Irrigation Guys...Please Read this

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by SprinklerGuy, Feb 4, 2005.

  1. SprinklerGuy

    SprinklerGuy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    Alright irrigation guys….put yourself in my shoes and help me out here please.

    My once thriving business in Arizona isn’t thriving as much as it once was. Due to many factors…but my choice mostly. I decided to downsize in order to lower my overhead and exposure. I have accomplished that, however, the income isn’t enough to keep my queen and prince and princess in the manner in which they are accustomed! Oh yeah, and me, the King of course.

    Because of this, I need to get busy here in Colorado. I have run into some problems with this…most of which has been my inability to make a decision. A little background…when I started my company in Arizona it started slow and one day it was big. In between there I was able to grow it using some direct mail and networking but it took 4 years to get to a decent size…not to mention Scottsdale/Phoenix area is much larger than my new city. Also, no queen and her court to keep up with at the beginning so slow growth was no problem.

    Jump to the future…I need to grow faster. Heck, I just need to start first…I only installed one system last summer…my first job in Colorado after being here almost 3 years! Here is my dilemma.

    Lawn sprinkler customers are worth a minimum of about $125 per season here in Colorado….winterization and spring start up. A bit less if the client goes with just the winterization. I really need to make 3-4k per month. Minimum. I could install systems also…that would help. However I am considering lawn maintenance. I never thought I would say that. But, each client may be worth up to and above 1000 per season in lawn maintenance with mowing, aerating, power raking, clean ups, fert, and sprinkler winterization of course.

    Here is my point…I promise I will get to it. J

    I need fewer clients with maintenance to make a living I think than with irrigation. Yes I will need more equipment etc. Yes my hourly rate will be lower. But it will be steady income and should be easier to convert to a “B” business. (Those that read Kiyosaki, know what I mean) I have converted my business in AZ to a semi-B business where I am just the manager and head phone answerer…so I know how to do it!

    Therefore my question to you all is this:

    Am I crazy to even consider this?
    Please, all input and advice and comments are appreciated.
  2. GrazerZ

    GrazerZ LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 670

    I don't know about you man, but I see it from the opposite perspective I guess. I'm trying to get away from maintenance and focus just on my fert/spray and irrigation side of my company. I decided that it was best for me due to fact that you need a mountain of equiptment, dependable employees (biggest problem) and its the most cut-throat aspect of my buisness. around here I charge $35.00 hr for lawn type maintenance. Some people have a cow even about that. My area was good for maintenance about 4-5 yrs ago but now its like someone set off a bomb that exploded little scrub "landscapers" everywhere. I choose the spraying and irrigation because its fun to me and its exclusionary. it require more brains and effort to learn which keeps competition away.(somewhat)
    Heres how it works for me:

    Maintenance: $35.00hr $22000.00 worth of equiptment with no room and three men minimum.

    Irrigation: $45.00hr plus charge list pricing on materials $5,000.00 equiptment and only two men, me and a helper.

    Spraying/fert: $100.00hr $10,000.00 in equiptment and only one man to run.

    of course this is how I see it just from the surface. There are other factors too. I say if you know irrigation well, have the equiptment, market it first, then if it does'nt go well your forced to do something else also.
  3. SprinklerGuy

    SprinklerGuy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    I I said earlier the difference.

    However, very easy to "concentrate" on one side of your business when you have customers already eh?

    Put yourself in my shoes...without any clients.

    What is the fastest way to create a base and an income?
  4. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876


    I understand your predicament. I think Grazer Z has a good point about the fert/spray business being the most profitable. But the downside to that business is that you really need a LOT more clients each month. And that takes a while to accumulate. OR it takes a lot of marketing $$ to get a lot of fert and squirt customers really fast.

