Founder of Staged4more.
Are you obsessively using data to track key metrics in your home staging business? You’ll be surprised to learn that some of the most successful home staging businesses rely on their numbers to be more effective.
Today’s guest is Elaine Penhaul, an award-winning home stager and the owner of Lemon + Lime Interiors in the UK. She has a full team of salespeople, movers, and stagers, but she’s also wildly passionate about data and believes it’s an essential marketing tool for every home staging business.
You’ll hear more about Elaine’s incredible app, Stageflow, and how tracking a set of key metrics for every staging project has helped her become a more effective home stager. We also talk about the importance of creating case studies, the gap Elaine is filling with Stageflow, along with the plateaus of running a home staging business (and why you need to be thinking about your exit strategy!)
Elaine introduces herself and shares more about their special niche in the market, which is big, country homes (00:07:20)
What it’s like to service the entire United Kingdom as a home staging company (00:09:33)
How Elaine’s mathematical and data-driven background inspired her to launch her own app, Stageflow (00:10:44)
Elaine reveals the key metrics she collects for each project, and how it helps her become a more effective stager (00:13:34)
The difference between “heart” vs. “head” thinkers among home sellers and real estate agents (00:15:55)
The importance of figuring out the language our clients are speaking (00:19:11)
Elaine breaks down how she creates powerful case studies from every property that they stage (and why being a storyteller is so critical) (00:21:31)
Inside Elaine’s sales team, who are all former estate agents! (00:25:53)
The challenges of convincing a “uneducated” UK market about the benefits of investing in home staging (00:27:38)
Elaine shares her typical workflow, from referral to installation day (00:30:39)
The “win rate” Elaine sees and what they’re tracking in their CRM system (00:33:54)
The gap Elaine is filling in the home staging market with Stageflow (00:41:55)
Our home staging business is only as successful as our systems, operations, and financials (00:46:30)
Why we need to be thinking about the inevitable plateaus we’ll face in business, along with our exit strategy (00:52:15)
Elaine says we can’t make important decisions off of gut instincts – this is why tracking our data is so important! (00:57:24)
Elaine’s #1 tip when it comes to tracking data in your home staging business? Track obsessively. (00:58:24)
Elaine’s website: https://www.lemonandlimeinteriors.co.uk
Elaine’s app, Stageflow: https://www.stagercon.com/stageflow
Elaine’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/lemonandlimeinteriors/
Elaine’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lemonandlimeinteriors/
Elaine’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/company/lemonandlimeinteriors/
Learn more about our partner, Stageflow: https://www.stagercon.com/stageflow Stageflow provides real estate agents, property developers, and home stagers with powerful data collection and reporting tools.
Enroll in our upcoming marketing workshops for home stagers. Learn how to market your home staging business online and build a marketing plan that gets staging clients.
Join me and Elaine on one of our upcoming home stager retreats! Join us in Florence, Italy from September 17-22, 2023, or in Tuscany, Italy from September 23-30, 2023. Click here to learn more! We will be opening the sign up soon. These retreats are designed to elevate your staging business by aligning your action plan for the next 12 months with the goals and dreams you have for your business and your life.
Apply to speak at this year’s StagerCon! Our theme for 2023 is how to build multiple streams of income in your home staging business.
[00:00:00] You’re listening to the Home Staging Show podcast. I’m your host Cindy Lin. This is a show where talking about all things real estate home staging, how to create vibrant and thriving home staging business. Welcome back to the show. This episode 170.
[00:00:21] Before we start the show today, here is a message from our sponsor.
[00:00:26] We all need powerful statistics to convince potential clients of the benefits of home staging. Stageflow takes away the pain of having to filter spreadsheets or doing calculations. You enter what you know about every sale of the homes that you’ve staged and let stage flow do the rest Easy. Real-time statistics for the home staging market.
[00:00:50] Hey, welcome back to our very first full episode of 2023. I’m thrilled to have Elaine back on the show today. We’ve been collaborating for a bunch last year, and if you remember Elaine from our previous podcast, she has an absolute amazing staging business in the UK with a four team, including salespeople, movers, and srs.
[00:01:08] And what I find that’s very amazing is that they’re able to service the entire country of United Kingdom. That’s just absolutely wild for. Elaine not only was one of the winners of our 2021 International Home staging Awards should also create an app called Stage Flow, which collects data and stats in your staging business.
[00:01:26] All these stats help to convince real estate agents and home sellers that they want to work with us to understand the power of staging and its return on investment in a competitive market. Data is really your unique selling position and will help you to stand out and win business. If you’re interested in finding out more about Sage Flow, just go to sr con.com/sage flow and you can find out more information about the app itself.
[00:01:48] It’s a pretty cool app actually, and they’re in the process of adding more to it and one of our participants for last year’s international retreat last year, they use it and she’s pretty happy with it. So it’s something that you can look into in your business if your business is a bit for a loan that has a lot of stats and data to track.
[00:02:06] I think this is really a product for more mature stages who have being in the High five figure and also six figure as well, or even beyond. And speaking of StagerCon for this year, our theme is going to be building multiple strings of income in your staging business. And we are doing an open call for speakers.
[00:02:24] So if you’re interested, just go to stagercon.com and you’ll be able to find the speaking application. And speaking of retreats, Elaine and I will be teaching two retreats this year in Italy. We taught one together last year in Sicily, and that was absolutely amazing. We have so much fun. We got two retreats for you this year to choose from, one in the Tuscany countryside and the other one in Florence.
[00:02:45] These retreats are really designed for you to elevate your staging business by aligning your action plan for the next 12 months. With the goals and dreams you have for your business and your life. So during the entire week, we’re gonna be working on that. So all the master classes and workshop are tailored for that exact purpose.
