Pond maintenance is often overlooked as a revenue stream for pond builders and water feature specialists. The landscape industry as a whole is a $77 billion industry in the United States, and while ponds are a small segment of the industry, this figure still shows how large the opportunity can be for pond services. With professional pond construction at the forefront of the market share within our own industry, why are we, the pond professionals, not taking advantage of follow-up maintenance? Too often during industry gatherings, I hear story after story about slow work and cash flow issues. Stop and think: If you build or retrofit 10 ponds each year, you’ve gained 10 potential maintenance clients. Take that humble number and multiply it by the number of years you’ve been in business. Now, do I have your attention?
What Do I Need?
Maintenance is a simple, add-on service for most pond contracting companies. To start, all you need is a calendar and devotion to a consistent schedule. In the beginning, we only performed maintenance on Fridays. This allowed me to share my initial investment with pond construction, my main revenue stream. Our main focus was to grow our maintenance division through the construction division. For each pond we built, we provided that client with the option of a maintenance program. This was a beneficial way to simultaneously provide a better service to our clients and monitor our construction techniques, making changes to new designs when needed. The continuing revenue stream was an added bonus!
Know Your Construction
Construction makes growing a maintenance service easy, and in turn, maintenance services make for better pond builders. All pond contractors have their own personal ponds, right? Of course, we do. And our personal ponds are exactly the same as all our client ponds, right?
Clearly, the Answer is No.
All pond builds are unique, and all pond locations are different. What better way to hone your skills than to understand the vast differences between ponds? Increasing your knowledge of what works best in every situation is easily achieved by having consistent monthly contact with your builds. This increases the quality of knowledge you can spread to existing or potential clients. After all, your conversations with your clients typically consist of knowledge gained from experience.
At the end of the day, if you only build ponds, your only maintenance experience comes from what you perform on your personal pond. We started our maintenance division as a way to boost cash flow during slow construction seasons. In South Florida, that’s a small window of time. What we ultimately realized is that our maintenance practices made us better pond builders by keeping us from making the same mistakes twice. For instance, past experience has taught us when to use two skimmers instead of one, or when a pressurized filter is more beneficial than a waterfall filter, and so on.
Another added advantage is that our maintenance division often calls to attention any issues in design and construction. This allows for a resolve before the client ever has an opportunity to know something was planned incorrectly. By being proactive, your maintenance crew can help your reputation grow and save your profit margin at the same time.
Organization Is Profitability
In maintenance, organization is just as important — if not more important — than a well-planned route. Remember, time is money. The last thing you want to do is waste time making stops, picking up materials or running back to the shop to retrieve forgotten or needed tools. Be sure to choose a maintenance vehicle that provides ample space for supplies, tools, vacuums, nets and so forth. If you are fortunate enough to have multiple crew trucks, having similar vehicles with the same tools and supplies will allow crews to provide your clients with consistent service. This will also allow your maintenance staff to be able to jump into any of your trucks and perform their duties with efficiency. Everyone wins with a consistent maintenance model.
In some cases, you may have to set up a truck and crew to specialize in certain types of maintenance, such as fountains, pondless waterfalls or chlorinated features. That particular truck can have those items needed to perform this specific type of maintenance, in addition to the regular supplies on the other maintenance trucks.
A Simple Addition
In our fleet, we have a dedicated service truck that serves our maintenance division. This truck is larger than our regular maintenance vehicles and carries more repair and replacement parts than the others.
Again, this keeps both crews profitable by keeping fittings and supplies readily available. Our service crew gives us an opportunity to accommodate clients who may not desire regular maintenance but do require service visits from time to time. Sometimes they just need an extra hand when it comes to replacing UV bulbs or a light fixture. This crew also handles leak detections, retrofits to filtration and annual clean-outs. I won’t go into any details when it comes to clean-outs, startups or closings — however, all these services are easy add-ons to maintenance divisions and allow for a longer, dedicated construction season in some areas of the country.
Your Own Rolling Store
Don’t have a pond store? Add a maintenance route. In today’s age of expediency, nothing is more convenient than a readily available product. Your maintenance trucks can serve as a rolling store for your clients. We keep billable goods like koi and goldfish food, water conditioner, bacteria and fertilizer tabs in all of our maintenance trucks. This increases the opportunity to make a sale while simultaneously providing service beyond what Amazon.com and the rest of the internet can provide.
For example, if your client has a waterfall that you service once a month, you may typically use rock cleaner to scrub away unwanted buildup or algae. If the client is constantly thanking you for your exceptional waterfall cleaning but wishing they could do something between visits, this is the type of client that would benefit from a sale of rock cleaner. This is a win-win. Your client can now handle the interim maintenance, and your maintenance division profits with minimal effort. After all, you already buy rock cleaner and other maintenance products to use during your service, so why not make a little extra selling the product as well?
Get the Word Out!
How much money do you spend on advertising per year? Does your current marketing strategy allow you to reach your target audience? Let’s face it. Our clients are a growing part of the landscape industry, but what form of marketing makes it easiest to reach the highest number of potential clients? Imagine the volume of potential clients on your local roads and highways daily. Now think of all the hours your maintenance and service trucks spend traveling from one client’s pond to another. A well-planned monthly marketing strategy is greatly increased by the addition of a pond maintenance route. This is up to 10 times more effective than a well-planned monthly strategy for a company that only provides construction services. Make the most of your advertising budget by painting or covering your company trucks — especially the maintenance and service trucks. These cover the most ground daily and serve as your mobile billboards.
Cash Flow: The Ultimate Benefit
The foundation of a profitable business model is cash flow. Unlike construction services, which fluctuate from project to project, maintenance services represent consistent, predictable revenues from month to month and will help a company better plan its stability and project its growth or expansion. In simple terms, it reduces the stress of worrying what next month will bring and allows a business to work on the important tasks at hand. This helps grow our business and enables our clients to live the “Pond Life.”
After all, every day in South Florida we are bringing water to life.