Top Ten Standards to Look For a Home Improvement Contractor

Finding a quality home improvement contractor is not always easy. Anybody can sell you on something that sounds great, but how can you know if you’re really dealing with a quality company? Home improvement companies come in all varieties, from shysters to newbies to companies that have been in business for decades. These ten tips will help you pick out the best fit for you no matter what kind of company, from a replacement window contractor to a roofer, you may need.

1) Does the company offer free estimates?

Never go with a company that doesn’t value a relationship with you enough to do a free estimate. When you pick a company you’ll be spending quite a bit of money with them, so they should be willing to invest a bit of time in you.

2) Does the company offer an honest estimate? Is it detailed?

Many people don’t know that there’s a difference between an estimate and a bid. A bid is a legally binding statement, while an estimate is not. Some unscrupulous companies will pitch a too-low estimate to sell to you then and then hit you on the back end with “fees” they tacked on. If you get detailed, realistic prices and time frames, you increase the odds that it’s an honest estimate. In addition, the detailed estimate gives you legal recourse if the company does work you didn’t authorize.

3) What kind of customer guarantee does the home improvement company give?

How long do you have to report problems? What kind of certification can a given home improvement contractor give you on his or her workers? What kind and quality of materials do they use? You should be asking these questions in the initial meeting and get it in writing on any contract. If the answers are vague or deceptive, run.

4) How willing is the company to work with your schedule?

Of course, you don’t necessarily want people in your home you don’t know. However, some home improvement jobs can take several days or even a couple of weeks? If the job is only on the outside, say you’re getting a roof replaced, you don’t necessarily have to be there. However, if entering your home is required, are they willing to work with your schedule?

5) Is the contractor insured, and what protection do you get out of it? Do you have any liability?

Let’s say you’re having your roof fixed and a worker falls off into your bushes, breaking his or her arm. Who’s responsible for taking that worker to the hospital, who’s responsible for paying the bill, and who ultimately is liable for what? Any decent company is insured and does not hold you liable for accidents common in the line of work. Get all liability spelled out in the contract.

6) Is the contractor truly knowledgeable in the area you want improved?

If you’re wanting energy-efficient windows replaced then a “general contractor” who’s done roofing for fifteen years probably is not the right contractor for you. Make sure the home improvement contractor you pick has plenty of in-depth detailed experience with the specific improvements you’re having done.

7) Does the company belong to the local Better Business Bureau?

BBB seals don’t always mean a lot on the Internet, but they still pull their weight locally. If, for instance, you live in Cincinnati, Ohio and you want to know a contractor’s worth, the contractor that’s part of the local Better Business Bureau has been around for years and has a reputation to maintain, while one who isn’t may be a fly-by-night company.

8) Does the company offer financing? If so, is it legitimate?

Some companies are large enough to be able to offer their own financing. Others don’t want to deal with the headache of an entire finance department. If contractor-provided financing is important to you, be clear on that when first talking to contractors. If one offers you financing, check it out thoroughly. Are they doing it in house? Do they have an arrangement with a bank? Do they charge a reasonable interest rate or too high? When do payments start? Any financing is, at heart, the extension of a line of credit. If the company isn’t doing the same checks as a credit card company, look twice.

9) Does the contractor have offices you can visit?

Some contractors are one-person specialist affairs and may even work out of a home office, while others are larger companies with their own offices. No matter what kind or size of contractor you’re dealing with, you should be able to visit an office. You’re not going to get home improvement from a company across the country, you’re going to get it locally. Therefore, their physical offices should be accessible and professional. If you can’t visit their office the company could easily be a fly-by-night operation to take your deposit and disappear.

10) Can you get references you can look up and call on your own? Would any references be willing to have you visit to see examples of the home improvement company’s work?

This one should be a no-brainer, but all too often it’s a detail that gets overlooked in the furor of home improvement contracting. Can you see examples of their work? Can to talk to people they’ve done work for in the past? Just one reference doesn’t cut it, nor do three who you can’t find in the phone book. Anyone can pretend to be three different people, and it’s easy to get call forwarding for three different numbers.

The Home Based Business Explosion Is Upon Us!

INTRODUCTION

Perhaps I should start by asking the question “What is a Home Based Business? This is any business operated from the comfort of the residential home of the owner.

The next question is who is a Home Based Business owner? This refers to an Entrepreneur who decides to run his business from the comfort of his home.