[00:03:02] We are also gonna have one-on-one. You’re gonna have one-on-one with Elaine and also have one-on-one with me. So there’s gonna be jam-packed, a lot of information as well. And obviously we’re gonna have a free day so you can decompress during the week and also explore the amazing country of Italy. And all of our participants have been doing amazing.
[00:03:21] I’m really proud of them. It’s always great to see their updates on Instagram. I just love seeing them. It’s really exciting for me to watch. So if you’re interested in joining us for the retreat this year, I highly encourage to do so. The retreat registration is out right now, so if you’re interested, definitely sign up before it sells out.
[00:03:38] I do think after last year, we have a lot of great and positive responses, so we’re gonna get a lot of people to come. We got two workshops left in our live workshop series on marketing. Next week’s workshop, we’re gonna talk about marketing your home staging business online. So we’re gonna be diving into email marketing, especially building an organic relationship with your client, whether it is potential new client, but also existing client as well.
[00:04:02] We’re also gonna talk about blogging, which is really critical for search engine optimization and obviously social media. And we’re also gonna talk about how to use automation and AI that’s right, artificial intelligence to save you time and money. If you’re interested in the workshop, find out more on our site at staged4more.com/workshop.
[00:04:20] If you want, you can still sign up for the full series because the replays are available for you to catch up. And as a bonus, you’re gonna get an extended replay period plus a bonus coaching call in the second quarter. This is because we wanna see how you’ve been doing with your execution of your marketing plan and also see how we can make tweaks to make sure it works for you better for the third and the fourth quarter.
[00:04:42] So for this year, I’m doing something a little bit different in terms of live workshop, or at least the one I’m teaching. It’s because I think it’s important to get more engagement and also execution as well. One of the things I’ve found with courses is that a lot of times people are doing the courses, it’s great, but they’re not actually carving the time out to actually creating plans and action steps to make those things happen.
[00:05:06] So this is why for our live marketing workshop series, we are attaching an office hour for every single workshop. And this is also why we really want to dive into things like retreats. Cause we really see their transformation when people take the time to make sure they’re doing the strategic work in their staging business in order for it to grow and scale.
[00:05:25] That’s really the important work. As you grow your staging business, your role within your business is gonna change. In the beginning. You’re the C E O, right? You’re the chief everything officer. You are not only the business owner, you are also the janitor. So you’re doing everything in the business, but as your business expands, your role needs to be higher and higher up.
[00:05:46] So you need to be focusing on the high level strategy work for your staging business, especially once you hit six figure. So it’s really important to take the time out and then to create those actions and making sure you’re following up on those actions. You’re doing them and refining them as you go.
[00:06:04] And this is why we’re doing things like retreats and also live workshop series to create more engagement and making sure you are taking the time out to do those things, to apply that into your home aging business. For me,
as an educator, it is important for me that obviously we need to make money to generate income for the business to keep it running, but at the end of the day, it really, it’s about the students.
[00:06:27] It’s about you creating transformation for your home staging business. So this is why we are trying different format to make sure we’re getting more engagement and more return on investment for you when you’re taking our courses. And lastly, this is a little bit unbelievable to talk about, but we are turning 17.
[00:06:45] That’s right. I started Staged4more in 2006 as a home staging business. In 2017, we officially switched over to our international school home staging. And on the 28th of this month is our 17th anniversary for Staged4more, which is really crazy to think about. We’re gonna be doing a little bit something, something about that to celebrate.
[00:07:05] So make sure you’re on our email list and or follow us on Instagram, because that’s where we’re gonna announce everything. All right. So without further ado, let’s start the show.
[00:07:20] Hi Elaine. Welcome back to the show. So for our listeners, we’re still new to the show. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and also your home staging business?
[00:07:28] Hi Cindy. Lovely to be back with you again. Really excited to be here. Thank you for having me. I’m the founder of Lemon & Lime Interiors. We are a leading UK home staging business, and we specialize in getting properties in the premium end of the market ready for sale.
[00:07:50] We work with lots of high end estate agents, people like Knight and Frank, SS fine country, and lots of local independent agents. And we work really hard, achieving sales, which are generally up to four times faster and about 15% higher offers than other properties in the UK and with UK state agents.
[00:08:17] So what kind of homes do you normally stage and then what are usually their price point?
[00:08:22] So our niche in the market, and I do think it’s really important that stages choose a niche in the market. Our niche in the market is generally. Big country homes. So we work mostly outside the cities and we work with both period properties and new build properties. So we might be working one day in something that’s called the old rectory in a very nice village and helping somebody that is still living in the property to do a big downsize.
[00:08:55] So lots of decluttering, lots of styling with their own furniture, and we are adding in accessories and soft furnishing, that kind of thing. And then the next day we could be working in a very nice new build property, again, generally on very small sites. So that the houses are going out, our average price point is a million pounds, UK pounds, and we go up to pretty much anything going upwards downwards.
[00:09:26] We don’t tend to do very much under five or 600,000 pounds. That’s great, and I think one of the most impressive thing I find with your business is you service an entire country or United Kingdom. I think that is quite impressive. . We do. We’re very lucky actually, because we’re based in the Midlands, and that means that we’ve got really good motorway access to the majority of the country without too much difficulty.
[00:09:54] Also, of course, because the UK is so much smaller than the US then the market isn’t so diverse, I think, and the distances that we are covering. Tend to be an hour, two hours away. If we do something that’s a really, at the other end of the country, we’re still only talking about four or five hours. So to be national in the UK I think is much easier than it is in the US or even in a lot of countries in Europe.
