Time is Money – Efficiency is the KEY to profitability – by Jennie Norris, ASPM, IAHSP-Premier, President & CEO, Stagedhomes.com Time is Money. We have all heard that before and yet have we really taken that to heart in our Staging businesses? I want to encourage anyone reading this blog that is in the business of Staging we have to find ways to make our time most productive so that we maximize our profit. We are paid for our Creativity and our ability to implement a plan of action effectively. I did not get into Staging to earn a little bit of money. Staging is a lucrative business when it is treated like a business. When I understood the big picture of the income potential of this business, I got very excited. It is an industry that compared to a traditional job pays a full-time income in part-time hours. As an ASP(R) Stager, we give a lump sum for our projects – not an hourly rate. In order to do this you must estimate how long you believe a Staging will take and then hit that goal. What it really boils down to is good Project Management. Here are some key tips to help you make the MOST from the Staging projects you conduct and maximize your profit. 1. Make a Plan, 2. Be the Project Manager 3. Communicate Expectations Clearly 4. Manage the Clock 5. Manage the Budget 1. Make a Plan – I know we have a proposal for the Staging project that gets accepted by the client, but that is not the Staging Plan. The Plan starts with you figuring out what you need to do in each room, what you are bringing with you, who is doing what. If you are doing a Vacant house, make a list of all the things you need to bring with you – write it down. You will NOT remember everything the day of the Staging as you are loading up – and the kiss of death for profit as a Stager is us forgetting some key element of our Staging like a set of towels or the bed skirt for the bed – and having to drive back to our warehouse or storage, or worse, having to go shopping – because we did not plan and write it down. When you are doing a Hands-on Staging for an occupied – you will have already seen the house so it’s a matter of executing the plan you come up with and writing down what you may need to bring. You have only allotted a certain amount of time for the overall project, so you have to be the one to keep people on track. That brings me to my second tip. 2. Be the Project Manager – Your role whether you are Staging solo or with your Stage Crew is that you are the PM – the Project Manager. It’s up to YOU to plan the time appropriately and make sure things run on schedule. Stagers that make the most profit are ones that stick to the timetable and keep their crew hustling. We can still have fun – play music and encourage each other but you are not there as a friend – you are the PM and you have expectations for your team and the Staging project. 3. Communicate Expectations Clearly with Your Team – People cannot read our minds. We can never assume they know what the overall plan in, what their roles are, what we expect from them and the project that day. It’s a good idea to take 5-10 minutes to share with your team what the goals are for that project. How much time do you want to be in the house? What is the overall plan? What will they be doing today? What are the priorities? What are you bringing with you? Where do you need their focus? The last thing you want is for people to be standing around because they don’t have a clear mandate from you. That kills your profit. It all starts with you – since you bid on the Staging you hopefully allotted money for the crew you bring with you – and you will have labor and creative helping you depending on the Staging. When you fail to communicate expectations you can expect people to move more slowly and be asking you every five minutes what they have to do next. You need to keep people on track. As an example, a bathroom should take at most 15 minutes to Stage – so you need to set the expectation for the team member Staging that space, and then make sure they stick to it. 4. Manage the Clock – I watch the clock and call out the time and what our goals are 1-2 times during the Staging. If someone is taking too long, you have every right to get them on track because you are paying them. We don’t have to be mean – but we do have to be in charge because this is YOUR project. And Time is Money. When I have labor with me (movers either delivering furniture or helping move things around in a house) I am very clear on the expectations. When I can, I also never pay anyone hourly – they are always paid Lump Sum – and what I have found is they will work a lot faster when they get a set amount for the project versus an hourly rate. When hired labor gets paid hourly we really have to be on top of these people because they are motivated to work slower in order to earn more. I tell them how long they have and then push them (nicely) if they are going too slowly. When I have a large hands-on Staging I often have the labor come first – we get the big things moved out or around where they need to go and then I cut them loose. The creative happens next and I can have my team members meet me at the house to start their part. That way they are not standing around. If there is creative to do while the moving is happening, you can have that taking place – the key is everyone on the project is productive at all times. We don’t stop for food breaks, we don’t take phone calls. When they are on my clock, they are working for me and this project takes priority. We want productive partners at all times. When we are unloading a vehicle, the team members helping better load up their arms with things – not take one little thing in at a time – again we want to maximize profit by minimizing the time we take. Same for a de-stage – we are there to get in and get our things out. We don’t want to be careless – so we always take the time we need to move things properly using our Staging tools – but the key is not to take excess time to do something as Time is Money. When you are able to take less time than planned, you have just increased your profit and hourly amount you pay yourself! 5. Manage the Budget – You have bid on the Staging project and must stick to the financial parameters. When you plan your Staging, write the plan down and execute the plan, you will maximize your profit. If the Staging runs over schedule, the people with you don’t earn less because you have told them what they will get for the project. You earn less because you are the only variable you can adjust. If movers take longer and are paid hourly, then there is less for you. Instead of making $150 an hour for the Staging for yourself, you will earn, $100 then $75 then $50 if a project really goes haywire. In the end, the key is in planning the project and clearly communicating expectations to your team. Keep everyone productive while still enjoying the process. Have fun while you are Staging – play music and get into the groove of Staging all the while keeping that clock and the budget in your head. Then you will be pleased to see how much you actually net out of a project and will be smiling all the way to the bank!