New VOLT Top Dog Mini (MR11) Spotlight

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by steveparrott, Jun 16, 2014.

  1. steveparrott

    steveparrott LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,276


    All VOLT LED lamps and fixtures have lifetime warranties.

    The debate on pricing and distribution models has been played out in great length in this forum. (Let's not drag it out again.) The bottom line is what works for your business - what helps you sell more jobs (using high-performance products at affordable prices).
  2. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Well, that's just it. What works for MY business is being able to get a nice markup on the product as well as making good money on the labor end. With most other professional outdoor lighting brands out there, I can do this. Because I get a big discount off their list pricing. With yours I cannot. So it's a simple choice, for me. I can clear a lot more on a job using another brand than I do using your brand. It's not even really an issue of distribution. It's an issue of being able to get a discount on the product from list price and enjoying a good markup.

    Almost equally important though is the issue of perceived value. A lot of our lighting customers are in really high end homes. They are sort of expecting a fixture to cost $150 or more. When I come to them with one that costs $45 it cheapens the product. A lot of our customers are wanting and expecting higher end stuff. And they realize that comes with a price.

    Ok, I've said my piece. I'll back off now.
  3. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,183


    I understand what you are trying to say, however, your logic is completely flawed. Jim, I totally respect you and am a great admirer of your landscape work, however, I am going to have to pull the flag on this one.

    1st- Your "big discount" on your k****** products, isn't even remotely close to the price I pay on VOLT products. So please explain to me how you "make more money" by paying twice as much as I do for my lighting products? I think you would turn the whole economic world on it's head if that was really true. In fact, the actual way companies increase their capital reserves, add employees and necessary equipment is in the time tested and "proven" model of "leveraging their buying power by buying quality product for less". Your argument of "because your product costs half the price of my product, I can't make as much money on it" doesn't pass the smell test- I actually didn't sleep the day my economics professor taught this. When you say it's "an issue of being able to get a discount on the product from the list price and enjoying a good markup"- NO ONE offers a larger discount on product than VOLT. Either you are drinking to much of the "red product" from K****** or you are being completely disingenuous because you don't know how to handle the VOLT marketing and distribution model in relation to your sales.

    2nd- You are under the assumption that just because VOLT has their prices listed on the web (and that they are probably half the price of yours) that somehow, you are paralyzed by this and can't mark up the products and your services. Last I checked, You could find just about any make and model of light fixture out there on the web for a reduced price (nothing to compare to VOLT though). I also believe you are operating under a false assumption that just because the prices are lower on product, you can't charge for your services like you could for a fixture that has it's prices hidden. Why? Do you feel dishonest about the what you charge your clients? Do you feel that your services (beyond the equipment itself) is not worthy of the price you are charging. I thought we were supposed to be "lighting designers" first and not fixture salesman. If you are a good lighting designer, you will be recognized for your work and can charge accordingly-irregardless of brand names. Your clients will trust your choices of product based on your portfolio and reputation. If you are only a fixture peddler trying to install as much product as possible- Well, then perhaps this would justify the fear you and so many others that bash VOLT seem to share here. You all seem to fear that If the secret gets out that regular people can actually buy, solid, professional, heavy cast brass lighting equipment for less than what you peddle your lights for, you will be out of business. You all seem to feel threatened by this and if you are just peddling name brand fixtures- then you probably should. However, if you are a proven, quality lighting designer that is in demand- this is not even remotely an issue for you. 95% of my clients are not interested in name brands. They hire me because I produce results that are aesthetically pleasing and consistently delivered from job to job with solid, well made product that has a warranty that is second to none. They know when they hire me that they are going to get a beautiful job. Guess what- I get to charge a handsome fee for this specialty- regardless of what product I buy. This means Jim, that I am probably marking up my VOLT equipment more than you are marking up your k****** parts- so much for that argument.

    3rd- Jim, I wholeheartedly agree with you here. Perceived value is very important, but even more important is the "actual value" of the products in terms of quality. That trumps perceived value every time. You somehow have the false notion that just because something costs less means that it is not as good. Lets examine a few examples here for comparison of our chosen and respected products. Me from VOLT, you from k******

    I buy a VOLT- Tank spot light, it's an awful lot like a Unique pulsar (not a piece of junk) in build quality and features, only it's half the price of a pulsar. You buy an aluminum product that is lighter weight than mine for nearly twice the price I am paying. If we placed both in the hands of a client, mine would pass the heft test and quality test over the aluminum simply based on heft value and that it's built from materials that weather far better long term. (This is certainly a subjective opinion of course- I am sure there are plenty of people who would go for the "lighter weight, shorter life-span" product if given the choice.......)

