Turning ideas into reality

It didn’t take long for this entrepreneur to grow from a single business to the owner and operator of three water-related companies.

May 12, 2011
Lindsey Getz

Timothy Malooly (left) has garnered national recognition, including Partner of the Year by the EPA WaterSense program, for his dedication to the irrigation industry.

Timothy Malooly became involved in the irrigation industry the same way many others before him have – on the business end of a shovel. Though he didn’t know it would wind up as a lifelong career – and a true passion – Malooly started out in the field, getting his hands dirty and working hard. “I worked on an installation crew while in high school for a locally-based landscape irrigation company,” recalls Malooly. And he’s still working hard, running three separate water-related firms based in Minnesota.

Malooly continued working the installation crew job into his college years until he says an opportunity to work for a U.S. senator took his attention. After school, he took a position in “corporate America,” but over time he started to feel it wasn’t for him. “I had no plans for career work in the green industry until 1989 when, after several years working in corporate surroundings, I felt the need to make my own way,” Malooly remembers. “As a young person working in a mature company, I felt I had little say in my future.  So, I began to think about going off on my own, but wondered what I’d do.  I thought back on the fun I had working in landscape irrigation and, combined with the knowledge I had gained, thought I might be able to form a successful company.”

Armed with the understanding of running a business that he’d gained in the corporate world, as well as a strong entrepreneurial spirit he’d always had – his first job was selling greeting cards door to door at the young age of 12 – Malooly started putting his plans in motion. “The first decision was to do my homework and lay out a business plan during evenings and weekends,” Malooly says. “The second decision was to locate the new business back home as I was based in Chicago at the time of my preparations.”

And then there were three

While Malooly set out to start a single company, in time he wound up managing three separate businesses – certainly a testament to his enthusiasm. Business kept growing, and today all three businesses thrive.

In fact, Malooly’s first company, Irrigation by Design (IBD), just celebrated its 21st birthday in March. This Twin Cities-based commercial/residential landscape irrigation installation and service company began modestly, says Malooly. “Some might even say it began in a backward fashion concentrating primarily on service of existing irrigation systems,” he says. “But, between 1990 and 1992, we were in a recession, and the best, first hope for the fledgling company with no foundation of its own and few contacts was to concentrate on service of existing systems rather than struggle with other, more established firms for installation business in a challenging economy. In fact, many of our processes which won IBD recognition over the years came as a direct result of the experiences we gained servicing other peoples’ installations in what is still to this day a largely non-standardized business.”

Malooly founded company number two, Dulcet Fountains & Aeration, after an acquisition IBD made in the mid-90s. It was during a time when floating fountains, aerators and aquatic management programs were highly specialized – they still are, in fact. “IBD bought a competitor who dabbled in this business and I immediately saw an opportunity,” Malooly says. “To me, there was almost no competition. The market was available but simply had not been properly developed. I reasoned that we primarily needed to get word out of the availability of the products and services offered by Dulcet and have the staying power to be around when the clients decided to buy. Today, Dulcet enjoys a large share of the Twin Cities market for fountains and aeration and is rapidly growing its business in aquatic management services.”

Born of the need for properly prepared irrigation designs, especially in regard to computer central control, company number three started in 1995 as Irrigation Consultants & Control. Today it is Water in Motion. “I personally shepherded the fledgling firm onto the design teams of some of the largest master planned community projects in the state of Minnesota,” says Malooly. “The design work we performed quickly established the small group as knowledgeable in planning large and complex irrigation systems not only for water efficiency but for maintainability, including management of runoff water and ponds as amenities, as well as irrigation reservoirs and computer central control to manage water delivery and the water-window.”

Recognition for efficient irrigation

There’s no question that part of the future of the irrigation industry lies in demonstrating that efficient delivery of water on the landscape must be made the norm in practice as well as in study, Malooly says. But while water efficiency has gotten a lot of buzz in the past few years, it’s not a concept that’s brand new. Malooly says that much of the work requested today of his companies, including rainwater harvesting, matched precipitation, weather-based scheduling and other efficient irrigation methods, were actually being practiced by some long before today’s green initiatives started mandating for them. Malooly was fortunate to recognize this early on.

“Water in Motion quickly learned that management of irrigation, especially large landscape irrigation systems, was an opportunity,” he says. “So, we invested heavily in computer central control technology and built an infrastructure to accommodate our desires, which were to deliver water management services and pay for those services largely through efficient use of resources and reduced costs of operation.”

Over the years, Malooly’s companies have been involved with a variety of interesting projects, including Water in Motion’s designed LEED Platinum residential system and two efficient and creative bear exhibits for zoological gardens. “But in regard to efficient use of water, our intentions are the same, whether the system is on a multi-million dollar facility or a middle-class suburban home,” Malooly says. “That is, to use the right products for the project, promote best practices and whatever products are specified, act to ensure the design, installation, and operation of systems demonstrates efficiency and practical maintainability.”

All three companies have been recognized locally and nationally for their work and promotion of responsible use of resources.

Of those awards, Malooly was the first irrigation professional to receive the Partner of the Year award from the EPA WaterSense program. Malooly says it was “a particular honor.”

“Although the WaterSense program is ‘young’ and has elements in need of adjustment, its original intent – to encourage Americans to voluntarily reduce water use by 20 percent without a negative impact on their lives – was a challenge we enjoy embracing,” he says. “At Water in Motion, for example, our water management division uses technology to remotely manage irrigation systems. We have documented cases of clients saving 20, 30, and even 50 percent water while still enjoying a healthy landscape. Of course, we’ve been doing this type of work since 1995, many years before the WaterSense program was introduced.”


This story is one of three that appeared in Lawn & Landscape's Water Works e-newsletter. To continue reading about Timothy Malooly:

Working together: Three ways irrigation designers and installers can ensure a smooth project.

The bigger picture:
Uniting the industry will allow it to reach its full potential.