Preparing for a correction

To survive in this uncertain market, landscape lighting contractors will need to reinvent themselves.
Landscape lighting contractors should reinvent themselves by learning new trade skills and providing repair and upgrade services.

The past few years of growth have been challenging. Many of us have found ourselves rather overwhelmed with project requests, labor shortages and supply chain issues. With inflation on the rise, we may soon see some type of an economic correction. Being able to adapt to new situations in the economic climate with speed and ease will be key to your lighting business thriving, should there be a correction.

Toward the beginning of 2008, I was a territory manager for a lighting manufacturer. When the correction occurred, many of the contractors I worked with were closing their doors. Some went to skeleton crews or one-man operations. Others went to work in supply stores or totally left the trade. The group who was left came to me and asked, “How are we going to continue to do lighting when the work has dried up?”

I was knocked for a loop. I wasn’t an economist. What was I going to suggest to them? As I began to think, I recalled a business seminar I had gone to when I was a young man where the topic was about constantly reinventing yourself. Reinvention is a constant evolution of ourselves. The presenter of the seminar stressed that most of us will find the need for this reinvention several times in our lives. Here are some ideas that many of the surviving contractors did, not only to keep in the lighting business but also to thrive in an uncertain market.

Landscape lighting maintenance and repair

During a correction, most homeowners will elect to repair or maintain their lighting systems rather than install a new one. This is a great opportunity for a contractor to provide maintenance and repair services. Some homeowners do not even realize they have a poorly installed system until it stops working. In great economic times, the “fixture farmers” are out in full force going from one house to another installing as many fixtures as they can. Many never went back at night to adjust or even paid attention to the lamp or light source used. This is your opportunity to shine and optimize their system. Do this with grace. There is no need to bash your competitor. Fix the problem and then ask for a referral.

Time for upgrades

Most contractors have a great list of customers they worked for in the past. During an economic correction, it may be a good time to reach out to these folks. During the last correction, many contractors survived by offering a simple astronomical timer replacement on previously installed transformers. This also was a good way to get their foot in the door. While doing this simple upgrade, many were asked to add a few more lights here or there. Before they knew it, the customer sold themselves on some new fixtures.

White glove service

In times where the average person may struggle, others will always have money to spend with you. These types of clients will expect “white glove service.” White glove service is a business attitude that sets one’s company apart from the rest with additional options. White glove service is basically an attitude to go beyond the expected.

This is an approach where every job is completed from start to finish with the utmost care, precision, attention to detail and thorough communication. Although white glove service costs more, discerning customers understand the value and prefer that level of service.

Learning how to reinvent ourselves

Have ever seen the movie “Larry Crowne” starring Tom Hanks? It lays out a perfect example of how an individual had to reinvent himself. Crowne, a Navy veteran, finds out he is being laid off from his firm due to the fact he has no college degree. He enrolls in community college and begins his reinvention process.

In our business, perhaps this is a good time to learn or master another aspect of the trade.

In our business, perhaps this is a good time to learn or master another aspect of the trade. I am sure you have often thought, “I wish I had the time to learn how to do that,” whatever “that” is. Think about how you can add something new to improve what services your business offers.

In the past, I saw contractors learning and becoming proficient at many additions to their business. This included masonry, pond building and patio misting to name a few. For those who didn’t already offer it, they added landscape lighting. Remember, your local factory rep will be ready to educate you on their product in the hopes of bringing brand loyalty but also to show you applications.

Again, I am certainly no economist. Yet we all know, there will not always be blue skies. One day, rain will come. If we are prepared, we can weather the storm. Hindsight is a given; foresight is a gift.

Kevin Smith is the national technical support and trainer at Brilliance LED LLC, Carefree, Arizona, and can be reached via email.

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