    I think your initial idea of branching out into maintenance is a good one. I think branching out - in general - is a great idea for anyone's business. There are two business concepts out there. 1) Stay focused on one thing and do it great. 2) Branch out and do as many things as you can. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

    The advantage to #1 is that you can concentrate on one single industry. You can master it, become very good at it, and make your customers very happy. The downside is that you are limiting yourself and turning away other business that could be yours. The other really big downside to #2 is that it takes a while to establish a business like this. You could go on for years before you finally become well known and really make any good money.

    The advantage to #2 is that each client can be worth a LOT more money to you each year. But the disadvantage is that you don't get to stay focused on one single thing. Your focus and attention is all over the place.

    I am a firm believer in the #2 concept. Even though it is more chaotic - it pays the bills. And that's my #1 concern. I told myself when I got into this business (I started with just mowing) that I didn't care what I did, as long as I made good money. I always told people, "Heck! I'd shovel crap all day as long as it paid well!" And that's still fairly true. I know there isn't as much PRESTIGE in mowing as their is in sprinklers or other trades. But it pays the bills. And it pays fairly well and regularly.

    The thing is; don't look at it as something that YOU will have to do all the time. That's really discouraging. Look at is as something temporary. You will do it to start out. But then, once you get enough clients, your WORKERS will be the ones out doing it. Even when I first started, I could never see myself mowing lawns the rest of my life. That would just suck! But what I COULD see was myself managing a business and managing employees. That was a lot more appealing. So the time I spent for the first 2 years - actually mowing lawns - was a means to an end. It was a stepping point. Nowadays, I hardly ever touch a mower. I probably mowed one or two lawns all last year. But my workers mow 160+ per week. That pays their bills and mine!

    I'd encourage you to not just stop with maintenance. Why not get into other forms of landscaping eventually too? Those same clients who need sprinklers and maintenance also occasionall want plants and trees installed, new lawns installed, etc. Those are big money makers too!

    Out of everything we do - I'd LOVE to just do sprinklers. We installed about 30 or 40 systems last year. I wish we were installing 3 each week! That'd be awesome. Out of everything we do, I think I enjoy irrigation the most. It's a fairly exact science and easy to control. But the truth is, I wouldn't make nearly as much $ just doing sprinklers. So I gotta keep doing it all.

    That's my 2 cents.
  5. SprinklerGuy

    SprinklerGuy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    Thank you for your time Jim.

    I agree...I am quite proficient at irrigation and love it, however to start out again in a new town like this...I think I need to do other things.

    When I started my business in Arizona it was the same thing...I knew eventually I would be in the office and not in the field. That is how it worked out for me, now I am in an office and a different state...a much more beautiful one also ;)

    That being said, my business that I will start here in Colorado will be much the same...I plan to eventually get back in the office here as well. You gave me some very good advice and I appreciate it greatly. I agree with you on business concept #2...I always have felt that leaving money on the table with your existing clients was a bad idea. In Arizona we do irrigation and landscape installation, but we don't do maintenance. Never got into that there and now with 700 miles in between myself and Arizona...I don't plan to.

    But, I do plan to spread my wings a bit here in Colorado. My thoughts are that if I am maintaining their landscaping, then I can also maintain their sprinklers. Eventually I hope to have 2 mowing crews and do the irrigation repairs myself. As I grow, I expect I will be able to do more irrigation.

    My biggest issue I suppose is the newness of this. It has been a VERY LONG TIME since I had to worry about money. Now that I am in this position, I feel like I need to do it right the first time...plan plan plan. This is my future. Problem is, all that I have done to this point is plan, seems I am waiting for something to fall in my lap! I need to execute these plans now and get moving.

    Thank you for your response, it is much appreciated
  6. Critical Care

    Critical Care LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,654

    Ah, some good comments! I’m in the boat of sole proprietors that are trying to make it on their own, and I’m doing this by mixing maintenance as well as irrigation. I have a regular maintenance route for a few days out of the week and then the remainder I reserve for special projects, irrigation jobs, or requests. What’s nice about maintenance is that you can develop a weekly route that is always there and always predictable.

