Mid-life job switch to irrigator?

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by danax, Jan 18, 2004.

  1. danax

    danax LawnSite Member
    Posts: 2

    Hi everyone,
    I'm 45 and currently work in a bank that is in the process on liquidating itself and I am exploring other ways of making a living. I am sick of being an employee. I'm a musician and trying to get that going but I have this idea and would appreciate the opportunity to run it by you all. Here's my plan;

    1) I want to install 2-3 systems per month average year-round netting $2500-$3500 mo(making around $1000 net per residential avg?).
    2) I would like to work alone, maybe with a helper, and spend maybe 3 days on each job.
    3)I would like to install premium systems with attention to detail that would be noticed and appreciated by homeowners resulting eventually in pure word-of-mouth business.

    Methods
    1) Obtain license (easy in Texas).
    2) Purchase truck with pipe rack.
    3) Leave flyers to get rolling.

    A few concerns.
    1) Trenching-is poly pipe with pipe puller considered mickey-mouse or should I rent a trencher and use PVC, or? how about sub contracting a trenching company? (I'm in good shape, can handle Houston heat well but my back is delicate at times).

    2) I want to work alone because I want as simple a business as possible, no employees. Is this a ridiculous idea?

    3) I'm not a particulary good salesperson but I am honest and people pick up on that. Can this approach work?

    I want to approach each install as almost art, spending extra time to get everything just right. I'm hoping that enough clients will notice and appreciate this to allow me to meet my modest goals. Am I way off base here in my ideas? Thanks in advance for any repies.
     
  2. Mdirrigation

    Mdirrigation LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,762

    A few concerns.
    1) Trenching-is poly pipe with pipe puller considered mickey-mouse or should I rent a trencher and use PVC, or? how about sub contracting a trenching company? (I'm in good shape, can handle Houston heat well but my back is delicate at times).

    Here in Maryland if you used a trencher on a residential system , you would be considered "mickey mouse" A plow is the only way to go. We use pvc and plow it in been doing it for 22 years.

    2) I want to work alone because I want as simple a business as possible, no employees. Is this a ridiculous idea?

    Not ridiculous at all , actuall its rather smart , You will want at least 1 good employee though it speeds things up quite a bit.

    3) I'm not a particulary good salesperson but I am honest and people pick up on that. Can this approach work?

    Thats probably the best approach out there, The way you will get work is from referals, people hate salesmen, get your customers trust and you have a customer for life.

    I want to approach each install as almost art, spending extra time to get everything just right. I'm hoping that enough clients will notice and appreciate this to allow me to meet my modest goals. Am I way off base here in my ideas? Thanks in advance for any repies. [/B][/QUOTE]

    There will be ones that notice and others that dont, I would advise that you keep your quality high , and your prices to go along with it. Set youself apart from the competition in the area. Servicing existing systems are the bulk of our business, its much more profitable than installations.


    If you are interested I have a Ditchwitch 350 sx plow for sale Matt
     
  3. SamIV

    SamIV LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 324

    First off, how much irrigation knowledge do you have. Don't know first hand about obtaining a license in Texas, but the Texan's who have posted here complained about the toughness of this exam.

    I do work by myself and this has been extremely profitable for me, might work for you. I sub out the pipe pulling (PVC) and boring. You might consider this in the beginning. Do all the remaining work myself. Most of my business comes from my mowing base. The bulk of my business come from mowing contracts. Do most of my installs between November and March as the frequency of mowing is less. All residential systems with average 8 - 10 Zones.

    Irrigation is a luxury here not a necessity. Don't have to go out selling as I have a client base and they already know my work. Do some repair but this is not as profitable here as new installs.

    This scenario could work very well for you, depending on your irrigation knowledge and if irrigation is a marketable business there.

    Sam
     
  4. Two responsea and already this thread intrigues me. Trenching the pipe is mickey mouse? That surprises me but then I know almost nothing at all about irrigation. I've never even seen a lawn irrigation system but I think it makes sense. Maybe because what we consider a drought here in Upstate NY is nothing compared to what is experienced elsewhere.
     
  5. houston

    houston LawnSite Member
    Posts: 71

    Danax,

    Getting a license is Texas is easy - if you take and pass the required course and then pass the 8 hour test the 1st time. I have seen statistics about passing the test. 70% fail the test the first time around with many taking the test 6 or 7 times before passing or giving up. Just taking the required course alone without studying will probably not get you through the test.

    You must take the course through a certified basic training provider, and PASS the course first.

