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Often you are too scared

“What, wood? Do you want a fence made of wood? Do I look like a carpenter? We do not have wooden fences here, go somewhere else. Bye.” It is an answer a customer can get just like that when walking into an arbitrary fencing company. And not just for wooden fencing. “Agricultural or wildlife fencing is rotten stuff to put up and the margins are low, we don't get involved with that,” we have heard many times here at the editorial office. As well as: “detection fencing gives far too many false alarms, it will only cause trouble,” and “ornamental fencing we don't do either, because people who order ornamental fencing whine about every scratch.”

So what else do we have? Wire mesh? “Well no, that's from the old days.” High-security fencing? “We do not do that either. Far too much lugging around with heavy prison mats and the razor wire will cut open your hands.” Guide rails then? “Are you crazy? Way too boring, all those kilometres straight along the motorway.” Is there anything left? So what fences do you put up? “Well um, double bar of course!”

We exaggerate a little. The average fencing contractor can erect more than one type of fencing - and does so regularly. But it is noticeable that by no means every fencing company has all types of fencing in its catalogue.

Double rod, bar fencing and wire mesh can actually be done by anyone. However, the number of fitters who can still properly assemble wire mesh fencing is decreasing. Mortise fencing is also being offered by more and more fencing contractors because demand for it is growing so fast. But we also know fencers who primarily install agricultural and wildlife fencing, passing up all other jobs. Or those who only put up wooden fences. Or only ornamental fencing.

Sometimes this is a very conscious choice. Of course there is nothing wrong with that in itself. If you specialise in one type and are a true professional in that type, customers from the extended area will come to you and you will obtain every job in that area because you can deliver the best quality at the best price.

But often it is also something that has just developed that way, without really thinking about it. You learnt to fence from your supervisor, so you can install the fences he could install. There is no fence worker who first went to fencing school, where he learnt how to set every type of fence there is - because there is no such school.

And then you stayed with those fencing types. Once you started for yourself, those were the types you offered to your customers. You knew where to buy them and how to install them. You knew how long it takes to install them - and so you could calculate the bid.

Anything that is different is difficult, awkward, and sometimes complicated. A customer asking for a fencing type that you have never installed before is tricky. You have to look for a supplier, you have to figure out exactly what materials, accessories, and fasteners you need, and then you have to estimate how long the install will take - and hope you do not miscalculate hopelessly. So you pass it up and thank them for the job.

In itself it is all very logical, but at the same time it is also a shame. If you talk a customer, who would be satisfied with a simple mesh fence, into a double bar fence because you do not have installers who can put up a mesh fence, for example, then that customer has to spend more money than necessary and is less happy. Or he goes to a competitor and then you are less happy. Especially if it is a regular customer who regularly ordered fencing from you and now stays with that competitor.

And that while it is often unnecessary to say no to a customer who wants a fence that you do not yet have in your catalogue. Because every fence is the same. You have to put posts in the ground and place padding against or between them. The most difficult part is making sure all the posts are in line, at the right height and at the right spacing. If you can do this with steel posts, you can also do it with wooden posts, concrete posts, or aluminium posts. And vice versa. Everything else is secondary, it  just involves some figuring out.

And although fencers - in the absence of fencing school - often have the idea that they have to invent and learn everything themselves, in practice this is not really so bad. Those who dare to ask, get quite a lot of answers.

Manufacturers and other suppliers understand quite well that not every fencer can assemble all fencing types. They do not think you are dumb if you ask how to install, or calculate, their product. On the contrary: they are happy that you want to sell it for them and will be happy to help you as a colleague.

There are also several Facebook groups for fence workers. If you join those, you can ask colleagues for advice. Most fencers enjoy sharing their knowledge with you and are happy if they can be of service to a colleague.

And even customers can help you. If you ask them honestly if you can do the installation at an hourly rate, because you don't install the fence you order especially for them on a daily basis and therefore don't have experience with the installation time, chances are they will say yes, because they see that you are committed to them.

It does take a bit of perseverance. Not everything is successful the first time, in fact that applies to everything in life. But the more you try, the faster you will know if and whether you can make money from something. The more fencing types you can set, the more customers you can serve. And the better a customer is served, the more he is willing to pay a competitive price for it.

Feel free to try it out - and send us pictures of the end result, if it worked out. We would love it! <

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