All applicants for a Basic Business License for the Home Improvement Salesperson category must include an Affidavit sworn to before a notary public to that individual’s history for the past ten years. Unlike the criminal history report, this form is filled out by the applicant and then certified by a notary.
Unlike the criminal history report, which is required for new licensing and for renewals, the affidavit is only required the first time a license is procured. It is not required upon renewal of the license. This item is required for all home improvement salespersons whether they are associated with Home Improvement Contractor or General Contractor licenses.
All applicants for DC General Contractor, Home Improvement Contractor and/or Home Improvement Salesperson licenses must complete the portion of the BBL-EZ application attesting that they do not owe more than $100 to the DC government called the “Clean Hands Certificate.” This means if you have more than $100 in outstanding fines, parking tickets, taxes, etc., you can’t get a Washington DC business license.\
In 2002, when we first started expediting licenses in DC, you were required to present a corroborated Clean Hands certificate verified and stamped by the Office of Tax and Revenue. Fortunately, for once, DC has made things a little bit easier now that they can look up your information in the DCRA system.
You will still need to be certain that there are no holds on your company, taxes or otherwise, but, for now, DCRA is accepting self certified documentation.
“Where are you going?” he asks her.
“I don’t know!” responds an exasperated Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” he tells her.
If we don’t know where we want our businesses to be in a year, five years or ten years from now, we will never be able to formulate the plans and create the systems to get us to those “somedays.”
Goals are very personal things and, today, I will not be walking you step by step through the process of setting goals. Masters of personal and business development, such as Brian Tracy, John Maxwell and Stephen Covey, have all written fantastic books on goal setting and I encourage you to pick them up and read them.
Whether you want to double the income of your business in the next five years or become one of Remodeling Magazine’s Big 50, you have to evaluate where you are and where you are headed before you can begin.
Run the numbers. How many clients do you typically work for in a year? How many jobs do you complete for these clients and what is the average job size? What is the most common type of job you complete and what are your profit margins on these jobs?
Get a sense of where you are and be clear on where you want to be.
What is one thing that is keeping you from setting or achieving goals in your business?
Now is the time to mesh all of these lists together into a database. Now I will warn you, this is a big job. Most contractors that I work will have someone from their office staff handle this task. If you do not currently have staff or if your office help is busy with other tasks, a virtual assistant can handle this task if you have a central address book or have records such as contracts that contact information can be pulled from.
You will want to make a note of your contact’s name (first and last), address, phone number, email, note qualities that make them an ideal client or an ideal referrer and any other pertinent information that you want to include.
The main purpose of this database is to give you a single point of reference for future marketing and outreach so be sure that you create it in a way that will be useful for you. When we help our clients create these types of working documents and databases they range in style from all electronic databases housed in specialized software to paper Rolodexes. It is all a matter of preference and what you will ACTUALLY USE. Do not set up what you think the “best of the best” would use in their perfect existence.
I have been using the same Microsoft Excel spreadsheet since I was twenty years old and it has never let me down. I can use it a million different ways and I can update it easily.
Identifying Ideal Qualities of Your Current Relationships
If someone on your list has never referred someone to you and you have never done work for them, your sister in law for example, they can still be a vital resource. While most of the people on your list have shown themselves to be ideal or worth social capital in the business aspect, there may be other ideal qualities that these people have that relate them to your ideal clients. Does your sister in law live in a neighborhood where you would like to secure work? Is she part of a social group, country club or other “community” that is a good fit for your product and service offerings?
While you may not be interested in doing repair work on the fraternity house, your college age son may have friends whose parents are members of your “ideal” group. Identify how the people in your life either are ideal or relate to the ideal customers on your list. If you can’t think of anything, you may choose to eliminate this person from your list.
Within your database, list a few qualities that “qualify” this individual for “referrer” status. Ideal clients will only make good referral sources if you tell that that they are ideal for you and why.
Paring Down the List
Not everyone in your life is going to be an ideal customer or referrer. There will be some people who are extremely close to you who you may eliminate.
Last year I worked with a client who was shocked after we did this exercise. As he went through his list and ranked people, he realized that his father, who he had always thought of as a supporter, was really no doing his business any favors in the manner in which he was sending referrals. Nearly every customer his father had sent his way had turned out to be a problem customer and it was putting a strain on their personal relationship.
Updating Your Database
Knowing who you have worked for and what important relationships in your life you want to leverage to maximize your business helps you to create opportunities for your business. In order to make certain that your database stays current, update it weekly or monthly. If you have a system for updating your database that is tied to something else in your business (filing, bill paying, etc.) that you do at least monthly, it will help you to be consistent.
