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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Staging With Your Family - How to Make it Work

Staging with Your Family - How to Make it Work
By Jennie Norris, ASPM, IAHSP-Premier, ASP-SRS, ASP-SRS
Owner, Sensational Home Staging
Denver Region's Premier Home Staging Resource

Building a Home Staging business is not easy. It takes perseverance and hard work, dedication and long hours. Toss the added challenge of having a family – and you have the question of “How do I make this all work?” How do you roll your roles as spouse, parent and business owner together without losing it?

When I started Staging 10 years ago, my 4 children (3 boys and a girl – the oldest) were 3 to 8 years old. I was also homeschooling them (did that for 5 years). No I am not nuts but love my children and that was the path we chose at that time. When it became necessary for me to once again contribute to our family income, I was determined to not go back into the corporate world where I would leave my children in child care and deliberately found a profession that not only used my creative talents, but was flexible as well. It was not easy to start a business with a 3, 4 ½, 6 ½ and 8 year old!

So I compromised and made it work. In the early years of my business, I did not go to client appointments in the day time. I had to get consultations done in the evening, and would Stage nights and weekends as needed. When I started getting more and more demands for daytime appointments, I added a team member whose kids were older so she was available in the daytime – and she handled those appointments. Stagers on my team will remember midnight completions of vacant Stagings, and zooming to a Starbucks that was about to close with warnings from us on the phone to stop cleaning their machines because we were going to make it in time! I did what it took to make it work. I was able to build a business around my family, I did sacrifice some time with them, and thankfully I have a husband who was supportive from the beginning, and would do child-duty at night when I had an appointment. And I am grateful Staging is flexible and being able to build a team of Stagers helped offload projects that I could not personally handle.

In the beginning my children could not help out much in the business because they were too young. They could help with administrative things like marketing pieces, organizing papers, and stuffing envelopes. You want to find ways to involve your children in your business so that they gain an appreciation for what you do, and eventually can grow into a business partner. You see there are ways to involve your family that are advantageous for you and them – because you can pay a family member any wage you determine for them to help you in your business. A child can earn over $5,000 tax free as your employee and the benefit is this money can then be used by them to purchase things they need such as clothes, school supplies, entertainment – things you would be paying for anyway – but now they are a legitimate tax write off for you. So I found ways to involve my family.

Our daughter (18) helps with the creative side of things in a Staging acting as an assistant on projects where I need help. She has also helped with marketing campaigns on occasion. My boys have grown up to become my labor. Our oldest son is now nearly 6 feet tall, weighs 190 pounds, and at 17 years old is proving himself to be strong, reliable, and did I mention strong? I will sometimes include some of his football buddies when I have a Staging that has bulky items to move around. These boys are polite, hard working, and happy to work for $20 and a pizza. Our two younger boys (13 ½ and almost 15) provide a labor resource for getting items from the vehicles into a house, helping to pack, load, and organize. I remember when our 2nd son proudly exclaimed, “Look Mom! I can carry this area rug all by myself!” The rug was longer than he was tall but he was carrying it and doing a great job! Our youngest son is a whiz at packing a truck, maximizing the space potential in ways that would challenge any Tetrix enthusiast!

My husband has always been available as needed – he has helped schlep inventory, he has driven vehicles, he has helped de-Stage when I was flying solo and my crew were not available. Most of all he has helped open doors for relationships because he is such as great networker and spokesperson for my company. He says the things I am too embarrassed to say because it sounds like I am bragging. He has a full-time demanding job in the high-tech industry, and yet loves the real estate industry and truly understands how I fit within the industry to help serve Realtors and sellers. I know if I did not have his support, and that of my children I would not still be Staging because it would be too challenging to have to prove my value repeatedly to my family and demonstrate that I have a legitimate business.

When I started both my Staging companies, I built from the ground up from scratch. We did not know any Realtors or have any sort of network for referrals in both the cities where we lived. That is the hardest way to build a business – cold – and yet that is how I have had to do it both times. Having the encouragement of family has been key.

Not all of my extended family “got” what I did in the beginning and therefore were not the most supportive. I believe they thought it was a hobby, fad or trend that I would move past and not a legitimate business. Staging was not that well known where they lived so my starting a Home Staging business was probably odd to them. When I started bringing in big dollars that is when my parents’ eyes opened. I have had family members sell and not contact me for help – and that’s OK. They may never totally appreciate what I have done in the past 10 years as a business owner, mentor, trainer, author, and entrepreneur, but my family and I know and that’s all that matters.

And my sisters and brothers in the trenches in the industry know because they are right there with me each day working to increase their business, to be successful, to represent our industry, and to help others achieve their goals along the way. I cannot think of a better role model for my children than a person that uses their God-given talents to develop a business that helps others. The fact that it is a great industry and lucrative is a double bonus. My Staging family that extends all over the world has become a huge avenue of support, encouragement and friendship and I would not be able to do this without them!