You’re an Artist Second, a Businessman First

I recently was in Maryland, talking to contractors, at the invite of our long-standing distributor, Turf Equipment. It was a great time and included hands-on demos, a social media class, given by Mike Gannon, “The Pond Hunter”, and even an impromptu CAC dinner at Steve Shinholser, of Premier Ponds, home. But it was Steve’s talk about his systems, and procedures, which has allowed him to successfully manage one of the top water feature businesses in the world that stole the show. You see, Steve is a rare breed in our industry, a businessman who happens to be running a water feature design, build, and maintenance firm. Do you know how rare that is?! Steve gets it, which is why it’s a pleasure to work with him. He owns no equipment, outside of his two pick-up trucks, couldn’t even tell you how to strap a boulder, let alone do it, and he works out of his garage. And year after year, he maintains and installs more water features than just about anybody else. Can you see why he stole the show?


Steve Shinhosler talking numbers. The top his sales, the bottom his profits. Any questions?!


Now if you read that and thought to yourself “well I’m not a businessman, I can’t do what he does” I’d say keep reading. As long as you believe being an “artist” prevents you from being a businessman you will find unprofitable projects to fill your days. Steve charges top dollar for Premier Ponds projects and makes top dollar when they are done. He would be the first to admit he’s not a top artist but his customers love his work. Isn’t that what it’s supposed to be about?


Mike Gannon “The Pond Hunter” sharing his wisdom and some Grateful Dead trivia.


There are many differences between Steve’s business model and that of most other water feature contractors, and even many of the top Certified Aquascape Contractors. For starters, Steve understands how to price and value his work. He never associates “his value of a dollar with the customer’s value of a dollar” and instead views and prices his services accordingly. Steve also spends the majority of his time working on his business instead of in it. This also means he empowers his TEAM to do what their good at so he can spend the time doing what he is best at. And what Steve’s best at, is executing systems and procedures religiously in his marketing and selling. If there’s one weakness most contractors, and retailers, have with their business, it’s marketing and selling. Learn how to market, and sell and you will be amazed how everything else takes care of itself. Steve, like Aquascape, allows customers to get a discount for pre-paying their spring clean outs. He mails hundreds of Spring Clean out newsletters to customers, and gets tens of thousands of prepaid dollars coming in during the historically cash-strapped February and March. For the cost of a stamp, and a few days’ time in the offseason, Steve makes sure his in-season starts off strong year, after year, after year (consistency is the key with your marketing efforts.)


Want to know what else Steve and Premier Ponds do to run one of the most successful businesses in the industry? If you’re signed up for Pondemonium, August 22-24th in Chicago, you can hear for yourself as Steve will be a keynote speaker. Steve’s goal now, is to share with as many people as possible, what he does, while trying to inspire them to believe in themselves, and do it too. Sounds like anybody else you know? I know Steve is looking forward to Pondemonium. Are you?


Steve Shinholser showing the Mid Atlantic CAC’s some down home hospitality!