[00:10:25] Yeah, and I think one of the things I really love about your business, and I think you’re also one of the most unique stagers I know because not a lot of stagers I know actually have a sales team, and you’re also able to develop product as well, which is stage flow, which was also one of the sponsors for Stager Con 2022.
[00:10:44] So let’s talk a little bit about Sage Flow. What inspire you to create this app? I am very unusual, I think in the staging world because my background, I’m a mathematician by background, so my degree was in maths. One of my early careers I’ve had a lot, was actually teaching maths and secondary school.
[00:11:04] That means that data is really important to me, and the numbers in the business have always been really important to me. As a result, we have collected data about the properties that we’ve worked with and generally everything that we could work out in the business. We’ve collected the data right from the beginning of the business, and I set it up as a standalone business in 2015.
[00:11:34] What we were doing at one point was collecting all of that data on spreadsheets, and so in order to be able to tell my vendors or my potential clients exactly how we were able to help them, I was able to numerically say to them, right, this is the numerical evidence for what we do. And that really, really has made a difference to our marketing.
[00:12:01] And it’s one of the things that makes us stand out dramatically from the competition. Originally, we were collecting the data on spreadsheets, and I was then going your way and having to filter the data to provide evidence to particular potential clients of ours. And that became, as we got more and more data, it became more and more unwieldy.
[00:12:24] So what we then did was to create a series of dashboards, if you like. So we worked with a developer to create a series of dashboards. That, again, was great for me, but actually, unless you were quite numerically literate, was very difficult to read. And from there, the next step of that was stage flow, which was to create an.
[00:12:48] That allows somebody who actually is creative, which as you know is most stages are on the creative side, rather than the side of needing to look at data and the quantitative analysis of something. So we created stage flow as a very easy in to staging data that anybody, you don’t have to be numerical to be able to get benefit from it.
[00:13:13] I love that. I’m always really fascinated about what people collect for their data, for their staging business. We had a student coach couple years ago, and he used to be an operations manager for a seven figure home staging business, and he told me he tracks on average 60 data points per transaction. I was really curious, what data do you collect from beginning to finish for each project?
[00:13:38] For us, the key metrics that we collect are whether or not the property’s been on the market prior to the estate agent, the real estate agent coming to us to get it staged. As you know, in the uk, staging isn’t a normal part of the sales process yet, and sometimes often properties will be staged after they’ve already been on the market for a little while with one real estate agent who will then lose the instruction and somebody else will win the instruction.
[00:14:15] Or win the listing and they will. Then often the second agent is often the one that gets the stager involved, so we’ll track the time that it’s been on the market without a sale before it’s staged. Then we’ll track the time f
rom when it was staged to when the first acceptable opera on it was received.
[00:14:36] We’ll track sale price against the list price so that we know the difference that staging’s making in terms of the eventual the end sale value of the property. We track how much staging costs we track, things like how many bedrooms, obviously, location of the property, how big the property is. So square footage of the property so that we have all of that to then analyze so that we know.
[00:15:07] So for us, you know, whether 4,000 square foot properties in data share are in general at this point in time, selling for 10% over the list price, or 3% over the list price in the last six months. So because we track all that data, we know that. I think that’s great. I think it’s really important to understand how effective you are as a stager.
[00:15:31] I mean, obviously there’s many factors that goes into the sale of the home, right? We’re obviously part of the contribution, not all, but I think it’s also really important to use data to work with our potential clients so they understand the transformational power of staging. And I think you have done a really good job of that because UK is like, for staging, UK is fairly new still.
[00:15:53] So how do you work with agents and sellers and investors and builders who are not yet familiar with staging? How do you utilize data to convince them to work with you? As you say, the UK staging industry is very, And we still have a big job around educating real estate agents around developers and also home sellers, so that home sellers, my ideal really is to get home sellers to be demanding, staging, demanding much better advice about presentation of their properties before they come onto the market.
[00:16:32] Home sellers and estate agents fall into two categories, really, as for the general population. So some of them are what we would refer to as heart thinkers, so they think with their emotional side, and those are the people who can see beautiful photographs and see or walk into a property that smells nice.
[00:16:52] It’s got beautiful furniture in everything, looks right, and will buy a property on an emotional decision. The other part of the population is very much a head thinker. They’ll be able to say, yes, it looks amazing, and what’s the evidence that making it look amazing actually makes a difference to the sale?
[00:17:14] And so stage flow and being able to provide reports that come from the collated data. So lots of stages, put their information into stage flow. It then collates that data so nobody can see one another’s data, but the app collates that data and then provides reports that say in this area, in this price bracket over the last, whatever the filters you put in for time, then stage properties have sold for X percentage above list price have sold in X days as opposed to Y days, which is usually much longer for unstaged properties.
[00:18:01] And that’s really important that we are capturing. The population that need the evidence need the numerical evidence around the effectiveness of staging. We are not just dealing with people who are looking at it from an emotional perspective. Yeah, I think that’s really important because I think especially with real estate agents, they’re definitely more data driven minded and also that’s how they’re trained.
[00:18:29] And so as stager, when we market ourselves, we need to be on the same level or speak the same language as our client, where sellers gonna be more emotional driven. I think like what you talk about, like more heart centric. Um, that’s why, you know, there are buyers who will write letters to sellers. For example, my cousin was selling their house a few years ago and then somebody was expressing a child.
[00:18:53] So they gave them a picture of their sonogram, to the seller and things like that. But my cousin was definitely more data person. He was like, I don’t care about your baby, sorry, . For me, it’s like, how can I really maximize my sale? So the different communication style is important. We need to figure out what exactly is that kind of language our client is speaking.
