David Rykbost, owner of Dave’s Landscape Management in Hudson, Massachusetts, sought help in starting the holiday lighting arm of his business. He bought into a holiday lighting franchise—Christmas Decor. “What sold me on it was the opportunity to keep my guys productive a little bit longer,” said Rykbost. “My irrigation guys were typically wrapped up with their blowouts by early November, and they’re paid too much money to suck and blow leaves.” He already had the men, the ladders and even a bucket truck, so it made perfect sense to start installing holiday lights.

In return for a fee and a percentage of the revenue, a franchise offers training, access to product lines, and a complete business plan. They take some of the risk out of starting a new business, in return for a cut of the profits.

With the initial training in Lubbock, Texas, plus attending one of four annual trainings, webinars, a conference in July, and a series of Youtube videos, Rykbost has all the teaching tools he needs. “You can give the new guy an assignment to watch all these videos on how to do rooflines and trees and shrubs and everything else,” he said. “He can sit there and watch them online at home, and get a good idea of how to do the job before his first day at work.”

Rykbost is one of a growing number of contractors who allows clients to lease their lights, instead of buying them outright. Leasing offers customers a lower initial cost, lessening the sticker-shock effect, and ensures repeat business. Rykbost stores the lights during the off-season, thereby avoiding the Gordian knot of tangled wire that inevitably results from customer storage.

According to Hendricks, leasing offers one more advantage for the creative contractor. Some of his clients are using the extra flexibility in leasing to offer property owners a choice of colors every year. “Twenty percent of the customers that I know are adopting some form of that, whether it’s 100 percent of their business, or just something a few of their customers need from them,” he said.

If you aren’t interested in buying a franchised territory, there are plenty of other options for training. “There are some DVDs that you can purchase online,” said Hendricks, “and there are training programs.” A discussion with your manufacturer or local distributor should be all it takes to point you in the right direction.

Holiday lighting is a chance to grow your business at a time of the year when most landscape companies are going into hibernation. The contractor who’s willing to put in the time to expand their repertoire can generate additional revenue, expand their client base, and keep their best workers safe from poaching during the winter wait. Still, there’s one more reason to check it out, and it’s the most compelling of all.

The real wonder of holiday lighting is in the joy it brings. From the beginning, winter holidays have represented defiance in the face of Mother Nature’s yearly assault. When the summer daylight is a distant memory, you’re providing your customers with a beacon in the darkness. You’re sharing in their celebration, and that’s enough to warm the hearts of employees and clients alike.

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