I decided to clarify these terms because there is a huge difference between a Home Based Business owner and a Home worker who might be working with a government/private organization but decides to be working from home once or twice during the week.

Evolution of Home based Business

Many businesses operated from home usually start as a Micro or Small Enterprise. Some eventually metamorphose into Medium Scale Enterprise and others eventually grow into quite large companies.

The desire by Entrepreneurs to start operating businesses from home actually started in the 1980s. During this period, a lot of things combined to precipitate this massive desire by people to own Home based businesses.

In the main, the combination of many factors like socio- economic change, improved technology and new management thinking resulted in the loss of otherwise permanent paid employment and this encouraged people to attempt to revalidate their freedom by opting to set up a business at home.

The advent of new management thinking and theories like downsizing to make an organization Lean and more agile and efficient created fears in the mind of the average worker

So mass lay- offs helped create the right environment for some workers to go it alone and set up a Home based business.

The period of late 1990 to 2010 can be appropriately described as the period of massive explosion in the establishment of businesses at home. The use of Computer, Internet and Mobile Technology helped in the growth of this idea.

I strongly believe the idea of setting up business at home will continue to be positive and will remain so for a long time.

The continued upsurge in the desire of people to own businesses has attracted the attention of Universities and other higher institutions. They have responded by introducing different courses and programs on Entrepreneurial studies to cater for these needs.

Unlike earlier belief that businesses run from home are not well managed and don’t make good money, the present situation is that many Entrepreneurs motivated to set up business at home now have college degrees including a lot of high level professionals with business exposure.

The entrepreneurial spirit is innate in all of us and we only need to be adequately motivated to take the necessary action.

It’s really an exciting world out there.

THE HOME BASED BUSINESS EXPLOSION

As stated earlier, though the crave for running businesses from home started way back in the 1980s, what can be termed the explosion of this way of doing business was between the late 1990s and the first decade of the new millennium.(2010+)

This coincided with the time when the setting up of a Home based business became a Fad. According to Mr Lewis of the National Association of Home Based Businesses, Home based business in the United States grew from about 6 million in 1984 to 23 million by 2007.

With the help of modern technology like computers, mobile phones, printers and the huge power of the internet, more work is being done virtually than ever before and more global businesses are routinely being run from home.

According to the 2012 GEM report, 69 percent of American entrepreneurs start their business at home from either a spare room in the house, the dining table or from the garage. The report further revealed that more than 50 percent of entrepreneurs continue to operate from home even after the business has taken off successfully and stabilized.

Again according to Mr. Lewis of the National Association of Home Based Businesses, his own companies do training in 20 countries, import eyeglass frames from China and also develop condominiums.

Mr. Nuyten of the Home Based Business Statistics in America quoted the following statistics as at 2012:

38 million Businesses were operating from residential homes in America

A new business is started from home every 12 seconds in the United States

The Home Based Business sector in the United States earned Four Hundred and Twenty Seven billion dollars.

It revealed that 70 percent of Americans would like to be self- employed.

Entrepreneurship has become entrenched in the psyche of the average person. The Baylor University study of 2005 revealed then that more than 5 million jobs had been lost in Fortune 500 companies since 1980 while 34 million were created in small businesses.

The United States Census Bureau data of October 2012, also revealed that the number of businesses being operated from home have been on the rise since 1999.

The United Kingdom Experience

The continued growth in the Home based business sector appears to be a global phenomenon as the report from the United Kingdom will show shortly.

The United Kingdom department of Business, Innovation and Skills released a report titled ” Backing for Home Business” which revealed that 2.9 million home based businesses in the United Kingdom contributed 300 billion pounds sterling to the UK economy. The report also stated that 70 percent of all new businesses in the United Kingdom started from home.

According to Home Business report compiled by Enterprise Nation, 1,400 new businesses are started from home each week.

This report also confirmed that out of a total of 4.5 million small and medium enterprises, 2.1 million are Home based businesses.

Factors contributing to the growth of Home Based Businesses

There are many factors motivating people to set up Home based businesses such as:

  • Losing one’s job

Being laid off in a time of economic downturn could be very devastating. With difficulty in getting new job offers, the next best thing would be to start a Home based business.

  • Flexible lifestyle

You are your own Boss. Literally, you can come and go as you please. You maintain better work/family balance. There are no set opening and closing times. You go for lunch and vacation when you feel like

  • Reduction in Stress level

The daily commuting, especially with the present heavy fuel costs is avoided. Also those train/bus rides to and from work with all sorts of characters is avoided.