[00:19:16] Yeah, that’s so true. And it’s not a one or the other. It’s a both. Because often in a family, so as a potential client, somebody a home seller, there’ll be either a couple or there’ll be two or three people involved. And each of those people involved in the decision about whether to engage staging service or not will think in a slightly different way and stages in general, think from an emotional perspective and.
[00:19:52] Will assume that their potential clients need the emotional version or the creative version of why staging works, and then they’re missing potentially a big chunk of their potential market by not being able to give them reliable data. So what we know is that collecting the data, filtering the data, making those reports, if you are doing it for yourself as a business, it’s really difficult.
[00:20:22] And that’s why we created stage flow. It takes away the pain points, it takes away the difficulty of creating statistical evidence for stages, and an individual stager can still get their own individual statistics from stage flow. So there are two ways. It reports either on the collated data of everything that’s been put in there, or as an individual staging business.
[00:20:50] You can tick the box that says, report lemon line data only, and it will just pull up my data. So if I think my data is better than that of the general population in a particular area, then I’ll pull up mine and report on it. If I think that it’s more effective to be reporting for a particular client on a wider scale, then I’ll just leave my box, my account box unticked for that particular report.
[00:21:20] So I think one of the things that you said earlier that was interesting is that you were using data as a unique selling point of your home aging business. Can you talk a little bit about that? Like how do you leverage data in your marketing and also I think one of the challenges for sellers, for example, data is very abstract.
[00:21:39] So how do we make that more accessible for. The way that we use data to make it as accessible as possible is to create case studies from every property that we stage. So we’ll create a case study with data aligned to it. So we’ll do three things in a case study. We’ll tell the story of the family or the home seller and we’ll change names and so on to anonymize it.
[00:22:08] But we’ll tell the story of the difference that getting the. Staged made to their sale. And in particular, the difference that getting the house sold quickly made to their life because all of us are helping people aren’t. We move on to the next life stage, whatever that life stage is. And so we’ll tell that story in words and we’ll surround that by the pictures.
[00:22:35] So by the before and after versions of what we’ve actually achieved in this staging. And I think there are a lot of stages that do a similar thing, particularly around the pictures, but telling the story engages people. People love stories. You know, as humans we love stories. We really attach to stories.
[00:22:54] And then the third thing that we’ll do is to take all the numbers that we’ve got for the property. So it might. How long it was on
the market before the staging. It might be how many viewings it got. It might be how many offers it achieved that were acceptable offers. It might be then how quickly it sold and how much above list price it sold.
[00:23:15] So by doing those three things together, it’s a really, really powerful marketing tool for us. If I just want to use a quick version of data, I have stage flow on my phone so I can log in standing in the kitchen. And I remember doing it with an estate agent quite recently, standing in the kitchen with him of a property that he was trying to get the instruction on.
[00:23:42] So he wanted to be able to sell the property and was having to convince the seller that he wanted the instruction and also that it needed a little bit of help with the presentation first. And I was able to just pull up stage flow on my phone and say to him, look, In this area, in this type of property in the last six months, this is how much better.
[00:24:06] This is the difference that staging has made and I, because stage flow pulls up that report just on my phone, it was a two minute exercise for me to say, Jim, look, this is the difference we can make. This will be the cost to your client. More or less. This is the difference that we’ll make. And so very quickly able to convince at the pitch that my pitch stage, if you like, to a new client, exactly what we can do that will make a difference.
[00:24:35] Love that. Cause I think that’s one of the things I love about you and the way you market. I actually use your website to demo a lot when I talk about staging websites because under your portfolio, individual homes all have a case study attached to it. And in the states, for example, when real estate agents, they’re pitching their listing services to potential home sellers, they send in this thing called A C M A, which is a comparative market analysis report.
[00:25:03] And the way you structure your case study looks a lot like essentially what. The agent will hand in to their seller, potential seller, and I think that’s really important. Like we talk about communication style, having the photos and having the story, you’re fulfilling those people who are really need the context, they need the heartstrings, you know, need the visual to really see the impact and transformational power staging.
[00:25:27] And then you also have the stats that really appeal to the people who need the data. And so having a case study is great because it’s very well rounded in terms of it gives everyone a little bit something that they need in order to help them to be convinced that staging is the right way to go, and specifically your staging company is the right way to go.
[00:25:47] Especially not a lot of stagers right now are really doing that. And I think understanding how, especially real estate agents work is important because then we understand how can we communicate better and how we can market better. To them. Yeah, and I think that’s absolutely true. I’m very lucky because as you rightly said earlier, I have a dedicated sales team, and my sales team are all ex estate agents.
[00:26:16] So they have the language, they have the language because that’s what they’ve been trained in and that’s what they were doing before they came into staging. And of course, the very funny conversations that we’ve had in the kind of recruitment process, because to start with certainly Kate, who now heads up my sales team to start with, thought that selling staging to clients when she was still an estate agent would be a really difficult thing to do because at that point it was a very, very new concept in the UK market.
[00:26:48] And about four years on, she then came into my team and now heads up my sales team. So really a really big change. But of course, you know, she then brought her network of the estate agents with her. And we’ve then employed other estate agents into the sales team because the language is right and they have credibility in that market as well.
[00:27:11] Not to mention, they also have the network. They already know all the agents in town. They work with them. And so I think coming from that, essentially it’s like a referral, isn’t it? It’s it’s warm. The relationship is already there. And because it’s coming from someone they already know and they sing, they know how staging works and they’re on your team, so it makes it more convincing for them to invest that relationship with you.