If you do not have time or cannot make time to update this information with new contacts, customers and relationships, make sure you provide the information to a virtual assistant, office manager or other team member.
Having a system is critical for your long term success and consistency.
Feel free to remove people from your list if you do not feel that they will be beneficial to the overall health of your business.
Before you begin to grow your business, you must first know who you plan to rely on for referrals and repeat business. You have to figure out who is already in your life and what roles you want these people to take in your life and business moving forward.
Let’s get that yellow pad or word processing document out and take some notes as we go through the next section.
Your current and past clients are the people who know your work. They have personal experience with your wonderful ability to make plumbing parts that initially appeared to be back ordered appear from the distribution center the very next day like magic.
They are the ones who know firsthand what your customer service, billing and follow up systems are like. These people will be the most effective source of referrals provided you are ready, willing and able to serve them in the most effective manner possible and have demonstrated your abilities.
If you do not have a great track record with past clients, take heart. Some clients will be willing to look past a negative experience if they like you as a person and see that you are working to overcome the things that made their initial experience with you a negative one. The key is to make sure you are investing your time in the previous and past clients who were or are ideal for your business and those who are willing to put in a good work for you moving forward.
Take the time to list all of your customers, past and present in whatever type of database works best for you. I have been using the same excel spreadsheet for fifteen years and it works just fine for my purposes. If you already have a database, make certain that it is up to date.
Everyone has relationships in their lives. Who do you spend time with when you’re not working? Do you have a group of friends or family who know what you do and refer business to you? Write them down on your list or enter them into your database.
What about loose social connections? Do your kids play soccer or do you serve on a community association board with other people? Write those names down as well. If they are on your list, there is some type of common interest between you and it is likely that some of these people will either A) be ideal clients themselves or B) be able to refer you to ideal clients.
I will never forget the dumbfounded look my remodeler friend Andy had on his face when I asked him if the other parents who he and his wife knew through PTA, soccer and softball knew what he did for a living. He and I had spent the day together talking about who his ideal clients were and where his ideal location was and there they were, serving at PTA bake sales with his wife and coaching his children’s sports teams.
One night, a few months after our chat, Andy called me to vent. “They’ve been right under my nose for seven years and I never even noticed!” He had started talking to the other parents about work and what they did for a living and casually mentioned to one or two of them that he was a contractor and liked working close to home. He had, two months after we first discovered his gold mine, already closed four contracts for bathroom remodels within fifteen minutes of his house. “They didn’t even know what I did for a living!”
Listen, I am not suggesting that you go out there and try to sell every person you come into contact with or become a walking billboard for your company every minute of the day. I think it is uncomfortable and embarrassing to try and sell friends and family on your services the minute they find out what you do. It comes off as desperate and unprofessional.
On the other side of that coin, however, we often put people into boxes and if you’re “Joe, Tessa’s dad” it might be hard for your loose social connections to put you into the “remodeler” category when the time does come and they need work done. Letting people know what you do isn’t a bad thing. Just go about it in a professional and understated manner.
Add your loose social contacts to this list or database because they will likely be one of your largest untapped resource for referrals. They already know you like and trust you; you are just going to be presented in a new light.
Who do you write checks to when you are doing a project? Who supplies materials? Who advises you when you have a problem? These business relationships, both with those inside of the industry and with other professionals such as a doctor or lawyer, may be able to pass along business to your company directly or indirectly through referrals.
Some trade professionals, such as your plumber or electrician, may be valuable referral resources for projects like a whole house remodel, repair work after a fire or flood or a roofing job. Just make sure to return the favor and bring them in on jobs where their expertise is called for.
Make a list of all of the people you work with and add them to you list or database.
There are times that a remodeling company wants to stand out from the crowd; creating a signature event allows an organization to take center-stage in their community. The event can be a formal, black-tie affair around a Holiday such as Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Christmas or New Year’s. Golfing is a popular activity for signature events, whether it’s a golf game with some fun prizes and entertainment or a golf tournament with trophies.
The area in which you live can also determine the type of signature event your company may want to sponsor. In areas that are close to either the sea shore or a lake, beach related events and activities such as a “Beach Ball” with entertainment, dancing and fun activities in a casual atmosphere are very popular. Often a signature event is held as a fund-raising for a non-profit organization and the company sponsoring the event “takes the lead” in the fundraising effort by sponsoring the event.
No matter what type of signature event your company may choose to do, hiring an event company to handle the details is typically the easiest and smartest approach.
Have you hosted a signature event? I would love to hear about it! Share with us over on our Facebook page!
