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Latest Podcasts

    23: Casey Petersen: How to get Facebook to work for your business

    by Jon Cadieux on 26-Jun-2014


    In this podcast Casey Petersen of CollectiveBias talks with me about Facebook; how it works and how to make it work for your business. He offer insights and tactics usually only available to the biggest brands and biggest retailers. About Casey Petersen Casey Petersen is the Director of Audience Development for Collective Bias (http://www.collectivebias.com/), a Social Shopper Media Agency. Casey’s experience in delivering real-world ROI on Social Media Campaigns through proven tactics..


Latest Posts

The ways ideas spread

17 Jun

About the CryptoLocker Malware

Hey all, I thought this is important enough to share regarding the CryptoLocker Ransom Malware. If you're not familiar with this, it's a virus that encrypts all of you computer files including .doc, .jpg. mp3, .pdf, eps, etc. It is a hold-your-computer for ransom malware. This means that once your computer is locked down (encrypted) you have to pay them anywhere from $100 on up.

What to do if you get this on your PC: disconnect your computer from the internet immediately, you may be okay. At this point you should consult with a pro who is familiar with what to do. If your computer is already locked down, then you will have to pay the ransom to get your computer files back. You can see more about it here. Note that it appears to only infect Windows PC's.

HOW TO AVOID This infection is typically spread through emails sent to company email addresses that pretend to be customer support related issues from Fedex, UPS, DHS, etc. These emails would contain a zip attachment that when opened would infect the computer. These zip files contain executables that are disguised as PDF files as they have a PDF icon and are typically named something like FORM_101513.exe or FORM_101513.pdf.exe. Since Microsoft does not show extensions by default, they look like normal PDF files and people open them.


You can see more on this from the Today show http://on.today.com/1vzSDhs and from bleepingcomputer.com here http://bit.ly/1lNEjit 

Hey all, I thought this is important enough to share regarding the CryptoLocker Ransom Malware. If you're not familiar with this, it's a virus that encrypts all of you computer files including .doc, .jpg. mp3, .pdf, eps, etc. It is a hold-your-computer for ransom malware. This means that once your computer is locked down (encrypted) you have to pay them anywhere from $100 on up.

29 May

What makes a good home improvement customer?

This article was originally posted on GuildQuality.com and is borrowed here with their permission. Thank you Erica!

May 22nd, 2014 by Erica England

If you could dream up your ideal customer they’d probably be great communicators, flexible, transparent, have realistic expectations, and maybe even bake up a mean batch of brownies at the end of a project. At least that’s what I gather from a recent response to the question: What makes a good remodeling customer?

What makes a good remodeling customer?

Pam Palmer of Palmer Custom Homes defines her ideal customer in a post called 10 Winning Customer Characteristics for a Successful Remodeling or Construction Experience. As Pam mentions, most of us in the home improvement space value respect and openness (especially when it comes to expectations and budget) from customers. She also points out another important piece of the “good” customer puzzle; the best customers tend to select their home pro not based on price alone.

A good customer appreciates that good contractors are professionals and that ultimately, you get what you pay for when it comes to quality and expertise.

Homeowners are becoming increasingly comfortable with paying more for quality. According to Remodelers Advantage, studies show that people will pay an average of 10% more for high-quality products or services. Read their full post, Remodeling is a Service Business, First.

It’s time to ask yourself, would homeowners consider you to be the ideal contractor? I’ll fill you in on a little secret; the same qualities you’d love to see in a customer are the same exact qualities a customer would love to see from you, including the delicious baked goods. Focus on delivering quality craftsmanship and customer service to ultimately win over the type of customers you dream about.

If you could dream up your ideal customer they’d probably be great communicators, flexible, transparent, have realistic expectations, and maybe even bake up a mean batch of brownies at the end of a project. At least that’s what I gather from a recent response to the question: What makes a good remodeling customer?

20 May

How to Stay In Touch with What Your Customers Want

Survey Your Customers
In a recent Forbes magazine article, contributor Eric T. Wagner, listed several reasons businesses don’t survive past 18 months. At the top of his list, he notes that most businesses fail because they aren't “really in touch with customers through deep dialogue.”

Let's rephrase what he's saying; If you aren't talking with your customers and if you aren't listening to you customers, how do you even know if you’re offering a service they want or doing a good job with the services you do offer. The hard truth is you don’t have a clue.