[00:27:36] That’s absolutely true, and I think one of the. It’s both a disadvantage and an advantage that because staging is so new to UK Estate agents, we as a business have had to work extremely hard to get our marketing right because we have to do on a daily basis. We are not just convincing home sellers that they need to use us.
[00:28:01] We’re convincing a very uneducated UK estate agency market about the benefits of staging and we’ve had to grow everything at it in terms of how we do that marketing. And I strongly believe that once the UK Estate Agency market. Hatches up with the fact that staging is a really, really good thing. Then we have positioned ourselves as a business very well because we’ve worked so hard to get the tools in place to say, and while we’re here, you know, while you’re here, we are the best of doing this , and that’s important for any business, I think, to make sure that even when it’s tough, you’re still creating the collateral if you like, that’s going to keep convincing people over and over and over again, and that the data you’re giving them and the way that you present the idea of what you do is absolutely consistent and really,
[00:29:01] Yeah, I totally agree with that. I think it’s so important, like I think most stagers new ones coming in, they don’t actually realize how much education we have to do with our clients. Because for me, I worked in San Francisco Bay area, and obviously staging is very mature here, but they’re still sellers and agents who don’t really understand what staging is, that we still have to educate.
[00:29:23] So they might think staging, oh, it’s just something like the clear countertop when we put a few photo frames here and there and that’s it. That’s all we need. So they’re gonna pay someone 500 bucks to quote unquote Stia entire house where they’re just really putting things on countertops. So they’re still a bit of education, even in mature market that we have to do as stagers to make sure that the clients understand what we’re trying to do here.
[00:29:49] And then what is this objective? And the other thing too is training the client how we want them to work with us. I think that’s also important. Also, not. Talked about most of the time, I think within the education space. And I think for you, you have a sales team, and that’s really interesting because in a way, your business structure is very compartmentalized.
[00:30:12] You have movers, you have stagers, you have Kirsty who does everything for your right hand woman. But most of the time when I talk to Elaine, she’s like, oh, they just, can you text Kirsty of slides? You need slides? Oh, can you let Kirsty know? Kristy does everything. And then even when we’re on Zoom meetings, sometimes Kirsty pops in with cakes and tea.
[00:30:34] I’m like, that’s amazing. And then you also have sales team. So can you talk a little bit about workflow? What does a workflow like for you guys on the staging proces
s? And then how early on in your workflow does your data tracking begin? First of all, I think it’s really important as business owners that we understand what it is that we are good at and what it is that it’s probably more cost effective to pay somebody else to do.
[00:31:03] And I am really good at big picture, really good at ideas, really good at seeing things as an overall piece. And I am really, really, really, really rubbish at the detail and of just sitting down to put slides together. Of course I can do it, you know, I’m quite techy. I can put things together, but it takes much longer than somebody that has that skillset at their fingertips.
[00:31:29] And I think that for me has been a really important thing in creating the business in a very different way to most staging businesses. So basically, in terms of workflow, either. One of my sales team, which might be me sometimes I do still do sales cuz I quite like it, but also one of my sales team, they’ll go out and see a client having had a call from an estate agent to say, look, we’ve got somebody that needs some staging.
[00:31:58] Generally it’s a referral from an estate agent, not always. And then one of the sales team will go out and see the client, have a look, talk to them about what might need to be done. If it’s fully furnishing, we’ll quote from a floor plan. If it’s an occupied property, then we’ll definitely go see it and then we’ll send a report and a quote to the client to say, this is what we think should be done.
[00:32:22] This is how much of a cost for our help. What do you want to do? They’ll come back, agree The quote. It then goes to the operations team, which is headed up by Annabelle, and one of the project leads, whoever is free or whoever has the least properties in their workflow at that point, will then pick it up and we’ll get together the inventory.
[00:32:48] So if we are furnishing or just popping in accessories and bits and pieces, they will get all of that together and they will also then schedule which day we’re going to do the installation. Make sure the removal team know when we’re doing the moving in. All of those things will be scheduled by the ops team and then we’ll go and do it.
[00:33:13] And sometimes the project lead will do the installation and sometimes if we are really busy and we need them back in the warehouse, then we have a a very reliable, longstanding team of contractors that’ll come in and do the installations for us. So it’s a very clear process where it goes from sales down to the ops team, project leads, pick it up, transport, then work with the project leads, and then it goes onto site and gets installed by the installation team who may or may not be our internal team.
[00:33:49] They may be contractors depending on how busy we are. And then, so how does your backend workflow fit into this? So at what point are you starting to track data about the house or about the client itself as well? Cause you also have a C R M right? Yep. So we have a crm. So the minute we’ve had that first phone call or that first message to say, could you speak to this client, as soon as we have any information about the client, then we’ll put it into our CRM system.
[00:34:19] Because it’s really important for us as a business to have data, not only about the properties that we actually stage. And the clients that we actually do work for, but also about the ones that we don’t win as a piece of business. So our conversion rate is about 35%, right? Across the sales team, it’s about 35%, and that’s very high for a UK average.
[00:34:45] So we are winning about one in every three properties that we see. So we really want to know everything we can about the properties that we, where we win the business, but we also want to know about the properties where we don’t win the business. What were the reasons for that? So often the reason for not winning a piece of business is that it’s too expensive.
[00:35:06] And then we want to know, well, what happened? So did they actually sell the property? Did they get it staged? Did another stage, A stage it did. They just not bother bringing it to market at all. So all of that information is really useful for us to then. Just endlessly revisit, recreate so that we know where you know that we are pitching.
[00:35:29] Right. And then of course there’s a lot of data in the actual financial. Element of the projects that we win, because we want to know how much inventory’s going into a property, what’s the value of the inventory against the value of the property, is a really interesting thing. How long does the furniture stay in the property?