    After passing the course you then have to apply to TEEX to take the test.

    You are allowed 8 hours to complete the test.

    You will need to memorize or learn any formuals, procedures or guidelines to complete the design and hydraulics sections of the test. A calculator (non programmable) and a couple of pencils are about all you are allowed to take into the test room. No cheat sheets, paper, cell phones or pagers are allowed.

    The test is divided into 4 sections: Design, Hydraulics, Backflow, and General Irrigation Knowledge. Failing any 1 section and you have to take the test again (only the section that you failed must be repeated unless you fail 4 times and then you have to take all of the sections over).

    Believe me, I am not trying to discourage you. Just letting you know some of the facts.

    Good Luck!

    Where abouts in Houston are you?

    Contact me by private mail if you have any questions.
     
  6. pokemon

    pokemon LawnSite Member
    Posts: 98

    Danax,

    Welcome to Lawn Site. Its great that you have a plan that is a good start. Part of what Houston and MDirrigation said is true also there are others on this board that have vast amount of knowledge just do some digging around and you will find answers. Ask and it shall be answered knock and it will open but if you do'nt you will not know what a great collection of knowledge we have here. I consider my self still new and learning what work best for me may not be for you but try to get a job in the field to earn while you learn if you can afford it financially and physically then go and hit the books and that will begin to set you apart from the others with out a license no offense to anyone. In Florida from my observation most irrigation companies use trenchers and PVC pipes I don't see why a pipe puller can not be used in the same manner less or no trench to backfill. I looked for a pipe puller at rental equipment centers to experiment with but they do not carry them. It must be a regional thing.
    Good Luck
     
  7. Mdirrigation

    Mdirrigation LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,762

    Plows have ben used around here for 25 years . I was shocked to hear that people still trenched , unless it was 2inch pipe. Like Pokemon said it must be regional
     
  8. 2k1yzfr1

    2k1yzfr1 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 539

    I took the Irrigation test back in summer of 02 and passed all the sections except the design part. The test itself isn't that hard just alot of simple math. I think the hardest part of the test is sitting somewhere for 8 hours. It took me 9 hours to take the exam the first time (worked straight though lunch) and only 4 to redo the design part the second time. From what my teacher at TSTC here in waco was saying the Irrigation test for 04 is supposed to be MUCH harder. According to him the new test you have to know precipitation rates and also the watering requirements for every individual plant in the yard, and design your system according to that. The other 3 sections aren't that big of a deal though just simple math and memory questions.
     
  9. danax

    danax LawnSite Member
    Posts: 2

    Thanks for all the great replies. I definitely found the right place. I wasn't sure if my plan would be laughed at or not so I'm encouraged. As far as obtaining a Texas license being "easy", I meant that instead of having to have years of experience, all that you had to do was pass the 32 hour course then pass the test. I had no idea the test was as difficult as Houston and 2K have indicated. Thanks for the heads up....I will study dilligently. Matt, the plow looks like a neat way to go eventually. Sam, I have only minor theoretical knowledge of irrigation but I know landscape plant materials and requirements. I forgot to mention that I would be willing to work for someone for awhile. It would be an insult to y'all to claim that I think that I can be an irrigation "artist" without any installs under my belt. So I'm assuming that since no one said anything with regards to my profit expectations that I'm in the ballpark there. I did take one 2-night class by a man who said that $1000 per zone was not unheard of around here. (?)
     
  10. 2k1yzfr1

    2k1yzfr1 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 539

    On the pricing end of it $1000 a zone is high. Irrigators around Waco get $325-$400 a zone on average. I personally try to get $450 a zone just b/c I don't have to have the extra income from sprinkler systems, so if I don't get a couple installs b/c of price OH WELL! I've done 8 installs this year that ranged from a 6 station that took up 10 hours ($2250) to a 11 station that took 25 hours ($4000). On average you have about $700-$900 in parts per sprinkler if you are doing a 6-8 zone yard using a good quality head/valve/controller. We rent a trencher that cost us about $80 for 4 hours, a couple hundred labor, and the rest is all profit. I think the best thing in the world would be to work on a small irrigation crew with someone. To be honest after taking the 1 semester class in college, the 32 hour class, and the test I still didn't know how to put in a system. The class just teaches you how to pass the test not to put in a system. Luckily I have a friend who has been installing systems since he was about 9 for his grandfather so he showed me the way on the first couple. Let me know if you have anymore questions.

    Justin
     

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