It’s easy to just move from project to project, never taking the time to look back and evaluate your performance on past jobs. I've been guilty of this far too many times myself.

So be honest, ask yourself:

  • Do you know if you did a good job?
  • Does your customer wish you had done something different?
  • Did they like the team you had working on their remodel?
  • And probably the most important question; will they refer you to their friends?

Can you answer these questions accurately? I’m not talking about making a best guess, “well, I guess Mrs. Smith liked our work, she didn’t complain even when we missed our completion date by a week.” Is this how you've been gauging customer satisfaction? Yah, me too.

If it is, you may want to re-read the first paragraph where it says the #1 reason businesses fail is that they aren’t “really in touch with customers through deep dialogue.” Is guessing what Mrs. Smith thought about your performance “deep dialogue?” The answer is a simple no.

I know what you’re thinking, “Great, just what I need, something else to do”, or “my resources are already spread way to thin.”

Don't panic, there’s a great service out there that has you covered, it’s a company by the name of GuildQuality.

I first became aware of GuildQuality several years back through a customer of mine who had just signed on as a GuildQuality member. She kept going on about how the feedback she was getting from her clients through GuildQuality was pushing her to really evaluate how they ran their business. This feedback gave her and her management team much needed insight to the areas of their business that needed improvement. Whether it was value, project management, value or paying attention to the customers budget. With this new knowledge they were able to map out a course to improve the overall customer experience.

I recently ran into this client while attending the Design & Construction Week in Las Vegas this past February. After we got done with the “how have you beens” we talked a bit and she told me how great business was, she was very upbeat. She’d explained how she had made many changes to her business that had paid off. To prove her point, she told me how they had grown from two sales/designers three years ago, to seven today. I can tell you the person I was talking to that day seemed a whole lot happier and less stressed than the person I worked with several years ago.

She attributes the success of her business to a couple of things but points out that getting timely and relevant feedback from her clients has been crucial in making the changes needed to serve their clients better. She said GuildQuality has really helped them grow. 

In today’s super competitive remodeling market, knowing what your clients thinks about your performance is the only way you will know what changes you need to make to service your clients better, this alone will help your business rise above your competition.

I recently reached out to Mark Miles, COO and Erica England, Marketing Manager, both with GuildQuality, to learn more about their company and their services.

Here’s what I found out:
The company was founded in 2002 by Geoff Graham. Geoff comes from a family of developers, having developed an amenities rich community in Charleston, SC. It was during this project that the idea of GuildQuality was born.

Wanting to only work with the best local builders, they asked potential builders for client feedback and referrals. Not a single builder was able to provide this information.

Not deterred by this, they decided to handle the surveying themselves. They collected the responses, put it in a spreadsheet and made their decisions based on that data. Afterward, they shared the results with each builder. Many of the builders eagerly read through their survey results and acted on the feedback. It was at this moment that Geoff realized he was onto something.

Today, GuildQuality provides customer satisfaction surveying, performance reporting, and marketing tools for North America's best builders, remodelers, and home services contractors. Companies like Pella, Owens-Corning, Kohler, Wellborn Cabinet and many more, have partnered with GuildQuality to offer their suite of services to these companies dealers and service companies. What helps their clients, helps them.

Mark points out their average response rate is above 70%. They get these great results through a survey process combining email, direct mail and phone calls with the homeowners. It’s important to emphasis the GQ members with the greatest success incorporate their use of GuildQuality in their sales presentation to the homeowner. This helps them stand out and prepares the client for the survey process that follows project completion.

A typical survey is 15-20 questions long and only takes the homeowner 2-3 minutes to complete. Of all of the questions asked, the most important Mark says is “would you recommend XYZ Remodeling to your friends?” The average recommendation rate of GuildQuality members is 92%. Compare that to an industry average of less than 65%. These numbers are astounding, think about how this could impact your business now.

Changing your business is a bit like losing weight. You can join Weight Watchers, buy diet books or join a gym but if you don’t act on your new found resources, you won’t see any positive results. The business owner I mention above realized great results because she and her management team opened themselves up to outside help, critical feedback and were open to changing the way they looked at their business.

To find out more about GuildQuality and their processes, visit their site at www.guildquality.com.

