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Mark Richardson's Think Business: Are You a Remodeler or a Therapist?

Today more than ever, remodelers not only juggle more balls, but they are also wearing a greater variety of hats.

March 14, 2011

If you go to the dictionary and look up the word remodeler, you will likely find the following: a person who renovates; a builder; a craftsman. If you ask homeowners for a definition, most would use terms that resonate around the product or a construction process. There is so much more to what a remodeler is today. When you, as a remodeler, understand better what and who you are, your opportunity for success is much greater.
Today more than ever, remodelers not only juggle more balls, but they are also wearing a greater variety of hats. If you understand the current environment and what it takes to “make it happen” in these times, you will certainly invest the time and energy to not only see your role as a remodeler changing, but you will also identify the changing set of skills required to succeed.
Today your clients are stressed out. They are overwhelmed. They are confused about financial decisions. This dynamic has paralyzed your clients. Today your biggest competition is not other remodelers ... it is your clients themselves.
Knowing your competition is the difference between winning and losing. Of course you need to have a tremendous amount of knowledge about your craft, but if you do not know how to address the objections and the competition, you will probably fall short and not make the sale. There are three new titles I encourage you to put on your figurative business card.

The primary reason your clients are not buying is fear. Fear is crippling. Fear makes us make bad decisions. Fear also can motivate, if positioned well.
When you begin to see yourself as a “remodeling therapist,” you will see your role with clients quite differently. You will direct your interaction with the client as being more about “how they Are feeling” as much as the project or the scope of work. Your team will arrive on the jobsite focused on the client. As a therapist, you are not only required to adopt a different mindset, but you also must adjust to a different pace of the decision process that comes with this new role.

Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies reports that just in the past few years, there has been more remodeling product developed than had been developed in the previous 100 years. This proliferation of product (and services) is positive, but with additional choices comes overwhelm, possibly even anxiety.
Another role for you as a remodeler today needs to be that of a tour guide. You need to walk your client through the maze and get them to the other side successfully.
You need to focus on the process as much as the product. Give them three options, not one or 50. Like being overwhelmed with anything in life (desserts, life, work), the choice can mean the difference between feeling wonderful or getting sick. If you focus as much on how they are buying, not just what they are buying, you will be a better tour guide.
Being a good tour guide means that you personally take them to look at products and not just send them to a showroom, a place where confusion usually creeps into the process.

While financial planners may have gotten a little bumped around over the last few years, it has not reduced their importance.
With the home being many client’s greatest asset (investment), the financial planning aspect of the remodeler’s role is more important than ever. Financial planners focus on creating balanced portfolios. They also address short-, medium- and long-term
Financial goals. They are also not afraid to talk about money and ask the tough and sometimes sensitive questions. Financial planners realize they cannot help their clients if they don’t have intimate knowledge about not only the client’s financial story but also their risk tolerance.
As a remodeler, you not only need to adjust your process to address these issues, but you also need to increase your skills and knowledge base. Understanding and being able to discuss financing is critical to your ability to fulfill this role. Being able to discuss return on investment and the value versus cost of selections and decisions is the role of a good financial planner.
For many remodelers, these hats or roles may feel ill-fitting. I would argue that as your understanding of each grows, you will not only see your closing rate soar, but you will also see an increase in the number of ‘raving fans’ you will create.

Mark Richardson is co-chairman of Case Design Remodeling and the Case Institute of Remodeling. He is a member of the NAHB Remodeling Hall of Fame and an Affiliate at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Richardson is the author of the best-selling book, “How Fit is Your Business,” and a forthcoming book, “Business Themes to Live By,” to be published this fall.

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