Greg Wilkes (00:01):
The construction industry can be a tough business to crack from cashflow problems. Struggling to find skilled labor and not making enough money for your efforts leaves many business owners feeling frustrated and burnt out. But when you get the business strategy right, it’s an industry that can be highly satisfying and financially rewarding. I’m here to give you the resources to be able to create a construction business that gives you more time, more freedom, and more money. This is the Develop Your Construction Business podcast, and I’m your host, Greg Wilkes.
Greg Wilkes (00:40):
Welcome everyone to the podcast. Great to have you back for another episode today. Really excited to welcome Andrew Small as one of our guests who’s one of the directors at House in the UK. So absolutely great to have you on. Andrew, please for you to be here.
Andrew Small (00:55):
Yes, and thanks for having me, Greg. I’m excited to be here today and interacting with you, but also being here in front of your podcast listeners, love talking to professionals about helping them build better businesses and help them lead better lives, essentially by running their businesses more effectively. So love what you are doing, sharing your experience, and we are keen to participate in that as well.
Greg Wilkes (01:15):
Yes, fantastic. So really looking forward to diving in of how Houzz is potentially a real benefit to my listeners that are in the UK. So it often comes up in our conversations and when I’m talking to clients, they’re often talking about joining Houzz or they’re already part of Houzz and getting benefits out of it. So I thought it’d be really good to get you on. So maybe before we jump in, Andrew, would you like to do a bit of an introduction onto what your role is in Houzz? How House came about in the UK and around the world?
Andrew Small (01:45):
Absolutely. So first of all, I’ll just briefly say the leading platform in the world for home design, home renovation, and home construction. 65 million people around the world are using our website, our apps, and our services. So it’s a big platform. Originally started by a husband and wife team in California who were going through a renovation and realized that technology could probably be brought to bear to make that experience better for them, but also the business owners that they were working with on their renovation. We’ve been in the UK since 2014 now, and I’ve been with the business since around that time as well. So about seven years or so that I’ve been with the company. And I oversee our industry solutions business, which is really how we work with design professionals, construction professionals, and help them essentially try and build better businesses by using our technology and our community to help them run their businesses more effectively.
Greg Wilkes (02:42):
Brilliant. Yes, that’s fantastic. So I remember when Houzz first came on the scene back in a few years back. Now that seems like a long time ago, actually, 2014. It’s flying by, isn’t it? But when I first came across Houzz, I always thought it was just maybe a place where you’d go for a bit of design inspiration and maybe look for an architect and things like that, but it’s amazing to see how it’s evolved to become really useful for builders and trades. So how do you think House is a benefit now for how has it evolved and how do you think it is a benefit for builders out there and tradespeople?
Andrew Small (03:15):
Yes. Absolutely. So we definitely gone on a journey. So you’re absolutely right. Houzz is certainly a source of inspiration. There are 23 million images on Houzz that homeowners do come and interact with. There are 2.7 million I think businesses on Houzz with a profile and homeowners can connect with them and collaborate with them. How we’ve evolved is really launching something that we call HouzzPro, and HouzzPro is designed as an end-to-end solution for construction firms and firms involved in the home renovation space. That’s really about an end-to-end marketing and software solution now. So it is moved a long way away from being just about inspiration and branding yourself in front of a relevant audience of homeowners. HouzzPro is now really about helping you stand out in the right way about making sure that you’ve got a great-looking website, and that you are getting your exposure out there in front of a relevant audience, but it’s also about now helping you use technology to run and manage your business and all of your client relationships and interactions in a smart way results in you having more time or more profitable business or winning more of the right type of work. So I’ll give you a very quick example of something that we’ve launched and introduced into HouzzPro to bring that to life.
