Meeting Customers’ Needs

varietyThe basic avenue to success is being able to sell a product or a service. To do that, it is essential that you meet the prospect’s needs. Once they find that you are achieving that end goal, they will move from the “prospect” category to the “client” category.

So, how do you meet the needs when there is such a vast number of people, and a huge variety of types of people walking this earth?

One way to serve a larger, rather than smaller, segment of the population is to find a product or service that can meet the needs of many ages, professions, income levels, and lifestyles, with a wide range of needs.

A home inventory serves a wide range of people

As a home inventory service professional, I am often asked what type of people our clients are. There is no one category. Our client base spans young 20-somethings to those in their 80s. Our customers are professionals (doctors, accountants, insurance agents, teachers, attorneys), those who are considered laborers (factory workers, mechanics, house cleaners) and retirees.

When looking at their financial status, our clients also range from living in an 800 square foot apartment to a 17,000 square foot house. Some live paycheck to paycheck and others are extremely wealthy.

 

The business inventory clients are just as diverse. A sampling of our client base includes accounting offices, law firms, marketing companies, auto body shop, medical practice offices, sign shops, hot air balloon companies, auto repair shops, remodelers, and a variety of home-based businesses.

Another range, or category, of clients include business owners, home owners, renters, executors, attorneys, financial planners – these are the people who purchase or refer their clients to purchase the inventory service.

The needs for a home or business contents inventory are more diverse than the types of clients

The plethora of reasons one hires an inventory service helps keep our days interesting. Our service has been hired to fulfill the following contents inventory needs:

  • Disaster preparedness
  • Appraisals
  • Estate planning
  • Estate settlement
  • Financial planning
  • Knowing the value of assets owned by a business to ensure proper insurance coverage
  • Tracking business assets
  • Preventing unnecessary business purchases
  • Knowing what is in storage

As a home inventory professional, and also a mentor for those wanting to start a home inventory business, you can see why I feel this is a great service. I am able to serve many needs for many people, while providing myself ownership in a business that offers flexibility and variety .

 

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How To Determine Which Home Inventory Professional To Hire

HuhThe home inventory industry is changing. I am pleased to see that it is slowly becoming a true industry rather than just a group of scattered, non-connected home-base businesses across the country. Using the term “group” is even a stretch, as each business owner did their own thing, independently from the others.

When we were developing our own home inventory service (often called asset or personal property inventory) in 2004, we met with insurance agents, estate attorneys, financial planners, and insurance adjusters. Our purpose for these meetings was to learn their needs so we could serve our clients, while also meeting the requirements of each of these professionals because they are often truly the “end user.” For example, an estate attorney will need the inventory report to submit to the state, even though the executor is the client. Over the years we tweaked and improved our processes. Each adjustment is with the client’s needs in mind – from the time we spend on site collecting the information, to the follow-up after the initial service.

Knowledge and experience

After a few years of providing our inventory service, we realized that many people were planning to start a home inventory business and wanted assistance. We created the Nationwide Inventory Professionals Business Package and Licensing Agreement to help and support those who wanted to remain independent, but didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. As a Licensee, these new business owners can be ready to do business within 30 days because we’re creating their website, newsletter, logo, etc., and mentoring them along the way. This assistance shortens their learning curve. They immediately gain the experience and knowledge we leaned over more than a decade in business.

Hiring a Licensee of Nationwide Inventory Professionals is like hiring someone who devoted years of trial and error learning the industry – even if they just recently started their business. Another benefit from working with a Licensee is that as we constantly seek ways to improve the processes and procedures, we share our findings with them. Therefore, they can concentrate on serving their clients while we work on the business.

Education and industry certification

Realizing the need for national continuity and some structure in this industry, I became involved with the National Inventory Certification Association (NICA).  Driving this organization is extremely important, because there is value in being certified and receiving continuing education. NICA brings cohesiveness to the industry through the established Code of Ethics that all members agree to honor. The continuing education courses provide industry knowledge. In addition to the industry information, there are courses geared to help the small business owner, such as Project Management, Customer Service, Social Media for Business, and Time Management.

Once an inventory professional becomes a Certified Inventory Specialist, they are required to maintain their designation by achieving a number of CEUs on an annual basis. This ensures that they continue their education and commitment to the industry. Seeing the NICA logo on their website shows who are members of NICA, and the initials CIS behind their name identifies those who are certified.

