I recently had an online meeting with one of my appraiser clients who needed assistance building his appraisal business. He was living paycheck to paycheck and wanted to move to a higher level of success. During our conversation, he said something, though not unusual, which has really stuck with me. He said, “My neighbor is a dentist. Even my neighbor can take a 30- day vacation with his wife and kids and not lose his business over it.”
There are many individuals in the appraisal field teaching appraisers how to be better technicians. However, that is not my role. My niche is helping appraisers, who may already be great appraisers, to be better business owners. It has been my pleasure to help this man (and countless other appraiser men and women) learn how to be their own CEO. As a business owner, it is key one must understand where they can be more profitable, work less, and even take vacations.
What is the key to my success and the success of my clients? If I were to boil it down to one thing (likely a dangerous and sophomoric thing to do), it would be “treat your appraisal business like a business and not like an outgrowth of what you do.”
What does that mean? Many appraisers run an appraisal business because they have to, in order to make a living. In other words, they are an appraiser first and run a business out of necessity. What if that concept were turned on its head? What if you came to work each day with your CEO hat on first and your appraiser technician hat on second? I believe it would make all the difference.
There are three primary aspects one must investigate while looking into your appraisal livelihood. Don’t work alone, focus on what you do best, and partner up.
I was recently asked, “If you work alone, how do you take vacations?”
My answer to that question is simple, “Not very well.”
Anyone who follows my blog or podcasts knows I am not a fan of working alone. One of the biggest secrets to my success is surrounding myself with an amazing team of individuals who have a similar vision to myself. However, I also realize the reality of where most appraises find themselves. They do work alone, and they need a break just like anyone else.
If you find you work alone (or have limited help at the office), there are a few things I would suggest as far as vacationing. First, is that you do take a vacation regularly. Do not fall into the trap that so many find themselves in of always working, never recreating, and eventually burning out.
As much as possible, I would not let your clients know you are on vacation. Professional offices do not just shut down for days on end. Make it a goal to get as much done as you can before the vacation and schedule additional work for when you return, but it should be business as usual for those seeking your services. Yes, you may be “a little further out on the calendar than normal,” but they do not need to know it’s because you are on a beach somewhere with a mai-tai.
It is okay if you need to check your email and monitor phone calls while you are gone, this will just encourage you even more to hire someone for the administrative work.
Jim Collins, an author and advisor to leaders in business, is famous for saying, “Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats on the bus.” What does this mean? Hire the right people, fire the wrong people, and put your team in areas where they will thrive. Do not spend your time doing work outside of your expertise. For example; do you have a good accountant? “But Dustin, I do my own books.” And, you might be very good at it, but is it the best use of your time? I have had several bookkeepers, accountants, financial advisors, attorneys, etc. over the years. If I have learned anything it is this; you get what you pay for, so pay for the best. Too many of us look at finding a good lawyer or accountant the same way we look at shopping on Black Friday. Well, it is not the same. Cheap usually means cheap. Professionals know what they are worth, and they charge accordingly. Take time to interview. Ask around for referrals, try them out for a time without a long-term commitment. When you pay more for a professional who can do professional work, you usually end up with a better ROI than if you had tried to go on the cheap.
In general, appraisers are somewhat introverted. We like our “appraiser caves”, but is there wisdom in networking with other appraisers? One of the reasons my client’s neighbor (the dentist) could take a month-long vacation is that he had partnered with other dentists and had created a co-op of sorts. When one dentist was gone, others could take the patients and cover till the crew was back together again. Is there a similar model that appraisers can follow as well?
Certainly, there are some challenges with this due to specific client requests, but I believe (because I am living it to a point) there can and should be more in cooperation with other appraiser professionals. Relying on one another allows us to enhance profitability and enjoy some flexibility in our busy schedules.
Profitability in an appraisal office is more about thinking in terms of running a business and less about thinking in terms of being an appraiser technician. Isn’t it time to take a step back and ask yourself, “How can I be a better CEO and run a more successful appraisal business?”