Irrigation as a Service OfferingTomChilders
So your customers are asking you to handle their irrigation needs or maybe you just think it’s time to add irrigation to your offering. Not sure if you need both installation and service and you wish you knew exactly what the additional investment would be.
What are the pain points and what is the potential for return?
While having perfect information to make business decisions is by and large a fallacy, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try for perfect information and do your homework. You should and on top of the list is to network and talk to people in the business. Somewhere, somehow, through a trade association or other, you met someone like you in the business. Call and explain what you are doing and talk to them. Yes, this can be difficult if this person is a local competitor so reach out farther (by the way, this is one of many reasons you want to maintain a group of professional acquaintances and colleagues that you can network with). The more successful they are the better and the more time and detail they give the better.
In doing your homework, you will no doubt hear a lot of the things we hear and see at association meetings, in trade pubs and surveys. For instance, expect to hear that one of your biggest challenges will be good employees. You must have skilled and experienced labor. Irrigation systems are complicated, tricky and made up electrical and hydraulic systems that are integrated. You need to check your local regulations for licensing and code requirements as well. A good starting point on licensing is the IA’s Landscape Irrigation Contractor State Licensing Guide. Make note to double-check your local plumbing regulations too. They can get tricky. The big issue is usually who can make the connection to a potable water source but there can be other issues too.
As for equipment, trucks with pipe racks and fittings bins are best and you still need bulk storage for other material whether you install or service. If you install, you need trenching equipment and/or vibratory plows for pipe burial. You can rent as opposed to buy but once you get volume, you’ll need one no doubt.
As for material, most will be driven by design and/or the landscape itself as well as regulations You should know and understand what is used and why. You need to know back back flow and cross connection requirements, design requirements and any install and performance requirements. The best place to get all this is straight from your local building code authorities and resources.
As for training, start with the IA and your distributor. The IA material is outstanding and your distributor will also have some ideas and potential local seminars for you. Also, your distributor is great resource for labor, ideas, local practices, issues, regulations, and more.
As a final thought, see our post on growth and strategy. Some ideas fit your long term strategy better than others and remember, subcontracting is always an option.