[00:35:52] How much does it cost us from a time and all the other things? So the delivery. Are we having to buy anything for that particular property? How much is it costing us to do that installation? And therefore, that then helps us track the profit that we have in every job. Because as you and I have talked about many times, that there are an awful lot of stages out there who are essentially running their businesses as a hobby.
[00:36:21] In other words, it’s costing them more money than it is actually making them because they’re not tracking time. For example, time is the classic one that isn’t being tracked properly. But we track all of that for absolutely everything that we do. Yeah, and I think it’s quite impressive cuz I remember when we work on this with our participants at the Palomo retreat, you actually show essentially all your backend spreadsheets you were tracking.
[00:36:49] Even things we think is very trivial. It’s on a line item in this spreadsheet. Like you’re able to just keep track of everything so that you can quote intelligently in terms of how much you need to make for the project to quote this X amount of price. And also what data you’re tracking. And with all this data you’re tracking, are you only using stage flow?
[00:37:10] I remember you also have the C R M system, right? And you also have an inventory system. Yes. So how difficult it is to keep track of all the data point, especially when the software is not really talking to each other yet our software all talks to one another. Yeah. So we’ve had the interfaces built so that our CRM talks to stage flow, our inventory system.
[00:37:36] We’ve also had a, an interface built so that it talks to our c R m. Our account system talks to everything, and it’s not yet perfect. There are still some interfaces that are one way, which should be two way or will eventually be two way, but we’ve now got the ability to connect things up. I think when you and I first talked about stage flow, you rightly said that what most stages want is a more complete c r m system.
[00:38:09] Now for us, it hasn’t been a cost effective piece of work to build out stage flow as a full crm. What’s been much more cost effective is to build the API so that the CRM and stage flow talk to one another. Our next stage. Going to the CRM systems that the estate agents use and getting that interface built so that their CRMs will talk to stage flow so that we can give them data.
[00:38:42] Immediately just because it’s all connected up. And also they can send projects to us immediately because it’s all connected up. So I’m having some quite interesting conversations around that at the moment, because in an ideal world, everything would be connect
ed. The other thing that stage flow does, so if you use stage flow as a standalone piece of uh, kit, which a lot of stages we know do, you can still track your own projects in there very easily.
[00:39:12] You still get the reports in there, which is the collated data. And we will also beef that up a little bit as a standalone. You can also, because of the fields that it has at the front end, it asks you for things like number of bedrooms. Obviously it asks you for list price of the property. It asks you for which consultant, for example, is dealing with it.
[00:39:36] So, If as a stager, it’s more than just you working in the business, you can have a different login, so you and a colleague that you work with under the same account, and then there are then the stager reports, which track those kind of metrics for your business. So it’ll be able to tell you of the properties that you’ve staged where.
[00:40:00] Three bedroom, four bedroom, five bedroom. It’ll provide you with the chances to show you that it provides you with things like conversion rate. So whether your conversion rate is 80% and your colleagues is 20%, for example, of things seen in things one and lost. It will tell you things like what the most common staging is that you do, whether it’s fully furnishing, part furnishing, whether it’s occupied, depends really what your business model is.
[00:40:29] But it will give you the percentage breakdown. It also gives you the percentage breakdown of where the business has come from. So has it come from an estate agent? Has it come directly through your website? Has it come from. Some other source use social media for example. So you can track all of that as well.
[00:40:50] On stage flow, what we want to be able to do is that you can track for people who are working with multiple estate agents. I think we spoke to one of the Palomo retreat people, guests last week about tracking individual the projects that you do for individual agents. And we will eventually beef it up so that that’s part of it as well.
[00:41:12] But it already tracks a huge amount of data in the stager reports, as long as you, you know, you have to enter it at the front end, but soon as you do that, then it tracks all that for your business. Yeah, I love that. So I remember Terry from the retreat, she is already a S user and then she loves it, is how easy it is to input.
[00:41:31] And Terry, she doesn’t feel like she’s very tech savvy, but she feels like sage flow is very easy to use. Yeah. We didn’t want to create it as something that you either had to be. Particularly mathematical or particularly techy to use. We just wanted it to be a very quick hit on your phone, which is really why we created it without a kind of a full CRM at the front end to start with.
[00:41:53] We wanted it. We knew that the gap in the market is really about the data that is reported from coming outta staging projects. You know, what difference does it make? What’s the return on investment? Let’s get the E, the evidence on, the return on investment for staging. So we created it to be quick, simple, easy to use.
[00:42:15] You just have to put in things that you know, as a stager anyway, into the front end. Yeah, and I think this is such a smart product in the sense, you know, a staging growing internationally, I look at data as well as, especially like for podcasts, you know, I never really thought we would have listeners in South Africa, in Kenya, for example, like places I never thought staging would go to, and.
[00:42:43] It’s kind of interesting if you are able to get all these data internationally and then see like the trends and how staging is doing within the real estate industry, I think a very, very powerful tool, especially if you’re working on the A P I to be able to talk to realtors c r M directly, and I know you are partnering up with some of the really big real estate companies in the UK already, and I think that could be a very powerful collaboration to be able to figure out like how has staging helped, and then to be able to see the data and to be able to be educated on the effectiveness of staging, I think would be really a tremendous thing for the industry.
[00:43:23] Yes, thank you. Yeah, we’re really excited about the possibilities of getting the tech hooked up with some of the big players that we work with already, because I think that could be a very dramatic shift quite quickly in how staging’s perceived in the UK market. Yeah, and I think one of the things I find fascinating about you is that you also have a corporate coaching background.
