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Lessons Learned in the Christmas Light Business

Fred and Kaitlin Zimmerman have been running a successful Christmas light installation business since 2011. Along the way, they’ve learned some valuable lessons about what not to do when running a Christmas light business. In this blog, they share their insights and advice to help other business owners avoid common pitfalls.

Treat it Like a Legitimate Business

When they first started, Fred and Kaitlin didn’t realize that Christmas lights could be a viable full-time business. They viewed it as a side hustle, which held their business back for years. The key is to treat your Christmas light business as a legitimate, year-round operation from the start. This means planning, budgeting, and investing in the necessary infrastructure and systems to support growth.

Hire the Right Employees

Hiring the right employees is crucial for the success of your Christmas light business. Fred and Kaitlin have learned that it’s better to hire teachable, moldable individuals rather than experienced workers who may have their own ideas and ways of doing things. They also emphasize the importance of being willing to fire employees who are not a good fit, even if they are friends or family members.

Additionally, they recommend thoroughly training new hires, even on seemingly obvious tasks, to ensure they understand the company’s standards and procedures. Sending inexperienced employees out on their own without proper guidance can lead to costly mistakes.

Manage Overhead and Costs

One of the biggest lessons Fred and Kaitlin learned was the importance of understanding and managing overhead costs. When they first started, they were billing customers at low rates without considering their true expenses, such as payroll, taxes, and insurance. This led to them losing money on jobs, despite the high hourly rates they were charging.

They emphasize the need to work with an accountant to properly track and manage all business expenses, including payroll taxes, worker’s compensation insurance, and other operational costs. Failing to do so can result in costly audits and penalties down the line.

Communicate Clearly with Customers

Clear communication with customers is essential for the success of your Christmas light business. Fred and Kaitlin have learned the hard way that poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, customer dissatisfaction, and even lost business. They now make sure to document every job in detail, including photos and specific instructions, to ensure that their installers and customers are on the same page.

They also caution against changing prices or job scope without clearly communicating the changes to the customer. Maintaining transparency and managing customer expectations is key to building long-term relationships and maintaining a positive reputation.

Focus on Your Core Business

Another important lesson Fred and Kaitlin have learned is the importance of focusing on your core business during the Christmas light season. They’ve found that trying to juggle other services, such as power washing or gutter cleaning, can be detrimental to the quality of their Christmas light installations and customer service. It’s best to prioritize your Christmas light business during the peak season and avoid distractions that can pull your attention away.

FAQ

  • What is the best way to find seasonal employees for a Christmas light business? Fred and Kaitlin have had success recruiting college students and workers who have seasonal jobs, such as ice cream truck drivers or roofers, during the off-season.
  • How important is it to have an accountant for a Christmas light business? An accountant is essential for properly managing payroll, taxes, and other financial aspects of the business. Failing to have an accountant can lead to costly mistakes and legal issues.
  • What are the best ways to communicate with customers about their Christmas light installations? Detailed documentation, including photos and specific instructions, is key to ensuring that customers and installers are on the same page. Transparent communication about any changes in pricing or job scope is also crucial.
  • How can a Christmas light business owner avoid getting distracted by other services during the peak season? It’s important to focus solely on your core Christmas light business during the peak season and avoid taking on additional services that can pull your attention away from providing high-quality installations and customer service.

By learning from the experiences of Fred and Kaitlin Zimmerman, Christmas light business owners can avoid common pitfalls and set themselves up for long-term success. By treating their business as a legitimate, year-round operation, hiring the right employees, managing costs effectively, communicating clearly with customers, and staying focused on their core services, they can build a thriving Christmas light installation business.

Lessons Learned from 12+ Years in the Christmas Lighting Business

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