There’s no question that the general public still does not truly understand the irrigation industry or the value of water availability and usage. Typically it takes a hit in the pocketbook for consumers to start paying attention and the increasing cost of water rates is finally garnering the issue some attention. Still, most of the population remains in need of education and that can make working in the irrigation field an uphill battle.
“It sometimes feels like a constant battle,” admits Rudy Larsen, president of Lawn Butler, a Utah-based landscape and irrigation company focusing on the commercial market. “We’ll send a bill for a valve that costs us $200 because it’s a cream of the crop Rain Bird product and the client will come back at us and say they saw the same valve at Home Depot for $15. Of course it’s nowhere near the same valve but getting the customer to understand that is the challenge.”
Larsen says that keeping the customer educated is a time-consuming process, but one that has to be done. “We spend a lot of one-on-one time with clients trying to educate them on what we’re doing and what kind of products we’re using,” he says. “We’re installing commercial grade products that are going to last for years – not something run-of-the-mill that you can find on a store shelf. Clients don’t understand the difference until you spend the time with them.”
But sometimes it takes more than that. Larsen says that real-life examples go a long way. He always likes to use the story of a client who hired me to help bring down his $500 per month irrigation bill.”
The problem with this particular client’s system was that it was outdated with low quality parts. Larsen explained that he needed to upgrade the system and bring it to a higher standard before the client could see the savings.
“The first year he spent $10,000 in sprinkler repairs,” Larsen says. “The next year it was $5,000, which was what he spent the year he’d hired me. But the third year it was $562 and the fourth year it was $300. We had to set the standard, install the right products, and ultimately get the problem to go away. But if you don’t explain to the customer why you’re charging more for a premium product and service, they’ll hire the company that’s charging less but will throw together a system that will ultimately cost the client much more money.”
In the end, Larsen says that some clients get it – and others just don’t. And the ones that don’t may be the ones that you have to walk away from. Fortunately for his company, he says there’s only a very small percentage that still doesn’t get it after being educated. “I had one client that was accepting of the poor quality system because he didn’t want to pay the money for the repairs,” Larsen says.
“He told me ‘Just let it leak. It still works.’ That’s the point where we walk away. We’re can’t accept a client willingly wasting our world’s most valuable resource. Helping clients to understand just how valuable of a resource water is can make a difference. But those that don’t get it are the ones you have to walk away from.”