In a recent Forbes magazine article, contributor Eric T. Wagner, listed several reasons businesses don’t survive past 18 months. At the top of his list, he notes that most businesses fail because they aren't “really in touch with customers through deep dialogue.”

14 May

CCleaner Quick Tutorial

This is a follow-up to my podcast 5 Steps to a More Secure Digital Life. For all you folks out there looking for a simple program to help secure your privacy online and make your computer faster you should check out CCleaner. Here's my quick Tutorial for remodelers and Kitchen & Bath dealers.

This is a follow-up to my podcast 5 Steps to a More Secure Digital Life. For all you folks out there looking for a simple program to help secure your privacy online and make your computer faster you should check out CCleaner. Here's my quick Tutorial for remodelers and Kitchen & Bath dealers.

28 Apr

5 Easy Steps To a More Secure Digital Life

Privacy and security in this digital age are on many peoples minds. If you’re like me, I’m concerned about someone getting my info and using it to get credit under my name; credit cards, department store charge cards, medical bills, etc. We don’t have much control over weather Target Stores protects the information they have on us, I mean we hope they protect it, but that’s out of our control. We can take steps to limit our security/privacy risk every time you use your computer. We are only as secure as the weakest element, in most cases we are that weak link. The things we as users and consumers do everyday make us far more vulnerable than anything Target, Bank of America or any other institution has done, it’s just that those big privacy breaches make great headlines.

So, how do you make your information and privacy more secure?


I’m going to cover a few things you can do starting today to get secure. Many of the solutions I will mention are free or relatively inexpensive and take minimal time to set up. All of these solutions can be used on your business and personal computers. I have all of my computers, my wife's and my kids computers set up as I will explain.

The first thing you should do is secure the computer you use everyday for business and personal.


Step 1

Create a new folder on your computer desktop called “Run every Friday” or whatever day you choose.


Step 2

Get CCleaner. It’s a fantastically easy program to get and an even easier one to use. I recently wrote a basic product break down on CCleaner, it’s worth the read for more detail. In a nutshell it helps protect your privacy and makes your computer faster. After installing this program, place an application shortcut in the folder you created in Step 1.


Step 3

Secure your passwords. I don’t know about you, but I have a zillion accounts and they all want me to create a password and if you’re like most people you use the same password for everything. STOP THIS RIGHT NOW. Stop it!!! That’s right 3 exclamation points, I’m not messin around. I won’t bore you with all of the research and articles written on how this is probably the single worst thing you can do and how it completely makes you vulnerable, but trust me, this is a bad policy you have.


To manage your passwords I recommend using LastPass. It’s free but offers a premium edition that allows password sharing and a couple other features. Again, very easy to install and use. It is not a stand alone application, but an internet browser extension, and supports all of the major browsers; IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera. Not to mention apps for Android, BlackBerry, iPhone and Windows phones.


After you install the browser extension an icon will show up on the top right. Whenever you login to a website, LastPass will popup asking you if you want to save this site. Then, when you return to that site, it will automatically fill in your username and password or you can disable this autofill and enter it by clicking on the browser extension and going from there. I’m not going to get into a detailed how-to on this as their website covers all that quite well.


One of it’s many great features is password creator. It will create random passwords up to 100 characters long using upper case, lower case, numbers, special characters, make pronounceable and even avoid ambiguous character strings. These are all your choice or sometimes restricted by a particular website. I recommend using as many characters as the website you are logging into will allow, especially for financial and medical sites. I use the random password creation tool for ALL of my logins now.


Another great feature is you won’t have to manually type your passwords when you use LastPass. Not only is this a time saver but it seriously lowers the risk of a keystroke logging malware capturing your login information as you type it. With LastPass you copy and paste.


Another feature is the fact that it syncs real time with the app on my smartphone, again a time saver and I always have my passwords with me.


Beside securing website login information you can secure credit card information, notes and form fill info. Again, with the credit card info, no need to type the numbers, it just fills in all the info for you. Time saver and more secure.


One more thing, when you create a LastPass account you are required to create a single password that gets you access to all of your account passwords and other secured data. Their security measures go one step further with Multifactor Authentication. This helps protect your account from being accessed even if someone gets your main password. It requires another step before gaining access to all of your passwords. This is an option in LastPass but as far as I’m concerned it is mandatory. It only takes a few extra seconds to access your account but the piece of mind and security are well worth the time.


