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Would you start a lighting business right now?

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by seolatlanta, Aug 20, 2009.

  1. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    Dave, welcome back to the forum.

    I am much more optimistic and upbeat than my colleague David is! I would suggest to you that if you are truly passionate about outdoor lighting, lighting design, etc then I say go for it. I honestly believe that once you have found your true calling, that which you are meant to do, then sucess will follow. Do what you love!

    There is no need to spend anywhere near 30-40% of revenues on marketing to get a small lighting business off the ground. I don't care where your are operating.

    Find the hole in your market and fill it! Even if there are 5 other stand alone lighting businesses in your area I assure you there is a niche that is not being properly served.

    Think about your services as an art form, and a means of expressing your individual flair and you will find fans and clients. No one can take that away from you, it is yours and yours alone. Anyone can sell and install a bunch of fixtures and create light, but only you can have the vision to create a work of art on your client's canvass.

    If you love it, then build it.... and they will come.
  2. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    Your forgetting the key here. In 7 years you built up a clientel. Mine that first! phone calls! letters! get back in touch with them!
  3. TXNSLighting

    TXNSLighting LawnSite Fanatic
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 6,464

    Wow Ken, This is some great insight! I love hearing what other people are doing to make themselves stand out. Its very inspirational.
  4. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,645

    Although I wish dave well, and would love for everyone with passion for lighting to succeed, I would rather be honest. I'd love to be optimistic, but my experience tells me what is realistic: If you want to eat, I cannot advise folks to "go for it" in lighing because:

    Several people on here, who did good work, who had a passion with thier existing lighting business's have folded. They are now working for other folks, and some are no longer doing lighting.

    If you want to put an ad in craigslist, you can make a living doing general landscaping. If you make flyers, you can easily build a mowing schedule in a few weeks to pay your bills. building a business around lighting is really, really hard and expensive.

    There are really only two types of customers out there, both top 1% income range.

    the first are folks who decided this year they are going to do lighting on thier home/landscape, they have planned it and budgeted for it. They will go to thier landscaper, thier builder/contractor and thier neighbors for sugestions on who should do it. Maybe do some web searching and yellow pages. You will probably not get those jobs. Most general landscapers get them. After you have been in the marketplace a few years and built a reputation through advertising and word of mouth, you get some. but not most.

    The second folks who do lighting did not plan on it, but decided to do it on impulse from reading an article, seeing a neighbors job or a postcard. Unless you sent that postcard or did that neighbors job, you're not getting that job.

    I'd like to say my experience tells me otherwise, but in lighting there is just no low hanging fruit. You have to be the guy that sends postcards, or do more what james does on the public relations side to get your name in the paper, by donating services to community type projects, or by writing articles for submission in the local papers.

    I do hope in my 4,5,6 years this thing grows into something that is at least full time for myself and a helper from March 1st to Sptember 15, but I am not sure even that will happen. How can I posssibly reccomend to someone to do this if they want to eat and live?
  5. Steve B

    Steve B LawnSite Member
    Messages: 56

    "You have to be the guy that sends postcards, or do more what james does on the public relations side to get your name in the paper, by donating services to community type projects, or by writing articles for submission in the local papers."

    Isn't that the beauty of American Capitalism? Those that are willing to put forth the effort tend to be the ones that succeed.
  6. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    I am not for a moment suggesting that building a lighting business is an easy endeavour. Every market is going to have its own challenges and hurdles. I work in a very challenging market, what with only 8 months in which to do installations and having my clients here only 3-4 months of that time to sell to, I assure you I know what challenges are. But here we are, 11 years into the biz and going strong. Is it a lot of work? YES. Is there some risk? Sure there is... but the things that win the day are passion and commitment.

    It doesn't matter to me if you make ice in Alaska or sell A/C in Jamaica. If you are passionate and love that which you do, you will be a success. You really don't have many other choices at that point.

    I have talked and met with a lot of people involved in outdoor lighting around N. America. Those who are in it for the art, thrill, passion, etc are those who seem to be able to build a viable business out of it. Those who sort of fell into the business, or added it as a side line, or got in for "the money" are the ones who are now in trouble with this slower economy.

    Aim high, network like crazy, position yourself early to serve the top of the market, then service service service that market like they have never experienced before. Are you going to have to make sacrifices? Absolutely! I don't know many successful people who didn't work their asses off to build their businesses.
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2009
  7. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,645

    I agree James. I'd also add that a lot of the folks I meet that are successful in business, especially the lighting business ( how many really successful lighting companies are out there ? ) had some things fall into place- They not only had a passion for the work, but had a knack for understanding numbers and profit, and seemed to be able to market themselves well in thier market.

    I hope that after 9 years my Landscape lighting biz is where my Christmas light biz is now. I don't doubt that at 11 years James has created something really exciting. but imagine beginning all over again with no reputaion in any market served by two or more succesful franchises or postcarders. It might take 11 years of slugging it out just to scratch out a comfortable income.

    What is troubling and happening in most markets of 500,000 plus population is many franchises have moved or are moving in. The saturate the market heavy with advertising, creating and grabbing most of the market share and developing the reputation of "THE" lighting company. Once these companies get the 350-500k per year machine going, they continue to saturate advertise and develop market share. While I agree that the company that does outstanding work will get jobs, many of the jobs that outstanding company WOULD have got, are gotten by the guys that saturate.
  8. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    David. I guess I am lucky that we dont have any franchise operations to deal with around here. But then again, do you really think that those operations are in the same league and serving the same clients that we are?

    My systems continue to sell well based on quality components, excellent design, attention to detail, custom installations, fantastic service and a strong commitment to the art and the industry. I really don't think that a franchise operation would provide that same mix and level of service to the marketplace, and as such I would continue to win the jobs.

    In the last couple of years I have seen a lot of companies around here enter into the outdoor lighting business. But I have yet to see any dent in my sales because of them. More and more I am finding that people are getting multiple quotes but I still seem to win the jobs I bid on. When (after the fact) I inquire as to why I was chosen, the same responses keeps coming up... "You have more knowledge and much more passion for what you do then the other guys" and "Your design was much more comprehensive than the others"

    Love what you do and do it well! (oh and get those tree lights up high, way way up high :) )
  9. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    Exactly. How many of your clients shop for clothes at a chain store vs a botique ?
  10. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,645

    I agree that with an established reputation, and a visable passion for what you do, sales can be made over the competition. I am living proof of that over on the Christmas light side. I consistantly close jobs at prices well over my competitors. I have name recognition. But I remember very well how it was 9 years ago. same passion, no reputation, still lots of competitors. I closed less than a third of what I do now. When you start off a business, as in Dave's case, he will be competing with with others who have name recognition, and in this business, That is a very, very hard thing to do.

    I'll repeat and rephrase. If you have 100k in the bank to start, you can build this business through marketing in a tough but large enough market. whatever your passion is, you have got to get in front of clients to show it. getting those face to face bids/demo's is very expensive. If you spend 10k per month for 3 years, you will see 40 k per month in sales. if you can get in front of enough folks, you can build the reputation you need and then probably slack off to 3-5 k per month.

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