July 15, 2017
The gods of water and light
Performing annual maintenace on landscape lighting ensures a homeowner gets the most enjoyment from their investment.
By Robert Ellidge

Justin Bérubé and Peter Latkolik, co-founders of Rain Gods, an irrigation and landscape lighting company based in Milton, Ont., have pursued their passion of providing top-notch products and services to clients who are very conscious of the environment.

Neither Bérubé or Latkolik planned on a career as landscape professional. Bérubé graduated from college with a marketing diploma and Latkolik graduated ready for a career in radio. Bérubé says both of their fathers were green thumbs, and that knowledge of gardening and lawn care got passed down to their generation.

The pair met back in high school while taking some business and entrepreneur classes. While still in high school, they worked for a Landscape Ontario member, Landscape Irrigation Systems, and learned the ropes from company owner Natnael Taera.

“There’s no better person to learn from in the field,” Bérubé says.

Going out on their own

With about seven years of work experience under their belts, the two friends talked about starting their own company for about a year. “We realized the potential for growth and how much business was out there, and went into the real world business,” Bérubé explains.

Now in business for 13 years, the two owners employ four full-time crew members and an office coordinator who handles all of the service requests and scheduling.

Bérubé says the company uses specialized software, called HindSite, that started off for irrigation contractors and has since expanded to other field service industries, including lawn care and HVAC.
tow men in front of a work trailerPeter Latkolik (seated) and Justin Bérubé run a landscape lighting and irrigation company that prides itself on superior customer service.

Personal level of service

Rain Gods believe strongly in providing a personal level of service to clients. Emergencies happen all the time, and Bérubé says it’s largely a matter of prioritizing. “We aim to respond to a client’s service request within 24 hours, if not that same day. With having a few trucks on the road, we are able to better respond and give people that personalized service.”

In addition to full landscape lighting and irrigation system design and installation, Rain Gods offer clients various maintenance packages.

“We do openings and closings and try to really push people on doing a mid-season check,” Bérubé explains. “You just don’t know, as a homeowner, if something may have been damaged during a spring planting. Also, plant growth changes in height from spring to summer and a mid-season check is best to make sure everything is getting proper coverage or that there is not a line break that is eroding part of the landscape and causing a sink hole.”

On some of the large properties a homeowner may not have the time to frequently visit remote parts of the property to witness any potential issues. For this, Rain Gods has a platinum maintenance package with six visits throughout the season. “Essentially, we are there every month,” Bérubé says.

Landscape lighting

While working for Landscape Irrigation Systems, the company teamed up with Just Add Water, Just Add Light, giving Bérubé and Latkolik a new experience.

“We enjoyed the creativity that you could do with lighting,” Bérubé says, which also  proved to be a good balance to the very specific method of designing an irrigation system. “Landscape lighting is like a blank canvas, and you can really have a lot of fun with it,” Bérubé says.

The constant flow of new technology in regards to lighting is also a benefit Bérubé enjoys. As with irrigation, proper maintenance is important.

“People often spend tens of thousands of dollars on landscape lighting, but then don’t maintain it. Over time, it just becomes this dwindled away asset on the property instead of keeping it up and spending some annual service money to keep it going,” Bérubé says.

garden and lawn watered with in-ground irrigation systemRain Gods educate clients on the need for a mid-season check to ensure their irrigation system is not damaged during spring plantings, to adjust for plant growth and to minimize water use.

The water smart movement

This spring, Bérubé and Latkolik were accepted into the Water Smart Irrigation Professional (WSIP) program. A partnership between Landscape Ontario, York Region, Region of Peel and City of Hamilton, the program provides specialized training and certification to select irrigation contractors that are LO members.

Bérubé says the process was great for brushing up on his knowledge and a refresher for some things that may not always be at the top of his mind.

This WSIP program includes lots of resources to educate clients on water conservation and efficiency, as well as new methods and technologies.

Bérubé says, “being water wise is very important to a lot of young families these days,” and with water prices rising and people more conscious of the environment, the demand for properly designed, installed and maintained systems is growing.

“We have installed probably 25 or 30 WiFi controllers already this year, so people actually do care,” Bérubé says of the latest in technology.

“I tell clients, it’s really cool that you can control it from your phone, but that’s actually not the big idea. The big idea is to use the weather daily and have your system run less when it doesn’t need to run. To me, that’s the key selling feature,” he explains.

“With maturity comes the thought about continuing education,” Bérubé says of his involvment in the program and with LO.

“We started looking at Landscape Ontario and which courses we could get our staff into. It’s definitely a good place to be a part of and there are lots of member benefits as well,” he says.

As for the future, Bérubé hopes to “maintain the steady growth we’ve had for the last 13 years,” by adding a new truck on the road every two or three years just to maintain the company’s service requests.

“Other companies envision growing so big, so fast and I think they miss a lot of important opportunities and get lost in quantity over quality,” Bérubé says. He would rather strive to be a leaner company with a little less stress and happier clients instead of growing fast and having unhappy clients.