Hiring an inventory professional

There are a lot of considerations when hiring an inventory professional. I believe that sharing this “behind the scenes” information of the inventory industry will help you know how to assess the companies in your area. To recap, some things to consider, so you no longer have to scratch your head, wondering who to call:

  • Are they bonded and insured – have they taken the proper steps to be professional and responsible?
  • Do they have testimonials – have others been satisfied with their work?
  • Are they certified – have they devoted time and made a financial investment in their expertise?
  • How much knowledge/experience do they have – if recently in businesses, do they have a mentor or support system?

If you’re looking for an inventory professional, two websites with lists of companies are the Nationwide Inventory Professionals Directory and the NICA Directory. Both directories offer links to the individual websites.

Advice From Small Business Owners

SuccessTurnkeyThe second annual Bank of the West Small Business Growth Survey was recently completed. In a previous post, titled, “Yes, It Is Worth It,” I shared results that an overwhelming majority (86%) feel that all the time, money, stress, and sleepless nights, were worth the sacrifices. Ownership of your own business is rewarding, a source of pride, and provides unlimited opportunities to live your life as you choose.

Though freedom and many other benefits come with entrepreneurship, there is also a high number of businesses that fail. So, the big question is, how can a new business owner improve their chances of success? Of course, a key element is for the entrepreneur to have high business acumen. However, there is much more to success than just knowing what to do.

A passion for work ranked high

Results from the survey show that leadership was essential for entrepreneurial success. The survey showed that 70% of current business owners feel that to be successful, it is important to have a passion for the work, and 64% saw the need for self-confidence 64%. Additionally, 49% feel you need to have a clear vision for the business’ future and 38% weighed in on the importance of having tangible assets (an innovative product or service).

“Tenacity, charisma and determination are what push businesses into high gear. Those who don’t just lean in—but go all-in—are better positioned to overcome the odds and chart their own professional course.” the survey reported.

5 pieces of advice from current small business owners

The top five pieces of advice that current small business owners would give to those just starting out are:

  1. Make time for your family (62%)
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help (58%)
  3. Separate your business finances from your personal finances (57%)
  4. Stay objective; don’t take things personally (55%)
  5. Be a lifelong learner (54%)

Number 1 is a given – without taking time for your family, what’s the purpose of owning a business? I have found that the freedom you have with hour flexibility is the most beneficial of all. The 2nd item, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” is where our mentoring support that we give the Licensees of Nationwide Inventory Professionals. People don’t know what they don’t know, and we are able to bring these topics up early in the start-up process. This eliminates surprises and helps the new business owners know what to expect and how to handle them before they become an issue. We also have a policy of being available 24/7 so when they need help, they know we are just a phone call away. Learning from someone who has the knowledge, experience, and expertise is essential to an easier and smoother start-up and growth of your new business.

Taking the advice from the results of this survey will help you pursue your dream to start a business, and you’ll be more apt to achieve success by learning from those who have experienced the ups and downs of business ownership. By taking the suggestions of others who willingly share what they’ve learned will guide you down the path to success.

Yes, It Is Well Worth It

Ask anyone who started a business, and you’ll most likely hear stories about financial challenges, being overwhelmed with all the tasks required of them, and the total time suck they experienced. This might be part of the reason that the Small Business Administration reports that only 50% of new businesses survive to the 5-year mark.

However, based on the results of the second annual Bank of the West Small Business Growth Survey, small business owners choose to continue their quest of entrepreneurship. The survey results found that the biggest challenges of owning your own business are:

  • living with the uncertainty that comes with owning a business (52%)
  • always being on the job (43%)
  • avoiding burnout (40%)
  • making and saving enough to retire (41%)
  • ensuring their families are financially comfortable (35%)
  • managing cash flow (31%)

With all of these uncertainties they face, why do entrepreneurs bother? Why not just go find a nice corporate 9-5 job and have a steady income? I believe that I am a typical small business owner. When I started my home and business inventory service, I was seeking the freedom that comes with business ownership, having control over my time and my income. Looking back, I wasn’t prepared for the bumps in the road. However, this desire to own my own company gave me the perseverance to keep going until I got it right.

The benefits outweigh the negatives

The responses in the survey showed that small business owners enjoy the benefits that “doing their own thing” provides:

  • owning their own business puts them in charge of their own destiny (94%)
  • love the freedom that comes with owning a small business (91%)
  • allows them to contribute to the local economy (84%)
  • running their company makes them feel empowered (83%)
  • helps them make a positive impact on the community (80%)
  • opportunities to connect with their families (70%)
  • providing a legacy for their families (67%)

The financial and time commitment

The survey reported that 82% of small business owners put everything they have into their business. An overwhelming majority, 86%, say that all they’ve sacrificed for their business has been worth it.  I totally agree with this majority, and another business I’ve developed helps the new entrepreneur. I’ve been through it myself, so through Nationwide Inventory Professionals,  I now help others eliminate most of the trial and error and guide them through many of the uncertainties. Not needing to develop their own marketing materials, inventory processes, and business procedures also helps lessen the time they would normally need to invest in the start-up phase.