  • No corporate office politics

You are not thinking of how to always please the boss and climb the corporate ladder. You don’t have to engage with difficult colleagues. Best of all, there are no dress codes.

  • Cheaper start up and running costs

It’s cheaper to set up a Home based business. A serious entrepreneur can get started with just $5,000. The main requirements could just be a computer, mobile phone, printer and a good internet connection. No rent of physical store space.

  • Secondary Income

Some entrepreneurs set up business at home to bring in extra income to support a day job. Some people start the business as a part time hobby. Eventually the business may become very successful and the entrepreneur will now take the decision to resign from the day job.

  • Be your own boss

You are your own boss. You have the freedom to do things the way you want. There is nobody breathing down your neck reminding you of targets.

  • Job dissatisfaction

An otherwise loyal employee may become unhappy with the company for lack of promotion and motivation. The next thought is to set up a Home based business.

  • Opportunity to achieve Self actualization

Having your own business gives you the opportunity to make as much money as you desire. This of course depends on how much money you want to make and the amount of time and effort you decide to invest in the business.

Advantages of running a business from home

The desire to get out of the rat race, avoid the daily grind coupled with the power of modern technology make telecommuting more productive.

Together with some of the factors already mentioned above, listed below are more advantages:

  • Tax advantages

You can deduct some of your expenses as business expenses. These could be utility bills, insurance, mortgage and property tax.

  • Opportunities for Professional improvement

It is safe to assume that with the day to day running of your business, you will develop more business management skills.

  • Multiple streams of Income

With more time to yourself and the freedom to follow your lead, you can decide to explore other areas of interest and create multiple streams of income.

Disadvantages of running a business from home.

In spite of the almost glamorous attraction of Entrepreneurship, there are some disadvantages which must be effectively managed in order to improve the chances of success.

  • Irregular Income

For some one that had been used to regular pay checks, having to go through some weeks without income could be a huge challenge.

  • Lack of adequate space

This could arise where work sometimes spills into the home space

  • Nearness of Family and Friends

The nearness of family and friends could become a distraction if not properly managed.

  • Lack of Fringe benefits

Fringe benefits like health and dental insurance and paid vacations which were hitherto being enjoyed in paid employment are no longer available.

  • Friction with neighbors

The type of business you are involved in could create friction with neighbors due to noise pollution and lack of packing space

  • Health Issues

Staying glued to the computer screen and in a small space may affect health and fitness. So try and create time for exercise and recreation.

CONCLUSION

So as the French would say Voila! There you are! The idea of starting a business at home has become engraved in the mind of people. Every day, people are starting thousands of businesses in their residences all over the world.

Though there are disadvantages in running a business from home, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Some industry watchers believe that crave for setting up businesses at home is waning and the general trend could be heading downwards.

However, I personally believe that the trend can only continue northwards. Why? Because I see all the indices still pointing positive. The factors that motivate people to set up Home based business are still very much around. There are still massive lay- offs going on in many companies and workers are still feeling short changed by employers.

To crown it all, the technological tools like Computers, Mobile Phones, Printers and the Internet which assist Home Based Business owners to work smarter and achieve more with lesser effort are still evolving.

Therefore I’m of the view that the trend of setting up businesses at home is still on the upward swing.

So, how about you? What do you think? Is the trend moving up or going down.

Let’s have your thoughts.

Improving Your Home Based Business Efficiency

Home based business proprietors must be constantly thinking about ways to improve the efficiency of their business ventures. If you have some standardized, documented, flexible business goals and operational procedures, it is not difficult for you to achieve high levels of efficiency in your home based business.

In the absence of clear guidelines and operational procedures, your employees or team members will do things differently and your business will be unorganized with your work being done on an ad hoc basis. Your business will run much more efficiently if you simply put in place a standardize set of operational procedures. This is best done prior to actually putting your business in operation.

At the same time remember to use caution in not making your procedures to elaborate and specific, otherwise, you risk having your employees and team members take shortcuts to minimize their work. Shortcuts if planned and dovetailed into a standard operational plan could increase efficiency, however, shortcuts which are simply put into action on an ad hoc basis generally only serves the interests of the individual employee and may actually sabotage the team efforts causing serious problems within the company.

