The road less traveled

The road less traveled

By Mike Gambino

From time to time I will be asking colleagues and friends in the landscape lighting industry that I admire and respect to write articles sharing their landscape lighting talents and experiences. The first such guest blogger is Billy Bradford from Integrity outdoor lighting. Billy and his wife Ashley own and operate a very successful landscape lighting design and installation business in Ellisville, MS. I’ve known Billy several years now and I first met him after reading several of his posts on an industry message board. I was very impressed with his breadth of knowledge and dedication to the craft which showed clearly with every post. One of many philosophies I share with Billy is that of specifying and installing only the highest quality materials and employing the finest installation and maintenance techniques. Without further ado I turn this blog post over to Billy………………………………

By Billy Bradford – Integrity Outdoor Lighting

A common scenario once again happened to me the other day and made me really think about why I build my lighting systems the way I do. While I thought I missed getting a project it actually surprised me and came in a few days later and will be installed mid next month.

I was meeting with a client whom we have known for quite some time but, never worked for. It was a higher end home from the turn of the century. I have completed 3 homes on her street including the one directly across the street from her. They have expanded on the home and done a lot of updating but really did an excellent job keeping with the original style and craftsmanship of years gone by. Very impressive. While I was already a bit discouraged because my initial estimate before this meeting was about twice what the client was expecting I went in with my head held high to educate my client on why exactly I was more expensive that what they were thinking.

Since in my area low voltage lighting has a somewhat questionable reputation for performance and reliability (due to poor choices in materials and workmanship) I quickly showed my clients my fixtures of choice (Gambino Toscano and Torino) and explained to them how easy my system would fit their lifestyle. I was planning to integrate the system into an existing pool control panel so the client could operate the lighting via an existing remote/timer for hassle free usage. There would be a switch near the spa to turn off the lights planned for the spa for privacy.  I further explained how my splices were superior and why this is important.

While the client seemed impressed by my enthusiasm for lighting and my high end materials she asked me why I do not offer something more reasonable so people can make a choice. While the answer was simple to me I stopped to realize my client couldn’t tell the difference between a MR16 lamp and a par 36 lamp I set out to explain this in a way she could understand.

I told her “it’s simple. I cannot vouch for the longetivity of inferior materials. I plan to be around for a lot of years to come and hope to continue to serve your lighting needs both in terms of installations and service work. I am trying to save us both headaches and money down the road because questionable materials may not perform or function properly. Parts may become impossible to find and it just leads to a huge hassle for you and I both later. Everything I am planning to install can be serviced by me on the spot. If I am going to put my name on it then I am going to do it right from the start. I want you to be able to smile and say good things about me and likewise I want to sleep good knowing I gave you a solid value that will last you for years to come”.

She quickly admitted to me that she had an estimate from a few months back from her “garden guy” and I asked to see it. I wish I had a copy to share here. It was written on a piece of notebook paper. Scribbled to say “put in lights around pool labor and materials about 900” with his phone number. My estimate was 5 times this amount but my 3 page typed and organized estimate with a cover page on my letterhead paper clipped to a  copy of my trifold brochure clearly outlined my project with what the client could expect in each area and an exact price.

While I didn’t leave with a deposit that night I felt I had taken the higher road. I could have rushed to compete with the “garden guy” but where would this lead me to?  I doubted I would get the project but alas, 2 days later there was an email from her wanting my mailing address so she could send me a signed copy of the proposal and a deposit for her project. I’m really happy with the path I took.

Sometimes things just work out right.

I have gained a new client and she a fantastic lighting 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 20 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .

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