Don’t wait another minute, get it now.


Step 4

Get a good anti-virus app. Notice I said a good one, not a free one. Now there are some free ones out there, but the best ones usually have a cost to them. The one I settled on for my family and business is BidDefender. Highly recommended and seems to do a better job of real time monitoring and scanning than most.


I used Microsoft's Security Essentials for years but stopped after my wifes business computer got taken over by a nasty virus called the Department of Justice virus. It said the only way to get the computer unfrozen was to enter my credit card info and pay $350. I might of been born on a turnip truck, but it wasn’t this morning.


Bitdefender offers a free version but the features and functionality of the premium version have too many benefits for me only limit myself to the free version. I’ll leave it to you as to the version you get, but in most cases BitDefender Total Security should do the job. It’s about $80/year for up to 3 PC’s, cheaper per year if you buy multi-year licenses.


Step 5

If’ you are still using Internet Explorer I recommend switching to either Firefox, Chrome or Opera. I used Firefox for years but switched to Chrome about a year ago.


Privacy and security in this digital age are on many peoples minds. If you’re like me, I’m concerned about someone getting my info and using it to get credit under my name; credit cards, department store charge cards, medical bills, etc

28 Apr

Use CCleaner to Protect Your Privacy and Make Your Computer Faster

One of my favorite tools for keeping your Windows computer clean and speedy is CCleaner. Guess what the CC stands for; you got it, Crap Cleaner. I've been using this free downloadable application for about 8 years and it really works well. It's free and can be easily downloaded in minutes. What does CCleaner do? Well it has two main purposes; protecting your privacy online and makes your computer faster and more secure. It is easy to use and is a fast download.

You can run this whenever your computer feels sluggish or do like I do and just make a point of running it once a week. I recommend creating a desktop folder named “Run every Friday”, drop this shortcut in there and do like the fold name says, run every Friday. There are some other apps you can drop in there and do the same.

Notice at the bottom of the image below there are two buttons, “Analyze” and “Run Cleaner”. If you click analyze it just scans your system and gives you a view of how much junk will be cleaned out. If you want to run the scan and have it clean, click run cleaner and away you go. You will need to close all of your internet browsers for it to work. It's pretty simple. 

CCleaner also has several other tools like a registry cleaner, uninstall feature, startup program selector and a drive cleaner feature called “Drive Wipe”. This will clean the empty spaces on your computer and can be set to wipe an industrial strength 35 times. That’s a serious powerwash of your hard drive. Note that at that setting your computer is going to be tied up for a long time, until the process completes.

CCleaner will free up space by wiping away useless temporary files. It's also a magic button that is a computer-wide "delete my internet history" button. It does this by scanning your computer and erasing your browser history, cookies, and cache files for any browsers you have installed — Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox and even Safari and Opera. But it doesn't just stop there, it also erases the cookie data stored by Flash Player, this is important because Flash Player is probably one of the biggest security vulnerabilities on your computer.  It also wipes out other privacy-risking data like the list of recently opened file names in Adobe Reader, Microsoft Word, Windows Media Player, VLC media player, and other common Windows applications. It cleans your clipboard, log files. DNS Cache, error reporting, memory dumps and jump lists. Suffice it to say, it leaves few stones un-turned.

Word of caution; before you get too carried away with features like the registry cleaner or setting CCleaner to clean things you are not sure of, I recommend you do your research first. Blindly cleaning too much may negatively effect your computer. 

As I said, this is a 100% free program but they do offer a couple of professional version that do have a cost to them. 

One of my favorite tools for keeping your Windows computer clean and speedy is CCleaner. Guess what the CC stands for; you got it, Crap Cleaner. I’ve been using this free downloadable application for about 8 years and it really works well.

28 Mar

Google's GYBO Week Overview

Google's GYBO Week Overview

Google hosted a 4 day live conversation March 24-28th for small businesses dubbed GYBO or Get Your Business Online. They partnered with chambers of commerce across the country, business support groups, universities and many other group viewing. I attended a group viewing at my local chamber of commerce. Overall, the feedback from our participants was very positive. Many people made the comment that this helped them better understand how they can use Google, websites, social media and digital marketing concepts to promote their businesses.

