Planning for Business Success in 2014

shutterstock_16204249 Writing New Year’s resolutions is a time of gleeful possibility – in less than 12 months, you’re going to become the prosperous business leader you’ve always wanted to be. We asked three NARI members to evaluate what’s been happening in the industry over the past year, and what New Year’s resolutions they plan on making for their future business success.

Neal Fiske, CR, CCP, Owner, TriplePoint Design Build, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Last year was a year of transition. We didn’t feel the impact of the recession in Tampa until early 2011. But once it hit, we began re-focusing our efforts. We used our marketing and branding to get the word out that we were specialists for larger projects.

We also stopped offering free advice and solutions after the first meeting. We found that the leads were just kicking tires TOO MUCH. We began focusing on pre-qualifying our leads, spending a longer time with them on the phone before committing to a 4-hour site visit and follow-up, where if you’ve made a bad call, you’ve wasted time from clients that need your attention. We realized that we couldn’t be the remodeling solution for everyone and instead looked for jobs that were a better fit. This allowed us to better-position ourselves for success when we were in a sales role to secure the job. It was scary thing, turning people away because they weren’t a good fit.

An analysis of our previous year has helped us identify what we did right. We stuck to the branding and marketing of our company, which has helped us attract better clients and stopped accepting projects that did not complement our company. We implemented a new cloud computing project management system called Co-Construct that’s helped us be more efficient, professional and communicate better with clients. We have also cultivated partnerships and built better relationships with our trade partners, which has helped us tackle challenging projects.

Our 2014 resolutions for success are: 1) Focusing on a systematic approach to problems rather than trying to be a “firefighter” when clients want your attention when it’s urgent. 2. Charging fees for our expertise. I’m a big believer that people don’t value what they get for free as much as when they pay for it—whether it’s consultation, solution or the whole process in general. 3) Using a pre-construction process that identifies activities and better prepares projects for construction. 4) Selecting clients that are a better match. 5) Adding quality superintendent staff that ensure our pre-construction efforts are executed in the field.

Now that we’re at the end of 2013, we’ve hit our numbers, and we are very happy with that. We just signed three large-scale projects that will begin in 2014, which we anticipate to be one of our banner years.

Kathleen Horrigan, Owner, Change My Place, Westerville, Ohio

Business in 2013 started out very slow. I had three jobs stall, and even considered closing my business. Then, all of a sudden in April, I got incredibly busy, in part due to another designer I met at a NARI event. Now I have three big jobs that will take me into next spring.

Not only am I a new NARI member, I’m new to the industry. In March 2011, I decided to quit my job and start my own home design business that I had been dabbling in for all of my life. In July, a NARI member urged me to join. I couldn’t believe the support I’ve received that from NARI members that have helped me catapult my business. Because I was a small business starting out in the middle of a recession, I didn’t have the credibility factor, so aligning myself with professionals who are reliable and trustworthy has been the best investment that NARI has provided.

This next year, my most critical resolution is to incorporate social media into marketing my business. I’ve also decided to do a pro-bono community project each year. I’m currently working with a student intern, redesigning a community center that started as a one-room student project that’s blossomed into revamping four rooms. It’s involving community volunteers to help paint and even a fundraiser to support the project. This is so worthwhile. I’m providing a service that makes me feel good, and as an added benefit, it’s providing awareness of my business. You never know who will be involved.

My New Year’s resolution is to distinguish myself from other designers. I’m developing concierge services for my clients, such as transitional moving services, selecting colors, and even providing information about resources in their community. I also want to use more green materials that are earth friendly, such as cork, or light bulbs that enhance sunlight.

I’m now seeing that customers that are making the investment to live the lifestyle they want. Working with NARI contractors is helping me grow my business. To me, NARI is like Angie’s List on steroids—they offer the best of the best.

 Tom Miller, CR, CKBR, Tom Miller Remodeling, Inc., Portland, Ore

As an owner of a small remodeling company, for the past few years I have been actively working to keep people employed and stay healthy during the slow times. My 2014 resolution is to get back to the peak of my game and be proactive instead of reactive. We’re leaner and smaller and want to be wiser with better reserves in case the economy takes another dip.

Our company gradually saw improvement in 2013, with a 40 percent increase in volume over 2012. It wasn’t hard to do because things were slim in 2012 and 2011. Now we are crazy busy, and it’s good news. We’re hoping to increase business by 30 percent next year and plan to hire two full-time and two part-time employees. We’ve reorganized how we work in the field and pay more careful attention to our time, procedures and materials wasted. While we’ve always paid attention to the quality of our work, when you’re “fat,” you can be sloppy about waste, but we don’t want to be sloppy now. We are processing jobs more quickly and doing better planning in the office, which translates into higher client and employee satisfaction and profitability.

Restructuring during a recession is different for small companies. The owner wears several hats, and when you downsize, you’re wearing even more hats. We consolidated staff responsibilities a year or two ago, and now are in phase two, gearing up for increased business. But, we have to continue to work slimmer even as the economy improves.

I think business has picked up because we have a good client base; our work is all referral. Lots of people want to do projects, and now they feel safe enough to spend their money. People are getting what they want and are willing to pay for it.

I wish I was as young and energetic as I was in 2008. My new year’s is to enjoy 2014 and get my energy level back up. —Susan Swartz

 

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