This article is intended to help you to develop some suitable and easy to use procedures that may enhance the overall efficiency of your home based business.

Understanding:

It is imperative that successful businesses follow a set of standardized rules and policies. Setting up these rules can be accomplished by analyzing each and every aspect of your business very closely. Primarily you will need to have a clear understanding of the job function of each team member including yourself before developing your rules and operational procedures.

Productivity is critical to the success of your business. To achieve productivity requires team work to insure a smooth start to finish accomplishment of the entire project. To maintain efficiency and to maintain good employee relations, you will need to implement a feedback system so that team members can identify operational problems and get credit for their input. A happy work force will increase the efficiency of the business ten fold compared to an unhappy disgruntled work force. Careful study and attention to daily operations will help you to identify problem areas and will allow you to fine-tune the procedures in a timely fashion thereby enhancing the efficiency of your business enterprise.

Allow Team Member Input:

People are individuals and as such, they generally work at their own pace and style. For efficiency sake, you should allow individuals to seek their own level of involvement within the business environment as long as it achieves the overall company goals. You should allow a certain amount of flexibility and variation within the job function. You should not try to control every aspect of your employees and team members’ work by imposing strict supervision if it is not absolutely necessary.

If you allow your team and employees to primarily work at their own pace, within reasonable limits, they will enjoy their work more and will make positive contributions towards increasing the efficiency of your home based business.

Assessing Your Efficiency:

Your personal efficiency is also critical to the successful operation of your business. You should make optimum use of every minute of your workday. Review your work style from time to time and see if there is any scope for improvement. Seek out specialized supervisory training to improve your managerial skills. Attend trade shows to learn new techniques to dovetail into your business. Seek out feedback from your customers to get their perspective so that you can take corrective measures whenever required.

Being Systematic:

It pays to be systematic in your work place. To run your business smoothly you need to maintain a good filing system so that you will be able to locate specific documents without wasting time. That way you will be able to conduct your work without delays. To improve efficiency you can also delegate some work to other team members. Doing so will not only increase efficiency, it will also improve their moral by showing that you trust them to perform above their job levels. Your trust in your team will instill confidence in them.

Efficiency generally means getting your product from start to finish and delivered to your customer in a timely manner while maintaining high quality and generating customer loyalty and repeat business. Constant monitoring of your entire start to finish operation will enable you to cross-check and rule out the possibility of errors and inefficiencies in your home based business.

What You Should Know Before You Hire A Home Improvement Contractor (Part II)

In my previous post: “What You Should Know Before You Hire A Home Improvement Contractor,” I gave some tips on how to select the right Contractor for your project. Do not become the next victim.

Prior to hiring a Home Improvement Contractor (HIC), make sure to call the department or municipality that licensed that Contractor or business. I encourage you to call the Better Business Bureau also to see if that Contractor have or had any complaints. If you had a free estimate or quote from a Home Improvement Salesman (HIS) representing a Contractor or business, make sure that he or she is also licensed by calling the department or Municipality that licensed that business. Ask for identification such as a driver’s license and HIC/HIS license with a picture. If they don’t have a driver’s license or any kind of picture ID, it is very likely that they are bogus, and you should refrain from letting them in your home.

If you were offered financing through a Bank or a third party lender that the Home Improvement Company recommended, make sure you do not sign or execute any blank documents. Some HIC/HIS may ask you to fill out a credit application so they can check your credit profile to see if you are qualified for a home improvement loan. Keep in mind that such check will show up on your credit report as an inquiry which may lower your credit score. However, if you were advised that you were approved for such loan, make sure you thoroughly read the Retail Installment Obligation. Look at what interest rate you were assigned or charged, the monthly payment, amount of months, and most importantly, the total amount of payment. The total amount of payment is the amount you financed plus the interest added over the months or duration of the loan. You may also want to ask the HIC/HIS if there are any prepayment penalties or whether the loan will be recorded as a second mortgage to your property.

If you are a Veteran or a member of a Credit Union, you may be entitled to a much lower interest rate. Shop around with your banks before you jump for a home improvement loan. Know your rights as a consumer and invoke them accordingly. You have the right to be selective. Let no one pressure or strong arm you into signing a contract. Always take time out to think about it, discuss it with family members, or consult your attorney prior to executing a contract, which you may be bound by once you signed or executed such. In most cases, after the third business day elapsed, if you didn’t cancel, there is a valid and enforceable contract.