The Remodeling 550 that highlights this month's issue of Remodeling contains more data points than any other edition we’ll publish this year. That’s what makes it valuable to read, because all those data points combine like a Georges Seurat painting to give you a unique portrait of our industry. Editing it reminded me of this year’s Remodeling Leadership Conference and the testy relationship remodelers have with data and the social media champions who wield it.
There, Porch.com CEO Matt Ehrlichman caught flak for calling a “pro” anybody who sold remodeling services to the public. Audience members demanded: How could he use that word when most of these “pros” were nothing of the sort? Shouldn’t that term be reserved for those who’ve proved their professionalism?
Ehrlichman replied that Porch.com was using “pro” in a more general, nonjudgmental sense. What he didn’t say then—and might not have even recognized—was that his notion of professionalism differs markedly from what a remodeler thinks.
In tech, you needn’t be all that good at the start provided you steadily collect information that builds your value and helps you refine your product. Over time, you become a juggernaut. Think of how Houzz increases its value with every new photo you post.
A remodeler, by contrast, pretty much has to be great from Day 1 if he or she hopes to succeed. Especially in those early days, a bad job can lead to crippling word-of-mouth referrals. Remodelers don’t have angel investors to help them get up to cruise speed.
Ehrlichman’s second problem involved his plans—plans many other sites share—to build a service that lets customers enter information about where they live and what they want done, and then have the service list nearby “pros” who will do that work for a set price. Such a practice commoditizes many tasks that remodelers do. This might work for handyman jobs, but remodelers are well aware that no two jobs are alike, even if they seem the same at the start. The notion that you can commoditize work that’s more often custom will grate on many remodelers’ ears.
Data has value, but this issue and Cost vs.
Value are our only editions each year where numbers predominate. The other
eight are devoted to words and nuance, a commitment to quality, and a belief
that numbers can illuminate but can’t drive a relationship business. Odds are,
8-to-2 should be your ratio, too.