There’s a saying, “Bigger is better.” Although that’s not always the case, it took me a while to get the message, but I finally did get it. Bigger cash flow is generated by smaller projects. I know a lot of contractors who have turned up their noses in the past on little projects like setting up a submerged basin with water flowing from a vase/urn/rock column(s), etc. Maybe there was just not enough glamour or prestige, I guess. I, too, have been guilty of this.
However, when large and medium projects came to a standstill two years ago, we all needed to learn how to survive. In today’s challenging economic climate, we‘ve had to adapt to business practices outside the norm. All of a sudden, I was available for small projects.
I have done many large projects in my career, several in the $100,000-plus category. However, none of these larger projects have shown the consistent per-diem profit margin that smaller one- or two-day projects have shown. I’ve done the math several times while on larg
er projects and found that I actually made less per calendar week than I would have made doing several much smaller features. This has affected the way that I bid projects, both the small and the large.
Modern equipment and supplies make installing small water features much simpler today than what was available just a few years ago. Many of these systems can be installed in as little as a couple of hours.
The big thing is, when you bid the project, how familiar are you with the product and the fluid dynamics necessary to make it work? Does the vase, urn or rock column come pre-drilled or will you need to allow time for that? Do you need to install a bulk head fitting? What size piping, if any, is supplied with the system and most importantly, will it allow you to move the amount of water needed for the project to function as anticipated when you turn the pump on?
Let me mention some other highly profitable, quick and easy-toinstall features that we’ve done in the past and will be doing more of in the future. In addition to basins, urns, vases and drilled rock columns, laminar flow fountains are another feature that has great potential.
Laminar flow fountains have got to be the wave of the future in fun and visual appeal water effects. They put out a stream of water, usually used in an arch, that remains unbroken from starting point all the way over and down to the catch basin. Often, this very eye-catching element has a light feature with it and here’s the best part of all: that light will follow the arching water from end to end. There are even add-on components in some product lines that will break the stream like smoke signals, or synchronize to choreographed music or programs, and others.
Although the technology used is complex and costly to manufacture, these laminar flow fountains are a traffic stopper. However, the client will be so pleased with the quality and visual appeal of the end result that they don’t even think about the fact that you just cleared a couple grand or more for a morning’s work. Depending on the size and complexity, these units can cost thousands of dollars.
But a word of caution: you need to know the product. You’re only able to do this because you knew the product, knew how to install it, and most importantly, knew how to bid and sell it profitably. Without profit, you’re just helping someone else in their hobby, and how does that pay your bills?
Another fairly simple and quickto-install eye catcher is the razor falls unit, found many times along raised edges of pools or spas. They work great there; the water is highly polished and debris free. If you try to use one on a living pond with plants and fish, it will get clogged and useless in just a few days. I have yet to come across a unit that had the ability to be cleaned.
However, there is good news. The pond industry has several units now being offered that have taken these challenges into consideration. But the real kick is that the client loves it, and you’ve filled your pockets with a few bucks.
These introductions have brought the pond industry to the forefront of the public’s eye, and there is more to come. A couple of models have even been designed to integrate into stackable paver retaining walls . . . in just minutes. The effect is impressive and can prove very profitable to you.
There are many small water features that can be larger evenue producers, but you need to do your homework. You need to under - stand how these products work, what little t r i c k s o f the trade r e t r o f i t s m a y b e r e q u i r e d .
Ask questions about servicing the units, attend product training and familiarization seminars. Lack of product knowledge and experience has been the bane of our industry for years. Get familiar with the products, and you’ll increase your bottom line, I guarantee it.
That’s got a glamour all its own.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dave Jones is the executive director of the International Professional Pond Companies Association.