Which is for our HouzzPro members, our premium subscription members. One thing, just one thing that they have access to with HouzzPro now is a takeoff feature. So whereas maybe traditionally as a builder you come home after day, you’ve been on site all day, you’re tired, you’ve got a client pinging you saying, where’s that estimate you promised me yesterday? And you’re getting out a plan on a piece of paper and a ruler and a calculator and you’re measuring stuff and then trying to get it into a template on Word or Excel and something, get it over to a client on HouzzPro, upload a PDF of a plan, select a scale, a few clicks very quickly, generate volumes, areas lengths, drop all of that sort of bill of material straight into an estimate that’s already there and branded with your company header, your information, it looks professional, it looks slick, goes straight over to that prospect that you’ve been managing and working with in-Houzz Pro. They can see it, they can click, they can approve, they can interact with you specific line items and feedback.
So really using tech to make that process better for both the homeowner, but more importantly really, for that construction, that business owner who wants more time to spend with their family in the evening instead of working on an estimate. So that’s how we’ve tried to evolve to bring those kinds of tools to bear.
Greg Wilkes (05:49):
Yes, I mean that is a really good tool, isn’t it, to do takeoff, because obviously that’s something really time-consuming and frustrating. I don’t think anyone enjoys preparing estimates unless you’re an estimator or a QS, but for the average builder, that is a big time-sucking constraint, isn’t it, trying to do the takeoffs. So just to explain that a bit further then, those takeoffs, they’ll go into an estimate that’s already in the Houzz portal, is it that you can set up? Is that right? And then
Andrew Small (06:15):
Correct, yes. So again, part of the offering that’s there for our clients is they can come in, they can configure a template of how they want their estimates to look. There’s a pre-populated database of common parts and things. So you can speed up creating those templates and then you can obviously once they’re there you can reuse them really easily. And because we’ve set you up, all your business information is there. So again, it looks professional, it’s on a company header and your logos are there and it looks slick and modern. When I’ve been doing renovations in the past, often an estimate will be a WhatsApp message or an Excel, a scrappy piece of paper. And if you’re spending a hundred thousand pounds in the modern world, that’s not really good enough. You kind of expect, I think when you can do so much on your mobile phone these days, a lot of homeowners will expect in other areas of their lives that sort of a different quality of interaction. So we also want to make it look good for those build firms when they’re interacting with their clients. So they stand out a little bit as well compared to their competition.
Greg Wilkes (07:22):
Yes, big time. That is so important, isn’t it? Just to give yourself, if you’ve got that branding that’s coming across, it gives you that credibility, doesn’t it? And just puts you at a different level compared to potentially others that are out there that aren’t offering that. So yes, that’s really valuable. So just diving in further to HouzzPro, what other features has it got? So just so I understand, it’s a portal that you can log into, if you’re a premium member, you’ve got access to your estimates and your takeoffs. Any other features in there that people can use?
Andrew Small (07:50):
Yes, well I’ll sort of walk you through it very briefly, almost from the aspect of a project lifecycle in a way. So one thing, as a construction firm, you might want to get your name out there. You want to make sure that when people discover you look good. So first of all, do you have a decent website? Is it mobile responsive? Is it SEO friendly? Does it look modern and slick? We’ll help you do that using the technology that we use to build our own website, which we think is great. So we’ll make sure you’ve got a great website. We’ll help make sure that your work, your images, your reviews, your business profile is circulating on Houzz in front of homeowners in relevant areas for you with people who are looking for the types of things that you want to do and you want to be known for, right?
So if you like doing loft conversions, we’ll make sure that you are being seen in front of homeowners who are looking for loft conversions on how, but then when people get in touch with you, whether that be on Houzz or through some other means, how are you interacting with those leads? How are you managing that pipeline of people coming in, right? So we have a tool that’s all about lead management. You can see all of your prospective clients, you can interact with them, and you can make sure that you know where you are and where they are in your process.
Greg Wilkes (09:04):
Like a CRM within
Andrew Small (09:05):
Like a CRM. Exactly. I try and avoid using buzzwords and acronyms and things, but absolutely it’s a very simple, easy to use CRM specifically designed for construction firms when it’s then time to put information in front of a client. I’ve mentioned the takeoffs feature, but will also help you create visually stunning proposals. There are 3D visualization tools in there. You can build a very simple from a floor plan, create it on your mobile phone using the HouzzPro app, create a Doll’s House view that you can actually walk through and see a simple design. I’ve mentioned creating estimates, and getting those estimates over to homeowners. But then as you’re working through the project, I think one of the pain points that I hear when talking to builders is that interaction with clients that scope creep when the project is rarely the same at the end as it was at the start.
