Don’t Do It Yourself

Hands with DIY tools.

If you are a fan of home renovation shows, you will know that DIY stands for ‘Do-It-Yourself’. Those shows often feature horror stories of people who have tried to do their own projects because they thought they could easily figure it out on their own and save some money by going the DIY route. Instead, many do-it-yourselfers never complete the job and often make costly mistakes.

I wish I could collect a dollar every time a business owner tells me that getting the help they need is “too expensive” or “I can’t afford it”. In almost every case they don’t know the true cost of DIY because they’ve never taken the time to examine the numbers. Their answer has no factual data to back it up. It’s an emotional decision, not a business decision. They are, quite literally, chasing pennies with dollars.

We’re beginning to see a marked increase in home builders attempting DIY projects, following a challenging couple of years. One thing hasn’t changed, though – budgets are tighter than ever. As a result, home builders are drawn to the notion of internally managing their risk strategies and developing maintenance and marketing programs in order to “save money.” When it comes to risk management and satisfied customers that may have a significant impact on the future or your organization, those savings may, at best, be illusory.

It’s important to know what jobs you can do yourself and what projects are best left to the professionals. Some jobs can be simple enough to tackle successfully. Others clearly require expert skills. It’s the jobs between those two extremes that can be tricky. DIY’s cost savings may seem enticing, but if your skills aren’t up to snuff, the result won’t impress.

You need to bring some financial intelligence to the game. You need to understand some simple ROI. Do you know how much a customer is worth, on average, to your business? If not, here’s how to find this important number:

Write down the number of clients/customers you served last month (Or whatever time period makes sense to you. If your business is seasonal, you may want to look at 12 months to get a true average). Now write down your gross sales for the same time period. Divide that by the number of customers. This gives you the average revenue from a single customer. How does this number help? Great question! Glad you asked. Let me give you an example. XYZ Sales serves 20 customers a month with sales of $4,000. That means each new customer is potentially worth $200 a month to XYZ.

But Jane, who owns XYZ is spending more than 25% of her time (10 hours per week) stuck in the office doing admin work, invoicing and other non-revenue generating activities. Almost 40 hours a month. Jane estimates it takes an average of 10 hours to find and convert a prospect into a new client so those 40 hours are costing her 4 new clients per month or $800 in sales. At the end of 12 months Jane is missing almost $10,000 in her revenue stream for that one month alone.

Even scarier, she knows as long as this situation continues, the number continues to grow. (And, yes I know I’m not allowing for attrition but I want to keep this simple and straightforward).

Along comes Sue, a virtual assistant, who offers to help Jane with the workload. Because this is Sue’s area of expertise and excellence, she can complete the same 40 hours of work in 20. Her rate is $25 an hour or $500 a month. Jane’s time is freed up to find new customers and keep her existing ones happy so they stay.

Knowing the numbers, what advice would you give Jane? Now ask yourself how much time you are putting into non-revenue producing tasks in your own business. What is that actually costing you?

There are many parallels between DIY and risk management DIY. For instance, there are some things the organization must do itself, while other tasks require specialized knowledge or experience that you may not have in-house. The risk of starring in your own DIY nightmare can be high if you do the minimum to get by.

All successful risk management leaders know what they can and must do internally versus where they need to get expert advice. What actions can you take to enhance your risk management program? “DIY projects are rarely as easy as they seem, and all too often it ends up costing you.”

Doing the work yourself may result in an acceptable outcome and allow your staff and committee to cross the project off the to-do list and return to their “real jobs.” But, engaging a professional experienced firm will result in an exceptional product that will drive the future success of your organization and enhance both your reputation and risk management program for years to come.

Learn more!

The High Cost of Not Finding Information

More and more we find that people don’t understand how much money it costs when you simply cannot find the information you need. There are many causes for this malfunction — some procedural, some educational, and some technical. The quantity of time spent in ineffective searching for vital information is enormous, leading to overwhelming costs to builders. These information disasters are a growing threat, and one that few businesses can ignore.

Businessman with binoculars.