By teaching a class, you’ll establish yourself and your company as an expert, and for those who decide not to do it themselves, they’ll have an expert handy to turn to when they decide to hire someone to do the project.
Geared toward homeowners – Hook up with your local hardware store, Home Depot or Lowe’s to teach a class for “do it yourselfers” on something that your company specializes in.
Geared toward realtors – Offer to teach a class to a large realty organization to help realtors understand how to present the idea of upgrades to their sellers. Every one who knows anything about real estate knows that a kitchen and bathroom upgrade – even a simple one – can help sell a house quicker. Help realtors help their sellers understand the costs associated with an upgrade and how these costs can easily be recouped in their sale. Make this information readily available for the realtor to give to their sellers.
Geared toward specialty – If your company has craftsmen that have expertise in specialty items such as building a wine cellar, designing a deck, building book shelves, etc. work with your local home supply stores or community programs that offer adult education classes to develop and teach a class. The classes can be as simple as a one-time class for an easy project or a class that spans out over 6-8 weeks and takes the participants through the steps of construction.
The longer classes are ideal because they give your company the opportunity to build a relationship with the class attendees and give you a chance to market to them as well as to secure them as referral sources.
What class can you teach to show your expertise and get your name and business out there? Tell us on our fan page!
Every city or town has a Chamber of Commerce that works for the benefit of the local area. Each Chamber offers levels of membership and involvement. Some Chambers are extremely effective in their communities and some are not. Visit your local Chamber events to see if it would be a good fit for your organization. If it is, joining a Chamber can be a powerful ally for establishing yourself as a strong part of your community.
Schools are the heart of any community because that’s where our children are. Being involved with the schools as either a participant in the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) or by sponsoring some of the PTA or other school-sponsored events puts your company in the forefront with families with children.
Every locale has several service organizations such as Lions Clubs or Rotary Clubs whose sole purpose is to improve and help the community. These clubs are often involved with nonprofits and charity organizations within a region, town or city. Being a part of either a Lions Club or Rotary Club will give your company an opportunity to be involved with a wide-range of events that impact and affect the area where you live.
If your niche market is the upper income population of your community, membership in the local country club is almost imperative to help you develop recognition and expertise among this population. Membership in a country club can be expensive, but if that is your niche market, it’s a must. If it’s not your niche market, consider carefully before spending the money for this membership. If you’re doing it from a personal perspective, that’s one thing, but if your niche market won’t be found at a country club, then marketing dollars spent in this arena aren’t going to be effective.
There are a variety of personal interest groups that are a part of any area such as golf clubs, bowling, book clubs, etc. A good way to spread your influence into these areas is to support your employee’s efforts in their interests. For instance, if your sales manager is a golfer, help him identify ways that his golfing can help promote your business and your company in turn can perhaps pay for his golf membership, etc.
What community organizations have you joined? Share with me below!
Be sure not to confuse WordPress with WordPress.com! The dot com is a commercial website where you can host a free website with limitations. It runs the open source WordPress software but it does not give you same freedom as a self hosted site. You can host a personalized URL (ie www.yourbusinesname.com) on WordPress.com but your site will be limited in the widgets you can install, the amount of advertising you can accept and back end functionality of some plugins (such as a protected area where clients can share information with you) will not work.
If you have a WordPress.com site, check out the terms of service. I’m sure you’ll be surprised at the number of things you are not allowed to do when you host with them.
You can host a WordPress website on most any plat form for a small monthly fee. Our preferred vendor, Bluehost.com, has very low hosting fees, unlimited storage and they have the ability to install WordPress with a one click option.
Vast Support Options
Many large companies, including People Magazine and NASA, use WordPress to run their
Because WordPress is run by such a large number of websites, there are many people who can help you debug your site, add new content and create custom solutions for you.
WordPress offers a virtually unlimited number of ways to customize your site. The layout (called a theme) of your site can change with a few clicks of the mouse and most themes are free. You can have custom WordPress theme created by a developer or you can purchase a theme on one of the many exchanges and websites that offer them.
“There’s an app for that.” Just like software for a smartphone, there is a virtually unlimited number of free and fee based apps for WordPress websites. These programs, called plugins, can do anything from produce a podcast feed to color coding a map, scan your comments for spam or create custom links for your site.
Six Reasons to Use WordPress
- You will always be in control of all of your files and data.
- No one can legally copy your content without your permission.
- Versatile design options
- Hosting your own website is more professional.
- The only advertisements that show up are the ones you want.
- Functional plugin capabilities
So what are you waiting for? If you aren’t using WordPress by now, what is stopping you?
Are you currently using WordPress? Do you plan to use WordPress? Tell us over on our Facebook page!