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Are You Prepared?

As a Home Watch business owner, on a day-to-day basis, you’ve got your systems in place and your clients are well taken care of. But are you ready for a catastrophe? Depending on where you are, catastrophes can be hurricanes, flash floods, fires, tornados, ice storms or even major snowstorms.

When Hurricane Irma hit, we were really surprised by how many Home Watch businesses were not prepared; becoming completely overwhelmed and disappearing in the night leaving their homeowners with no way of knowing what happened to their house and no one to mitigate damages caused by humidity, flooding, and broken windows.

There’s a lot to consider when planning for a catastrophe. You want to make sure that you have pre-storm and post-storm plans in place for your existing clients, but you’ll also want to be prepared for an influx of new clients who either had no Home Watch services and want them – like now, or their home watcher disappeared in the chaos and they’re in a tight spot.

it’s important to reach out to your own clients and keep them informed, pre-storm and post-storm. Be sure to reach out to your clients and keep them updated, you want to stay ahead of them, you don’t want them to be calling you looking for updates. This will save valuable time while trying to get all of your properties storm ready. The less they need to call you for updates, the more time you can focus on taking care of their properties. This is where a great reporting software comes in handy, keeping communication in one place and automatically generating reports for your clients.

Preparing for Existing Clients

Create pre-storm checklists. This could include putting up shutters for predicted storms, moving outdoor furniture and potted plants to a safe location, taking pictures of the exterior, and ensuring doors and windows are secured properly. Your clients will rest easier knowing that their property has been properly prepared beforehand.

Create post-storm checklists. Inspect the exterior and interior home for damages, leaks, etc., take pictures, meet Insurance company adjusters if necessary, call trades for repairs, install equipment (dehumidifiers, fans etc.), remove shutters, put back furniture.  Keep in mind that you’ll probably have to go back more than once, so figure out the frequency that you’ll need to return and be sure that you have additional checklists set up and that you are prepared for an increase in workload, which brings us to our next point.

Have an available pool of help for the extra workload.  With the extra post-storm workload, will you be able to manage the extra work with your current staff?  You should have a plan in place to quickly increase the size of your team to accommodate for an increase in workload if needed.  Temp agencies, family or friends looking for extra cash flow, etc. are good places to start. Just make sure to reach out and make connections as part of your planning process so that you can quickly grow your team if you need to before the catastrophe.  Scrambling after the storm to find help will only add stress to an already busy time for you.

Do you have all of the supplies and equipment you’ll need?  Chances are you’re going to run into problems that need to be addressed as quickly as possible. What is your plan to mitigate damages? Do you have a plan in place to secure equipment needed like fans, dehumidifiers, plywood etc? You might keep some supplies on hand as part of your business but you could potentially need a lot more, in a hurry.  Reach out to home stores and rental stores to see what their capacities are and how much they keep on hand.  Keep a list of contacts handy so that if you have to call around for supplies you have a list and an idea of what various suppliers keep on hand.

Preparing for New Clients

As we learned with Irma, there are going to be people who need someone to check on their home asap after a catastrophe. You might get a few calls, or you might get 100 calls.  Either way, you want to make sure you’re prepared.  If you are well prepared, this could be an opportunity to grow your business and take it to the next level.

Create a triage board to keep track of people in the order they called. This helps you to create a system for visiting new properties, which should be on a first come first serve basis. Some categories you may want to have on your board are the client’s name, address, phone, email, spare key information, status. We recommend a large whiteboard that is hung and ready to go at a moments notice.

Create a checklist for new client calls. Coming out of a catastrophe can be overwhelming, even for a Home Watch professional.  Not only did you just live through the event, which can be scary and overwhelming in itself, but now you are rolling up your sleeves and putting in long hours getting your home and your client’s homes back in shape. Try to simplify things by keeping checklists for staff to use, like the person answering the phone so that no important information is missed when taking new client information.

Do you need extra staff to help service new clients? You might need additional help to get around to all of your existing client’s homes but you might also need to pull in additional staff to help with a large volume of new calls. Which jobs can you easily fill? Can you easily train someone to take phone calls and triage? Maybe it’s harder to quickly train someone to attend homes and inspect for damages. Have a plan in place ahead of time to integrate staff where it makes sense and is easiest for you.

Catastrophes happen.  Sometimes we get a small window of warning to prepare, but often times it’s already too late.  Make sure that your Home Watch business is prepared ahead of time. That way when a disaster happens, you’ll be prepared and less stressed putting you in a position to better serve your existing and new clients.