In today’s world there are all kinds of information disasters. All businesses deal with outdated, incorrect, and lost information on a daily basis. There are several reasons for this dilemma. First, information is scattered in multiple repositories and databases all over most organizations. No one knows what exists or where it is, and there is no single unified access point or process to find it.

Second, with the advent of the World Wide Web, every professional worker has become an information searcher. Without information training and skills, most people don’t know where to look, how to ask for what they are seeking or when it is OK to stop looking. One answer looks very much like another unless the searcher understands what constitutes valid information.

Third, most employees are inundated with too much information, and they are limited by the tools they have to help them. Everyone seems to be working longer hours and getting less and less done. We are bombarded by e-mail, copies of presentations, alerts of new interesting articles, meetings and all of the other information trappings that go with being a knowledge worker. We spend hours trying to track down something that we found only yesterday, but it seems to have disappeared. We try to reach colleagues who have missing pieces of the puzzle, and they and their computers with the notes from that meeting in January have disappeared for vacation or, worse, left the company altogether. In short, we spend a lot of time spinning our wheels looking for things and not finding them.

We know that roughly 50% of most Web searches are abandoned. That translates into 50% fewer online sales, 50% more frustrated customers trying to solve a problem or get information, and 50% more phone calls that must be handled. Some studies suggest that 90% of the time that knowledge workers spend in creating new reports or other products is spent in recreating information that already exists. According to an IDC study “The cost of intellectual rework, substandard performance and inability to find knowledge resources was $5,000 per worker per year.”1

How do we know when a project has taken twice as long as it should have for lack of access to information? The fact is that knowledge workers rarely turn out measurable products, and each project is slightly different from the one before. If they can’t find the information on which to base their output, they may have to submit poor quality work to meet a deadline.

Top companies overwhelmingly agree that having organized accessible information leads to highly improved decision making, decreased labor expense, and increased efficiency. According to another IDC survey “76% of company executives considered information to be mission critical and their company’s most important asset. Yet, 60% felt that time constraints and lack of understanding of how to find information were preventing their employees from finding the information they needed.” 1

Several studies have proven that new approaches to this dilemma significantly increase ROI for improved access to information. ROI figures vary from 38% to over 600%. It is very clear that the cost of not locating information in your business is substantial. Unfortunately for the company these costs are hidden, thus rarely apparent to your bottom line.

Information disasters are caused not by lack of information, but rather by not connecting the right information to the right people at the right time. People use information within the context of what they are doing. They need to have access to the right information, but only when they need it. And they need to be assured that the access is guaranteed, easy, fast and reliable.

Effective document management is much more than simply storing key documents. It’s about finding what you need when you need it. And for builders who must keep track of thousands of documents, a secure online archive is a powerful way to quickly and easily address the risks associated with right to repair laws, CSI codes, CDL lawsuits and warranty claims. dwellingLIVE’s proven information strategies deliver organized accessible information that improves decision making, decreases labor expenses, and increases operational efficiency for your company.

Managing Your Customer Relationships

Focusing on customer communication is vital to the long-term success of any business.

New HomeIn the early stages of the relationship, effective communication ensures your product or service meets the customer’s immediate needs. As time goes on, regular communication with your customer base allows you to adapt and grow so you can continue to meet their expectations.

 When running a business the amount of attention devoted to each customer becomes increasingly stretched as your company develops and the client base expands. When growth places additional strain on the product or services you deliver, it is essential to remain aware of the importance of managing customer relationships.

Customers expect a high level of service. Regardless of the quality of the product or service you provide, they will not stay loyal to you on a long-term basis unless you treat them properly before, during and after a sale.

Keep customers involved and satisfied at all times.

Regular interaction with your customers will help build trust and loyalty. If your customers believe that you are communicating with them openly, they will feel their relationship with you is one of mutual trust.

Standards of service are constantly improving, so keeping customers satisfied is a continuous process. Ensure your whole business is focused on meeting your customers’ evolving needs. Your product or service may be excellent, but the customer experience can be undermined by slow responses, sloppy fixes, or an off-hand contractor.

Comply with your legal obligations to keep customers informed.

