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Low Voltage and Niche Markets in General

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by Az Gardener, Jan 5, 2008.

  1. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    This is a continuation of the ALOP thread I was contributing to and I realized this portion was heading in a different direction so I thought better to begin a new thread.

    All business is there to serve the client. Most clients in general are not sophisticated enough to recognize good from great. Most can't even tell good from bad. They want it all and are also not willing to pay more than they have to. Having a separate contractor come in during a complex landscape job is not the most practical or efficient way to get a job done. It certainly does nothing to help control costs.

    I was at IA a few years ago in a business seminar and we were discussing L/S jobs. Someone from the East coast said something about L/S jobs taking a few days. I was sitting by a guy from So.Cal. and we both held up our hands at the same time with a dumbfounded look on our face. What can you do in a few days? Well... plant plants and lay down sod, mulch, that was all a landscaper does in some parts of the country. In our market even a "simple" landscape consists of a pool, small waterfeature, hardscape, pots, drainage, boulders, irrigation system, lighting, plants, turf and granite topdressing. There is not enough money for most clients to hire "experts" in what others would consider "niche" markets.

    I only say this as a old geezer who has been around a while and seen things evolve over the years and I would not get too comfortable in a Niche market of any kind. All you need is one big company to open a branch in your metro area and bring a crew from here that does it all for much less and you will be whining like all the mow boys about lowballers.
  2. NightScenes

    NightScenes LawnSite Silver Member
    Male, from Kingsland, Texas
    Messages: 2,214

    It sounds like you are one of a rare breed that does many things well and has the man power for it. Unfortunately this country has far too many contractors that do a lot of things and none of them well. As long as these other contractors exist there will always be room for specialists. There are also enough home owners out there who are used to hiring specialist for each aspect of their home design. They will hire an architect to design their home. Then they will hire an interior decorator, landscape architect, landscaper, pool builder and exterior lighting designer.

    There are also a LOT of lighting companies that do awful work and they don't seem to last all that long. There are a couple of them that have come and gone in my area. This means that "lighting specialists" aren't all the same and you can't lump them up and say that hiring a lighting company is any better than hiring a plumber to design and install the lighting. I would even go as far to say some plumbers that I know could probably out do some of those lighting guys.

    What separates all of these is passion. Those that have a passion for what they do will always be around and be prosperous in what they do.
  3. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    I think you will find many dissenting viewpoints here AZGardener.

    My clients appreciate the extra attention to detail, specialized experience, passion for the art, and broad based knowledge that I bring to their properties.

    Here it is not uncommon for sophisticated landscape projects to be designed by an specialist, hardscaped by a specialist, planted and maintained by another, irrigated by a specialist, lit by a specialist, and have the tree work done by a specialist. If there is a built structure water feature, pool or hot tub on the property it is generally built and maintained by another specialist.

    Those companies who profess to "do it all" and market themselves as one stop shops do exist and they are getting work, but they are not the companies who are getting the high end clientelle. Also, it is pretty easy to pick off the properties that have used a one stop shop to create their landscapes.... IMO they never really seem to excel in any one category.

    Would you hire a house painter to paint a family portrait simply because he has access to paint and brushes and is working in your neighbourhood?

    I would be interested to find out from the others here if my experience is replicated in other markets.

    Have a great day.
  4. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    Very well stated Paul, great post.
  5. pete scalia

    pete scalia LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 960

    You base your statements around what 1 contractor said from the east coast at a seminar? I've got news for you guy, here in NY we install all of the same things you do on the west coast. We may work and do things a little faster cause that's our nature. Everything in NY is done fast otherwise someone else will eat your lunch for you. It's dog eat dog. in addition we have a much shorter season to get things done. The ground freezes at this time of year and very little work gets done for 3 months or so a yr. So there is a rush so to speak to finish. Any projects that didn't finish by mid to late December must wait till the spring. Not many people want their property left for three months disheveled in the midst of a landscape project over the holidays and balance of the winter. You see what I'm sayin?
  6. JoeyD

    JoeyD LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,933

    I know for a fact that there are a lot of very good full service landscape construction professionals that do a very good job with lighting. Some of our largest end users that have won awards for their lighting are also masons, irrigation experts, pool builders, arborists, and plant experts. Lighting is something they have picked up and now they have the ability to change and adapt their landscape designs to enhance the lighting design they have in mind. Now on the otherside some of the worst lighting jobs I have seen were installed by landscapers who were not educated and had no clue what they were doing. These are usually the daisy chained jobs!