One cool service they talked about was StartLogic.com. According to their website their "goal is to help small businesses create websites and discover their potential on the web." A pretty simple and straight forward goal. They are even offering a free website for one year, just go to gybo.com, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the blue button that says "Get Started." Note that you must go through the GYBO to get the site free for one year. This will take you to a page that guides you through setting up a Google+ page and create a free website. In about 30 minutes I had a website up and running including my own images, text and more. They will also register a custom domain for you, for a fee. I found the whole process very simple and intuitive. I can only guess that StartLogic websites have better performing SEO out of the box than say a Wordpress or SquareSpace, I draw this conclusion simply because of their relationship with Google on this project.

They touched on the importance of having a Google+ page, especially for local businesses, I would have like to have seen more on its many benefits. I do want to highlight some of the benefits that will really help your website get found and help influence customers to choose your website.

Google hosted a 4 day live conversation March 24-28th for small businesses dubbed GYBO or Get Your Business Online. They partnered with chambers of commerce across the country, business support groups, universities and many other group viewing. I attended a group viewing at my local chamber of commerce.

28 Feb

It's a Wrap! 2014 KBIS & IBS Summary


This year was my fifth time attending KBIS and third time attending IBS and I can tell you what I saw this year was fantastic.

This year was the first time both KBIS and IBS were held together; same time and same venue, labeled “Design and Construction Week”. Whoever came up with this idea was a genius.

And the numbers support this; over 82,000 people attended the combined show. KBIS welcomed more than 31,000, that’s a 145% increase over last years show.

KBIS had more than 500 exhibitors, including 135 new exhibitors as well as the return of industry leaders Viking, Elkay, MasterBrand Cabinets, Electrolux and LG Hausys Surfaces just to name a few.

“We knew coming into Las Vegas that we were about to experience something groundbreaking, and we weren’t disappointed! The energy on and off the show floor far exceeded our expectations,” said John Petrie, NKBA 2014 president. ”The co-location of KBIS and IBS allowed exhibitors and attendees to benefit from insights and product innovations serving the entire residential design & construction industry.”

Next years show is looking to be even better, Emerald Expositions, producers of KBIS, has already booked more exhibit space for KBIS 2015 than was sold in all of 2014.

KBIS 2015 will take place January 20-22, 2015, in the Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, NV, collocating again with the International Builders’ Show (IBS) and VISION 2015 (IWCE) under the banner of Design & Construction Week.

The 2014 Design and Construction Week saw the joining of the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show (KBIS) and the International Builders Show (IBS) and what a great success. With over 1,700 combined exhibitors and more than 83,000 attendees, this show was definitely worth attending.

13 Jan

3 Quick Tips for Better Time Management

A friend in the remodeling business recently told me about a chronic problem he was having managing his business. “I constantly have to apologize to customers for missing deadlines. Whether it is getting a project estimate done when promised, or just getting work done at a project.  That’s just my customer problems, I’m so busy I can’t keep up with my administrative stuff either.” Sound familiar?

We talked a bit about how the constant interruptions from customers, employees and sub-contractors are derailing their efforts to get caught up. I suggested the problem wasn’t the customer, employee or the subs, it was the way they were trying to do everything themselves and trying to be all things to there customers.  

1. Choose your customers
Say what! Exactly what I said, choose who you do business with. I know, when you are trying to make ends meet you feel you can’t turn down any business but I’m here to tell you that you need to do just that. Not every customer is a good fit for you and your business. Many are time wasters, stopping in unannounced or calling frequently to pick your brain for ideas. You don’t have time for this. In most cases time wasters don’t know that they are doing this, so be nice, they don’t deserve a rude response and you don’t want to burn that bridge, they may eventually get serious about their remodeling project and you do want them to consider you, but on your terms.  There are many ways to qualify a customer; we will cover this in another article.

Here’s what you need to do: 
Step 1:
Starting right now, suggest setting a time to meet with customers, make it firm and limit the meeting to 1 hour or less, this is important. And before you say, it doesn’t build a better relationship; in fact most people will appreciate your professionalism and focus giving you high marks for your ability to focus. I personally have been part of meetings that I let go on far too long. The only thing it accomplishes is causing delays in everything else I have to get done that day.

