Feb. 16 2021 06:00 AM

In 2020, more contractors upped their game and focused on designing instead of just installing.

Hello, lighting friends! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.

2020 was a rather challenging year. It seems that we were all pulled in many different directions, both as an industry and as a country. The pandemic, political concerns, social unrest and division have affected us all whether we like it or not. COVID-19 is still with us. However, we have all risen to that challenge and have accepted the ways of the new norm. I must applaud all the contractors and distributors that I visited last year. You have done an excellent job keeping your crew and customers safe. Congratulations and keep up the good work!

Last year, we brought you several articles that discussed the thought of aiming higher and improving your skills. In this discussion, I recommended that contractors should not settle for a particular item that was on sale at the local distributer or selling just one product. It may seem easier to be a fixture planter and not a lighting designer, but in the long term it is dangerous to fall into that trap. I am pleased to say that over the year I have seen a change in this. In 2020, more contractors upped their game and focused on designing instead of just installing. Many more contractors are working with products they may have been afraid to try in the past. Great job!

In another article, we investigated using fixtures for their intended purpose. This encourages great communication between manufacturers and contractors. As we learned, it is never a good idea to assume a product can be installed a certain way. For example, let’s look at a decorative light. While a flowery fixture may look like a path light, it actually might be intended for flower gardens and not pathways. Read the specifications, talk to your reps and contact the tech department at the manufacturer. Even though you may have been doing this for 30 years, one person can never know everything. There are plenty of resources to help us all, so reach out for them.

One of my favorite articles we brought you in 2020 was the two-part series about the pioneers of landscape lighting. It all began with a vision from a magician. Frank Nightingale was known in his magician circle as Nightingale the Mystifyer. Frank taught us to hide fixtures in plain sight. His birdhouse fixture was a perfect example. What looked like a common birdhouse during the day became a great moonlighting device at night. A submariner and hero of World War II made the landscape lighting system easier and safer for all of us. William Locklin invented the 12-volt lighting system. Using the principles of design learned by associates of Frank Nightingale, Locklin introduced lighting to the landscape contractor in a safer 12-volt format. If it were not for these gentlemen and others who would come later, we would not have this industry today.

We also looked at lighting tuneups and maintenance. One part pointed out to revisit past jobs. Hopefully, you have maintained great relationships with previous clients. If you have done so, a phone call to offer a service or a maintenance package is rarely declined. Also, offering maintenance is a good way to get your foot in the door for a potential new customer. This led the way for us to look at the whiteglove service potential. This business discipline was born in the auto detailing industry, and it provides the upmost service and quality for a premium.

The new year of 2021 marks many new changes and challenges. You may hire new employees and work with new clients. Jobs might require assistance from other contractors like electricians or Wi-Fi specialists. Just think, one of these folks could become your next tailgating or fishing buddy. The important thing is to approach everything with a positive mental attitude. I believe in all of you. If there is anything you would like me to research for a possible article, please reach out to me. I wish you all a safe and prosperous 2021!

Kevin Smith is the national technical support and trainer at Brilliance LED LLC, Carefree, Arizona, and can be reached at kevin.smith@brillianceled.com.