    Lets talk about optics for a moment: I have put your product and my product head to head in the ultimate test of architectural lighting.(I am happy to post pictures if you like to prove it) The VOLT led lamps I used, produce a smooth and clean projection of light. It is evenly distributed with little to no beam artifacts visible on smooth architecture. Now, your brand- Well lets just say I had 3 distinct and varying beams projecting harshly on the wall- which is ok if that kind of thing flips your switch. Generally, most prefer the other way. Yes, this was on the new model you are currently using.

    Lets talk about the light itself. VOLT uses a 4 step binning method when selecting the diodes for their LED chipsets. CREE XBDs are not only chosen from a particular color temp, but they are further chosen tightly within the 4 corners of the intersection of the color temp and yellow/white spectrum. Many other manufacturers, K****** included, may specify chips at the 2700 or 3000k range, but this says nothing of the indiscriminate binning within the color spectrum of that temp of light. I have compared chipsets from many different manufacturers- including k****** that have chipsets that have a green, purple and yellow hue, all on the same board. Yuck!!! It looks like someone puked on a wall when broadcasting it on light colored walls.

    Lets talk about ground stake options: VOLT has 4 with 3 of them being a solid- (brass to brass connection) for added strength. Yours well......They have plastic! Dang that whole pesky "percepted value thing".

    Lets talk about warranty- Is yours 5 years, or maybe it's 6 years. Ok then, 15 years if you must. I am not even going to mention VOLT has an unconditional, warranty on their products. For you small print guys- THERE IS NO TIME LIMIT AND THERE ARE NO EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES FOR RETURN. THIS IS A 110% CUSTOMER SATISFACTION GUARANTEE. Your purchased products are 100% covered for as long as....well as long as VOLT is around I guess, and let me just assure you- they are not going anywhere.

    4th- Lest you make the fatal mistake of thinking you can't get good results with VOLT products- I would like to refer you to the portfolio page of my website. Most of my photos from the past 4 years are using VOLT products. I would put VOLT product results up against any other manufacturer out there.

    Finally, I would just like to say a few final remarks to "anyone" who continues to castigate VOLT. I have grown weary of sitting passively by and letting those who know nothing about the company, continue to bash it indiscriminately. I have personally had the privilege of visiting the VOLT facility in Tampa twice so far. The first time I visited, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Would it just be a big warehouse with random lighting parts shipped out by a bunch of folks just punching a time clock? I didn't really know, but Holy Cow- was I in for a shock. Did they have a huge warehouse? Oh yeah, and it was stuffed with product from the floor to the rafters. No wonder they have a 99% fill rate on orders. This wasn't what shocked me though. Before visiting them, I had bought into the thought that VOLT was simply, only just an "importer-reseller" of fixtures. I could not have been more mistaken. They have multiple engineers on staff that have decades of experience in this industry along with a complete testing lab. I know Alan (VOLTs founder and inspiration) wouldn't want me to talk much about him because he is actually a very modest guy that has nothing to prove to anyone. He just absolutely eats, drinks and sleeps- Lighting- I have met only a few individuals in this industry who would match his passion and vision for this industry. Most incorrectly think of VOLT as a "reseller" only, however their reinvestment into new technical advancements and commitment to quality engineering is unseen by most- unless you happen to have had the privilege of getting to know them personally. The passion and commitment to this industry has been passed down from Alan throughout the staff, and has created a culture of excellence within the VOLT company that is clearly reflected in the individuals who make up the VOLT team there. From the engineers who design new products, the sales and marketing guys that bring the products to the market, the customer service agents who patiently answer all the technical questions from customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to the guys that meticulously double check every order as it is packed; "Excellence" is the word I was left with after my visit to this fine company.

    VOLT helps contractors leverage their buying power to increase profits and to be more competitive, with greater flexibility, as they may encounter more cost conscience clients. Their products are great, their service is excellent and their order processing is crazy fast to my doorstep. I am so glad to have them as a partner for my rapidly growing business.

    VOLT has some amazing things in the works.......Those that are on the team- Get ready to be blown away.
    Those that continue to refuse to be.......Watch out!
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2014
  4. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,183

    Sorry, one last parting comment for all of you who buy k****** because they "pay" for you to go on a caribbean trip if you buy enough of their product. You really bought your own trip with the money you spent on overpriced fixtures- but I'm sure you realize that. Feel free to keep going to the caribbean because of the awesome sales you made over the year- you deserve it- I truly do mean that.

