Every landscape lighting design builder makes mistakes; How they respond will define them

Every landscape lighting design builder makes mistakes; How they respond will define them

By Mike Gambino

It’s going to happen. Every landscape lighting design build contractor makes mistakes. Some of them are big and can impact client relationships, while others are more internal and affect workflow and processes.

There’s one similarity though – how we recover from these mistakes will say more about our career than making them. But how does one recover from the embarrassment of messing something up? Often it requires just a bit of proactive admission and humility.

Missed Deadlines

Developing a habit of missing deadlines can tarnish the reliability and ruin the reputation of a landscape lighting design build contractor. Occasionally or at some point, though, something will get missed on the calendar or an emergency will pop up.

The trick to maintaining the client relationship is to be honest, apologetic and offer another solution. The trick to ensuring it won’t happen again is to create a consistent planning and project scheduling system. Projects get added to a to-do list or calendar in the same manner every time.

Having a system will make adding projects second nature and the repetition of adding deadlines to the list make it somewhat easier to manage. Today there is technology on our smart phones and computers that will help create dead lined tasks and remind us of due dates. (some of these can be shared with clients so they also know where a project is in the process.)

Under pricing Projects

At some point that flat rate project you estimated at 3 days will explode into a whole week monster. You have two options: Go back to the client and explain the situation or suck it up and take the loss.

The right answer truly depends on the relationship you have with the client. If it is a new client that you want to keep, you will probably take the loss. But you should make it clear how long the project actually took and that you discounted the job only because you value them as a client, noting that a similar project in the future will cost more. This establishes good faith between you and the client.

If it happens more than once with a client, you can severely damage a relationship.

With more established relationships, you can warn the client right away that the project has expanded beyond the scope you expected and ask how they want to proceed. Some clients have fixed budgets and won’t be able to move forward while others can approve the extra funds and move on.

In either situation, this should not become a habit. If it happens more than once with a client, it can severely damage a relationship.

There’s another under pricing mistake that happens with long-term clients: Prices are adjusted for new clients but older clients are “grandfathered” into paying much lower rates because there was never a conversation about a price increase. Have that conversation. You are only hurting yourself in the long run.

Having a Different ‘Vision’ than the client

Any landscape lighting design build contractor who has been in business for some length of time has run into this at some point: You had an idea for the project, the client agreed and when you show it to the client, they cringe. The concept, or vision, is totally wrong. This one is tough. Do you start over?

First, talk it out. What went wrong? Did you misunderstand or did the client have a change of heart? Then come up with a plan of action to make revisions. The biggest part of the recovery process here is to think about how you interact with clients in the early phases of projects. Make sure you have enough information to move forward, check in with the client along the way to make sure everyone stays on the same page throughout the project.

Taking on the Wrong Project

Have you ever gotten so excited to work with a certain client only later to find out during construction that you took on a project that was a bad fit? Maybe it was a stretch of your skills or it turns out yours and your clients temperament, attitudes and values are not conducive to being able to work successfully together . There are some projects that seem great, but are not right for you.

Everyone takes one of these projects at some point. And they can be overwhelming.

Get help as soon as you recognize the issue. Talk to the client or bring on someone else to help you out. Complete the project if you can, but don’t move forward with the same types of client projects. Explain the situation clearly and offer a referral to the client if you can.

You Just Got in Over Your Head

Over-commitment can be a big problem for some. Because in the contracting business work can boom or bust, some may feel a need to take every project, even during busy times. Do this and you will eventually get in over your head. Burning the candle on both ends is not the solution. Better project management is.

Maintain a calendar and schedule of projects. If too many projects pop up at the same time, talk to clients and try to negotiate deadlines. But this requires a delicate balance so that you don’t make any one client feel less important than another.

The less moving forward is to take a realistic view of how many projects you can have going at once without feeling overwhelmed. That can vary by contractor, type of work and time of year.


How a landscape lighting design build contractor recovers from these kinds of mistakes will define them and their business. Mistakes should be a learning experience so things get handled in a different way if faced with the same situation again. Thankfully, once a mistake is made, you learn ways to avoid doing it again in the future. So while it’s no fun at all, sometimes you can worry a little less once you’ve gotten some of these issues out of your system.

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 27 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 .

Blog articles may be published with permission on other websites without editing or removing links.


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