 percent to that fourteen dollars per employee hour right off the bat here.
He could be paying $11.20 an hour or less to cover overhead. Then that is even below the national average ($11.86)for entry level landscapers in Canada. Vancouver is very expensive!

So, we know everybodies costs are different. I think alot of guys rely on their bank loans and credit cards too much. About ninety percent of businesses fail within the first five years.

some-times I just walk away from the ones that want to play "give me a deal."