    However, let me tell you about how I am going to spend my "points"- Oh wait, I don't get points from VOLT- They just let me put all that extra "cash" I would have overspent on fixtures back in my pocket. So while your on a one week, 10k trip to the Caribbean with a bunch of strangers, I'll be taking my wife for two weeks to an exclusive villa in the Maldives without the crowds- that's the Indian ocean. When I get back from vacation I can choose to take the winter off with the money I have left over that I didn't spend on over priced fixtures and slick product marketing; or I can buy another service van and build my business larger with the money VOLT has allowed me to keep and leverage for my business. All the way around, I still come out better, but I know how you guys love your "points". You can have em...

    Now that I have painted a gigantic target on myself........I will leave my personal soap box...This is just one lighting designer/contractor's opinion and perspective. Do what you want...
  5. indylights

    indylights LawnSite Member
    Messages: 179


    First let me say I respect your work greatly, and also the way you handle yourself. I do not use Volt products, but not because of their pricing policy. I could care less about that. I just haven't used them, but now I will probably order a couple to try them out. I do more hardscape and landscape than lighting, but this topic crosses well in to that world also.

    Everything you said is spot on. I think it's amusing all the people who pretend to be lighting designers and not fixture salesmen and then turning around and saying how much they can charge for their fixtures and the mark up they get and bragging about their points trip. This argument came up a few years ago when Cast had their web store or whatever it was. It's laughable. Just to add on to your point, and to do the basic math for people, if someone is paying $50 more per fixture (for an aluminum piece of garbage) than you and they install 800 fixtures a year, that's $40K. Like you said, that buys a nice vacation. And I bet if you break you bids down, you sell your Volt voltage for more than they sell their Kichler fixture.

    I don't care if you buy Volt, Kichler, BK, FX, Hunza, Alliance, Unique, whatever. You pay what you pay and charge what you charge, and no one controls that but you. And for all you folks who thinks a consumer could not find the vast majority of the products you install for very close to the same price you pay if they wanted to and try hard enough, you may want to check out something called "Google" or "Ebay" or make a few contacts in the landscape industry. For years guys have complained about distributors being nothing but unnecessary middle men who bring nothing to the market except another layer of margin they need to pay for. Now there is a distribution model that eliminates that, but the pricing structure isn't what guys want.

    Buy what product works for you and buy it the way you want to buy it and sell it the way you want to sell it. Everything else is just noise.
  6. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,183

    Thank you so much for the nice comments. Your additional comments are spot on. Your math is also pretty darn close and the payoff in terms of capital reinvestment capabilities with the money I've saved is substantial. If Volt's products were junk, this would be a completely different conversation and I would probably be siding with the naysayers, because I wouldn't even bother installing something I was not confident would last long term, but, in fact the products are excellent and the value is unmatched anywhere in the industry.

    Like most contractors and visitors to this forum, I was a complete skeptic about the products when I first saw them advertised on-line. I used to be a die-hard Unique and Vista user for many years, and when I saw the products on-line I thought to myself that even though they look like they are very similar to the more expensive versions, there must be something terribly wrong with them, or that they must have cut major corners to make them so inexpensive in comparison to what I had been paying. What made me a believer was getting a sample kit in my hands of about 4-5 different fixtures. Once I inspected, handled and felt the quality first hand- I never looked back.

    I'm not saying if you use another manufacturer you are doing the wrong thing- you do what you feel is right for your company and I'll do what I feel is right for mine. However, I would encourage those of you on the fence to give them a shot. Call them up and request a sample kit like I got and inspect and handle the products for yourself. I think you may very possibly find yourself re-thinking everything you know about the old pricing and distribution models for lighting.

    For those that say "I like the guys at my local distributor and I want to support them by buying locally". To this, I will say that I really like a couple of the guys at my local distributorship very much too- they are 1st class guys and when I need to, I enjoy doing business with them. However, as much as I like my local distributorship and the guys that work there, I like a greater amount of money in my bank account more than I like driving across town and chatting with them about the weather, politics and lighting trends. I am not in business to support and make sure another business thrives. I am in business to make money and secure some sound footing for my family's long term benefit. I am going to do what is best for the long term health and sustainability of my business by making sure I am buying in such a way that I am protecting and growing my business capital- which in business- IS KING.

