This morning I was on a conference call with a couple of appraisers from several states. During the conversation, one of the appraisers said, “I have thought about hiring someone to help me out around the office, but I just don’t see how the benefits can outweigh the costs.” Ahhhhhhhhh! Now, my response to her was calm and professional, but inside my thoughts were more like, “Are you KIDDING me!?!?!?! Here you are with a desire to do more business, turning down several assignments per week because you don’t have time to do it all, and you cannot see the benefit of hiring receptionist?” Again, that is not what I said, it is only what I thought. Now, I have mentored a lot of appraisers. I have yet to find one who could not benefit from either hiring a staff member to take care of the office or retraining the one they already have.
As I travel the country, I typically find one of three scenarios in the offices I visit. The appraisal business owner is either a one man shop, has a single secretary, or a very small staff. Of course, there is nothing wrong with any of these situations, but I want to speak today to the one man shops. Those of you who are doing it all yourself…..listen up!
We appraisers are funny folk. Due to the nature of our business, we tend to be a very solitary people. That is often true in life, but is especially true in the case of work. We like to do things on our own, and I am no different. However, it is time, if you have not done so already, to consider what an office staff can do for you and for your business.
I have been appraising for nearly two decades now. For the first dozen or so years, I was like the majority….I did it all on my own. That means I answered my own phones and email, set appointments, dug up all the data, sent finished products, did my own marketing, collections, and revisions, along with all the technical side that comes with appraising. Then, one day I woke up. I realized what I was making per hour to do all of this stuff and that I could pay someone else a lot less money to do the very same thing! Ta da! A business owner was born.
Let me show you what a typical day in my appraisal firm NOW looks like. This morning I got up, exercised, taught a Bible study class, ate breakfast, and checked my email. It was only then that I knew for sure where I was going that day (I only had a vague idea before). My office staff had already received the orders, set the appointments, updated the clients, pulled the subject information (both MLS and County Data), built the reports in my software, uploaded them to my IPad, and sent me the relevant data via email. My driver arrived at 9 AM as scheduled. While he drove, I began pulling potential comp data from the passenger seat. After the first inspection, I took the comparable photos and then uploaded the entire report to my office. While I was busy doing other inspections, my office staff had received my report remotely and was already busy entering the relevant comp data (from the sales I had previously chosen) into the report. By the time I got back to the office that afternoon, those comps were ready for analysis, adjustments, and reconciliation. Final ‘buttoning up’ was also completed by my expert staff and, after final review from me, the report was signed and sent (again, by an office staff member). This continued for the other reports I had due that day. Of course, everything of significance was reported. I never answered a phone call. I never responded to a single email. I never dealt with the mundane, only with the things I love to do; and that is appraising! I went home at 5 PM and had the rest of the evening with my wife and family.
“That is nice, Dustin, but I do not want to deal with the headache of training, scheduling, human resource problems, labor laws, payroll taxes, sick employees, lazy employees, productivity, staff meetings, hiring, firing, etc. etc. etc.” I hear you loud and clear, but—all things considered—I still think the pros outweigh the cons. If you do it right, I KNOW the pros outweigh the cons! I have had employees for several years now. Sometimes my staff has been thick (11 employees at one point), and sometimes my appraisal staff has been lean (as little as 1 other employee when I first began). Never however, have I been sorry that I had employees. The fact is, they have always been a bigger asset to me than a liability. Now, there have been those who have become a liability, but they were quickly dismissed.
For those of you who can see the benefit of freeing up your life from the doldrums of running an appraisal practice, but are not yet ready to deal with the potential problems that may come with the territory, I developed Your Appraisal Office, LLC. Your Appraisal Office is the solution to the “To Staff or Not to Staff” question. In a nutshell, Your Appraisal Office takes care of the mundane so you can focus on what you love to do and are good at….appraising! This of course, frees up more of your time and allows you to do more volume. Naturally, more volume equals not only covering the cost of the service but puts more money in your pocket as well! A true win-win! The best part, Your Appraisal Office is paid on a sliding scale. No more paying your secretary by the hour when you are slow. When your business is sluggish, Your Appraisal Office is paid less (but continues to market your firm behind the scenes so your slow months do not turn into a slow year)!
No matter the format, an office staff is a must for the serious appraisal business owner who is ready to grow their business. Whether you choose the services of Your Appraisal Office or decide to hire on your own, it is time you consider the benefits of working with a team of professionals who are dedicated to making sure you are successful.
Now, go create some value!
Dustin Harris is a multi-business owner, but he has found most of his success as a self-employed, residential real estate appraiser. He has been appraising for nearly two decades. He is the owner and President of Appraisal Precision and Consulting Group, Inc., and is a popular author, speaker and consultant. He owns and operates The Appraiser Coach (www.theappraisercoach.com) where he personally advises and mentors other appraisers helping them to also run successful appraisal companies and increase their net worth. He is also the Founder and President of Your Appraisal Office (www.yourappraisaloffice.com) which implements some of the systems he has developed to help lower costs and free up time for real estate business owners. He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children.