how did you get started in irrigation?

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by Ground Master, Dec 16, 2002.

  1. Ground Master

    Ground Master LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 505

    How did you get started in irrigation / sprinkler systems?

    My story-
    I was working in the grounds department at a major resort while attending college. When the irrigation foreman job became available, I was the only one to express interest. I got the job
    and tons of training...this was back in 1984 (I was 21). Two years later I decided to jump into business for myself.

    Through the years I have attended many seminars and read many books. Of course 1000's of hours of hands on training doesnt hurt. Tom
  2. SprinklerGuy

    SprinklerGuy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    Golf Course Maintenance in 120 degrees of Yuma, Arizona heat, against my will in the summer of 1984, 1985. Full time instead of College in June of 1986. Much like you, when irrigation foreman job came available, I took it. Made golf course assistant superintendent in 1988, in charge of all emergency night calls of course.

    Moved to Phoenix to take a job with the golf course's irrigation supplier after my divorce and subsequent firing! After 2 years and many side jobs at Simpson Sprinkler....went out on own in 1995 full time. Lots of growth ever since!

    I guess I never thanked my Dad for making me take that job...funny how life leads you huh?
  3. HBFOXJr

    HBFOXJr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,712

    Graduated from college spring of '71. Economy ws crappy, Vietnam was still going strong, good jobs scarce. Bought a lawn care franchise that year to open in spring '72.

    Another franchise owner from Delaware got involved distributing irrigation supplies at that time. We were friendly and he thought I'd like adding irrigation services. So I attended several days of training seminars sponsered by a manufacturer and off I went.

    Back then brass was king. Heads and valves. Plastic in its infancy. I can't remember what a brass impact cost in those days but it was not quite double a plastic rotor today. Your could buy enough 1" plastic valves for a small job today for what we paid for a brass one then. Even in plastic then they were more expensive than today. 1" Febco PVB $130 I think???

    Labor was 1/2 to 2/3 of what it costs today. Same with gas. Yet the avg system here that some guys sell is about the same price as before.

    Our distributors saw things booming and in the 80's. They encouraged a lot of guys to get into the business rather than letting market forces generate an increase in company size adn some interest by new people. We got numbers instead. And you outsold me by cutting my price and the next guy outsold you by cutting your price.

    Meanwhile, if you were pricing work by that material times factor of (2) and your materials costs were going down into the 80's & 90's, you got less for the job. And that continued while all other costs went up. And thats what happened to all the money to be made in irrigation. :cry:

    So for all you young entreprenuers posting here about "how do I get started", "where do I learn" or "I'd like to add" think about it carefully everytime you quote a price than is lower than your competitors or equal to those guys at the bottom end. It'll come around to bite you when the next asks "how...".

    Now granted there are still good opportunities around the country. New Jersey like the New York metro area is a very mature market. So what I have here may not happen in your area for awhile yet. But if your in a growth area it certainly will come.
  4. turfman59

    turfman59 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 801

    I got started in this 3 years ago when I called 3 contractors to install a system at my house, when know one would schedule or call back after 5 days I got to thinking I better try it myself, there are relatively a handful of guys doing it and by looking at old phone books there is a 50% turn over on irrigation and landscape companys from year to year. Became very interested in the process of installation and design and thought this is a relatively high tech field that means If you do your homework and gain knowledge it could be a great sideline for starters and then develop into a business.... I have spent the last 25 years working as a Butcher, Pershable Director, and Store Manager and really loved every minute of it but the next step for me was buying my own store, but could never Pony up the $450,000 it takes to get a 20,000 sq ft facility off the ground. If your thinking &%#@ scrub! Let me just say I pay all the required insurances, taxes, file all the appropriate quarterlys and will be a L.L.C by years end.

    While this year was my 2nd summer of being legitimate my receipts were around 45k I wonder sometimes where it comes from? that by the way was in addition to a 45 hour a week job.

  5. HBFOXJr

    HBFOXJr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,712

    Your decision to buy the sneaker shows commitment and planning. Look at the $$$ you saved in labor by buying the right machine for the job early in the game. Growth and pay back will come so much easier.
  6. JeffY

    JeffY LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 324

    I got started in summer of 2000 when I joined a landscape company as a general worker. I origionally was slated as a landscaper, then progressively moved into different fields. Wanting to know how to operate in the other divisions within the company (landscape, irrigation, maintainence), I accepted the offer to work in the irrigation department after an opening was created. I was involved in all aspects of sprinkler except for the design and bidding.

    This past summer I again asked if I could work in the maintainece division so would be able to get an understanding of using the mowers, shrub pruning, and basic perenial bed maintainece (ie pulling weeds). I was quickly brought up to speed and by midsummer was in fact training two new guys who we had hired to help expand the business. While I had and still do enjoy lawn maintainence, I had always loved doing sprinkler work, especially installations. I was able to tag along at the end of the season and help put in several systems. It was really weird to be putting in sprinkler systems in the middle of December when there is usually snow on the ground in Nebraska. I think we were one of the few of any companies still working at that time.

    Next year, I will be in charge of the sprinkler division and oversee two crews, a installation crew which I will work in, and a mantainence/repair crew. I really look forward to next year.

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