Author Topic: On the Fence - Start a Sprinkler/Irrigation Company?  (Read 563 times)

squirtle

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On the Fence - Start a Sprinkler/Irrigation Company?
« on: March 22, 2021, 01:32:12 PM »
My market has TERRIBLE customer service. I called every single sprinkler company and didn't get one call back.  I was forced to learn how to fix sprinkler heads, drip lines, 5 busted pipes (one on the mainline) a valve, and rewire the computer to water all zones independently (a few crossed wires buried somewhere). I just bought the house and knew it had a busted system.

The local competition basically runs YELP pages, poorly.  I could very easily pay ~$100 to become a licensed irrigator and start taking their business by launching my own site and running a legitimate business and growing slowly/organically.

One of the reasons I am on the fence about whether or not I want to start a sprinkler/irrigation or any company is that I am a high school teacher and not looking to quit, at least initially. I would do my best, sick days, weekends, clever scheduling, managing demand, to see how this looks part time and go from there.  I could hire and train other people, but the barriers to entry are so low, I am not sure how I would keep them working for me.  Additionally, I find myself asking, is it worth it if it makes only "X" per year?

Frankly, I love finance and entrepreneurship (15 year career at Morgan Stanley prior to teaching), and I would want to tinker with this for fun and curiosity to see what I can do with it.  MOST IMPORTANT I want my young boys not to fear doing something on your own, and it would be incredible if I could build a lasting company. 

Go ahead and rip apart why I shouldn't enter irrigation, how I'm daydreaming I can do this part time, etc.  I'm early on in the exploratory phase at the moment.

Thank you for your review and kind/harsh words.






Duke03

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Re: On the Fence - Start a Sprinkler/Irrigation Company?
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2021, 08:49:19 PM »
Not to be a downer, but you will go broke trying to run a business that fixes sprinklers....  As you can tell from your first hand experience of no one wanting the job, the money is in the install not the up keep or the fix.  That is why not one single company called you back.  You can spend all day chasing a problem with a sprinkler system and all you will have to show is a yard full of holes and still no working sprinkler.  It's cheaper to replace an entire sprinkler system than try to get one up and running that hasn't worked in over a year.

Michael in ABQ

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Re: On the Fence - Start a Sprinkler/Irrigation Company?
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2021, 12:55:30 AM »
Growing up, my best friend's dad did pretty well running a sprinkler/irrigation company. However, he had a lot of commercial clients and had a nice recurring revenue with annual backflow prevention testing. Another thing was pretty much all of his labor was illegal immigrants that he presumably paid in cash. He said he tried Americans and they'd all quit because the work was too hard. It's pretty much the proverbial "ditch digger".


As far as low barriers to entry and keeping people working for you, there's not as many people who have the entrepreneurial drive as you think. A lot of people are perfectly happy not have to worry about getting the next job, collecting from clients, bookkeeping, licensing, etc. But good employees are always hard to find. If you have to pay $15/hour (call it $20-25 with payroll taxes and any benefits) can you bill for their work at say $50 an hour? Will that $25/hour gross margin be enough to cover the time they're not actively working but still getting paid (driving from job to job, picking up materials, etc.) Will it cover the overhead of the business, i.e. that digital marketing, someone to actually answer the phone, handle the bookkeeping, and the other business overhead, while still providing you a reasonable profit? Will it cover the costs of buying and maintaining vehicles - probably pickup trucks as it's hard to fit a crew of guys, a bunch of PVC pipe, and haul a ditch digger with a subcompact car.


Figure out what you can charge, then start backing into some of these other numbers. If there's still a decent margin left over then maybe start by taking on some small projects that you can handle yourself to learn the ropes.

Kroaler

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Re: On the Fence - Start a Sprinkler/Irrigation Company?
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2021, 07:26:31 AM »
You mentioned you want to do it while working full time. I do t see that working unless you only work weekends when other guys are off. I don't see a situation working well where you get the jobs and send out your help to do the work.
Also labor will be trouble. People don't really want to do hard work for 7.25 an hour.

With that said a buddy of mine does landscaping work and irrigation INSTALLs make him good money. I've never heard him mention repair.

Another buddy of mine does backflow testing only on weekends and makes okay extra cash doing that.

v8rx7guy

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Re: On the Fence - Start a Sprinkler/Irrigation Company?
« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2021, 09:26:23 AM »
If you live somewhere where it gets cold enough that lines need to be blown out in the winter time, that's where I'd get started.  You can charge $50-$100 around here for 15 minutes of your time blowing out lines.  That's when you'll discover damage to potential customers systems too and you can offer them a quote to fix it.  But I do agree with other posters that there is a reason sprinkler repair is not really a service that many people offer.

Kroaler

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Re: On the Fence - Start a Sprinkler/Irrigation Company?
« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2021, 09:00:08 PM »
Not to be a downer, but you will go broke trying to run a business that fixes sprinklers....  As you can tell from your first hand experience of no one wanting the job, the money is in the install not the up keep or the fix.  That is why not one single company called you back.  You can spend all day chasing a problem with a sprinkler system and all you will have to show is a yard full of holes and still no working sprinkler.  It's cheaper to replace an entire sprinkler system than try to get one up and running that hasn't worked in over a year.

I'd be interested to reverse engineer what you would have to charge a client to do the work you did yourself accounting for all the business overhead.

It's probably a pretty high multiple of what you actually spent doing this job.       

But there's always money to be made every where.  I don't want to be a downer, just crunch the numbers and see how it looks - that's what really matters.