Why the Story of the Tortoise and the Hare Applies to Owning a Staging Business
by Jennie Norris, Chairwoman, IAHSP –
The International Association of Home Staging Professionals
Do you remember the story about the Tortoise and the Hare? The motto, “Slow and steady wins the race,” was the moral of the story. The same can be said for owning and operating a Home Staging business long term. Building a business with purposeful goals and steadily growing is a better plan than racing too fast and flaming out. There are countless examples in our industry of those that did not want to take the time to build a proper foundation, invested in all sorts of things their business could not support, and then flamed out because of debt or frustration. They wanted to be at the top immediately instead of paying their dues, as they say, and working their way up to the top. Ask any Home Stager in our industry that has a thriving and long term business and they will share stories of steady, intentional growth year by year that has led them to where they are today.
I remember a woman called me after she had been in business about 9 months. She was calling to find out if I knew of anyone in her market that would want to purchase her business items. Following her course she bought a truck, a lot of inventory, paid for custom marketing materials, an ad on television and branded business wear. She was NOT taught this in her course where she was taught to build a foundation, invest in inventory as your business can afford it, do not go into debt, etc.
My stomach sank when she told me her situation.
By my estimation she had invested over $150K in funds for a business that was not viable. She wanted to bypass the foundation she had to build that would eventually have supported the acquisition of inventory, truck, expensive marketing. Instant success does not happen. She got ahead of herself and the market that had softened – so she was not able to capture the kind of business volume she needed to remain viable. But if she had NOT gone out and purchased things that were well beyond where she was in her business, she would have made it through the tough market and still be here.
I know, for me, I was not in a place when I got started in 2002, that I would have been able to risk that kind of money, so the concept of spending that amount and then just walking away was mind boggling. Maybe for her it was just a write-off but that situation has remained with me as an example of what not to do – no one wants to see someone fail and just walk away. I also don’t believe 9 months was really long enough to truly establish a success record – most businesses you need to give yourself 2-5 years to truly succeed.
Success is a journey and for those that want to be doing this long term, we need to be more like the Tortoise. We build a strong foundation, slowly and steadily. We cultivate relationships with REALTORS®, Sellers, Builders and Investors that we want to work with long term. We establish our brand and processes, learning over time and refining our practices to weed out those that are not working and adding ones that make us better. This is not to say someone cannot have immediate success out the gate. There are examples of Stagers that are able to hit the ground running and capture immediate business, grow their foundation and process accordingly and do well. Those people usually have a business savvy background and people in their lives that are helpful advisors. The growing pains are there, but there are able to manage them with the support of their infrastructure and team. No one rises to the top instantly – the plan needs to be a long term process and vision for longevity which entails patience and persistence.
I think people see the successful Stagers in the industry and want to “get there” quickly as it IS attractive and Staging CAN be lucrative. But the patience factor cannot be stressed enough. People see Staging companies that have huge inventory and warehouses, that have employees and big teams, that are featured on TV or are strong in their market, paid their dues and they want to be there NOW! Patience is a virtue. These company owners worked hard in the early years to establish their businesses. One of the biggest (if not THE biggest) Home Staging companies in the country (or world!) started off with taking a course, doing consultations on his own, eventually adding one team member, then another, and then purposefully plotting out a vision for growth. He took risks, said YES when others would have said NO, and took opportunities to expand. His growth has been a journey. I am certain people look at him and others like him and want to be where he is – and don’t realize that over a decade of work has gone into his growth. I have numerous colleagues that all have HUGE businesses – and over a decade of sweat, tears and hard work behind it!
The reason the Tortoise won the race is he was steady in his progress and plan. He did not burn out his energy and passion by overextending himself as the Hare did. My hope is that anyone that enters this industry understands that lesson so that they are around long term.
Even though it is a childhood tale, the moral still rings true for us adults. Slow and Steady wins the prize of long term success and profitability in this industry. Do you agree? Share your comments below!
The International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP) is here to support our members long term with ongoing education and networking for success. Go to www.iahsp.com to learn more.