19 Jun Why is success so difficult to achieve in the landscape lighting Design Build business?
I have been designing, building and maintaining landscape lighting systems as my sole means of income for the past twenty five years and have achieved a level of success and achievement that I would have never dreamed possible. I do not say this to brag or make this a promo piece about myself and my company. None of this came easy and has been a tremendous amount of dedication and work and a little bit of luck. My story is a truly a rare and unique one. However over these twenty five years I have seen so many come and so many go, unable to establish and sustain a standalone landscape lighting business. To this day a company like mine is so very rare to find.
So why is this business so tough?
Buyers- For the most part have no concept of what a Quality Custom landscape lighting system consists of or what costs are involved to put in a system that not only highly performs but also lasts. Even owners of high end properties and estates are mostly at a loss. Some will not bat an eye at spending $500,000 to build their kitchen, $1,000,000 (that is 1 million dollars) in tile costs alone to adorn their kitchens and baths yet will not pay $100,000 to install a high end landscape lighting system on a landscape that cost them another million dollars to build. These are not made up numbers they are actual budgets from new construction projects we didn’t get because the owners couldn’t see the value. This is not to say that they are all like that obviously we sell our fair share of very high end projects but very few of these projects just fall in our lap without having to do much work to get them.
Many buyers don’t see the value in using a specialist, don’t know what goes into a quality build or even know the difference between a quality installation company and not such a good one until it’s too late.
Competition from buyers who are not really buyers- After meeting with 2 or 3 design builders and picking their brains and listening to their design ideas the property owner gets the idea that they can save some money and do the job themselves or have their gardener or handyman perform the work . This doesn’t happen often but enough that it deserves a mention.
Competition from non specialized trades- It’s not like you are competing on a level playing field with other similar suitors for the same project apples to apples comparison to your offer. Most if not all of the time if there is another company competing with you for the same project it is a company that does not do only landscape lighting and derive 100% of their income as their sole means of survival. Some non specialists have a competitive edge over the specialist because they have already been chosen to do another aspect of the project for the owner like electrical, landscaping or any other non related trade we have seen it all. These guys can offer the lighting as a loss leader, just because. But typically the biggest issue is that these companies don’t do enough lighting to know which best products to use or how to best build a system that will not only look great, be less costly to maintain, but last long after the project has been completed.
Very rarely will a non specialist offer a package that is equivalent to what a specialist can bring not only during the installation but long after.
Competition from Unqualified bidders- Often times, this may or may not come as a surprise, trades do not have the proper state licensing, insurance, bonding, tools, let alone experience required to take on landscape lighting projects. They may also use non payroll employees avoiding these significant overhead costs to come in cheap
Competition from product suppliers-The other form of competition comes from the very suppliers that sell specified products to the company that will be doing the installation. Many of them will provide quotes and sell to anyone for at or near the same price. Some openly publish these prices on the internet making it effortless to price shop from the convenience of a desktop. It used to be where wholesale to the trade only suppliers would protect their wholesale buyers who supported them with their loyalty and volume purchasing. Those days are long gone.
In the contracting business the markup on labor and materials is the necessary profit center required to stay in business. Take away half of this ability and the business ceases to exist.
Over abundance of low quality products and installers willing to install them– Cost of lighting components range from ridiculously cheap to ridiculously expensive and everything in between. Buyers don’t usually know the difference until it’s too late and everything starts falling apart.
Regulations- Some cities, towns or municipalities have lighting ordinances which limit the type and amount of lighting which can severely curtail a lighting designer’s ability to produce a knockout project that really pops.
Apathy and fragmentation of the industry- For the most part the industry as a whole has been unsuccessful in coming together to promote the professional design build trade and quality custom built landscape lighting systems. Too many factions with differing views are unable to work together to create a synergy that would benefit all aspects of the industry itself.
This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 20 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.Gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .
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