Creating beautiful water features is probably your passion. You’re good at it. It’s your niche. But today’s customers are often wanting more than just a water feature – they’re also wanting a place to enjoy it! You’ve already likely added things like outdoor lighting and planting to supplement your water feature installations, so including hardscapes in your repertoire is the next natural step.
Adding hardscaping has many benefits to the water feature installation contractor, including:
- Giving your client and their visitors an area to enjoy the water feature;
- Adding ambience to the area around the water feature;
- Providing more options for building enhancements to the water feature;
- Increasing sales revenue and profit;
- Creating an opportunity to sell more outdoor lighting;
- Allowing you to build around the water feature so that the water feature and the hardscape blend together seamlessly;
- Enabling you to keep more money in-house; and
- Generating upsell opportunities.
But I’m a Pond Contractor!
You may be thinking, “I don’t know how to build hardscapes.” And that’s OK! There are plenty of ways to work your way into it.
After a while, I realized that there were two problems with this. First, I was making those companies rich. And more importantly, I was sometimes losing jobs, because the client wanted to work with one single contractor and not several. So, they’d typically give the job to someone else who could handle all the aspects of the job they wanted – not me.
I began to realize that even if I subcontracted the hardscape work to someone else and included my standard mark-up, the customers were still happy with my quote, as long as I would oversee it all. Even if you aren’t skilled at installing quality hardscaping, you can subcontract that work, mark it up a fair percentage and still contract the entire job to your clients. I’ve generally found that if there was something we couldn’t do in-house, we could always hire a quality, affordable contractor and still land the job. You should be able to mark up a subcontractor at least 30 percent and still win jobs.
There were certain kinds of hardscapes we were able to do, and other kinds we weren’t. For instance, we had installed dry-set flagstone patios but had never done interlocking pavers. So if a client wanted a hardscape, we would often push them toward a flagstone patio, knowing that we could pull that job off in-house. And if they really insisted on pavers, we would subcontract the hardscape portion. Either way, we were making good money.
Learn Your Way to DIY
Over time, as we were watching our hardscape subcontractor do their work, we began to realize that it wasn’t as intimidating as we had previously thought. In fact, one of my workers came to me and said, “I don’t think you need to hire those paver guys anymore. We’ve been watching them, and we’re pretty sure we can do that, too. In fact, one of our guys did a lot of that at the last company he worked for.”
And so it started. After having subcontracted more than a dozen jobs to a specialty hardscape company, we decided to give the next job a go ourselves. It took some time for us to be able to do it just right, but in time we became even better at hardscapes than the company we had learned from.
Today, we’ll rarely install a water feature that isn’t integrated with a hardscape that we’re building for our client. Sometimes the water feature transitions right into the hardscape area. Sometimes the water feature is a part of the hardscape. And other times, they just complement one another.
Sometimes the hardscape area we install is a flagstone patio. Other times it’s a custom-built, interlocking concrete patio. Sometimes it even involves retaining walls, rock walls, gravel patio areas, fire pits, seating and more. Often, the addition of the hardscape provides us additional opportunities to install more plants and outdoor lighting, both high-profit margin items for us.
However you do it, if you are not currently installing hardscapes along with your water features, you are missing the boat.