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Tuesday, 20th December, 2016 7:11 pm

Who Has Control of Your Project?

Published in Business Practice / 1 Comment /

Control of Your Project Is Your Business

This article will look at why project control is important to a successful outcome.  It is important to maintain control over projects at all time.  Designers and contractors should never forget their value and importance when comes to their profession.  No other party, whether contractor, developer, or consumer, should ever have the ability to control your specialty applications.  In this case, we are discussing landscape lighting.

By allowing another or the consumer to have overriding control of a project, it only opens the door for problems.  And once this happens, then frustrations build and profitability is lost.  Nobody really wins.

Understanding the Control Problem

I’ve asked myself, “why is their a control problem between service providers and consumers?”  It all comes down to a desire to save money.  This is completely understandable, but it offers an excuse to encourage limitations or to “cut corners.”  What do I mean by that?  It means that money, the budget or price becomes the governing authority.  This can compromise the end result of the job.

This struggle to control money on a job is a major point of contention for many performing in the trades.  I’d like to address two broad issues that are related to this:

  • Physical Impacts–these include diminished or a “compromised” quality, expected financial losses, and lack of responsibility.

As most everyone realizes, when cost has a priority over decision making, quality becomes compromised.  This is the biggest problem and challenge contractors face.  Once this occurs, it can spread into the labor or standards of practice applied on the job.

There can be expected financial losses in the form of materials waste, incorrect product purchases, time delays, added trips to the job site, and so on.  Each of these has a negative financial impact to the contractor’s business and many times NOT accounted for.

A lacking of responsibility occurs in the form of a weakened or dismissed warranty program.  The contractor cannot and should not be expected to provide for these conditions at an equal consideration.  If the products and service standards have been weakened, then so should their warranties.

  • Psychological Impacts–these include demeaning value and a diminished trust to the service provider.

I believe that the psychological impacts associated with consumers taking over the control of project are the most hurtful of this scenario.  This action realistically places the designer or contractor in an inferior position–it devalues them and is demeaning.  This is especially true when the consumer has absolutely no experience in this discipline.

How can any of this help the outcome of a project?  It can’t!  This is my exact point, as this will only hurt everyone by the time the job ends.  Here’s another way to understand what is going through the service provider’s head.  They will prioritize this job with less emphasis and their only goal will be to get off of the job quickly.  There will be little joy in working through this relationship.  It will encourage cutting corners wherever possible, so as not to lose money.  As a consumer, is this what you truly desire?

The Role of the Consumer

I believe the best way to guide consumers is to educate them.  It’s very unfortunate that we, as a trade profession or as an industry, do not better provide for this process to encourage performance.  Education, as it applies here (project control) has to do with the understanding of what is really at stake in this overall work.

The consumer or end-user of landscape lighting systems needs to ask themselves, “do I desire the best possible outcome on this project?”  If the answer is, yes, then what is the best path to take in order to achieve this?  It’s not by discouraging the tradesman or craftsmen performing the work, it’s by helping them.

Another question to ask is, “am I a professional contractor or designer that has the experience to do this work?”  Most likely your answer is, no, and this begs to ask, “why are you trying to act like one?”


Please remember that it takes years of study and years of building technical skills in order to perform at a high level of achievement.  Most all consumers will never be able to perform at an equal level.  It is because of this that there has to be a separation in this control and function of the job.  The benefits to preserving this right are a higher level of creative application, greater care, and proven results.

The role best played by the consumer is to act in a supporting means–to provide information, input, and to ensure timely payments.  By ensuring positive and effective discussions about the project up front, it will allow for proper implementation by the designer and contractor.

Mark Carlson of Avalon Lighting Design is located in Orangevale, CA and is a seasoned landscape lighting designer since 1999.  He is an author, contractor and consultant and can be contacted at www.avalonlighting.com.


Author: Mark Carlson

Professional landscape lighting designer located in the Sacramento region of N. California. I am a consultant, specifier, technical writer, and activist to promote excellence in this specialized discipline. My company is award-winning and I have done projects throughout the state, N. America and internationally. My business, Avalon Lighting Design has been serving at this capacity for 18 years and it now resides in Orangevale, CA. I perform as an individual designer and contractor for most of my local projects and in a collaborative effort with Gambino Landscape Lighting. This intriguing relationship is one of a kind, as we fulfill to primary roles in this trade/art-form this is unmatched by any of our competition. We lead in the advancement of this craft by continuously raising the bar to standards and practices. I serve with Mike Gambino in the preservation of history for this unique trade--landscape lighting. We have made it our goal and mission to preserve the history of Frank B. Nightingale, the "father of garden lighting"--the man who started this discipline in 1933. Additionally, we republished his book called, Garden Lighting (1958) with an enhanced version called, "The Original Garden Lighting Book" (2013). It allows Mr. Nightingale's words to be redistributed and protected for many years, as well as us providing relevant commentary and updated photos.

1 thought on “Who Has Control of Your Project?”

  1. Great article Mark. Very true the property owner must trust who they hire to design and build their landscape lighting system and understand their process. Service provider must maintain control if all is to go smoothly. After all this is presumably what they do for a living. Unfortunately price and budget is a big influencer in this respect to hiring those service providers who dabble in the art and do not do it on a regular basis. Many buyers have little understanding of what to expect and no benchmark for true project custom quality landscape lighting system costs. However they sometimes find out the hard way when they choose the wrong provider and must pay twice to have the project done right.

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