Monday, February 23, 2015

The Staging Iceberg

The Staging Iceberg
by Jennie Norris, ASPM, IAHSP-Premier, SRS, BTS, REO
Owner, Sensational Home Staging
Denver Region's Premier Home Staging Resource

     An iceberg is a beautiful sight resting in the water.  It looks like a floating hill or mountain of ice and what we know about icebergs is they can be lethal underneath because 90% of their mass is actually underwater.  That mass was strong enough to sink the Titanic and can cause incredible damage to those that do not steer clear of them.  I think the iceberg is a perfect analogy for a business where what our clients and the public see is the pretty and polished part, and what they don’t see is the churning mass  that lies beneath the surface that keeps the top afloat. 

     When people hear that I own and operate a successful Staging business or see one of my marketing brand items that lets them know what I do, what I usually hear is, “What you do looks like so much fun!   I just love decorating!”  
If only it were that simple. 
     When we are skilled at what we do, we end up making it seem easy because we have learned how to run a business successfully and show the smooth outcome to the public. 

     I have had clients think they have overpaid for Staging because the end result looks fabulous and they figure it took no time at all to achieve the finished outcome.  The television programs that promote Staging could not possible show the actual work that is part of every successful Staging business – there is simply not enough time.  Overall the media has been a blessing and a curse to Stagers.  They give exposure to the service of Staging but do not show the reality of what is entailed.  A Stager that is “featured” on one of these shows gets a microsecond of exposure, maybe a few words of dialogue, possibly show them hauling stuff out of a truck, but rarely show the back story of how they got to the point of the installation.

     I get calls all the time from people that want to do what I do – to “be a Stager.” They have no clue what it entails outside of us making a house look better before it comes on the market.  They see the finished product and hear about the success and statistics that support Staging.  They might even hear that Staging pays well and think it is easy money.  I don’t discourage people and yet I know that they have no clue all that goes into being successful.  Wanting it is not enough.  Working hard every day and being committed with an attitude of perseverance is what it takes.

     What they see is just the tip of the iceberg.  Are we making it look too easy?  Should we show more of the churning chaos that is happening underneath and sink a ship or two from time to time?

   What they don’t see or know about is all the people that have started a business and failed or quit because turns out it was hard work.  Client don't just fall into our laps.  They don’t see the hours of education to learn about our industry. They don’t see the many hours of unpaid work we put in to get that first client and continual unpaid hours we put in to ensure we get new clients.  They don’t see the physically demanding part where you haul items into or out of a house – and your hair is so sweaty you can wring it out.  They don’t feel the sore muscles and backs we have after a long day.  They don’t experience the many miles of driving back and forth across town to get to appointments or secure inventory. 

    They don’t see the mental gymnastics we go through to coordinate multiple projects and many moving parts.  They don’t hear the many conversations we have with Realtors or sellers that don’t believe Staging will help and some tell us more kindly than others.  They don’t see the various personalities we deal with and have to please as we go through the process with our clients.  They don’t know the hours put towards branding and marketing a business just to get that first opportunity and the volume of hours we put towards maintaining and nurturing client relationships.

     They also don’t see the "predators" out there – sharks that want to take our business or other aspects of the industry that are out of our control – such as the real estate market and the economy that both can have a huge impact on our success.

     Of course everyone would like to do what I do and earn the income I earn.  I have been at this 13 years and have learned along the way from mistakes that can only come from being in the trenches.  At the end of the day when an assistant bails on me and just decides not to show up to destage a house, guess who has to go to the house and pull all the items out, loading bins and art and schlepping to the Staging rig?  Me, that’s who.  At the end of the day, it is MY business and “the buck stops here” applies to any Staging business owner working to be successful. 

     If the project does not go as planned and a client is unhappy, it is not the worker-bee that gets reprimanded.  It is the company owner.  Accepting responsibility and being able to handle tough situations separates the wannabes from the successful Stagers in this industry.  When the going gets tough I cannot – I will not - pack up my tent and go home.  This is my livelihood and I have to make it work because I support my family with this business.  And because I love what I do.  And because I would not choose to go back to my old life of working a 9-5 job.  The hours, the sore muscles, cranky clients and other chaos that might occur are worth it to me because I love Staging.   I also love the transformations I am part of whether it is the physical house or the mindset of a client.