Executive vice president of small- and medium-size enterprise banking at Bank of the West, Michelle Di Gangi, stated, “Small business ownership isn’t always a financial decision – an even bigger draw is the flexibility and independence to chart your own path and create a business that can be passed on to the next generation. These are benefits that many other career paths simply do not offer.”

Ya Gotta Have the Passion

PassionBefore I started my business, before I even had decided what my business would be, I was told over and over by other entrepreneurs that I needed to have a passion for whatever I do. They said without it, the chance for failure would be much higher than normal.

Most everyone said that this passion would keep me going when I felt too tired to keep going. My passion would help me fight the fear and uncertainty. The passion is one single thing that would help me battle the feeling of being overwhelmed with all the tasks that come with business ownership.

I have to admit they were right. The passion I have for my home inventory business has been the one strong force that kept me moving forward.

So when someone who was interested in becoming a Licensee of Nationwide Inventory Professionals asked me about the passion, it was my turn to have “the talk.” His first statement was, “I don’t think I can develop a passion for counting things or taking pictures.” Fair enough.

He was surprised when I agreed with him. I said, “I don’t have a passion to do those things, either.”

I shared this story to help explain. I don’t wake up every morning, jump up and down with delight because I get to go create a list of someone’s belongings and take photos of them. Certainly not an exciting or high passion task. But completing these activities is what fills my passion to help others. Without that information, our clients will not be able to remember all they owned after their contents are gone due to fire, theft, for a natural disaster. They won’t be able to provide serial numbers to the police to prove ownership. If it’s an estate inventory, I relieve a lot of stress for the executor so he or she can focus on their other responsibilities. Each time I complete an inventory, I know I have helped my client, either emotionally or financially – and often – both.

I could have chosen another industry that would have provided the same. But since I experienced a loss, I know how devastating it is to try to recover. I knew there was a real need for a home and business inventory professional and decided that pursuing a home inventory business was the right business for me.

Getting a hug, seeing tears of relief or gratitude in their eyes, receiving a thank you note in the mail – all of these and many other expressions of gratitude confirm that being a home inventory professional fulfills many needs. A home inventory is the vehicle to drive my passion to help others!

Before You Can Start a Business

OpenWe all read claims that you can have your new business ready “overnight” or “in just days.” Some of the ads say “little effort on your part” or “no preparation required.” In reality, even the smallest home-based business doesn’t “just happen.” Many steps require a great deal of thinking, planning, and researching. You need to know what you want to do, how much help you want, who you want to work with or if you want to go it alone, and arrange financial assistance (if necessary).

That’s a lot, and you haven’t even really started yet! Though it might seem like it, I’m not trying to talk you out of starting your business. In fact, I highly encourage it if that’s your goal. However, everyone should enter entrepreneurship with open eyes. When you’re ready, the first things you’ll need to do are to determine your company name and file your business with the state. You will also need to purchase insurance and (in this industry) a bond. If you don’t have your office equipment, you will need a computer, printer, paper shredder, and camera.

Before you can start your home inventory business

So far, so good. With that done, you will have a list of items that need to be addressed before you can get started:

  1. Purchase your domain name
  2. Create a logo
  3. Research the industry so you know to whom and how to market your service
  4. Hire a web designer/developer
  5. Hire a content writer for your website, brochures, flyers, newsletters
  6. Research inventory software and test them to ensure you make the right decision
  7. Research photo software (if it’s not part of your inventory software)
  8. Design and order business cards
  9. Create a business plan
  10. Develop your inventory processes and procedures
  11. Establish your office procedures
  12. Create office forms
  13. Determine what services you will offer
  14. Decide on your pricing structure
  15. Hire a business coach or find a mentor
  16. Write and distribute a press release announcing your new business

Wow! And there are many little details for most of these items that I didn’t include. It is amazing how much there is to do just to get ready to do business, isn’t it? Consider how much faster and easier it would be if someone could do all of this for you!

Instead of going it alone, below is your checklist if you choose to become a Licensee of Nationwide Inventory Professionals:

  1.  Contact Nationwide Inventory Professionals. Click here to request more information.

While we take care of all the 16 start-up tasks (and more), you can devote your time promoting your business. A key element here is that you will be ready to do business within 30 days – we include this promise in our contract!