Step 2:
If they don’t want to meet then set them free. Be polite, say something like, “here’s my contact information, when you are ready to move forward with your project, call me, we can meet to discuss in detail how my company can help you and I can find out more about your project needs.” Excuse yourself and wish them a good day. More than likely they will schedule a time to meet. It they don’t, they probably wouldn’t be a good customer anyway, at least not someone worth your time.

2. Get Help
Lets face it, as much as we think we can, we can’t do it all. And besides, who wants to? This one thing may just save your business and, more importantly, your personal life. 

Way back when I bought my first struggling business, I figured I’d work a million hours a week and through sheer determination and hard work I would force it to succeed. Her I come to save the day! Notice the key word “I”, meaning me alone. No thanks! You may know the feeling. In my case, I felt I couldn’t afford to pay a bookkeeper; so I did the books. I felt I couldn’t afford an accountant, so I did the end of year taxes. I felt I couldn’t afford a receptionist, so I answered the phones, scheduled the service appointments, answered customer questions, filed sales tax documents, etc. What ended up happening was I spent a lot of time on everything but overseeing my business and that cost me dearly, a lot more than the financial expense of hiring a CPA, Bookkeeper or a receptionist. Another thing that happened is after about 18 months, I was fried. Burned out. Spent. The only thought that made me happy was selling the business so I could get my life back. By far the worst thing that happened when I was working 90 plus hours a week; I missed my kids growing up. Soccer games; sorry honey I have to do this thing on Saturday to catch-up,  can’t make the game. Parent-Teacher meetings; hey honey I can’t make it, I’m still at the office, the sales tax filing is due tomorrow and I have to get it done tonight. You have your own stories I’m sure. Money I can get back, but being there for my wife and being an active part in my kids’ lives; lost forever. For this reason alone, it may be worth outsourcing tasks.

Here’s what you need to do:
Step 1:
Find a bookkeeper. QuickBooks is the most widely used small business bookkeeping software and most accountants prefer it, so find a bookkeeper who knows QuickBooks well. Hire a professional. Do not have your wife, husband, sister, BFF or other close personal connection do your books. You want accountability and no personal connection to the person doing your books. Why? When it’s a close friend or family member it is hard to call them out when a mistake is made, and there will be mistakes. 
IMPORTANT: Do not give the bookkeeper check signing privileges. Have them print checks and you sign them. 
As with all trusted advisors, thoroughly check them out yourself. Don’t just take the recommendation of a friend or colleague. Case in point, just ask all of the people who invested in Bernie Madoff, most were referred to him by a friend. Contact the bookkeeper and get a minimum of three (3) references, put together a list of questions and call each one of them. 

Step 2:
Find an accountant (CPA). Again, so important. Interview a minimum of three (3) and again check them out yourself. The IRS doesn’t play well with small businesses so you need someone who you can trust not to put you or your business on their radar. Ask them questions like: How many clients of yours get audited? Compare it to the others, if their answer is higher than the other two, move on to another CPA. 

Step 3:
Hire an assistant. I recommend starting with a virtual assistant (VA). You may not be familiar with the concept so I’ll explain. A virtual assistant (VA) is generally self-employed and provides professional administrative, technical, or creative assistance to clients remotely from their home office. Because VA’s are independent contractors rather than employees, clients are not responsible for any employee-related taxes, insurance or benefits, it is up to the VA to account for these fees, taxes, etc. Also, you will avoid having to provide office space, computers, phone, misc equipment or supplies. The amount you pay goes 100% productive work. You can find individual VA’s through online services like oDesk.com or Elance.com or you can work with Virtual Assistants in multi-VA firms to meet your exact needs. Some of those are GetFriday.com, AskSunday.com. Keep in mind that Virtual Assistants usually work for other small businesses and busy individuals. 

If the idea of having your assistant in another state or country bothers you, then you may want to hire a local person part-time. In this case, expect to provide them with a computer, phone, software etc and you may be responsible for employee related taxes, insurance and other fees. 

Step 4.
Others. Evaluate other areas you might be able to delegate to others. Maybe you have been doing kitchen design, or maybe you do all of the finish work, both of these are easily outsourced. Really look at your goals and where you want to be, this will help you guide you in deciding to delegate things you really enjoy. 

3. Charge a Design Fee
Possibly one of the most debated concepts in the remodeling industry, particularly in regards to kitchen and bath design and probably the single most important part of running a successful remodeling business. 