And all those changes, managing all those change orders directly online so the client can see exactly where they’re at when something changes, you can quickly update it, the client can see that they can approve it. Everyone knows where they stand in terms of what’s been billed, when things are transacted on Houzz. And then when it’s time to collect money, you can actually click and ask for payment directly online using Houzz as well. So all your invoices are there and your payments are there as well. And then now we actually also integrate with accounting systems like QuickBooks for example. So everything just flows straight through. So really designed to be end to end, right from branding your business, getting your name out there, through to how you put your best foot forward and offer a great experience using technology. Again, all about making yourself stand out, but also saving you time and making you look really slick and competent compared to that old school way of doing things really.
Greg Wilkes (10:50):
Yes, that’s fantastic. So that really is a complete package, isn’t it, for different builders that, because obviously, it can get quite expensive if you’re trying to pay for a CRM system, you’re trying to pay for a takeoff or estimating software, all of that combined. If you’ve got all of that in one Houzz in one place, that’s absolutely really useful, isn’t it? So that’s really good. And just coming out of the portal then, so you said that there’s a benefit for HouzzPro members because you appear specifically on the website to people that might be looking for loft conversions. So is that like a sponsored listing or do you rank a little bit higher up than others if you
Andrew Small (11:22):
Absolutely. So it’s a form of online marketing. So one of the things, and first I should say it’s very customizable. So when we start, if someone wants to partner with us, it’ll start with a conversation. Understand who are you, and what do you want to be known for? What type of work do you love doing? Where do you like working, what kind of business goals do you have? And then we would construct for you a marketing program that is really about ensuring that your photographs, so images of work that you’ve done that is I think most importantly and something that sometimes people don’t necessarily think about is representative of the type of work that you want to be doing, not necessarily the work that you sort of fall from job to job doing, but what do you want to be known for? Let’s make sure that images of work like that are circulating, being seen thousands of times a month in front of homeowners who are actively renovating and using Houzz as part of their renovation journey in the physical geographies, the actual postcodes or regions that you want to be seen and known for. We do have a directory on Houzz. So when a homeowner is moved beyond browsing images, they’re actually looking to connect with a professional, there’s a directory and we’ll make sure that you’re featured within that directory. So when there have this real intent there, if I’m looking for an architect or if I’m looking for a specific type of builder, I want to do my loft conversion, now, you are there at the top of the directory being seen again in front of relevant homeowners.
One of the really nice features that we’ve introduced a little bit more recently that we get great feedback on from both homeowners and builders is our live connection service. So I think probably a pain point that you might recognize, Greg is often homeowners don’t always know what they want or where exactly they are in their discovery and their journey when they start reaching out to people. And we try and funnel that intent through our own internal team. So we capture that intent on our website. We have a team of people that are actually speaking to homeowners all day every day, asking them about their projects, qualifying their inquiries, and then we connect them live on the phone directly with our clients in a relevant area. So specifically to the services that those clients provide. You as a builder might suddenly you’ll be onsite and you get a phone call from someone at Houzz. It’s like I’ve got a homeowner on the line right now. They’re looking for the types of services that you’ve told us you like doing in the area that you like working to the budget that you like working with. Are you ready to speak to them right now? And that’s a really hassle-free experience for a busy business owner.
Greg Wilkes (13:57):
That’s really useful. Because you taking someone and just warming them up through the funnel, you’re doing that for the builder aren’t you, I guess. And then providing them when they’re quite hot. So that’s a really useful service. So just thinking about, obviously, there’s a few different, I don’t know if a directory is the right word really, but there’s a few companies out there that are directory. You’ve got things like Check or Trade, and My Builder, and obviously Houzz, FMB. There are obviously different demographics of people that come onto the sites and you are aimed at different sorts of markets. Where would you say Houzz fits in with this? What’s the general market that you are aiming at for a general builder? So if they were considering you over say Check or Trade, what do you think the differences would be?