    Again...this is just one contractor's opinion, but I challenge you to get to know VOLT personally and make the decision for yourself.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2014
  7. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Tim, I don't have the energy to reply to all your points. Nor do I care to argue each and every one of them with you. So I'll focus in on just one.....

    We work in an extremely competitive environment with very savvy suburban consumers. In the area we work in most people are very tech. savvy and will often "check" on our pricing. Which isn't really a problem typically, because we always charge at or maybe just a little over list price for materials and products we sell. I learned early on in my 18 year career that as long as we charged our customers prices at or near what they could get that item for themselves, there were no problems. But if we tried to mark our product up too much more than retail or list price, we'd start to get a lot of blowback and even get a bad review from customers, as we were seen as gouging the customer.

    Since we are an all-phases landscape company, we sell a lot of different materials and products in with our jobs. Anything from gravel to sod to plants and trees to lighting to hardscape products and much more. Some suppliers give us a big break on price. A break that isn't given to homeowners. They give this to us because of the volume we bring them. But some other suppliers do not give us much of a discount. So items like plants and trees I can get at a huge discount compared to what a homeowner can get them for. This allows me to make good margins on the product and help recover our overhead. Conversely, items like sod I don't get hardly any discount on. So we cannot make much margin on that product. If we marked up sod 30% like I'd like to do, we'd get a ton of blowback and negative reviews, as people found out what sod was really going for. They'd feel they were being ripped off. And no explaining about how all businesses mark up product would help. They'd just leave angry and feeling we were taking advantage of them. So for some items we just don't get to enjoy much margin on materials.

    Obviously, we prefer to do the kinds of jobs where we ARE able to make good margins AND still sell the item at the same price that the customer could buy them on their own. Then, if the customer goes to a nursery and says, "Hey, how much do you guys sell a 7-8' Bloodgood Japanese Maple for?" and the nursery tells them "$150.00" and they look at our price on our quote and it's $150.00, they feel like they're getting a fair deal. Now, they usually realize that I'm not probably paying quite as much as the nursery they called is charging. They realize I probably get a deal on plants and trees. But nonetheless they still feel like they're getting a fair shake because I'm charging no more than what the retail or list price is for that item. So then they hire us, we get the job, and all is well.

    Now some items we make almost zero margin on, and that sucks. But that's the nature of our business. If we charged much more we wouldn't get the job. But fortunately, other items we can make 30% or even more margin. Some items like planting or lighting I can make 50-70% margin and STILL be selling the item at the same price that the consumer could buy that item for. So when they look up the price on the internet or local supplier, they find that the price I am charging them is about the same price they were quoted. So they feel like we're giving them a fair deal, even though they usually realize that we may be getting it for a little less.

    Doing business that way - charging people what the going market price is for an item - works well for us and for our clients. It keeps our clients happy, keeps us getting lots of positive reviews, and helps us make some good margin on some items. You may have a different way of doing it. And that's fine. I'm not going to spend time disparaging your way of doing business. All I can say is that way doesn't work for us. If you can sell items for 50-70% more than what the pricing online is and still justify that to your customers, more power to you. I'm glad you've been able to figure out how to do that. You're apparently very valued as as "lighting designer", etc. Hurrah for you. But we are not able to do that. I've tried before and been called on it. Even with Volt products I installed a Volt transformer a few years back and the customer went online, found out the pricing, and called me on it. Felt I was totally ripping him off and I ended up having to reduce my price. Maybe you don't get customers like that. Or maybe you have some way of explaining why you have to mark stuff up so much that works for you. I would rather just not have to explain anything. It's much easier that way. My client gets a quote from me and he will always find that we are charging the same price he'd pay for that item himself. He has no idea how much we paid for the item. But he's happy. Then we're all happy. It works well for us. We make some really good margins on lighting PLUS we get nice trips to the tropics where I get to compare notes with hundreds of other top lighting companies. Keeps me pretty happy. I like it that way. But YMMV. Great. Good for you. Knock yourself out.
  8. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,183


    Thank you for taking the time to respond. I fully appreciate your position and where you are coming from having spent many years myself in the landscape design and construction game. I also understand that you are including lighting as merely a "commodity" in your jobs, much like you would a tree or a boulder or mulch. So, in your case you are probably listing brand, sku, color, etc... on your bid forms which makes it easy for your customers to shop you and cause you to be cautious. If I was simply just "selling lights" by brand name, then, like in your case, there could be some issues. However, if you are not effectively marketing yourself above just the ability to wire up lights like any homeowner could- then my argument about selling yourself as a lighting designer to command a higher price for your lighting is a valid point. Fixtures and equipment are simply one very small part of the whole. I know I am not telling you anything you don't already know Jim, because you are a seasoned pro, so this is mainly for the benefit of others who are reading that may not have the experience in the industry you and I have acquired.

