help give you an insider's look at what it takes to launch and operate
a successful Homeowner Referral Network (HRN), I interviewed my
colleague (and friend), Debbie Farson. Debbie is a mother of 3 and
left her career as an attorney to launch her HRN business. Next
fall marks the beginning of Debbie's 10th year in business--a tremendous
milestone for any business owner!
Hear what Debbie has to say
1. What did you do before you launched
I had practiced law for several years before having my first child.
Then I was home full time with my children and launched my
HRN a month after having my third child.
2. Why did you want to launch a business
I wanted to stop pinching pennies so tightly but going back to practicing
law was not a good option
a home business meant I could make
my own schedule and fit it around my familys needs.
3. What was the launch date for your HRN?
Incorporated in October 2001 but really began doing business in
4. (If you don't mind) how old are you?
Now: 46. When I started my business: 37.
5. What attracted you about the HRN business?
I love any kind of before/after transformation (homes, people, you
name it) and have been interested in building, construction and
remodeling for as long as I can remember, yet I had no training
or experience in that area.
By the time I started this business, wed owned
three homes and had our share of frustrations with home improvement
projects. I figured there had to be a better way to locate
and check out contractors to avoid the common problems.
The HRN business gave me the chance to work with a
subject matter I love (home improvements) and solve problems for
others (no more bad contractors!) without having to know the ins
and outs of building and construction. Most importantly, it fits
in with my family as it allows me to set my own schedule.
6. How did you know that an HRN would
work in your area?
Statistics on remodeling projects, how many and what cost,
are easily obtainable for most areas through the library or online.
There are several mid- to high-wealth communities in and around
the metropolitan area where I operate.
We also have people moving in and out of this area frequently due
to changes in government administrations, military facilities nearby
and large businesses located here. Yet, many of the higher-income
people are living in older (30 70 year old) homes that need
As a result of all these factors, people with the desire to improve
their homes, and the money to do it, come to this area on a constant
basis yet, because it is a somewhat transient area, they dont
always know people they can ask about whom they should hire.
What better environment could there be for an HRN?
7. How did you know that an HRN would
be right for you personally?
(Did you have an "AHA!" moment?)
Cant say that I did. Just made sense to me from the
8. What types of services do you refer through
Any and all home improvement services, from the smallest repair
to the largest remodel - - even custom home builds!
9. What is the biggest job you've referred?
$325,000 custom home build (sounds like small amount for custom
home, but homeowners will tear down existing house they own so there
is no land price included in that.)
Have had many $100,000 - $200,000 remodels over the years as well.
11. What is the strangest referral request you've
A man once contacted me for help repairing a sagging floor in his
kitchen. The unusual part was that the contractor had to turn
around and leave before getting to the front door - - the smell
of cats was overwhelming. He did stay long enough to see stacks
of newspapers in the home, with a small trail through the stacks
leading from the front door to the back of the house. This
was a lesson for me in learning where best to put out the word about
my business - - target the neighborhoods and types of homeowners
you want rather then doing scattershot mailings or ads.
12. When did your business break even?
Turn a profit?
I broke even within 6 months and turned a profit the first year.
I think it would have been faster had I hit the ground running,
but I started slowly as I had a newborn in the house.
13. What has been the most difficult
task involved in operating your HRN?
Understanding what I dont know and when to ask for help or
seek an accountability partner. Sometimes, indecision
or lack of information will cause you to procrastinate, especially
when you are really operating the business by yourself. Im
so grateful for my mentors (those who know this business better
than I) and experts in areas like computers and websites who advise
me and, when I need it, keep me from putting off important things.
14. What has been the most enjoyable aspect
of the business?
Never having to clear time off with anyone else and being able to
operate my business from anywhere - - which I have done (the ski
slopes, a cruise ship in Hawaii, the beach, my local coffee shop,
a family members hospital room, etc.)
15. What type of response have you received
from homeowners about your services?
The company you recommended was superb. Thanks
so much for recommending them, and I look forward to working with
you again in the future!! You made a project that
I have been putting off for a long time very easy.
Thanks again for this invaluable service. It
is so nice to be able to get things repaired and not have to worry
about it not being done correctly or the mess that you have to
clean up afterward.
I owe you big time! Your services greatly
saved me time and resulted in more than I could have asked for.
Great work as always. The pre-job tracking
and post job follow-ups are also great. Communication is usually
the problem dealing with homeowners and contractors, and Home
Solutions goes out of its way to be sure there aren't any problems
and that everyone is in touch and up to date.
16. And what has the response been from contractors?
They love the win-win-win aspect of the business. If I get
them a job, they pay me. If I dont, they dont.
Truly, its so simple and, if theyre in my network,
they see the benefits so clearly, that I cant remember any
contractor every having a negative reaction once they begin working
They also appreciate the third party sounding
board we provide for the homeowner as it has more than once
resulted in the closing of a job that might not have closed otherwise
(because the homeowner could ask us questions they might not have
broached with the contractor.)
17. How has your business changed since
you first started until now?
Its bigger and more efficient. I am paperless now and
almost completely mobile whereas, when I started, my records were
all on paper and I was tied to my home office.
18. How has the economy affected your business?
I saw a downturn in business about 1 year before anyone else felt
it. The silver lining in that was that it gave me time to breathe
and focus on some infrastructure and marketing issues Id not
had time for before. I believe Im also seeing recovery
sooner and, now, Im prepared for the large volume of business
because of the time I was able to spend on organizational issues
during the slower time.
19. What goals do you have for your business
in the future?
I need to hire help! This is what will take my business to
the next level. Now, if I could just get over that control
freak thing . . .
P.S. Holiday Savings For
New HRN Owners! $200 credit toward the purchase of HRNMS©
(Homeowner Referral Network Management Software).*
* HRNMS© must be purchased with an HRN Business
Package or the HRN Business Manual by 12/15/10.