Accountant Finds Compatibility with Home Inventory Business

Kate LeGrand, an entrepreneurial consultant,  adds Capital Counts Inventory to her focus of serving her Indiana community.

KateKate LeGrand discovered the home inventory industry when searching for an entrepreneurial opportunity. With her busy lifestyle, she knew she didn’t have the time to develop a business from the ground up. After meeting with the owners of Nationwide Inventory Professionals, she launched Capital Counts Inventory in Avon, Indiana, 45 days later.

LeGrand firmly believes that in today’s economic environment, it is important to have more than one leg to your financial stool. Kate’s explains, “I wanted to diversify my sources of income. It is also important for me to have a flexible, scalable business model to create a family business that I could someday pass to my children.”

Kate is an honors graduate of the University of Kentucky with degrees in Business Administration and Economics. She believes entrepreneurship is the genesis of the American dream. Her experience as an entrepreneurial consultant, counseling and encouraging entrepreneurs every day, helped prepare her for her own venture. When asked why she chose to become a Licensee of Nationwide Inventory Professionals, she explained, ” I knew I didn’t have the time to develop a website and marketing collateral, and I didn’t want to have to trial and error my way to a successful business image.  What I did want was a proven business model to help me fast track my cash flow and profitability.”

LeGrand and all Licensees have access to processes learned over a decade of continued improvements, a generous marketing package, and one-on-one mentoring. Kate continued, “I wanted the benefit Nationwide’s founders’ learning curve. Why learn the hard way? They have already found what works and what doesn’t. I knew I would be more successful with their advice and counsel.”

Cindy Hartman, co-founder of Nationwide Inventory Professionals, commented about Ms. LeGrand, “Kate is a dynamic business woman. She knows what she wants and goes for it. We love working with her, sharing in her successes and watching her embrace the industry.”

In addition to being the owner of Capital Counts Inventory, LeGrand has been an outsource controller and tax accountant for over 10 years. She has worked in public accounting, venture capital, technology start-ups, and personal financial advisory services. In doing so, she has served in the role of Controller and Start-up Consultant for a wide variety of small businesses from many different industries and provided personal financial counseling to hundreds of families. She also owns Alliance ProAdvisors, a Quickbooks consulting and outsource controllership service.

A long time resident of Avon, Indiana, Kate is a Certified Inventory Specialist. Capital Counts Inventory is bonded and insured, providing personal property inventory services for business owners, homeowners, and renters in Central Indiana. For more information about Kate LeGrand, visit the About page on her website.

Get Ready, Get Set, Go for Entrepreneurship

ReadySetGoEntrepreneurship is a dream for many people. Sadly, it often ends up being an unrealized life-long dream.

Why is it, that a desire someone has for years, burning in their belly, goes unfulfilled? Speaking from experience, I have lived a few of those perceived reasons for not starting my own business. My own barriers were all in my mind. I created a good, solid list that gave me permission not to act on what I truly wanted. Some of the reasons I convinced myself were valid were 1) having children to support, 2) not knowing what I really wanted to do, 3) not having the right knowledge, and 4) not having the time.

Looking back now that I’ve been a business owner for over a decade, and now help others start and grow their own home and business inventory service, I just shake my head that I truly believed all of that rubbish.

Why haven’t others pursued their own dream of being an entrepreneur? Most give the same reasons I had. But they aren’t reasons, they are excuses. It is really procrastination, lack of confidence, and uncertainty. There is one sure thought I want to share with you – You will never really be ready.

The reason for that is, you will never be fully prepared. There is always something new to learn. And there is always the chance for failure. That’s the blunt truth.

Starting a business, and growing a business, requires time, devotion, and commitment. It’s easy to start a business. In reality, all you need to do is decide on a name, file it with the state, and in essence, you have started a business. Building and growing the business is the hard part. It takes time – not just months, but years. It takes commitment. It takes dedication. It won’t happen over night – it’s not a one-lap sprint around the track. Business ownership is a marathon. That means you can take your time – even start part time if you want the security of a steady income for a while.

However, whether you jump in with both feet or spend just a few hours a day on your new business, if you aren’t in it for the long haul, then don’t bother starting. There are always reasons to wait if you want an excuse. But never is there a better time to begin your adventure than now.

If you want the world of entrepreneurship, don’t wait until the time is right. In total honesty, the time is never right – so start before you’re ready.

Not ReadyGet set … Go!

How To Be A Part-time Entrepreneur

PTFTThere are a plethora of people wanting to start a business, but they just don’t take that first step. There are many reasons for this resistance to move on their desire. The dream sits for years, sometimes decades, always at the back of their minds. It often creates anxiety, as the entrepreneur bug keeps nagging at them. I can relate to this, as I waited nearly 30 years before I took the plunge into the world of business ownership.