Andrew Small (14:41):
Well, so firstly I’d say Houzz is the leading platform for home design, home renovation, as I said, just in terms of size and scale globally, 65 million people around the world. Our audience in the UK on Houzz, we know that I think 94% of them are older than 35, two times the national average income. When we surveyed our user base last year, I think 88% of them had renovated and hired a professional within the last year and something like 83% were looking to renovate within the next 12 months. So it’s clearly an audience of people who are relatively affluent and who are actively engaged in the home design process, but often the way through the cycle. So when my wife and I first started using Houzz, we were actually doing an extension on our home and we are on Houzz, we’re talking to each other, we’re saving ideas and sharing images with each other well before we are at the point where we’re about to contact someone.
So people are coming to Houzz right at the very beginning of their design journey. And often when we’re talking to businesses we’re saying, think about who you want to be to the outside world at that point in time, not necessarily at the point where someone’s in a directory and they’re just looking for the cheapest price possible, but be known for something in your local area, be competitive in your local area and be relevant and present in front of people when they’re having those conversations in their living room late at night after work. And they say, oh, we should really do the thing, the kitchen or the loft extension or the renovation. You want it to be your images that are being seen at that point. And I think that’s where the type of work that we do on the advertising side with our clients really stands out relative to some of those other things that you mentioned.
Greg Wilkes (16:36):
Yes, I could really see the value in that. So just thinking about, obviously I know in Houzz you have a profile that you can put up. Obviously, you can join the Houzz directory for free, you don’t have to join Houzz yet. So potentially just thinking about your profiles initially, is there any sort of top tips on the best ways of maximizing your profiling and getting the most out it?
Andrew Small (17:00):
Yes. So what I’d say first of all is to know who you are and what you stand for. And that might sound sort of simple or glib, I don’t mean it in that way, but it’s easy to, I think fall from job to job. And a lot of businesses in this area, they survive by word of mouth and they’re busy all the time. They’re always busy. But just because you did a bathroom fit out last time, that person refers you to someone else who wants a bathroom fit out, is not necessarily what you want to be known for. So first of all, know the type of work that you want to be doing and be clear in your own mind on that. And then make sure that is coming across in all of your online communications, not just on Houzz, everywhere. In terms of building out your profile on Houzz, make sure the content on there is fresh so that your each project, you’re getting some simple photography, right?
Make sure you’re taking high-quality images, ideally spending a little bit of money to get some professional images taken. And I always recommend to construction professionals when you start a project, when you first start, when that point where you’ve kind of agreed that you’re going to work together, tell them at that point, at the end of this, I’d love to get a review. If at any point during the process, you don’t feel comfortable that you’re going to be able to give me that review, let me know at the end of it. It’s really important to me. And then make sure that review gets up, that person shares that review on Houzz, because it really is the most important thing from our point of view. What we learn from listening to our homeowners on our platform is looking at high-quality reviews from other homeowners like them is the number one thing, decision criteria that drives decisions at the homeowner end. So reviews, reviews, reviews, fresh, good quality images, but most importantly, know what you are and what you want to be doing.
Greg Wilkes (18:48):
Yes, that’s three really good tips there. And yes, reviews are absolutely crucial. I think now, especially with things like Amazon and whatever else we’ve conditioned, aren’t we? TripAdvisor all the different things we have? It’s all about reviews, isn’t it? Before you go anywhere now or buy anything, you’re going to check the reviews first. Absolutely. Sometimes I think even it raises red flags, doesn’t it? If you see a profile there and there’s no reviews or just one review, you think, well, why? Is there something wrong with this? But there might not be anything wrong with them, but it certainly raises a red flag in a client’s mind, doesn’t it? If they’re not seeing those reviews?
Andrew Small (19:19):
It does, but also sometimes I think builders and construction firms, they worry about understandably, they worry, well, what if someone gives me a bad review and then I’m stuck with it? And actually, I think some of the best companies in the world, in terms of companies that are really great at customer service, it is how they interact online. So if they do get a bad review, it’s how they respond to that and the fact that there’s a dialogue there, and it’s not just silence, but they take the time to respond and say, yes, understand. So a bad review almost can be an opportunity as well. And I think having that mindset of I’m going to be comfortable putting myself out there, asking my clients for reviews, not being afraid of what they’re going to say, knowing that, yes, occasionally things go wrong, but it’s just about how I respond and engage in a dialogue when that does occur.
