The Staging Iceberg – What’s Below the Surface May Surprise You By Jennie Norris, ASPM, IAHSP-Premier, President & CEO, Stagedhomes.com An iceberg is a beautiful sight resting in the water. It looks like a floating hill or mountain of ice and what we know about icebergs is they can be lethal underneath because 90% of their mass is actually underwater. That mass was strong enough to sink the Titanic and can cause incredible damage to those that do not steer clear of them. I think the iceberg is a perfect analogy for a business where what our clients and the public see is the pretty and polished part, and what they don’t see is the churning mass that lies beneath the surface. When people hear that we own and operate a successful Staging business or see one of our marketing brand items that lets them know what we do, what we usually hear is, “What you do looks like so much fun! I just love decorating!” If only it were that simple. When we are skilled at what we do, we end up making it seem easy because we have learned how to run a business successfully and show the smooth outcome to the public. I have had clients think they have overpaid for Staging because the end result looks fabulous and they figure it took no time at all to achieve the finished outcome. The television programs that promote Staging could not possibly show the actual work that is part of every successful Staging business – there is simply not enough time. Overall the media has been a blessing and a curse to Stagers. They give exposure to the service of Staging but do not show the reality of what is entailed. A Stager that is “featured” on one of these shows gets a minimal exposure, maybe a few words of dialogue, possibly show them hauling stuff out of a truck, but rarely show the back story of how they got to the point of the installation. There is a lot of legwork that goes into the finished product that the public never sees. On the plus side, it does help the public to know they need to prepare their house for sale and have it professionally Staged. If you are like me, we get calls all the time from people that want to do what we do – to “be a Stager.” They have no clue what it entails outside of us making a house look better before it comes on the market. They see the finished product and hear about the success and statistics that support Staging. They might even hear that Staging pays well and think it is easy money. We don’t discourage people and yet we know that they have no clue all that goes into being successful. Wanting it is not enough. Working hard every day and being committed with an attitude of perseverance is what it takes. What they see is just the tip of the iceberg. Are we making it look too easy? Should we show more of the churning chaos that is happening underneath and sink a ship or two from time to time? What they don’t see or know about is all the people that have started a business and failed or quit because turns out it was hard work. They don’t see the hours of education to learn about our industry. They don’t see the many hours of unpaid work we put in to get that first client and continual unpaid hours we put in to ensure we get new clients. They don’t see the physically demanding part where you haul items into or out of a house – and your hair is so sweaty you can wring it out. They don’t feel the sore muscles and backs we have after a long day. They don’t experience the many miles of driving back and forth across town to get to appointments or secure inventory. They don’t see the mental gymnastics we go through to coordinate multiple projects and many moving parts. They don’t hear the many conversations we have with Realtors or sellers that don’t believe Staging will help and some tell us more kindly than others. They don’t see the various personalities we deal with and have to please as we go through the process with our clients. They don’t know the hours put towards branding and marketing a business just to get that first opportunity and the volume of hours we put towards maintaining and nurturing client relationships. They also don’t see the predators out there – sharks that want to take our business or other aspects of the industry that are out of our control – such as the real estate market and the economy that both can have a huge impact on our success. Of course everyone would like to do what we do and earn the income the industry provides. I have been at this 14 years and have paid my dues and learned along the way from mistakes that can only come from being in the trenches. At the end of the day, it is my business – it is your business – and “the buck stops here” applies to any Staging business owner working to be successful. If the project does not go as planned and a client is unhappy, it is not the worker-bee that gets reprimanded. It is the company owner. Accepting responsibility and being able to handle tough situations separates the wannabes from the successful Stagers in this industry. When the going gets tough we cannot – will not – pack up our tent and go home. This is our livelihood and we have to make it work because we support our lifestyle with this business. And because we love what we do. And because we would not choose to go back to our old life of working a 9-5 job. The hours, the sore muscles, cranky clients and other chaos that might occur are worth it to us because we love Staging. We also love the transformations we are part of whether it is the physical house or the mindset of a client. Just like icebergs are constantly growing and changing under water, we too have to change and adapt to the market and industry expectations. Being able to remain viable while also being competitive is an art and science. Finding other niches for income that take advantage of our creativity and talent is always happening and being able to keep a lookout and be forward focused on the horizon for new opportunities is our goal. I don’t believe that the public will ever really understand what goes on beneath the surface of this type of business and we don’t need to them to know every aspect. We educate them about what we do and our processes to help them achieve their goals and keep the back details private as they really don’t need to know all of that. They just need to know we are able to help them and they are in capable hands. Only when someone enters the waters of owning and operating a Staging business will they truly have full appreciation for all that goes on to make our clients properties look fabulous and help them achieve higher success. And then they will finally have the appreciation for successful Stagers in business all over the world.