    One problem that I often face has to do with the old axiom “when it rains, it pours”. At times I’ll only work a few days out of the week doing maintenance, and then other times I’ll have installs and projects building up on me to the point of where I’m working weekends and wishing that I didn’t have my maintenance routes to do. This on and off thing also has kept me from hiring other people, just because it’s so unpredictable.

    I realize that I need to revamp what I’m charging for service. My maintenance has been at $30 per hour – for most accounts – while my irrigation installs, though different from job to job, often boils down to roughly the same. By not allocating myself, my truck and trailer, entirely to irrigation 100% of the time, I typically find myself having to do a quite a bit of “off the jobsite” time-consuming running around, stocking, and shuffling of equipment. It could be that I just haven’t come upon a good method to wear two hats.
  7. advancedlawnsolutions

    advancedlawnsolutions LawnSite Member
    Messages: 62

    I believe you may need to get to know some local pest control operators who have been there awhile. They know alot of folks through town and have built there own reputation and once you can sell yourself to even one of these guys they in return can bring you alot of work just by word-of mouth. That's what I do anyway, I have a guy in town that does my pest control and I send him work and he sends me work. NO marketing just cards. Now I know you going to need to market of course but maybe this will help you get recognized to build on. :)
  8. Currier

    Currier LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 564

    One thing you might consider is joining the ALCC (Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado) They will sometimes give out leads I got some work from them last year. They also hold meetings and could be a good place to share your concerns and goals and maybe get a little refferal help from some established outfits.
  9. greenworldh20

    greenworldh20 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 659


    Lawn Maint. is a big nut to tackle. But done correctly, it can produce a nice net profit. I have many friends in the green industry who just do maint. and they are very happy.

    Now, as for giving up the service of irrigation, i really don't have an answer for you. I do know that you are in a tough area to push irrigation. I read about droughts and local govts giving homeowners kickbacks on taxes if they install LESS items that need irrigation on their property in the green industry mags. That is a big problem over there.

    Generally, service based businesses are a great source of revenue. Personally, our company's net profit is so high due to our service division. Don't give up on the irrigation. I believe that you have to push the service a little harder this time around.

    Keep calling the local landscapers in the area. Sooner or later 'their' irrigation guy will 'drop the ball'. When that happens, your monthly letter, phone call...will open the door for you. Remember, it took me 5 years to get with one of the biggest landscape companies in my area. I wrote letters and called them 4 times a year. When they finally gave me my shot, the owner called me into his office and showed me all the letters I had sent him.

    That blew me away. The man was loyal to his 'guy' until he did not show up to a job for one week.

    I know how hard things are when you have a family. Trust me, I REALLY know. If you remember we had 2 droughts in the northeast in 3 years. I could not give a sprinkler away during that time. It was really scary. But I just ran a small crew-me and 3 laborers- and we did anything our clients wanted. Landscape, mulch, cutting trees, pruning, sprinklers, heck, i dug a grave for a clients deceased dog in her woods!!!!

    You do what you have to do. When things get better, then you can make a business decision on what areas to specialize in (ones that have a nice net profit) and what areas to drop (services that cost you money).

    It has been a long day for me (getting ready for spring home shows next week). I hope some of this makes sense and helps you out.

    Good luck.

    Brian Klimek
  10. SprinklerGuy

    SprinklerGuy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    Thanks guys....Brian thanks for joining in....still waiting for HBFoxx to come join us....

    I don't plan to really get out of fact, I am working hard to get the company in Arizona back...pushing service and my service contracts. Spring will hit there by end of Feb...and things will roll again pretty well.

    My plan was actually to do maintenance a base of clients that I can do maint and gutters and aerating and irrigation start up and winterizing. This will help to build my base of irrigation clients. Hopefully within 2 seasons or so I can have a decent sized base of maint clients and start a crew. Then I can concentrate on the irrigation end of it.

    Great idea on calling the maintenance companies...which means I really need 2 companies doesn't it? Can't hardly call the maint companies to try and get their irrigation repairs if my company does maint can i?


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