    A quality lighting design is far more than the compilation of parts and pieces that make up a complete system. That is only one small part that nearly anyone can acquire. A quality lighting job comes as a result of experience and a creative eye to see the final vision. A seasoned lighting designer will know how to use the variations in lamp lumens, beam spreads and filters, along with the know how to place the luminaries in the correct positions so that the end result yields the professional looking lighting scenes that many homeowners strive to reach, but fail to realize. This is that "intangible" element to professionally designed and installed lighting that you can't put a brand and sku model on. When I talk about selling yourself as a designer and not a fixture seller, in time, you will reach the point when dealing with your clients, that brand and individual brand price, really won't be much of a topic of conversation when they are presented with the volume of your work as a whole. The primary reason they want you for their project is because they see in your work, the quality, the creativity and the intangibles they want, but are unsure of how to achieve. The fact that you are presenting your portfolio and work in an impeccable way, will demonstrate to them, that the use of professional, quality equipment is an obvious component of the system you build, and that there is no need to belabor the tedious details of individual components. This is how you get beyond the "objections" from homeowners about pricing and brands. But I regress...

    Jim, Please understand, I was not attacking you personally. I hold you and your company in very high regard, and would like to think we are friends or at the very least, friendly associates together in this industry. I was really going after your argument on the issue as I have heard it also from others and I believe these objections can be overcome by anyone. (So please don't take it personally even if it felt like it-my injected attitude was primarily directed at the argument and mindset). I was merely trying to point out the facts on the other side and give an alternative view of the issue.

    You made a point in this last post that I will concede to you and say that it is probably much easier in my case to develop the persona of a "lighting designer" since "lighting" is all I do, whereas you offer services at a much broader level and there are certain "long standing expectations" about pricing in the landscape side of the industry. Jim, I would never presume to know what is best for your business- Definitely do whatever you are comfortable with. My goal was to simply state an opposing viewpoint about how lighting businesses can increasing capital for their business by using the VOLT products. I have no issue if anyone disagrees with me, everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion. However, if someone is going to start bashing based on conjecture, opinion and weak, arguments- I will go after those arguments and try to get guys to look at the "facts" and get beyond the "feelings" of the argument.

    Ok, it's about midnight here and I am off to bed. Have a good night Jim.
  9. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    You act like the only reason we ever get lighting jobs is because we do a lot of landscaping. In fact, a good number of the lighting jobs we did last year were lighting-only jobs, where he client called is simply because they'd seen a lighting job we did or really loved our lighting work. Jobs where we DID sell the customer on the fact that we knew all the above things better than our local competitors. We did just as many or more lighting-only jobs as any of the lighting-only companies in town did last year. In fact, several jobs we were bidding against lighting-only companies, were higher priced and STILL won the job. Now, I may not be quite as amazing as some of the guys on this board. I'm still learning, sure. But don't treat me like I just throw out lights and wire. I'm fairly experienced with understanding variations in lumens, beam spreads, filters, positioning, etc. You're being quite condescending when you suggest that all we do is throw down lights and wire with no real design or artistry to it.

    As to your suggestion that if we were able to pitch ourselves are "true, pure, artistic lighting designers" that our clients would never price shop us because they wouldn't care about the cost of the fixtures - they'd only care about us and how amazing we are - I just disagree. Not in this market.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2014
  10. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,230

    Jim, Tim has been fairly gracious during this current discussion with you so I doubt that he was suggesting you "throw down" lights and wire. But, your arguments earlier in the thread make it sound as if that's how you think of
    yourself. You argued that you can't markup some products (lighting or otherwise) as much you like because clients will check out your prices.
    You need a line item for innovative design or superior installation practices.

    I know that you and I have had this debate in the past about why you need to itemize your bids. (which I still don't understand.) I'm not sure why your market is so unique compared to others. I can't remember a time while I was doing general landscaping for 30 years that I had a client refer to prices they had seen elsewhere. And I haven't had a client question my pricing since I started specializing in lighting. Of course, they have little to question because I don't itemize anything and never have.

    In your last post, you seem to be arguing with yourself because you say you get a large number of jobs when your quotation is higher than others.
    Which is it? You're afraid to lose jobs because clients would check out your pricing? Or you win jobs despite your pricing?

    All my comments and questions are in the context of this thread.

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