If you want to add on holiday lighting and décor to your service offerings, there are numerous logistics to think through including if the installation window works with your current crews, how to handle selling and servicing and whether franchising is the right option for your business.
Depending on whether you work with residential or commercial clients will determine how early you can start doing installations.
Taylor Olberding, co-founder of Blingle! Premier Lighting, based in Omaha, Nebraska, says they try to do a mix of residential and commercial accounts. With commercial clients, they start installing lights on properties during the last week of September.
They’ll start installing lights in early October for some residential clients who opt for the 5% discount Blingle offers clients who choose an early installation time. He notes that depending on when Thanksgiving is will also give them more or less time for installations. They try to have all their lighting done by Dec. 12. Olberding says during the peak season in November, they have 10 to 11 crews out installing.
A Blade of Grass, based in Sudbury, Massachusetts, only does holiday lighting for residential customers. Miriam Hellweg, co-owner and director of maintenance at a Blade of Grass Inc., says they’ll start putting up lights in early November and then install holiday décor around Thanksgiving through the middle of December.
Hellweg says they almost never say no to latecomers. The latest they have done installations has been Dec. 20.
Blanchford Landscape Group, based in Bozeman, Montana, does holiday décor and lighting only in Big Sky, Montana. Most of their customer base is their existing residential clients, but they do have several large commercial properties that contract them solely for their holiday services.
Some of Blanchford’s clients have rules limiting when lights can be up and require the lights to be taken down by specific dates, which affects their installation and takedown timing. In Blanchford’s case, because the majority of the properties are secondary homes, they have to have the holiday décor ready before the client’s arrival date.
Andy Blanchford, president and CEO of Blanchford Landscape Group, says they make a point to get the lights up early and then teams focus on the indoor greenery installations closer to the holidays so the crews are inside.
Holiday lighting takedown for Blingle is determined by the weather. If the forecast is in the 40s and 50s after Christmas, they’ll email clients asking if any would like an early takedown. Olberding says there have been some years where they start taking down lights the day after Christmas, but generally, they start the day after New Year’s Day. He says they try to get everything taken down by Feb. 1.
Hellweg says when they take down the lights largely depends on the client, and it could be anywhere from the second week of January to March or April.
Selling and Servicing Holiday Lighting
Unlike other services, there isn’t necessarily one perfect time to sell holiday lighting to clients. For most companies, once your holiday décor customer base is established, it’s more often renewals. Blanchford says this is the case for the majority of their clients. The only time a customer doesn’t renew is if they won’t be staying at the property during the holiday season.
A Blade of Grass will sell their holiday décor services at any time of the year, but they typically start getting inquiries around October and November.
Olberding says they start calling people in December and January about holiday lighting for the following year. Typically, they’re contacting neighboring houses of customers who didn’t do lighting or had lights they did not install. He says selling throughout the year is also important when it comes to commercial clients.
“The holidays are always on top of mind because everyone’s budgets commercially are at different times of year, so we’ve got to tackle it when it’s budgetary and in planning for multi-year contracts as well in the offseason.”
Another logistical matter to keep in mind is service calls around the holidays. Just like how you need to have individuals on call for snow management issues, deciding to offer holiday lighting requires for the same level of commitment.
To prevent the likelihood of callbacks on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Blanchford says they make a point to conduct follow-up service checks on the lights, as strong winds can occasionally mess up installations. Olberding says their crews also double-check properties closer to the holidays to avoid issues.
“We’ve had stuff as dumb as deer running through the lawn and tripping on extension cords and causing issues that way,” Olberding says. “Honestly, a lot of our issues that we run into are the client plugged in their own lights or they messed up the timer. Then they complain because the timer is not working and then we got to go out and walk them through how to fix the timer or just run by and fix it for them.”
Being proactive leading up to the holidays can prevent your employees from having to handle issues like this on Christmas.
To Franchise or Not to Franchise
Holiday lighting and décor is a common service that landscape companies can add by going the franchise route. Blanchford Landscape Group offers their service as a Christmas Décor franchisee.
Hellweg says in their case, they hadn’t even considered trying to go the franchise route. They were just suddenly doing a lot of holiday lighting work.
Olberding actually was approached by a franchising company and they created a franchise brand for their holiday lighting. He says because his business partner Mike Marlow had years of experience in the holiday lighting space, they had the base of knowledge to start their service from scratch.
Franchising can be a good option if you want to get up and running quickly and avoid learning certain lessons the hard way. If you don’t do well being told how to run an aspect of your business, it might be better to start this division on your own.