Under selling rules you are legally obliged to provide customers with certain information about their purchase, including a description of the goods or service, price, cancellation rights and warranty information.

Use every channel available to communicate with your customers.

As well as telephoning your customers to keep in touch, you might use your website – or even an extranet – to provide them with useful information and gather feedback. You might email your customers regularly with useful tips and warranty information – but make sure you have permission to contact them in this way and follow CAN-SPAM laws.

Customer Feedback Happy Rating

Use a range of means to find out more about customers and how you can satisfy their unique needs.

Use technology to develop the relationship you have with your customers. For example, if you have a website, provide a feedback form for customers and post answers to frequently asked questions. Use print or email newsletters to keep them in touch with your business developments, community updates, warranty claims, and important maintenance reminders.

Put processes in place to gather feedback at every opportunity.

Do not wait until customers approach you with problems – they may not tell you about them until it’s too late. Be proactive and set up processes to collect feedback. Give everyone dealing with your customers a feedback form. This ensures that if there is a problem it can be rectified quickly.

Always act on any problems that you identify. Thank customers for their feedback and let them know if you implement any changes as a result.

Take your customer satisfaction to the next level with dwellingLIVE’s proven processes.

Being continually recognized as the industry leader in development, production, and distribution of content and information management solutions for homebuilders, dwellingLIVE provides innovative products and strategies that increase your customer communication, overall efficiency, and bottom line revenue. Our superior products allow homebuilders a reliable and convenient tool to interact with their homeowners 24-7 via a personalized website.

dwellingLIVE delivers tremendous value for you and your customers by educating your homebuyers on maintenance/warranty processes, which can lead to decreased work order requests. We also provide multiple channels for communication with your home buyers, increasing the probability that they will use the resources you provided them and in turn, create a positive customer experience. We help you empower your customers to care for their home, which increases the value of your brand and reduces litigation exposure. Ultimately, partnering with dwellingLIVE will increase customer satisfaction, referrals, and lead to reduced costs.

The Tech You Need in Your Homes

Who doesn’t love hi-tech gadgets? They can make daily tasks easier or just make life more enjoyable. Check out these hi-tech gadgets and upgrades that can turn your community into a futuristic neighborhood.

Lockitronhome digital
Everyone’s experienced it at least once. You leave your home, but it’s not until you’re miles away that you wonder if you locked the door. With Lockitron, you don’t have to wonder. The device comes with an app that tells you if the door is locked or unlocked. It even allows you to monitor your family members by telling you who has left or entered the house.

Acoustable
Acoustable is a minimalist coffee table, but that’s not all it is. Sure, you can set your drink on it or kick back and put your feet on it, but it can do so much more. It has a high-end sound system, but you can also connect your smartphone to it. It allows you to play music from your phone while also charging it.

Floor Plan Light Switch
Getting the perfect lighting can be difficult, but with the Floor Plan Light Switch, you have more control than ever. Instead of a switch, the control has a layout of the floorplan. You simply press the area you want lit, and the light comes on. This is also a great way to have all your light controls in one place. No more entering that dark hallway to find the light switch.

Hi-Can Bed
The Hi-Can Bed is the only way to sleep. First, it is an elegant and modern four-poster style bed. Like traditional four-post beds, it has shades to keep you in the dark while you sleep. However, it’s also technologically advanced. With a high quality sound system, built-in PC and entertainment console, you won’t ever want to get out of bed.

Cybertecture Mirror
Just looking at yourself in the mirror is so last year. With the Cybertecture Mirror, you can see so much more. It allows you to install apps, which display information on the mirror, such as news and weather. You can keep up to date on what’s going on outside while you get ready for your day.

Technology is constantly evolving, and while some of these may seem a little more outrageous than others, they are all designed to make your life a little better. Turn your house into the talk of the neighborhood with these great devices.

HOAs and How They Came to Be

row-of-homes-converted

HOAs have been around for a long time, and for good reason. They help make a pleasant and safe place in which to live. The history of homeowners associations starts in the mid-nineteenth century and continues to grow and expand today.

