First Year Stupid Mistakes?

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by Mike M, May 28, 2007.

  1. Mike M

    Mike M LawnSite Bronze Member
    from usa
    Posts: 1,947

    (If you have a minute, thanks)

    Okay, this worked well on lawnsite when I started my lawn business five years ago, so I'll try it here...

    What mistakes did you make your first year? (purchases, dealing with customers, installing, etc.), and/or, what are the top essential investments for professional landscape/architectural lighting?


  2. Chris J

    Chris J LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,830

    Here are just a few that come to mind:
    1. Do the research and find a quality lighting manufacturer. Don't use low end products to try and make a higher profit right away.
    2. Do not use the pierce-point connectors that come with many lighting manufacturers fixtures. These will cost you in call backs your systems will lose efficiency due to corrosion wicking in the wire.
    3. Go to some hands-on seminars, and get involved with some lighting organizations. Learn what you are doing before you put your name on these installations. Understand voltage drop, proper wire guage, limitations of wattage per run versus length, etc...
    4. Don't undermine the market with low-ball bidding. Charge what should be charged to cover your cost to not only install the lighting systems, but to also service them for at least one year.
    5. Consider maintenance contracts for your customers and figure out what will work best for you right away. Don't start something that you will have to reconfigure later. This is a nightmare.
    6. Ask a lot of questions! Also seek a state license. If this is not yet required in your area, in may soon be.
    7. Seek a supplier that is not married to any one manufacturer. Most irrigation companies can supply products, but you will also need someone who can assist you with trouble shooting, problems, design assistance, etc... Look for a supplier that is dedicated to lighting only.

    There is a whole bunch more, but I'll let others chime in for now.
  3. Eden Lights

    Eden Lights LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 805

    Never believe anything a manufacturer tells you without testing the results yourself on the old garage wall so to speak.

    This is not a Day Job!

    Don't spend a bunch of money on advertising, read Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Levinson and execute. Ride around and target your prey

    You can't be everything to everybody!!!!!!!!!!

    Don't take or limit the number of repair jobs you take on at first. Don't lower your standards on repair jobs.

    Communicate with your clients and don't trust any other subs to do anything for you that really matters.

    Demand that other subs alocate time for your install to be done properly, never wavier on this. Communicate & Communicate

    Never do work without a contract and a deposit.

    I will post some more when I have some more time.
  4. seolatlanta

    seolatlanta LawnSite Member
    Posts: 176

    My suggestions -

    1. really watch your money-as for me I came out of the corporate world and handling large sums of money took some time to get used to and manage

    2. do every installation yourself until you can afford people to hire

    3. learn learn learn

    4. become a student of sales, money and entrepreneurship-

    5. use any means necessary to get sales and see a lot of houses lit at night-the more houses you see at night you will begin to understand how different fixtures , bulbs and lenses will look.

    there is a lot more but Im sure others will chime in
  5. seolatlanta

    seolatlanta LawnSite Member
    Posts: 176

    Hey Eden

    check your PM.

  6. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,181

    learn all you can and practice at home or a realatives house doing different effects with diff lights and trying diff designs.

    NEVER promise more than you can deliver.

    Carry irrigation repair parts.

    dont put off on advertising BUT load your gun (figure of speech) before hunting down high end clients.

    Going the extra mile will eventuall put you in the lead.

    Offer a generous refferal program and make sure landscapers know about it.

    Be prepared to spend some evenings away from home.

    Pee before stopping to meet that important client.

    LISTEN to the clients (hey if im deaf and can do this you better be able to!!!)

    EXCEED not only the clients expectations but your own goals as well.

  7. extlights

    extlights LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 439

    Concentrate on sales every day. Even if you have a full days work, do something that will promote your business, even if it means manually passing out flyers in the subdivision you are working in.

    If you are doing direct mail, don't stop sending to a certain area just because you didn't get much or any response from that particular area. It usually takes more than 1 or 2 hits to an area before business starts comming in.

    Always keep in contact with your past customers! I'm not just talking about a yearly maintenance plan. Send out holiday cards and so on. Sends a customer a good message knowing that you not only care about the initial sale and maintenance revenue, but you care about your customers... which is most important. (if it weren't for them, none of us would be in business)

    Don't judge a book by it's cover. I can't tell you how many times we've gone to an estimate or demo and thought to ourselves "this looks like it could be a waste of time" and ended up signing a contract on the spot.

    Spend money....the hardest thing of all. We all know we have to pay ourselves, but make sure you put money back into the business. Until you've been around for many years and can live off of referrals, you have to spend it to make it. Advertising isn't cheap, but unfortunately we all have to do it if we want the phone to keep ringing.

    Have numbers of good contractors from other crafts that you can work with and you can endorse. We get it all the time.."do you know any good carpenters/irrigation guys/whatever". If you can help a homeowner on something that they are blind to, they will look at you as a good professional and will usually always keep in touch on future projects.
  8. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,645

    Please learn about proper wire size, voltage drop, how much load at how far, and ideal voltage at fixture. If you don't know these 4 things, don't do any jobs until you do.

    put a kit together for demo's and only do demos with bids. at night !! .

    Find good quality fixtures and stick with them until you find one better.

    Use good bulbs, they only cost a buck or two more.

    buy really good tools and don't loan them or lose them.

    buy a good diesel truck, gas will only get higher and diesel gets better mileage. also, for some reason, prospective clients equate diesel truck sound with professional worker guy.

    have some nice color literature with photo's made up to give with bids or to show during first visit.

    Use the best transformers you can find locally. If none are available, find some to get shipped and keep spares.

    Price things to make good money, but also to stay busy. It is better to make a something in profit per week than bid too much and stay home and make nothing. as your board fills, you can raise prices as your experience and know how becomes more valuable.

    ask for referrals and reward clients who give them.

    look professional. at least wear clean jeans and a knit collar shirt to a proposal meeting. wash truck. people judge you by the inside of truck as well- organized?

    don't try to cut wire that is hot.

    don't touch halogen bulbs with your bare fingers. especially if they are lit.

    always go back and touch up jobs in the dark. let clients know you are there.
  9. High Performance Lighting

    High Performance Lighting LawnSite Senior Member
    from So Cal
    Posts: 326

    Respect your own time and charge for it early and often.

    Qualify all leads thoroughly before going out to meet.

    Don't get bamboozled by fakes who don't have intention of hiring you but will dangle the carrot and use you for everything they can get and then cast you a side like an old work boot.

    Money talks.

    Bull#&*% walks!
  10. Mike M

    Mike M LawnSite Bronze Member
    from usa
    Posts: 1,947

    Thanks so much, I'm impressed with all the responses, I can't even single anything out in particular. Except peeing before meeting clients. That one stood out. Assuming it's dark, can I pee behind the bushes before I knock?

    I decided to go with a long distance distributer for reasons mentioned (specialists in lighting, many manufacturers). A local distributer told me I don't need a way to dig a trench, just lay the cable in the beds. And then I ended up waiting two weeks for a couple lights to be special ordered.

    My own house was quite a learning curve. I'm pretty good at irrigation repairs now. I bought lots of bulbs and lenses to explore effects.

    I need to start digging in, so to speak. I'm counting down days, starting tomorrow, I have 365 days to make this a full-time job so I don't have to renew my contract next year.


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