[00:43:48] And this is also why I was like, oh, I really need to get Elaine to come on the retreat to co-teach. Because I think also it’s important to show the different perspective and then different point of view of how you can rent staging businesses. Cuz for example, I had a really mom and pop shop that I ran with my sister and we realized pretty much midway through our staging career were like, we actually don’t like big companies.
[00:44:13] It was really kind of fascinating because I grew up. Watching both of my parents, both of them had their businesses. My dad ran a big company with a hundred employee where my mom was a one woman show essentially. And I always thought, I want my dad’s business where, you know, you have cool company letterhead, you have annual vacation with the entire company, things like that.
[00:44:37] And I realized midway through my business that was the wrong thing for me to build. I actually much more enjoy a smaller and much more flexible operation. And so it was really good to have someone like you who have a totally different way of running business. And that’s totally okay too. Cause I think.
[00:44:56] When I first started staging, there was very cookie cutter way of, you’re either a vacant stager or you’re an occupied stager and this is the way you run the staging business, or you’re consultation stager. And now I think with the way the industry has progressed, but also with advancement of technology and all these changes in the social value of our society, we are really seeing hybrid models of staging businesses.
[00:45:22] And so it was really great to be able to have someone like you who have a very different way of running business to show this is also okay that it can be done. And I think it’s really important to, even if people were just starting out their business, they really have to think about systems. They really have to think.
[00:45:40] The longevity of the business is, I think most people, myself included, coming in, I just wanna do something that seemed fun and I can make money at. And then quickly I realized it is fun, but it can be also very difficult to make money. You really had to put in the work to set up the foundation, the system to really make the business run properly like a wow oil machine so that you can keep innovating as well.
[00:46:07] You can keep, evolve your staging business. And so for that, I really appreciate you now stepping into the education part too, because I think people really benefit a lot from your wisdom. I, I mean I, I see it from our retreat in promo in 2022 for the retreat. We really focus on the system building and skilling for our participants.
[00:46:29] So I’m really curious, in your opinion, wh
at makes a successful home staging business? Wow. That’s a big question. I think, and I like you have seen many models of home staging businesses and. I’m lucky enough that I came into staging by accident as a very late career move, and I’ve run a number of businesses previously, mostly in the education space and laterally in corporate coaching, as you said.
[00:47:00] And so I’ve had the advantage of seeing a huge number of different business models and the most interesting thing to come into. Staging in the UK at the point when I did was that we had no blueprint. So you talk about a hybrid model, I had no idea that what I was doing wasn’t either perfectly normal or you know, I had no idea how anybody else ran a staging business because I’d got nothing to go on, nothing to compare with really what I did have to compare with.
[00:47:31] And I think what’s really important is that I had numerous other businesses that I had worked in, so in a coaching capacity, going in as an external coach to help them refine their business models. And what it seemed to me always was that the businesses who were the most successful were the businesses who had processes.
[00:47:55] Which meant that they could onboard new team members because actually they didn’t have to. There wasn’t just some random way of doing it that was dependent on the founder being in the business every day, that actually there was a process that somebody knew could come in and follow and get it right and help refine, and that there were systems for everything.
[00:48:18] So this is the way we do things around here, if you like, that there was a culture essentially around the business, a kind of a culture wrapped around it. And what that does then is to allow the founder, To be absent. I can come to Palo Palomo and do some teaching, you know, on a retreat with a new group.
[00:48:38] And I learn lots and, and actually they learn lots too, because actually my business runs in a particular way, regardless of whether I’m there or not, because we’ve got the structure right around it. I think the other thing that’s really important, particularly because a lot of the people in staging are female entrepreneurs who perhaps haven’t had the benefit of as much education around how to run a business as many men have, just because of society and the way that society is educated women over the many years.
[00:49:14] And I think that’s leveling up now, but we’ve still got, you know, several hundred years of catch up to do. And I think that many women. Don’t understand that even though they do beautiful staging, even though they get clients on a very regular basis and are making quite a lot of money outta their staging business, that without systems, without processes, without a real structure in their business of the financial side, of the operational side of the, of the marketing side, all the pillars of the business, then when they choose to leave the business, For whatever reason they want to retire or they want to go traveling or they want to stop for any reason.
[00:50:03] They actually have nothing to sell. And I hear a lot of business owners saying, oh, well, when I sell my business, and actually they have nothing to sell because the business is entirely dependent on them being there. And it really is a passion for me now, as you know, to educate business owners, and particularly at this point, staging business founders, that actually, until you’ve got the structures in place, you’ve got nothing to sell.
[00:50:34] As a business, you know, I started this late career, I need to retire at some point. , you know, I need to get out at some point. So it’s been really important for me to build the business from the beginning with a whole lot of processes. So it doesn’t really matter whether I’m there or not, my team would tell you, actually, it’s better when I’m not, because I don’t come and stir things up.
[00:50:58] And I, it also then allows me to do the big picture stuff. So form new partnerships with, Businesses that have similar values alongside us. So I think for me, the things that make a successful home staging business are ensuring that the structure of the business is absolutely sound and doesn’t rely on one person carrying around everything from the financial metrics to the where the cushions are in their head.
[00:51:28] Because it seems to me that so many staging businesses are still run in that way, and that sadly isn’t going to lead to a successful exit for a stager. Yeah, and I think that’s the common vision that we share, that we talk a lot actually about when we are preparing for the retreat and also what we want to do in the education space.
[00:51:50] Because I think ultimately starting the business is actually the easy part, but to be able to sustain. Profitably, and then also for longevity. That is the difficult part, and I think for me, as an educator now, there’s a lot of courses on the market that’s all about helping people start their business, and that is great.