Nineteenth Century Idea

The nineteenth century was an exciting time for the United States. Thanks to the industrial revolution, the nation was shifting from an agricultural society to an industrial society. As a result, people began swarming to the cities to find work, but with so many people, the cities became dirty and noisy, which created an undesirable place in which to live. To answer this problem, railroad communities began to appear. This allowed people to work in the city but live outside the city and travel via rail. These railroad communities were mostly comprised of middle-class people, and they were the building blocks for modern associations.

Twentieth Century Expansion

In the twentieth century, the development of the car allowed people to live even further away from the city and railroads, so more communities began appearing. Although many of these communities didn’t really have formal rules and regulations, most of the residents had a shared idea of how the neighborhood should look and run. In the 1960s, HOAs grew thanks to the federal government. The Federal Housing Authority and the Urban Land Institute encouraged more residential developments.

The Fair Housing Act

Unfortunately, many of these communities focused more on exclusionary restrictions, and many prohibited certain races. For example, a Seattle, Washington neighborhood specifically stated that Jewish, Ethiopian and Asians were not allowed to live in the neighborhood. In 1968, however, the federal government created the Fair Housing Act that prohibited this type of discrimination.

The First Modern Planned HOA

The first modern planned HOA was Levittown. It was built in Long Island, and it was designed to offer veterans homes with low-interest loans. The area quickly grew between 1947 and 1951 to over 17,000 houses. There was no actual HOA in place, but rules and regulations existed. After Levittown, suburban living continued to grow, and more and more HOAs were established.

HOAs may have started in railroad communities, built to give workers a convenient place to live outside the city, but they have come a long way. Thanks to the federal government, they continue to evolve, providing desirable places in which to live.

Feature Spotlight: Online Maintenance Manuals

Maintenance ManualsTraditional maintenance manuals for any home can be a burden, as keeping track of hundreds of pages of material isn’t always easy. dwellingLIVE Home’s Online Maintenance Manuals  keeps all necessary home information in one, digital space.

Builders love this feature because not only does it reduce cost, but it drastically decreases time entering product, manufacturer, and warranty information into physical maintenance manuals. Instead, dwellingLIVE Home relies on industry experts to input this information, taking the tedious work out of builders’ admin time.

As mentioned in a previous post, CALGreen compliance is imperative for all builders in California — and we continue to see a similar trend across the U.S. dwellingLIVE Home’s Online Maintenance Manuals provide a simple way to make the building process more “green.” By making all home information digital, we significantly reduce the amount of paper waste created from traditional maintenance manuals.

Check out dwellingLIVE.com/home for more information about how you can reap the benefits of Online Maintenance Manuals.

Regulation Overview: CALGreen

The 2010 California Green Building Standards Code, or CALGreen, is a state-wide initiative, the first of its kind in the U.S., that applies to all newly constructed residential and non-residential occupancies.

CalGreen_Logo

CALGreen aims to diminish greenhouse gasses in California, with some estimates predicting a reduction of as much as 3 million metric tons of these harmful toxins by 2020. To achieve this, lawmakers aim to curb environmental impact both during and after construction by limiting construction waste, and by requiring newly constructed buildings to be more efficient via green materials and energy.

dwellingLIVE Home keeps all necessary documentation for both builder and homeowner online. That means that dwellingLIVE Home’s online customer portal is CALGreen compliant.

  • Our fully interactive Online Customer Portal is a digital space that gives you access to maintenance, product, and warranty information with just a few clicks. It’s an easy-to-use communication tool that puts you within arm’s reach of your customers at all times.
  • Online HOA Maintenance Manuals keep all pertinent product and warranty information in one safe, electronic place for easy reference. At dwellingLIVE Home, we take care of the tedious work by inputting and updating this information — drastically reducing your admin time, and eliminating paper waste.
  • The Service Request Manager takes all the paperwork out of the maintenance process. Now, you can receive service requests, update your customers in real-time, and obtain signatures without ever putting pen to paper. Not only does this feature significantly reduce waste, but you’ll also see a drop-off in your maintenance completion time.

Head over to dwellingLIVE.com/home for more information about how our Online Customer Portal can help you comply with the CALGreen law!