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Building a Successful Christmas Light Business

As the founders of Christmas Light Contractors, Fred and Kaitlin Zimmerman have been installing Christmas lights since 2011. Over the past decade, they’ve learned valuable lessons about running a profitable and efficient holiday lighting business. In this blog, we’ll share some of their insights to help other contractors grow their own Christmas light companies.

Starting Small and Scaling Up

When Fred first started out in the Christmas light industry, he made some common rookie mistakes. He would underbid jobs, give away tree work for free, and struggle to find reliable employees. However, through trial and error, he learned how to build a sustainable business model.

Fred’s advice for new contractors is to start small and focus on becoming efficient before trying to rapidly expand. Don’t quit your day job right away – instead, work on Christmas lights on nights and weekends until the revenue can fully support your family. Slowly build up a reliable team of installers and learn how to properly bid and price jobs.

Leveraging Reliable Employees

One of the keys to Fred and Kaitlin’s success has been finding and retaining top-notch installers. Their lead installer, Mark, is known as one of the best in the industry. They emphasize the importance of treating your employees well, paying them fairly, and giving them the freedom to do their jobs.

Fred cautions against becoming too dependent on a single employee, as that can leave your business vulnerable if they decide to leave. Instead, focus on training multiple team members and creating a positive work culture so they want to stay long-term.

Mastering Tree Work

Kaitlin was known in the Indianapolis area as the “tree person” – she had an exceptional eye for detail and could make even the most complex tree lighting look spectacular. However, she eventually grew tired of the time-consuming nature of tree work and shifted her focus elsewhere.

While intricate tree lighting can impress customers, Fred and Kaitlin warn that it can also be a major time and money trap if not priced correctly. Their advice is to be selective about the tree jobs you take on, and make sure to charge appropriately for the labor involved.

Adapting to Industry Changes

When Fred and Kaitlin first started, the Christmas light industry looked very different. Incandescent lights were the norm, and professional lighting installations were not as common. Over the years, they’ve had to adapt to the rise of LED technology and increasing competition.

One key adjustment was transitioning to a rental model, where they provide the lights and take them down after the season. This eliminates the hassle of storing and organizing customer-owned lights. They’ve also expanded to multiple warehouse locations to better serve a growing customer base.

Fostering a Positive Mindset

Despite the challenges, Fred and Kaitlin have maintained a positive and resilient mindset. They emphasize the importance of learning from mistakes, seeking advice from experienced peers, and being open to new ideas.

As Fred says, “I’ve learned a lot just by running the Christmas light group. I’ve taught a lot of people what not to do because of my own stupidity and hardheadedness. It took me quite a few years to realize that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – you can just find out what other people are doing that’s working and implement it in your own business.”

FAQ

How can a new Christmas light installer find reliable employees?

  • Recruit from local colleges and universities, especially those with strong work ethic cultures like Christian schools.
  • Offer competitive pay and benefits to attract and retain top talent.
  • Provide thorough training and mentorship to develop your team’s skills.
  • Empower your employees with autonomy and trust, rather than micromanaging.

What are some tips for pricing Christmas light installations?

  • Carefully estimate the time and materials required for each job.
  • Don’t undervalue your services or give away work for free.
  • Consider the home’s value and the customer’s budget when setting prices.
  • Be selective about taking on complex or time-consuming projects like intricate tree lighting.

How can a Christmas light business adapt to industry changes?

  • Stay up-to-date on new lighting technologies and installation techniques.
  • Diversify your offerings, such as providing a rental service for lights.
  • Expand to multiple locations to better serve a growing customer base.
  • Continuously seek feedback and implement improvements to your operations.
Lessons Learned from a Decade of Christmas Light Installations

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