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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Growing and Propelling Your Appraisal Practice - Part 2: A Business Design for Appraisal Success

By Darlene Hines, ISA CAPP

Darlene Hines, ISA CAPP
This blog is one of a three-part series of ISA NOW posts on business development. Read Part 1 by ISA President, Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg, “Growing and Propelling Your Appraisal Practice - Part 1: Time and Gatekeepers.” And stay tuned for Part 3: "Unique Business Challenges for Appraisers and Underlying Opportunities."

During my earlier years in the South, coming from a family of ten siblings and limited income, I always dreamed of having the opportunity of someday walking through big, beautiful houses. This opportunity was granted through the appraisal profession. After joining the ISA in the fall of 1997, I knew I had entered a new and exciting career. I had a very strong desire to make this business work.  

After completing the Core Courses and Antiques and Residential Contents Course in 1998, I became an Accredited Member and started appraising. My goal was to have my CAPP status (Certified Appraiser) in three years. In 2001, I received my CAPP. I would like to share a few things that worked for our business, Nostalgia Antiques Appraisal Services, LLC.

SETTING GOALS: Goals should be set high enough for you to achieve great things. A good example that has worked for me is to focus on achieving the high-value appraisal jobs while coordinating smaller ones. This may be necessary until you obtain a steady workflow. Living in a large city, I would schedule all appraisals in the same area on the same day to cut down on travel time. One day a week, I would schedule the one-to-five small-item clients in my office on the same day. I planned time each day to review my goals and my strategies for how to accomplish them.

MAKING THE GOALS EXCITING & CHALLENGING: Another goal was to become active in the ISA, but on my time. Many times we let obstacles define our destiny, so we settle for goals that may be mediocre. If your efforts are mediocre or average so too will be the payoff. When I first attended an ISA conference reception, being the only African American, it was an eye-opener to say the least. It appeared as if everyone was in groups talking to each other and I was just standing around, ready to go back to my room, thinking to myself, “Where are the people who look like me?” Then I remembered what my mother always said, “No person can determine what situation you may be in, only God, so make the best of it.” So with great enthusiasm, I began introducing myself to the people in the room, getting to know them. Over the years, I have made many great friends and contacts in ISA while serving on the Board of Directors and various committees.

NOT OVERESTIMATING THE COMPETITION AND UNDERESTIMATING MYSELF: We are better than we sometimes think. I recall my first appraisal was a client who wanted his coins appraised. I was very uncertain how to handle this situation, so I called my ISA instructor, Shirley Northern. She gave me the best advice anyone could give. She said, “you are an appraiser, the process for appraising is the same.  Take the account and call one of your ISA colleagues that appraises coins.” The light bulb had turned on.

STOPPED WAITING FOR THE PHONE TO RING AND NETWORKED: Join a structured and social networking group. Business Networking International (BNI) and my local Chamber of Commerce were good choices for me. There are BNI groups in just about every city. This is a structured networking group that meets at the same time each week, conduct a 1.5 hour meeting and pass referrals. Only one person from each profession is accepted. The Chamber of Commerce is more of a social networking group. Also, join other organizations that may have members that you are targeting. I recently attended the Financial Advisors and Estate Planners Council event at the Detroit Institute of Art (a suggestion made by Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg at Assets 2014). I met eight new attorneys and trust officers. I have recently been accepted as an associate member of this organization and received one large appraisal assignment.

Networking should be a planned, focused experience. Decide who you want to meet and build a business relationship. I plan to meet three people at every event I attend. We exchange cards, meet one to one for coffee, tea, or lunch to learn more about each other’s businesses. I also ask if we can connect on LinkedIn and Facebook. We plan another meeting a month later to continue to build the business relationship.

UTILIZING A WEBSITE & SOCIAL MEDIA: Over 60% of my business comes from my website and social media. Start a Facebook and LinkedIn page for your business. Invite your friends to “like” your Facebook business page. Be sure to log in for 15 minutes each day to check activity, respond to post and articles. Post new information helpful to your target audience and not so much about you. Log into your LinkedIn page about 15 minutes per day to make sure to follow your company, get status updates and posts. Or hire someone to do it for you.

STAYING IN FRONT OF OUR CLIENTS FOR REPEAT BUSINESS: Always send a card to your clients thanking them for their business. Follow up with a call asking for a testimonial or have them complete a survey. Make a list of your most valuable 25 clients and keep them in front of you. On the front cover of each of my appraisals, near the bottom edge I type “NEXT APPRAISAL UPDATE DUE…..” with a two-year-out date. I also put a reminder in my computer file.

RETURNING PHONE CALLS: Create a system so you are able to return calls within 24-48 hours. Many times we are too busy to return calls but taking the time is important. You may need to hire an assistant or intern. I usually help callers find other solutions if we cannot help them. Many of these callers refer us to other clients that can use our service. After all, part of our profession is being problem solvers. You never want your business to have the reputation of not returning calls. I have received several clients because the appraiser did not return the call.

MENTORING AND DEVELOPING A TEAM: We developed a team of other ISA appraisers in the area and interns that want to learn more about appraising. We plan monthly team meetings or seminars with the interns. The interns are trained to perform clerical duties during our appraisal process. The local ISA appraisers assist with research & data intake. I also team with other appraisers to complete appraisal projects.

TRYING TO DO OUR BEST WORK: Make sure your work has a professional appearance and is written to the current ISA and USPAP standards. Invest in a binding machine to give the appraisal a professional look or have it done at the office supply store. We have professional brochures and business cards, an embossing tool for our documents, and use Collectorpro software.

CONCLUSION: Many times due to adverse situations and lifestyles, we struggle to make our businesses work. Not everyone can appraise full time and may need to seek other financial options. I have given you only a few practical things that worked for me. I started this process at a time in my life when I was working full time, raising a family, working on a master’s degree, and appraising part-time. At the same time, my husband was developing the antique store business. My goal was to be a full-time appraiser at our antique store. As a result of a shift in the market a few years ago, the store is no longer operating, but our appraisal business remains. The real key to this success was faith in God; re-directing our focus, setting goals; achieving those goals hour by hour, week by week, and year by year; while remaining active within the profession; being consistent, creating excitement, and making it work.

At this stage of my life, the focus is to reach back and mentor others in the profession to be successful.

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