    Where these good landscaper guys dont get a chance to utilize their lighting skills in on existing landscaped jobs. Fact is most guys like AZ Gardener (not trying to pretend I know his buisness) dont get calls from the homeowner who is JUST looking for lighting. They usually only install lighting when they are installing landscapes. This is why so many of them have taken to starting lighting divisions, so they can gain access to those projects.

    Reality is that homeowners who have been down the road with having the landscape contractor hack in some crappy system, they are now looking for a lighting pro to install their next job. They want a lighting pro to do their lighting just like they want a landscape pro to plant their trees and build their planters.
  7. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    The way it generally goes here is...

    The big jobs 250-K and up :weightlifter: typically go to Recognized landscape architects for the design. There is one local guy that gets 50-K per acre just for the design. They design the whole job but will typically allow a trusted contractor to make moderate adjustments in the field. This includes hardscapes, lighting, irrigation, plants everything I have even seen them design the patio furniture. Those get installed typically by a single L/S contractor who will do all the work in house. Sometimes the pool is subbed out depending on the contractor.

    The typical custom home L/S is usually designed by a lesser known landscape architect or a design, install, build firm. The same type company that would install the big jobs. These jobs are 50-K to 200-K :dancing:

    Track homes are all over the place :dizzy: the cheapies are done as part of the builders package and bigger companies, usually commercial guys, will come in and do 10-15 at a time like one big job. The rest are kind of a free for all.

    I have not in 20 plus years in this market in PHX seen a niche lighting company doing any systems. I used to know of one guy (from NY) that had a specialty company but he sold the company :drinkup: (smart guy) and the guy that bought it was out of business within 2-3 years :cry: .

    I guess what I am saying is that while you could probably make living on renovations and the occasional client. I will agree there is always some one to buy your service. That if you want to build a company that will run without you the margins must be very high. Because your not doing enough volume to lower you margins. If it is your passion and you are comfortable being married to the company great for you. Not my cup of tea. I enjoy fishing in a well stocked lake.
  8. Chris J

    Chris J LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,843

    Have you ever heard of Dave Kredit? He's in your area and does quite well in this biz. The last time I was in AZ, he took me on a tour of your area and showed me all of the famous work you are speaking of. I must admit, I am still seriously considering relocating to Phoenix to start a service/revamp business. No offense intended.
  9. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    Sheesh, it must suck being a small to medium sized specialty business in Arizona. All the more reason to stay here I suppose. :) Around these parts, the larger landscape Design & Build companies are happy to call in specialty trades for lighting, irrigation, ponds, pools etc. They have an appreciation of the strong background, experience, understanding and commitment to ongoing service that us "little guys" provide the clients with. Not to mention the truly Custom Systems we come up with.

    There are some projects that are managed by the LS company (or builder) and we might initially work as a sub-contractor, but I always insist on meeting in person with the client. This ensures a personal relationship and understanding of the process and maintenance requirements of the system.

    I have seen the lighting & irrigation work done by some large scale, one stop, landscape construction companies. Without a doubt it does not compare in quality or scope to the specialist contractors. Also, those larger companies are less apt to have in place service divisions to maintain that infastructure over the long haul.

    As for making a living on "renovations and the ocassional client".... well :laugh: that is just funny. We are currently booking into late July for new installations...
  10. Desertdweller

    Desertdweller LawnSite Member
    Messages: 159

    Stumbled on this thread by accident but have to add my 2 cents. AZ has done well in the market he's in but there are specialty companies here in the Valley that are doing quit well. One of the best lighting guys I've seen 30 years does only lights and has all the work he wants. We do only irrigation and 95% repair and have 5 techs right now and plan to add 1 to 2 more each year for the next few years or until we can't find good help. We all have markets we can make money in specializing or not.

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