How Smaller Contractors Can Land Bigger Waterscape Projects

Published on June 28, 2021

Do you work with large boulders to create natural waterscapes? Be transparent about your process and show your customers how you do it!

Even small water feature contractors can make a big splash by reeling in high-value construction projects. You don’t have to be the best water feature artisan, the biggest company, the least expensive bidder or even the most experienced contractor in order to win a lot of the major jobs out there. So, get rid of any presumptions you might have that only the big fish get to build big projects and make the big bucks. It may not happen overnight, but with the right attitude, motivated daily behaviors and thoughtful techniques, you can find yourself reeling in bigger, more valuable jobs and filling your business pipeline with money-making projects that will cement your status as an industry leader.

When you wake up in the morning, how would you rate yourself and your business on a scale of 1 to 10? Do you ever struggle to win bids or turn profits, despite being a hard worker? Maybe you’ve been given an opportunity to bid a big job but decided to pass it up for several smaller, more manageable jobs in your comfort zone? Or maybe you’ve simply decided that your business is only capable of handling small, commodity-style water features because you can finish them quickly and move on to the next one — an unassuming, yet reliable stream of revenue?

Staying within our comfort zones is easy and familiar, requiring less bravery on our part. But if this is what you think of yourself, then it’s all you and your business will ever be — a small fish in a big pond.

“I can’t build big water features because I don’t have the skills, experience or equipment to get the job done.” “The people in my service area aren’t the kind of clients who will spend a lot of money on an outdoor living space.” If you’ve ever said this (or something like it) to yourself, then you’re probably right! You’ll continue to work your rear end off and struggle to turn profits. You’ll keep filling your portfolio with images of modest projects, which, after a while, will all start to look the same to you and your prospective clients. You’ll create a “just-another-average-Joe-pond-builder” image for your company with little differentiation from your competition.

So maybe some changes in attitude are exactly what you need to take your identity (and your business) to the next level.

Attitude Adjustment

backyard ponds
Make it clear that you’re selling more than just water features. You’re selling a lifestyle!

Ask yourself again, how would you rate yourself and your current business efforts on a scale of 1 to 10? Dear friends, I’ve got news for you. You are a 10! You may not realize it right now. You may have other things going on in your personal or professional life that make you feel like a 6 or a 7 on most days. Hey, maybe some days you feel like a 2 — but if that’s all you think of yourself on a consistent basis, then you are living a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Instead, I encourage you to wake up each day and say to yourself, “I’m a 10, my business is a 10, and I am capable of winning and delivering 10-caliber projects.” If this sounds childish or unrealistic to you, then you’re thinking like a small fish. Whether you are a novice pond builder who is just starting out on your own, or you are a seasoned veteran with hundreds of water features under your belt, stepping into the realm of high-value, custom construction projects requires a shift in attitude — a “yes-I-can” modus operandi. We’re not talking about hoping and dreaming of becoming a 10 only if we accomplish X, Y, and Z first. We’re talking about truly believing that right here, right now in this moment, we identify ourselves as a 10. We are the best, and our daily behaviors are the kind of behaviors that other 10s do.

Inevitably, there will be opportunities to work on large-scale water features. However, if you’re not putting in the time to make yourself visible, these opportunities will come and go without you knowing they ever existed, until you see them on your competitor’s website or social media page.

Your attitude is what drives all your behaviors. Positive attracts positive, and negative attracts negative, so don’t let your preconceptions, prior actions or personal politics sabotage your goals. Once you start thinking of yourself as a 10 and identifying as a big fish, then you are one step closer to your next big-money water feature construction project.

Reach for the Stars

Remember when our parents and mentors told us to reach for the stars? They were trying to inspire us to be the best versions of ourselves in order to achieve greatness. Well, guess what? Now that you are identifying as a 10, the stars are already within your reach! You just need to know where to look for them — and what to do when you find them.

drone waterscape image
What makes you different? Drone imagery can be a great way to capture intangibles like teamwork and the cleanliness of your job site.

Inevitably, there will be opportunities to work on large-scale water features. However, if you’re not putting in the time to make yourself visible, these opportunities will come and go without you knowing they ever existed, until you see them on your competitor’s website or social media page. You might say to yourself, “Hey, why wasn’t I asked to bid on that big job? We do much nicer-looking work than those guys, so what am I missing that they’ve got?”

I assure you that it’s not the depth of their portfolio that landed them the job. They won because they have the right outlook and perception of themselves, their company, their products and their marketplace. They have a daily plan and execute it.

This combination of attitude and behavior makes their company highly visible and attractive to others.

Effective behaviors that can help position your company for success include things like networking with and aligning yourself with other professionals, landscapers, designers, architects, builders and organizations. Engage with them on social media. Tag them in your posts and share their stories to your own page. Participate in forums and make your presence known, because you never know when a referral may be coming your way.

Post engaging content that answers common questions that customers ask. I’m sure you can make a list right now of at least five things you are asked every time you go into a client meeting. Write short but informative blog articles and post them regularly on your website, while always linking to them from your social media pages. All these behaviors will help to broaden your reach and put you on a stage for others to see.

Focus on Process

Do you work with large boulders to create natural waterscapes? Be transparent about your process and show your customers how you do it!

Companies that are successful in winning jobs big and small are the ones that regularly demonstrate their expertise, proficiency and professionalism and put it on display. After all, it’s not what you say about your company, but how you say it.

For example, in order to convey to prospective clients that you are capable of taking on large-scale projects, you may be tempted to show them photos of huge boulders and massive machines with a caption that says, “We lift big rocks!” However, the process is just as important as the end result, if not more important. When you’re on a job site, try shooting some video of your crew working together as a team, demonstrating proper techniques like lifting, strapping and hoisting big rocks safely. Talk about how safety and proficiency are important elements of your company’s construction process and why that matters.

Similarly, you may be trying to deliver a “we-are-professionals” message by showing beautiful images of competed jobs you are very proud of. Take some photos of the job site on a Friday afternoon before you leave for the weekend. Is your plywood stacked?

Are your materials tarped or covered? Have you loaded up your truck with construction waste and debris, ready to be hauled off site? Is the job site left neat, orderly and in the same condition that you would expect a contractor to leave your own home? Don’t just say that you are committed to keeping your client’s property neat and orderly. Show it!

Customers buy for their reasons and their reasons alone. They may be frustrated with the experience of working with a previous contractor, and so your company’s efficiency, work ethic, timeliness, punctuality and communication may be more important to the customer than the price or quality of the product itself. What might seem valuable to you — a nicely landscaped pond, a massive waterfall or a perfectly plumbed valve manifold — may not be perceived as valuable to every customer. In the eyes of a customer, all contractors are the same until they prove themselves to be different.

What makes you different? Drone imagery can be a great way to capture intangibles like teamwork and the cleanliness of your job site.

Think about what makes your company different and your process unique. How do these things address what your customers value most? Show it off to others through video and informative articles. Being transparent about your process and intentional with your messaging requires an investment of time and effort, but doing so also builds trust and confidence in your brand and paints a picture of your company that says, “We are the best, not just because of where we can go, but because of how we get there.”

Be intentional. Be transparent. Be a 10.

Kloubec Koi Farm

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