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HRN Success Story: Meet Sarah Gilbert

Some of the most successful HRN owners are people just like you. To give you more insight into what it takes to launch and operate an HRN successfully, I’ve interviewed my colleague, Sarah Ruth Gilbert, President of Ruth’s Home Works based in Wichita, KS. This year marks Sarah’s 6th year in business and she expects it to be her biggest year yet!

Take a few minutes to get to know Sarah and hear what she has to say about her experience operating an HRN business.

1. What did you do before you launched your HRN?

My degrees are in Printing Management, Printing Technology and Data Processing. I went to work after college in the print manufacturing industry, and ultimately worked very close with advertising and marketing in several different positions.

2. Why did you want to launch a business from home?

I wanted a better work/life balance. I saw a great need for Wichitans to be able to consistently connect with reliable home service professionals. I also wanted to put my energy where it would be most appreciated.

3. What was the launch date (month and year) for your HRN and where does your business serve?

I launched my HRN in September 2004 and serve the Wichita metro area.

4. (If you don’t mind) How old are you?

I turned a very youthful 43 this month.

5. What enticed you about the HRN business?

I always knew that I wanted to run my own business and I liked the HRN business model because I don’t have to carry any inventory. I also don’t have overhead and staffing expenses like retail businesses do.

6. How did you know that an HRN would work in your area?

The HRN business seemed like a natural transition when so many other start-up ideas were like the glass slipper that didn't exactly fit. And, there wasn't an HRN operating here at the time and I was already well connected and respected in my community. In studying my market, I also discovered over 51% of the single family households were owned by women. As a single mom myself, I knew their concerns and their challenges.

7. How did you know that an HRN would be right for you personally? (Did you have an “aha” moment?)

Actually that came through Debra Cohen's insight into the talents I was bringing to the table and what running an HRN actually needed to be successful. She was the missing link to help me realize I could do this. (I entered this field with very little knowledge of the home service world. I did not know what a fascia was, much less how to spell it!)

8. What was the first job you referred through your HRN?

A gentleman from a small town just north of the city called about new siding on his home. I quickly realized the successful application of procedures outlined in Debra Cohen's HRN manual. Even after the project was completed, the Customer Satisfaction Survey revealed the inherant trust the homeowner placed in my new HRN. Instead of consulting the professionals who had been onsite with the gentleman each day, he communicated to me the need for additional follow-up work. It all proved a win-win-win scenario right from the start. The contractor gladly went back to do the extra finish work, the homeowner was now pleased with the entire project and my new HRN earned its first loyal client. All of this unfolded right before my eyes as it should and I couldn’t have been more pleased!

9. What types of services do you refer through your network?

I refer over 55 home service professionals ranging from those who perform small tasks like raking leaves, to handymen who fix fences and can change out ceiling fans then take on any size chore list of repairs, to licensed contractors who can add a wing or third floor onto your home, remove and replace a driveway and even those who can rewire older homes or install the latest technology.

10. What is the biggest job you’ve referred?

My biggest job referral was a $90,000 freestanding garage with electrical lines in the dogs' kennels to keep them warm. It was pretty luxurious as far as garages go.

11. What is the strangest referral request you’ve had?

My strangest referral was to put a deadbolt lock on an inside door. That was pretty creepy.

12. When did your business break even? Turn a profit?

My business broke even and I started to turn a profit within 10 months of opening.

13. What has been the most difficult task involved in operating your HRN?

Like many home based business owners, my biggest challenge is maintaining a high level of motivation. That includes avoiding distractions, retraining family, friends and neighbors that although I am at home, I am working and figuring out each day's priorities to maximize my time in the office.

14. What has been the most enjoyable aspect of the business?

I am in charge of my life. I've never known that before. I no longer sit through corporate meetings wishing I could just get back to my desk and work, nor feign worshiping a corporate mantra I didn't believe in. I'm at the helm of my own ship and I no longer suffer from nor have to be a witness to unequal pay.

15. What are your goals for 2010?

Delve further into social marketing, revamp my website, continue to add trustworthy craftsmen (and women), hire a part-time office assistant, and ultimately increase earnings by 20%.


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In The News . . .

Look for Debra Cohen in the February 2010 issue of Success Magazine!

Here What People Are Saying . . .

We are looking forward to a great year next year - full steam ahead!
Thanks again & take care -

~ Brian

I'm so excited to see what the new year brings with my business…I'll keep you posted!






3/11 - Renovations, Remodels & Referrals
2/11 - Will Home Improvement Contractors Pay a Commission?
1/11 - Reinventing Your Career
11/10 - HRN Success Story
6/10 - Financing a New Business
5/10 - Busy Home Improvement Season
4/10 - Tax tips
3/10 - Your Way To Work At Home
2/10 - HRN Operating Costs
1/10 - Tips for Success
12/09 - HRN Success Story
10/09 - Work at Home Resources
9/09 - Running Your Business On The Go!
7/09 - Opportunity In Your own Backyard
6/09 - Starting a Home-based Business
5/09 - Finding the Right Home Business
4/09 - Good News
3/09 - HRN Success Story
2/09 - Pitfalls of Working From Home
1/09 Home Improvement Spending Increases
Winter 2009 - Recession Proof Business
Fall 2008 - What's in a Name?
Summer 2008 - Typical Day for an HRN Owner
Spring 2008 - Value of Prescreened Professionals
Winter 2007 - Top Ten Home Based Businesses
Fall 2007 - Finding Good Contractors
June 2007 - Misconceptions About HRN Business
Winter 2007 - Home-based Business Self Evaluation
Fall 2006 - HRN Business Fills a Contractor Need

For more information about starting a Homeowner Referral Network in your area, you may:

Fill out our online form to request more information. Or, call Debra Cohen at (516) 374-8504.

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