By Debra Cohen
Debra Cohen knows how hard it is to find a good home improvement contractor. So when she finds one, she tells people. Several years ago, when this stay-at-home mom and her husband needed to remodel and repair their 75 year old Tudor on Long Island, she had a brainstorm: she could work out of her house by brokering the services of contractors in return for a commission. The following year, Cohen launched her company, Home Remedies® of NY, Inc.—a Homeowner Referral Network (HRN).
The company was an immediate success—thanks, in part to articles about the business in local press. “The phone didn’t stop ringing,” according to Cohen. The calls came not only from homeowners and contractors interested in using her service but also from people who wanted to learn how to run similar businesses. Six months after her business launched, she had more work than she could handle.
“I received calls from people who wanted to partner with me, so first I thought about franchising and hired a franchise consultant,” she says. But, that wasn’t the right option for this type of small, home based business. “If I decided to franchise, I would have to hire a staff and my overhead would become tremendous,” Cohen explains.
Cohen’s Key Move: Duplicate Yourself
Rather than franchise or expand her business, Cohen decided to “duplicate herself” by creating a Business In A Box. Cohen would teach other people how to set up their own home referral companies. After a positive response to some market research about the idea, Cohen took the plunge.
With a friend from the Wharton Business School, Cohen wrote The Complete Guide To Owning And Operating A Successful Homeowner Referral Network© which outlines every aspect of the business from her contractor screening process, commissions and invoicing to a market segmentation study, advertising and direct mail campaign and liability issues. Based on the outline from a franchise manual, Cohen’s Complete Guide To Owning And Operating A Successful Homeowner Referral Network© “created a system for my business that anyone could follow.” Cohen sells the manual as part of various packages that include one-on-one consultation time, web design, forms, graphics, customized HRN software and more.
Now Cohen spends 50 percent of her time on her spinoff business. As a home-business consultant, she’s helped launch more than 300 HRN’s nationally and combined revenue for her referral and consulting business is almost $4 million to date.
Cohen’s Bonus Insight: Keep It Simple
The best ideas in life are simple. Cohen’s service business was born to satisfy a basic need in home improvement market. There was little overhead, excellent profit and it allowed for a flexible work schedule. She left a career in Corporate America and launched the business to remain stimulated while at home raising her children. When her business took off, she didn’t want to return to a career that required her to work 50+ hours per week. “Opportunities will always present themselves in business but it’s important to know which ones to seize,” she says. “Duplicating my business model and helping others launch independent businesses of their own was the simplest solution. It allowed me to generate a substantially greater income while still focusing on my referral business and my family.”
Debra Cohen is President of Home Remedies® of NY, Inc.–a Homeowner Referral Network (HRN). Ms. Cohen is also author of a business manual entitled The Complete Guide To Owning And Operating A Successful Homeowner Referral Network. To date, Ms. Cohen has assisted more than 300 other entrepreneurs launch successful HRN’s nationwide. For more information about the HRN business, visit www.hrnbiz.com.