‘Tis the season when landscaping work in some parts of the country can grind to a halt if there’s no snow plowing. But that’s not the case for Timberline Landscaping in Colorado Spring, CO. Owner Tim Emick bought into a Christmas lighting franchise called Christmas Decor in 2001, and the service has been gangbusters since the start.
“When we started offering holiday lights in 2001, it was an opportunity to fill the Winter time,” says Shawn Brewer, Timberline’s lighting manager. “Yeah, we do snow removal, but it doesn’t snow 24-7. So it was a good way to fill that gap and keep everyone busy. So that’s why they started the Christmas lighting part of the business.”
Being part of the Christmas Decor franchise has given Timberline an advantage—especially for handling unexpected hiccups like the shipping and supply delays of 2020/21 that kept other lighting businesses from getting the equipment they needed. “We were still able to get stuff in. So it’s kind of a network system that we use, and they help us with all of our lights,” says Brewer.
He continues, “Also, we learned some techniques from them that I would have to say make us stand out. For example, the way we light our trees really sets us apart here at Timberline. We lay lights in the trees so they appear individually placed, versus that string going around like a candy cane.”
Timberline also emphasizes customer service. Just one example is that they perform proactive checks and repairs for all their lighting installations. “After we get everything installed, I break down my spreadsheet into areas of the town, and I have individuals go check out each one of those jobs.” says Brewer. “They go to the job, check the timer, make sure everything’s good, turn everything on, make sure everything’s working, make sure the roofline is straight, make sure nothing is missing and there’s not something that maybe the homeowner hasn’t seen.”
He continues, “We get probably 20 comments a year from people asking, ‘What are you guys doing here?’ We say ‘Oh, we’re here to check your lights.’ And they go, ‘Oh, that’s awesome!’… So I think what puts us on the map are those proactive checks. And if there’s an issue, I try to get someone out there to fix it the day of.”
Today, roughly 25% of Timberline’s lighting clients are residential, and 75% are commercial or apartments. “When it started it was more residential based, and then as our business developer [fostered] all these relationships, we realized how commercial could mean big business for holiday lighting,” says Brewer. “After all, if we put lights on your building or draw attention to your shopping center, more people want to come and see it. You get more people in the door, and you can use it to set yourself apart from the shopping center next door. So the commercial business grew from there to the point where now we even do whole commercial districts in a town.”
One example of this, which Brewer says is a fun job, is Manitou Springs, CO. It’s a little tourist town, just west of Colorado Springs, and Timberline does the entire town—from garlands on all the light poles to trees on all the crosswalks, as well as the big signature tree in the center of town. Timberline has become “known” for Manitou Spring’s Christmas lighting.
Building Relationships… And SEO!
Though Timberline has around 300 employees, it’s still run with the tenet of “building relationships” that Emick started with in 1986, says Brewer. This keeps the company feeling like a family, both in terms of employees and their long-time customers. This is especially evident right on Timberline’s web site, which appears more like a community events board during the holidays due to its Christmas Lights Guide, an interactive map of the houses and businesses with lights displays. People are proud of their beautiful Christmas displays and they love to be added to the Timberline Guide, says Brewer. In his opinion, the guide is one of their best marketing tools all year round.
“It’s been amazing!” he comments. “People can add themselves to the guide, and we also add coffee shops and little places you can stop and get hot cocoa and stuff like that. I think this year we have 166 lighting displays in the guide. The amount of work that our team puts into it, and the amount of traffic that it creates for our website is so worth it,” says Brewer. “It creates enough traffic for us that it gets us through the whole year with Google in terms of SEO. So that is some great marketing!”
Check out Timberline’s Christmas Lights guide here!
For more on lighting services, read:
Year-Round Revenue For Landscapers? Here’s How