So, what keeps people from just jumping in and doing what they truly want to do? There are many reasons; the most common are:

  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Insufficient funds to go without revenue during the start-up period
  • Not knowing enough about owning a business
  • Friends and family discouraging them from making the move

For those who want to become an entrepreneur, but can’t make a full 100% commitment, I recommend starting the business part-time while you keep your full-time employment.  This eliminates the gap between when you quit employment and start bringing in your new business revenue. There are a few things to consider that will help with this transition:

  1. Find help from someone who can help you learn the industry quickly.
  2. Make sure you’ll be able to start and build the business without having it interfere with your current employment.
  3. Choose an industry that allows for a flexible schedule so you can develop your business around your required full-time work hours.

As the founder of the premier home and and business personal property inventory Business Package and Licensing Agreement, I can assure you this is a business that will meet all of these needs. The reasons for this (and these tips will help you compare with other industries) are:

  1. We provide a detailed manual along with one-on-one mentoring and coaching. You’ll gain the knowledge we’ve achieved during our more than 12 years in the industry. This knowledge that you’ll gain quickly will help give you the confidence you need to present your new service in a professional manner.
  2. Through the Licensing Agreement, we create your logo, website, marketing materials (including a monthly electronic newsletter), and you have the rights to all intellectual property. This enables you to work on building your business while we build your marketing package.
  3. The home and business inventory service is scheduled at the clients’ home or place of business. It is very easy to schedule your inventory appointments around your full-time employment work schedule. For those times when there is a conflict, you can hire a trusted person to do the inventory for you, and you’ll make passive income while you’re at your full-time job.

As you grow your business, you’ll be able to continue working until you’ve gained enough clients that will sustain you. At that time, you will have the confidence to make the step towards a full-time entrepreneur. Or, you just might find that being a part-time entrepreneur fulfills your dream of business ownership. With that, you’ll have chosen the perfect industry that enables you to continue to remain a full-time employee while enjoying the extra income and pride you gained through your part-time business.

Whatever you decide, you’ve taken the steps required to move forward with your dream.

Nationwide Inventory Professionals Licensee in South Carolina Achieves Certification

Donna Business photo 001 (2)PRESS RELEASE – The National Inventory Certification Association™ (NICA) is pleased to announce that Donna Courtney, owner of Courtney Inventory in Little River, South Carolina, has recently earned the designation of Certified Inventory Specialist (CIS). Achieving this designation confirms her knowledge to provide quality residential and small business contents inventory services.

Explaining why she invested in certification, Courtney said, “As a licensed insurance agent for 30 years, I earned various designations which enabled me to stay engaged and knowledgeable about the insurance industry. Continuing education is extremely important to me, which is what encouraged me to earn the CIS designation. This helps show my clients that I have taken the extra steps to be a leader in my industry.”

There is an increasing awareness of the necessity and benefits of having a prepared photographic and written record of one’s personal property. This knowledge and the ever-increasing busy lifestyles of homeowners and business owners alike create a growing demand for a professional inventory service provider. Choosing to achieve certification shows residential and commercial clients and potential clients that Courtney is a dedicated professional.

Mike Hartman, Executive Director of NICA, shared that “coming from the insurance profession that requires certification and continuing education, Donna is aware of the importance of certification. Her professional background solidifies that education is essential when you want to put the client first.”  

A requirement for certification and membership with NICA is to agree to conduct business according to the established industry Code of Ethics. Based in South Carolina, Courtney Inventory provides residential and commercial asset inventory services in South Carolina and Southeast North Carolina. For more information about Courtney Inventory or to contact Donna Courtney, visit her website at .

About National Inventory Certification Association

Established in 2011, the National Inventory Certification Association (NICA) is nationally recognized as the official certification authority for the personal property/asset inventory industry. The certification and continuing education opportunities ensure that members have access to quality industry knowledge as well as business and professional development resources to help achieve the success they seek for their home and business contents inventory companies. For more information visit the NICA website or call 717-827-6422.

 

Uncover your hidden entrepreneur.


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Home Inventory – A Guide for Homeowners and Renters

Home Inventory – A
Guide for Homeowners and Renters


The many reasons for a home inventory, plus a do-it-yourself guide and templates.

 

A Business Guide to Asset Inventory

A Business Guide to Asset Inventory
Protecting your company assets.

Copyright 2016 Nationwide Inventory Professionals, LLC © 2013. All Rights Reserved.
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