When I opened my first kitchen and bath design center we started running ads promoting our free designs, in no time I was backed up 2-3 weeks for designs. I remember thinking how well our advertising worked, we were rockin’ & rollin’. Not. I was spending so much time doing designs for unqualified customers I mistreated the ones who were qualified and ready to start their projects. Translation - I lost tens of thousands of dollars and tarnished our reputation to boot. 

Over the years I’ve learned first-hand, and through working with other remodelers just how crucial qualifying customers is to having a successful business. As mentioned in #1 you need to choose your customers. 

Here’s what you need to do:
Step 1.
Start today. Don’t waste your time finding out what competitors are charging, start with a small fee and go from there. Start by mentioning the fee to your prospective client only after you have expressed to them why you are their best choice. Do not just jump in with “I charge a design fee”. That statement is usually followed by awkward silence. I will cover more about how to sell yourself and your services in another article and probably on one of my podcasts. 

These three steps should get you on your way to freeing up your time and increasing your margins. Make adjustments as needed; raise or lower design fee, change your qualification process, whatever you feel will help. Again, the goal here is to maximize the use of your time to maximize your profits.

If you have specific questions regarding this topic, click here and post it in one of our communities.

A friend in the remodeling business recently told me about a chronic problem he was having managing his business. “I constantly have to apologize to customers for missing deadlines. Whether it is getting a project estimate done when promised, or just getting work done at a project.  That’s just my customer problems, I’m so busy I can’t keep up with my administrative stuff either.” Sound familiar?

09 Jan

10 Simple Rules of Brainstorming

Whether you’re trying to solve a technical problem, improve work flow or come up with a business idea, coming up with new ideas is not easy. Between worrying about deliveries, finances, marketing, the economy, etc., business owners and managers have a lot on their minds making creative thinking difficult and sometimes downright impossible. Even if you are thinking clearly, brainstorming can really help in coming up with new ideas.

The important thing in being creative is to not over-think, just let it out. Just let er rip! You can critique the ideas after you've spit them out and written them down, I actually recommend scheduling a follow up session to go over these ideas, it give everyone the opportunity to digest and evaluate.

1. Let it all out Don’t filter, just blurt it out.
The only dumb idea is the one not expressed.

2. No Judgement
Don’t judge your ideas or others ideas until later, if you judge right after people say it, you will find that your brainstorming partners will stop contributing

3. Don't over think
Enough said

4, No filters
Don’t let your internal logic cause you not to consider an idea until a later stage.

5. The More the Merrier
Include as many people in your brainstorming session as possible. I’m not suggesting including the UPS guy, but include all members of your team and, just to add a different perspective, if possible a couple from outside the team

6. Everyone is equal
No chain of command. No titles. Choose one person to be the moderator, not the judge. Also you can’t hold anyone accountable for bad ideas, or lack of contribution, or for speaking their mind about a company policy or procedure, after all that’s why you are there; to improve.

7. Let your thoughts run wild
Sometimes the best ideas come from some crazy statement or idea that was said earlier.

8. Be okay thought detours
Let the conversation run it’s own course, just be wary of letting it stray to a topic not related, i.e. if you’re trying to improve company processes don’t spend 30 minutes talking about March Madness.

9. Write it all down
Write everything down. I’m a big fan of whiteboards or flip charts. Put it up and keep it up where everyone can see during the session.

10. Make it fun!
Buy lunch; hold it at an offsite location; give away gag gifts for ideas, valuable critiques, for the person who has the biggest grievance, whatever, you decide but make it fun. Be creative with this. Remember that there is a big difference between fun and silly; silly is a distraction to the process.

Not only are brainstorming sessions helpful in finding great solutions and cultivating ideas, but they are great ways to bring a team together. A well run brainstorming session will leave all participants feeling like they are a part of the solution, are listened to, respected and are part of something important.

Good luck and have fun.

Whether you’re trying to solve a technical problem, improve work flow or come up with a business idea, coming up with new ideas is not easy. Between worrying about deliveries, finances, marketing, the economy, etc., business owners and managers have a lot on their minds making creative thinking difficult and sometimes downright impossible. Even if you are thinking clearly, brainstorming can really help in coming up with new ideas.