Greg Wilkes (20:13):
Yes, sure. That’s a really good point. And also just coming back to the profile again, so you noticed on some House profiles that people are winning awards every now and again, you might be grinding an award for, and there are quite a few different categories I think aren’t there for awards. How do people win awards? How are they sort of judged by Houzz? What would someone do to apply for an award sort of thing?
Andrew Small (20:37):
So again, firstly Houzz has always been a community-based platform. So right from these awards, as you say, it’s our best-of-Houzz awards program that runs every year. And we’ve done that for many years now. And it really stemmed from the community. So it’s not really about Houzz judging anyone, it’s a community-based view. So we have awards in what we call our design category and our service category and the design category is all about user engagement on our platform with photography. So the images, on Houzz that are fresh and current that users on Houzz have engaged with, they’ve saved them to their idea books, they’ve shared them, they clicked on them. We look to see which images are representative of design features essentially that homeowners love. So it’s not Houzz choosing, it’s the Houzz community. Same thing on the service side, it’s about the reviews again, and it’s about what people are saying about other companies on Houzz via that review functionality.
And that’s what generates the awards on the service side. And we recently published the most recent Best of Houzz awards earlier this year, and it’s always a really nice moment within our company because we love seeing businesses celebrating that. And so you see people posting on their Instagram and sharing with the outside world like, oh, I’ve just won this award and it feels good. And again, that’s kind of what we’re all about, is sort of recognizing the work that this industry is doing. And it is hard running a construction firm, right? I’m sure you know that much better than I do. And to have just a little moment of someone kind of saying, “Yeah, well done!” is if we can participate there in that in some way, then it’s a nice little aspect of Houzz, I think.
Greg Wilkes (22:24):
Sure, yes. And do you think it’s important, just thinking of the whole combined package, the photos, the reviews, the potentially awards, do you think that the builder needs that to give them credibility and drive more business to them? Do you think that’s important?
Andrew Small (22:41):
I think it’s important, but you don’t need everything. And so if I was talking to someone who’s just starting out, maybe someone who’s been working on site for a number of years and has just started out by themselves and maybe doesn’t have a back catalog of projects that they can call their own and lots of client testimonials and things to that person, I would say it’s still relevant to be putting your best foot forward at every point. So make sure you’ve got a really simple website that works and when someone views it on their mobile phone it doesn’t look all weird and messed up. Make sure that when you describe the types of services that you offer or that you want to offer, you’ really clear in how you go about doing that when someone does get in touch with you. If you can’t win based on experience, win based on how friendly you are, how responsive you are, and how quickly you get back to people, use tools to help you do that. When you put ideas in front of someone, beat your competition by being slicker, being better in terms of how modern and professional that experience is. So you can build a great construction business without a back catalog of tons of images and reviews from past clients. Absolutely. By putting your best foot forward at each moment that you have an opportunity to interact with a prospective client or a homeowner.
Of course, lots of great images and lots of great reviews is going to help you stand out on Houzz relative to your competition.
Greg Wilkes (24:08):
Yes, no, that’s good. I mean, everyone’s got start from somewhere, haven’t they? And I think that’s a really good tip for people who are just coming on and that might hold people back. They might think, oh, I haven’t got that experience or, so I think that’s a really valid point you’ve mentioned there, Andrew, so that’s good. So just coming back to, what we mentioned earlier about there’s obviously there is different directories out there that people are potentially using. Why would you say people should really be considering using Houzz, and specifically HouzzPro over the others? What would you say as sort of a final word to them?
Andrew Small (24:40):
I think we are passionate about helping companies like this, and there’s so much value there. So it’s the world’s largest platform. There’s a really relevant audience of people who are actively renovating on our platform, but then we are giving you this end-to-end solution. