Forget the sharing economy — becoming a true blue homeowner is still a dream that a lot of people have.
There’s precious little that can compare with the feeling of walking into a house that you own, that’s now rightly and truly yours after years of sweating and saving.
Unfortunately, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. Sometimes it seems there’s always a home repair emergency just lurking around the corner.
And when it hits, when that leaky pipe in the bathroom finally bursts open or the furnace decides it’s time to shut down for good, you never seem to have enough time to do a thorough vetting of the person to which you’re basically entrusting your house.
Just ask Sam Goodwin.
Struggling New Homeowners
When a promotion took him from sunny California to Connecticut, Sam decided to buy a house so he and his wife could take better care of their newborn child.
As an Arizona native, Sam was used to living in houses built on a slab foundation. That’s not the case over on the East Coast, however; most older houses had a basement of some sort.
The house he bought was built in the 1950s. It came with a basement, and every time it rained, the basement would start filling up with water.
“I was at a new position so I was really trying to make a good impression,” recalls Sam. “I was working 50, 60 hours a week, not knowing anybody there other than some co-workers and neighbors.
“I would spend hours just trying to figure out who to call.”
Two years after moving to Connecticut, Sam and his family relocated again, this time to Virginia. They bought another house there and once again started the whole process of struggling to find good, reputable contractors and service providers for their new house.
“I think the straw that broke the camel’s back was when we hired a painter to paint the house,” he says. “We had wallpaper up on the wall; the painter convinced my wife that he couldn’t take it down and so he would just paint over it.”
It wasn’t until a year later, when Sam and his family had decided to move back to California, that he came across the exact thing that would have saved him a ton of grief over the past three years: the HOCOA Home Repair Network.
“I ran into the person who was running the franchise at the time in Virginia,” he says, “and with just one phone call I was able to get free estimates from quality, licensed contractors for my home improvement project.
“That lit up a lightbulb in my head, and when we moved back here to northern San Diego we decided to start our own HOCOA franchise.”
Connecting Homeowners and Contractors
The HOCOA Home Repair Network aims to save homeowners time and energy by connecting them with tightly screened, licensed, and insured contractors.
“We’re kind of like a concierge service,” Sam explains. “Somebody that’s kind of a trusted resource, if you will.
“So if you call in and you have a plumbing issue, we get you connected with a licensed plumber, and then follow up on how the job went.
“In the construction industry you don’t usually get that kind of follow up on the residential level. That’s where we fill the void.”
Now, home repair and improvement is big business. Home improvement product sales in the US alone is expected to reach revenues of over $360 billion.
When Sam started HOCOA San Diego in 2010, however, the market was very different.
“The first two years were definitely excruciating, he says.
“It was the bottom of the market. The housing market had collapsed here in the US, and everybody was scrambling.
“But I just looked at it from an opportunity standpoint of, OK, there’s nowhere to go from here but up.
And things did start to look up for HOCOA San Diego after those two tough years, with the company growing more and more with every succeeding year.
Sam was ready to go full steam ahead and make the most of his company’s growth, but unfortunately his CRM system wasn’t quite up to the task.
“HOCOA provided us a CRM system when we first got our license,” Sam explains, “but it wasn’t cloud based. It was all just on my PC.
“If I was on the road and I needed to update something, I would have to send myself an email or text message so I can remember to do it once I got back in the office.
“And if somebody emailed me back with information it wouldn’t update the project automatically. I had to get on my office PC and do that manually.
“I had to deal with a lot of duplication, triplication.”
A New Solution
With more and more projects filling the pipeline every day, the old system wasn’t just wasting Sam’s time; it was actually costing him money.
He needed a new solution, but it couldn’t just be any kind of CRM. Since it acts as a kind of middleman, HOCOA San Diego dealt with two very different kinds of customers: the homeowners who needed work done, and the service providers who actually do the work.
“That was the biggest challenge when we were trying to pick a CRM,” Sam says.
“We didn’t just have one customer, we had two: the contractor and the homeowner, and we match them up with each other. How do we delineate these two customers and make the system work for our needs?”
He found the answer when he came across WORKetc around a year and a half ago.
By using WORKetc’s company- and person-type contacts in concerts with tags, Sam was able to easily keep both customer types together but separate in one system.
“We’ve set things up so that company-type contacts are just contractors,” he explains. “But then we also have a point of contact at that service provider that we’re able to label as ‘Suppliers’, so they don’t get mixed up with ‘Members’, who are the homeowners.”
Sam was also able to use WORKetc to keep track of contractor paperwork. Since HOCOA San Diego prides itself on having an all-star team of service providers, licenses and certificates of insurance play a big part in
“We can attach those to the company records and when we need them updated we can create a smartlist,” says Sam.
“Like today, I was able to quickly email all of the contractors whose insurance is out of date. It was nice to be able to BCC that to everybody.
“And for homeowners, we can also make smartlists on projects that we’ve completed and know exactly who and where to send out handwritten thank you notes.
“Plus, since we use WORKetc’s finance module, if I want to see any outstanding invoices for our homeowners’ subscriptions, I can just click and boom, I know exactly who I need to call.”
Keeping Projects Simple
With the customer dilemma solved, Sam turned his attention to managing the continuously increasing flow of projects that came his way.
Fortunately for him, he didn’t have to look anywhere else.
“Right now we have about a hundred active projects in WORKetc,” Sam says.
“When we first started using WORKetc, we used to have these big projects with a lot of tasks in them. Now I’ve cut those tasks to just three.”
Two of these tasks act as communication portals for HOCOA San Diego: one task is contains all communication with the homeowner, while the other holds all emails to and from the contractor assigned to the project.
“Another great thing here is that all of the emails we receive about a project immediately gets connected to that project,” adds Sam.
The third and final task contains final feedback along with a record of the total amount of work done and serves to complete the project.
For bigger projects that require multiple service providers, Sam just adds tasks for each separate contractor as needed.
“WORKetc is pretty much the singular hub for our logistics and our projects,” he says, ”which is huge because we’re able to expand any project as big as we need it or minimize it to fit our needs.”
Going from first contact with a homeowner to rolling out a project has been made faster too thanks to WORKetc’s project templates.
“It’s nice to be able to simplify the process and still have everything we need in a single place.”
Saving Time and Money
Sam reckons that since using WORKetc, he’s been able to save about 35% of the time he used to spend managing customers and projects, and he’s now planning to use those hours saved to help people who want to get their own HOCOA license deal with logistics.
“We’ve been around the HOCOA block a few times now so we’ve already streamlined the whole process,” he says. “Now I want to help folks get onto HOCOA and let them focus on finding and evaluating contractors while we handle the logistics.”
Sam also notes that he managed to save that much time while only using about half of what WORKetc can do. His next steps for the system now involves making use of the sales / prospecting module as well as webforms to grow HOCOA San Diego even further.
“For the minimal investment I have to make each month on it, it’s definitely paid off,” he says about WORKetc.
“No doubt about it, I’ve already gotten the payback easily.”
“Just being able to access WORKetc anytime, anywhere; or give someone else limited access so they can take care of the nitty gritty — that was a big win for me.
“And integrating these other functions like projects, recurring subscriptions for the homeowners, sales, and then being able to see who owes me what?
“I couldn’t do any of that in our old system, but I’m able to do it now in WORKetc.”
It’s great that he found WORK[etc] when that was exactly what he needed. We use it in similar ways: we moved all our contact details from the director’s computer to WORK[etc] so everyone had access to them. And we manage all pur projects through there as well so we can easily see who to contact or what else we’ve done/are doing for them.