[00:52:10] We have courses like that too in our curriculum. But I think for me, my main focus now is starting to shift to helping people to keep building that successful momentum in their business. I think when you start your business, it’s really exciting, right? Everything is new, it’s very exciting, but the thing is you’re gonna hit plateau at a certain point, and so how do we get over that hump?
[00:52:32] It’s important. How do we get over that wall? And then to keep building that success, that foundation into the business, and also keep evolving too. Time changes, right? I think when I first started staging business in 2006 versus now, it’s a very different landscape already. To be able to survive for this long, you have to be able to keep evolving your business and make sure that it stays current.
[00:52:55] It stays competitive. Cause there’s always gonna be someone younger, cheaper, and prettier out there who’s gonna try to steal your client . Unfortunately. That’s a very sad truth. And then the other thing too is that most people don’t talk about exit strategy, but just like humans, business eventually will end.
[00:53:15] Yeah. And so it’s better for you to have everything lined up where you can control the outcome as much as possible than being someone who. Being decided upon, you know, passively in terms of like how much value you can extract from your business and everything we talk about so far today, like even building data or systems, these are all assets.
[00:53:38] They’re sellable within our business, especially intellectual property. Like the know-how part that is really important, that’s gonna be worth much more than a manual itself. But either way, they’re all sellable assets and I think that’s something that’s really lacking in the education right now. It’s that we’re not really talking about how can we help stagers to build sellable assets.
[00:54:03] So not only their business now can run smoothly that they can enjoy. , but when they decide to exit, whether they want to retire or they just simply got tired of running staging business, they can’t have a much more profitable outcome and really get that return on investment. Just like remodeling the house, right?
[00:54:22] We get an enjoyment right now, but when it’s time to sell our house, we can also get that return on investment on our re
modeling. It’s the same way of building the business structure. Yeah, that’s absolutely right. And staging generally is quite a capital heavy business. So I think for most stages you have to find money from somewhere at some point to buy inventory, for example.
[00:54:46] And many business owners in all kinds businesses will put a lot of time and effort in for which they’re not actually paid. And especially in the early stages of business, which is fine when it’s all new and exciting and blah, blah, blah. But exactly as you’ve just said, that business is hard and sustaining a business over a long time and sustaining a, a staging business over the ups and downs of the economic pressures around a housing market is really tough because that is completely outta our control And.
[00:55:20] If you’re going to do all of that and stay with it in the thought of, you know, a great exit at the end, and then suddenly six months before you want to exit, you realize that the only things that you’ve got to sell is your inventory. And so you end up having a yard sale effectively, and that’s it because nobody else can step in and take over your business without you then that’s really sad.
[00:55:47] And I think, you know, you’re right in that many business owners don’t even think about that bit early enough so that they can start building things because it gets a very long time to build all those assets. And all that intellectual property into a business, it really takes a very long time. And the longer you leave it to start, the harder it gets because then you’re having to backtrack, well what do we do and how do we do it?
[00:56:09] And how do we put contracts together or templates together, or the operations manual, you know, we’ve got a an 80 page operations manual which took, has taken a very long time. And then, you know, you have to keep it currently, you have to keep updating it. So yeah, it’s a lot of work. And the earlier in the business lifetime, you start it, the easier it is as you go along.
[00:56:32] Yeah, and I think that’s something that’s really important to think about. I mean, just on the back of mind, and I understand why people don’t think about it now, but I think most of the time when you’re building business, you’re in survival mode, isn’t it? Especially. Service-based business in a way is kind of feast or famine.
[00:56:48] You really have to be very diligently to keep marketing, to do the sales. You lined up potential projects, otherwise you’re gonna be hungry. , even in the business season, right? You’re gonna be like, why are people not calling me? Chances are you probably drop the ball on marketing at some point. That’s usually why that is.
[00:57:08] So, yeah, so it’s really important to keep yourself afloat, and I think that’s why it’s really hard, but now it’s actually year end or beginning of the year is usually the best time to really think about where those things, and that’s also why it’s important to track our data so we can see the progress of our business.
[00:57:28] Or if there’s something, let’s say like all of a sudden our closing rate dipped, then we need to kind of figure out why that is. Is it an external factor or is it something that we done? Maybe we dropped the ball on following up and that’s why it’s causing a dip on the closing rate. Yeah, and tracking all of that makes such a difference because if you’ve got the numbers in front of you that you’re making informed decisions, you’re not making decisions just on gut instinct because gut instinct is fine when it’s just you and the business is very small.
[00:58:00] But if your business grows appall, then it gets harder and harder and harder to keep track of everything, all that data from closing rate or inventory or profit, or what overheads you’ve got going outta the business, you know, all of those things, it gets harder and harder to track. So yeah, you’re right.
[00:58:22] Do it early. Yeah. So to close out the show, what would be your number one tip when it comes to tracking data for staging businesses? Track everything obsessively all the time. , use the tech to help you, really use the tech to help you because the tech will not only help you. Track the data in an effective way, it will make it much, much easier and will give you, it’ll do all the sums for you.
[00:58:52] You don’t have to be able to do sums. You just track the data. You put the data into the tech, so in our case, put it into stage flow and it does all the suns for you and gives you out nice reports that you can then use in your business. And I think the more data that you can track, the more effective you’ll be in your marketing, in your profitability of the business, in making sure that your inventory’s allocated into the right projects.
[00:59:22] All of those things come by collecting the data in the first place. Love it. Thank you so much for being on the show today. It’s my pleasure. Thank you very much for having me. So that’s it for today’s show. Thank you so much for listening. If you wanna help and support the show, there are three ways to do so.
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