Appraisal business in 2021

Why would anybody start a new appraisal company in 2021? We tend to be a skeptical bunch. Maybe I’ve had too much Café Bustelo coffee this morning, but I see a huge upside. Not just for the next gen but for existing firm owners. But it involves a business rewrite of what got you here today.

Your business heartbeat

If I were starting an appraisal firm today, I would throw away most everything that is currently accepted as best practices. The focal point of the entire company should be focused on these 3 principles:

1. Have as many conversations with your customer as possible.

2. Participate in your customer’s community.

3. Get out of your own head and listen to your clients.

“Set it and forget it.” – A plan to fail

Ron Popeil pitchman for the Ronco rotisserie oven’s most famous pitch line. However this is the biggest problem with appraisal firms today. “Set it and forget it” continues to be our mantra since opening the doors years ago. Rent some office space, hire appraisers, get support staff, buy some PCs and use typical Microsoft stuff. Share the blessed report format with the office and don’t change anything for the next few decades. 

The extent of formal training of staff appraisers was “Here’s an old report.” Appraisers entering the field call this “FIFO”, Figure It the F#$@&%*! Out. It’s discouraging, disengaging and substantively delays your productivity ramp-up.

Don’t do business alone

I’m 56 years old and I have two coaches, one for business, the other for martial arts. Does it seem silly to have a coach like you’re in Little League? Not if you want to excel through growth coaching. Do you have a mentor? There’s many consultants out there offering coaching for management, leadership and any other skills you need sharpened. If you’re more of a DYI, consider Master Class or Udemy.

Regardless of how it plays out, the 9-5 workday (from labor unions in the 1800s) will likely be replaced with 3+2+2. Work 3 days in office, 2 days remote, and 2 days off. Not recognizing employee flexibility is a huge mistake.

Command-and-control style management is great for the Marines, but suffocates new employees. Move away from being an appraisal firm owner offering only transactional management style. Telling people what to do, not giving the freedom for your employees to make their own decisions is no bueno. Act more like a coach, motivate your people to excel beyond “ask the boss” as the source of all answers.

One-way communication from top to bottom creates frustrated employees. Turnover results due to disengagement. Effective communication creates a foundation of confidence and trust. Be flexible. Investigate if the usual 100% commission-based appraiser model needs to be changed. Maybe a hybrid pay structure with performance premiums for leadership, sales or client fulfillment efforts. Collaborate on how they want to be paid. Create a flat organizational structure, with minimum reporting upstream.

Repeatable systems

  • New processes – document processes of how to do everything. Call them playbooks. Use Google docs with active links. Tell your people where these documents are. Determine if they are being used. The playbook should be short and sweet. Don’t document the obvious but highlight the important nuanced stuff.
  • Start /stop – look around the office, what new things could we start doing? What things should we stop doing that aren’t really adding to our productivity?
  • Get out your head – don’t be so rigid. Subject arrows don’t have to be red. Always be curious. Read a lot of books, talk to your peers, hire a coach, look beyond your years to create repeatable processes.

Nail the product messaging

A confused client never buys. When a prospect goes to your website are they confused? Did you put on your website that you specialize in everything under the sun? Are you the master of everything, eminent domain, ligation, every property type that exists? Probably not. Tighten that up. Be very specific what you’re good at.

Clients appreciate that you highlight what you’re really good at. Chick-fil-A provides quick yummy kinda healthy food with very friendly service and excellent delivery processes. I don’t go there expecting sushi, BBQ or high end French cuisine.

Tom Brady mindset

Train in the off season, even when you don’t “need to.” That’s the difference for those that achieve excellence. A great coach has a chronically positive attitude, doesn’t talk trash about anybody, is enthusiastic, observant, respectful, patient and a clear communicator. The last one can be hard for a lot of us. Make your employees comfortable enough to voice their concerns even if it’s negative. Especially if it’s negative, you want to get ahead of that and address it head-on.

The appraisal firms of the past had very little spelled-out expectations. How energizing would it be that your staff knows exactly the direction where you want to take your firm? Talk about individual and company metrics. Have a plan. Win the Superbowl. Go Bucs.