      Just like icebergs are constantly growing and changing under water, we too have to change and adapt to the market and industry expectations.  Being able to remain viable while also being competitive is an art and science.  Finding other niches for income that take advantage of our creativity and talent is always happening and being able to keep a lookout and be forward focused on the horizon for new opportunities is our goal.

     I don’t believe that the public will ever really fully understand what goes on beneath the surface of my business and I don’t need to them to know every aspect. I educate them about what I do and my processes to help them achieve their goals and keep the back details private as they really don’t need to know all of that.  They just need to know I am able to help them and they are in capable hands.   Only when someone enters the waters of owning and operating a Staging business will they truly have full appreciation for all that goes on to make our clients properties look fabulous and help them achieve higher success.  And then they will finally have the appreciation for successful Stagers in business all over the world. 
Jennie Norris is the Owner of Sensational Home Staging serving the greater Denver region.  Since 2002 she has helped over 3,000 properties look their best before coming on the market.  She is one of only a few hundred Accredited Staging Professional Master Stagers in the world and provides her leadership and mentoring to colleagues worldwide. (303)717-7918

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Staging Before & After Transformation of Investor Property - Boulder, CO

I love how this property turned out after Staging.  The colors and styles I selected were in line with the type of property, price point and target demographic. My clinet loved what I did and our team knocked it out of the park with the Staging that will help this property sell at the top of the price range.

Staging Success – How Long Does it Take?

Staging Success – How Long Does it Take?
by Jennie Norris, ASP Master, IAHSP-Premier, SRS, REO, BTS
Owner, Sensational Home Staging

Starting a business is exciting because at the start we are full of possibilities and hope for success.  We get started and for some that have never owned their own business before – we realize that it is a lot more work than we realized.  We think, “I am creative – can’t I just Stage?”  Why do we have to do all that other business stuff?

Why?  Because without it – there will never be the Creative Side that we love to do. 

To be successful we have to be not only passionate about being creative, we have to be passionate about building our business.  It starts with our attitude and having huge perseverance to get us through the growth stages. 
The key is how PASSIONATE you are about your business and being a Stager.  If you have left yourself an out, then you have a “fallback” position and really have not committed 100% to your goal of owning a successful Staging business.  I teach, “Burn the Bridge” and don’t give yourself an out.  Have a motivating factor that is large enough that you don’t consider giving up and going back to a W2 job.

When I teach others about being successful in Staging, I am honest and share that you have to plan at least 5 years out with your vision for business.  To expect a thriving business in one year or even two is not realistic.  It is a minimum of 3 years to see your business begin to mature and at least 5 years to really see the big dollars coming in consistently where you are in the 6 figure or higher income category.

The typical growth of a Staging Business looks something like this:

Year  1: Getting established, setting up the business framework, and planting seeds of success by initiating relationships with Realtors.

During this year, many Stagers will give up because they get discouraged at how difficult it might be to overcome objections and get a client to say, “Yes” to Staging.  They have no idea what Marketing is and how to use it to get business.  The fantasy of having a significant income producing company in the first year vanishes as they realize that the first year is really all about laying the groundwork for a growing business, Marketing like a maniac and cultivating relationships.

Year 2:  Your business is established and you have clients calling you when you have been out marketing consistently.  You are able to manage the existing relationships you have and continue to cultivate new ones – and now you can actually ask for referrals from existing clients because you have a track record. 

During this year, there are still hurdles to overcome as mistakes can be made with business set up and strategies.  Achieving a nice 5 figure income is definitely achievable and being able to reinvest some of the proceeds back into the business is happening.  You are still marketing because that never stops.

Year 3:  Your business is established and you are maintaining your client base.  You should be getting enough consistent calls that your calendar is full.  This is the year that you might have to add a team member to help you keep up with demand whether it is a part time assistant or other Staging colleague to whom you can refer business.    You either go the employee route or have independent contractors. Marketing continues – to keep your name and brand in the forefront of the Realtors and sellers in your market.

Years 4 and 5:  You are growing your business and handling your established client base.  You probably have a team in place to help you including movers, assistants and other Staging colleagues that help on projects as needed.  You might be turning away business because you cannot handle the volume.  You might have diversified and acquired inventory and have set up a storage facility or warehouse to house your items.
Give yourself enough time to really see your business mature – and keep your passion fully engaged and you will be in business for many years to come!