When your business is based around sprinklers or irrigation systems, the income you and your employees generate comes entirely from services completed successfully and money received from the client. When work isn’t done, it isn’t completed to the client’s satisfaction, or problems arise related to the completed services, your business suffers a loss, and the bottom line is affected.
This makes it essential to run your business in a manner that minimizes or avoids potential losses, keeping your crew up and running at maximum effort and generating as much profit as possible. To do this, it’s vital first to understand where your business has the potential to incur losses, and then you can strategize ways to avoid them.
There are many ways to incur business losses if you are a sprinkler or irrigation contractor, including the following.
- The client claims work was done improperly or not completed on the promised timeline and refuses to pay for services rendered.
- Yourself or employees are hurt when installing irrigation systems, resulting in downtime and worker’s compensation claims. This line of work often requires people to perform physically demanding tasks: working outside in hot conditions and working with equipment such as trenchers, pipe pullers, pipe cutters, and other hand or power tools.
- Equipment theft when on the job site or from the shop.
- Irrigation system malfunctions and leaks may cause flooding in the yard or potentially the homeowner’s basement.
- Improperly installed sprinkler heads or lines may cause the homeowner (or their children) to trip and fall, hurting themselves and submitting medical costs to your business.
- Improper adjustment of installed sprinklers doesn’t cover the entire specified area, and landscaping plants or sections of the lawn die from improper irrigation.
- Fall blow-out services aren’t completed correctly and don’t prevent freezing and damaging the underground lines, so they leak the following spring.
How to Minimize Business Losses
A previous post discussed how to minimize potential risks for your landscaping business, and many of the same tenants hold true if you are doing sprinkler or irrigation jobs solely.
Protect Your Irrigation Contracts
Being a service provider always leaves your business open to the claim that you didn’t render services entirely, or to the client’s satisfaction, or damage was sustained to the party’s property in the process. There are very few things more disappointing as a business owner than to think you did a job well and find out the client isn’t satisfied for one reason or another.
The best way to avoid client dissatisfaction is writing up and signing a clear, descriptive contract before the work is done. To help ensure contracts are well-written and cover all relevant information, make sure to include a detailed description of the work to be completed and what isn’t included, when the services are carried out, payment structure, and performance guarantees.
Keeping Employees Safe
When your work crew is out on the job, keeping them safe is of utmost importance. Safe work conditions and practices lead to a corresponding decrease in injuries, worker’s compensation claims, and downtime incurred until your employee is cleared for work again.
To keep everyone safe when working, standard operating procedures (SOPs) should be written and put in place for all work practices. An SOP should include:
- Requiring workers to call utility services before trenching.
- Detailed protocol for any machinery or equipment used during the installation of an irrigation system.
- A list of the personal protective equipment (PPE) required for all jobs.
- Company regulations concerning environmental working conditions (i.e., storms, temperature extremes).
As crucial as drawing up the SOPS is mandating they be followed. Set a good example for employees by following the procedures yourself as the owner and having consistent repercussions when the protocol isn’t followed.
Equipment theft is a quick way to find yourself in forced downtime and needing to spend the money to replace items and equipment that was stolen. To minimize theft when on the job site, make sure to keep trailers and trucks locked when unattended, keep a watchful eye on people that look suspicious or are not supposed to be on the job site, and keep mental tabs on equipment when you’re using it.
Ensure Fully Functioning System
Once installation of all the lines and heads is done, complete a system check to ensure the entire irrigation design is fully functioning and doesn’t present any problems or concerns.
- Turn the water on and carefully check the entire system for leaks, focusing on critical junctures such as the valve box and pipe connections.
- Turn the water off, making sure all pop-up sprinkler heads fully retract beneath the mowing surface in the turf when the system is shut off. This helps minimize damage from mowing equipment.
- Look for any tripping hazards included sprinkler heads and lines that weren’t properly buried.
Lastly, before leaving the job site, communication with the client will help avoid misuse of the system and a situation where they try to come back to you for the damages or expenses incurred. Make sure they understand:
- Essential maintenance required to extend the longevity of sprinkler heads, including keeping them free of dirt and sediment buildup.
- How to adjust spray patterns and determine if the irrigated area is receiving the appropriate amount of water.
- When to winterize the system, and how to do so, whether they can do it themselves or need to hire you to complete the service for them.
Carrying the Correct Insurance
Lastly, it’s critical to carry the appropriate insurance policies for your business, regardless if you’re following the above suggestions or not. Sometimes, even when everything is followed correctly, and you go above and beyond to avoid losses, they still occur.
To help protect your business and your bottom line, carry the following policies to add an extra degree of protection.
- Worker’s compensation covers an employee’s wage replacement and medical benefits if they are injured on the job.
- Professional liability offers protection against claims from customers stating services were not properly rendered.
- General liability helps protect your business from claims of property damage or personal injury to clients. It can help pay for repairs, medical bills, legal fees, and judgments or settlements if awarded.