Friday, December 21, 2012

How to Win In the Housing Recovery

Certainly, a valid question and definitely one that you must explore if you’re a builder.

There is a definite up trend taking place with the national builders. Over the past year, homebuilder stocks have risen 80%. That’s at least five times the S&P 500 indexes for the stock market.

What is happening is being fueled by low interest rates, a dwindling supply of homes that now represents only a five-months supply versus the 11-month supply of a year ago. Under these circumstances, it is reasonable to expect this trend to continue.

Nevertheless, what about the small local builder?

If you look behind the fog of economic recovery, low interest rates make affordable homes more attractive to younger buyers. Let me explain.

If you’re a young couple, say between 25 to 38 years of age, both fortunate to be working, presently renting, owning a home is becoming extremely attractive for this simple reason. With low interest rates, a starter home with a price tag of $125,000 to $150,000 is cheaper than rent. If they are even close in the same amount, it makes good sense to own over renting.

For the local builder, this is your emerging market.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

When You Want to Quit and Walk Away

Last week while doing my coaching calls; I suddenly realized that I was hearing the identical problems from my clients. The irony was; they weren’t the same size businesses. One was in a few hundred thousand dollars in Sales, while the other was in multi-million dollars in Sales. They were both stressed out, overwhelmed and ready to call it quits.

This got me thinking. Even though we may not be doing the exact same or have the exact same size business, we all share in the feeling of being overwhelmed and stretched beyond our capability.

Sometimes in our business lives, we actually think it would be simpler to run away. That giving up would be easier than following through with our responsibilities. In both cases, my clients were having trouble dealing with deadlines, making sales, and the constant barrage of requests from employees and clients that wanted more from them in time, energy and resources.

Both wanted to escape from handling their duties, from the managing of their businesses. It was becoming too much. To quote one …

“I just want it to end. If I shut down the business, maybe I’ll be better just taking care of myself and my family. Maybe we could buy a farm and live off the land.”

I smiled on that one, since I too had had that same thought many times in my career.

I remember being a kid and going up to the farm in New Hampshire. It was a dairy farm set up in the mountains. I use to love going in to see the cows. They were jersey cows, and I had given many of them names since they had such beautiful personalities. Those were the good old days. My Dad and I would go hunting, fishing or just hang around the farm. Not a care in the world.

Just the rewinding of that memory makes me feel better.

However, that’s not what I’m trying to express here.

Just last week, I had one of my coaching clients tell me that I gave him back the, deep down, desire to enjoy his contracting business again. That same feeling he had when he first started his business over 10 years ago. He too was thinking of the final solution strategy to his business, shutting it down and walking away.

However, he didn’t. Although he was going through tough times, he decided not to give up.

If you study some of the great persons of our times, you will find one common fact among them. They’ve all failed, some miserable, but they didn’t quit.

Now I know, for a fact, that the desire to quit, to walk away is immensely strong sometimes. We’ve all had those days when we think “Enough!”

The truth is, you can’t because you still have too much to do. Instead, you have to work on your problems. It is there that you will find your solutions.

In fact, if you did walk away, you wouldn’t be really free. You’d just feel like it.

Why? Because what you gained in freedom, you will lose in value and worth. What I mean is that what we do is add value to other people’s lives.

It’s not about us.

It’s about what we give to our clients and customers when we deliver them the product or service they wanted. We provide the solution to their problems or bring value to their lives when we provide them with what they wanted. It’s all about fixing someone else’s problem.

No matter what your business problem is, no matter what hurdles you feel you can’t overcome, or what obstacle has you down, or how frustrated you are with your business problems; remember, it’s not about you and your problems. It’s about fixing someone else’s problems. It’s about bringing something of value into another person’s life.

When you come to terms with that, you’ll find the worthiness and the energy to continue forward. Because one grateful customer, one glowing testimonial, one sincere word of thanks will keep you going through thick and thin.

And when you keep going, you’ll keep delivering. As you provide that solution, you’ll grow and become better. As you get better, you’ll help more people. As you help more people, you’ll hear more positive feedback. And that provides the spark that you need to keep going, the hardest times, and through the slow grinds.

Never stop. Never quit. Never give up. And never listen to that little voice that says it is time to quit.

If there is one thing that I have learned in my career it is this. There will always be difficulties, but the quickest way to rid ourselves of them, is to take positive action to keep ourselves moving forward.

After all, isn’t that all that really matters?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Lead and Asbestos: Common Renovation Hazards in Older Homes

In an uncertain economy, more homeowners choose to renovate their existing homes than relocate to new dwellings. Home renovations can make houses more livable and increase their resale value. Houses that were built during or before the 1970s, however, harbor potential health risks for the people who live there.

In 1977 and 1978, the United States government banned the use of asbestos and lead in insulation, paint and other construction materials. Before then, they covered practically every inch of American homes. Renovation projects in older homes could introduce toxic particles into the air, which could lead to serious health conditions.

Wise homeowners hire a home inspector to evaluate older dwellings and identify potential hazards. When identified, these dangerous materials are best removed by a professional contractor or building abatement company. Large renovations, especially in older homes, are not the best do-it-yourself (DIY) projects.

Lead Exposure

Common home renovation activities such as sanding and cutting can disturb lead-based paint. The hazardous paint dust and chips can be harmful to humans and pets. To protect homeowners from potential health risks, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed the “Renovation, Repair and Repainting Rule” in 2008. It calls for certified renovators for projects that involve lead-based paint.

According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), lead poisoning can be hard to detect. Even people who appear healthy can have high levels of lead in their bloodstream. Lead poisoning can cause high blood pressure, reproductive disorders, cognitive problems and mood disorders in adults. In children, high lead levels can lead to learning disabilities and stunted growth.

Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos exposure is another potential health risk during home renovations. Asbestos is a strong, fibrous mineral substance notable for its heat-resistant, flame-retardant properties. Most homes built before the late 1970s contained asbestos materials for insulation, flooring, roofing and more.

Solid asbestos that is still intact is generally safe. However, frayed or crumbling materials that contain asbestos are highly toxic and hazardous to health. Lung cancer and mesothelioma are the worst-case scenarios. Both of these cancers are life-threatening diseases with high mortality rates. Yet, even minor asbestos exposure can cause asbestosis, pleurisy and other respiratory problems.

Minimizing the Risks

Fortunately, homeowners can minimize their risks for lead and asbestos exposure during home renovations. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the EPA have produced a number of safety guides for DIY renovators. Many are available online.

Practical steps include wearing protective gear, isolating construction areas with heavy plastic and misting walls before sanding and scraping. Homeowners can reduce the movement of airborne particles by shutting off their heaters and air conditioners during demolition and construction. If there are any known toxins they should only be handled by a professional.
Article written and contributed by Brian Turner