Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by bicmudpuppy, Jan 21, 2006.

  1. bicmudpuppy

    bicmudpuppy LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,781

    Ok, lets talk the benefits and liabilities of diversity. This is going to be year 5 of not working for someone else. I started out to be "irrigation only". For those special customers, I have done almost anything they ask. Year one was OK, Year two was good. Year 3 was wetter than a flood year, and this last year has been dismal. I have had lots of requests for mowing and chemical maint contracts. I know that some of you are Landscapers as well as Irrigators, and I know it is prejudice, but I don't count most LCO's that "do irrigation" as irrigators. You got to be an old school ditch digger for me to consider you to be an "Irrigation Technician". Seems like there are fewer of us every year. So, is diversity the spice of life? Or the bane of the competitive market? I originally thought being irrigation only would net me a lot of referral and sub work. Most of the guys I've dealt with needing sub work were the worst paying customers my books ever saw. And the past tense here is accurate. Jumping into the LCO market wouldn't cost me a lot, and I've been commercial pest certified in five states, so getting certified and licensed to apply isn't a problem. This would also mean I am shutting the door on those who don't want competition doing their irrigation work, but I would be opening the door to use my design skills and plant knowledge again. Thoughts?

    On the flip side, I seriously considered all but closing up shop. Keeping my best customers on a hidden side basis and finding a place to go back to punching the clock and making someone else a lot of money.
  2. aquamtic

    aquamtic LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 303

    My opinion as a "Irrigator" is that I will never get into landscaping. First of all most of my work comes from networking with landscapers and secondly because I dedicate full attention to my core business as mainly doing irrigation. Now as for spreading out and offering additional services here are a few that I already do and are considering adding

    What we already do:
    Landscape Lighting!! This is a huge service for us and has helped us gain more irrigation nusiness as well

    Water Quality Control: Iron removing systems such as Rid O Rust for irrigation Water.

    Irrigation Auditing

    Install Pipe for other contractors

    Wire and Pipe Locating: master the tools of locating wire and valves

    What we are considering in the future
    Hydro Seeding


    Pond and Waterfall maintanance ( sub out the building part of it) In our area these need annual startup and shutdown. Landscapers who build don't want to deal with servicing

    Diveristy is great but you need to set some boundaries if you are serious and are commited to your core business
  3. PurpHaze

    PurpHaze LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,496

    Personally, I think population density and/or income has a lot to do with being only able to concentrate solely on irrigation. I can't think of anyone in our area that is solely into irrigation because it just can't keep them afloat. Even large companies from outside our area that receive the large government contracts also do the planting of turf/plants/trees and followup with chemical applications and weed control. Of course these other aspects might also be on a sub-contracting basis. It also seems that if one wants to concentrate solely on irrigation they need to be able to travel long distances for some of these larger jobs.
  4. Broker

    Broker LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 382

    I think that you will only find sole irrigators in the northern climates where it is still somewhat of a luxury item. In those climates you will find those companies working with LCO's that are either too small or too large to handle the irrigation part alone. Meaning too small to be competitive price wise or too large to keep pace with their lawn installs. I think that a company will do what it takes to survive so I am always looking for ways to make money. Luckily I don't see myself having to by a hydro seeder anytime soon.
  5. Wet_Boots

    Wet_Boots LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 50,887

    Depending on the general age of the installations in your area, service will be on the increase, as even the quality jobs near the end of the original components' life cycle. Wet years really suck, but the next dry spell will bring back the customers.
  6. telcomac

    telcomac LawnSite Member
    Messages: 32


    It sounds like you are at some kind of crossroad here! Irrigate or LCO or Landscape, Oh MY!!! What is your real take on diversity? What are you really looking for? I think competition in any field is healthy, keeps you on your toes!
    And judjing by your statement, " I would be opening the door to use my design skills and plant knowledge again", you probably need the challange that you first experienced when you first decided " not to work for anyone else".
    Fugetabout the flip side!!! Don't worry about competition, let them worry about you!!!. Do whats right for yourself!!!

    Just my thoughts!
  7. Flatbed

    Flatbed LawnSite Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 39

    In the Des Moines area there are at least five compaines not including myself that do irrigation only. My belief is doing what you are best at doing, and growing slowly if you have to in other areas. If you are good at what you do, and have good cutomers with minimal profit margins, raise your prices. I found that your good customers stay, and you eliminate the others, which normally don't pay their bills anyway. One of my friends does landscaping, sod, and grade, and passes the irrigation to me, and I do the same for him. Running a business is hard work. Some years are bad, and some good. Don't give up.
  8. bicmudpuppy

    bicmudpuppy LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,781

    Crossroads may be a good way to put it. I was content to let this thing grow slowly, but life has a way of making decisions for you and with a couple of wet years and the alterations in my personal situation, slow growth is no longer a true option. I have said for a very long time that I DO NOT mow grass. I'm thinking about it now. I am without peer in this part of the world as an irrigation technician. That sounds concieted and boastful, but our industry is a "tight" one. I can count on one hand the number of guys I would let work in front of or behind me within a decent distance drive. When I was in DFW ten years ago, there were many more qualified people. I would go so far as to say that the lack of truly qualified irrigation professionals makes the market here what it is. Instead of repairing things, the norm is to replace without question. And there are enough guys with a finger or thumb in the pie to make finding that level of service cheap. This market is going to get better. We are square in between the profitable growth stages. When irrigation is a true luxury, good techs make a premium because it doesn't pay at all to compete with them because there isn't enough work. When irrigation becomes a necessity from a keep of with the Jone's attitude, irrigation becomes profitable again because the amount of work multiplied by the amount of shoddy work increases what a true technician can charge. We are way past the first and not actually to the second. That is my opinion on the demographic anyway. My decision will probably be made by factors I can't completely control. I am most likely going to take the first "real" job offered. If it allows me to maintain what I have as a part time income, I will. If I am forced to accept a means of income that will not allow what I have, then I will have to deal with that as well.
  9. Wet_Boots

    Wet_Boots LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 50,887

    If you can keep a hand in, with your list of premium customers, that time clock won't seem so bad, especially if you get a benefits package.
  10. BSME

    BSME LawnSite Senior Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 829

    I don't think that irrigation only is a business you can "grow slowly"... there are just too many idle hours to make all your investments worthwhile. This will be my third year where I haven't worked for someone else either full time or on the side, and if I had other hours to keep I know I wouldn't have devoted as much energy to getting the company started.
    This year I've been debating whether or not to continue to grow as quickly as possible. If I keep advertising I'll have too much service work for one crew but not enough to hire another crew full time. In the past I've had some guys come in part time for installs. It would be a real problem to keep solid guys around for part time work.

    It seems to me that if you really want to end up doing irrigation for yourself (seem like that would make you the happiest) then you have to sell out on it not pick up lawn mowing. Advertise too much and figure out how to do all the work when it comes in.

    Trust me... I realize that as a 22 year old "kid" with a college degree it is easier to risk everything than it would be for a family man... but I just don't see growing slow as an option.

    I have no doubt that you could do it and do it well... it just may take some more sacrifice now than you and your family are willing.

    Good luck

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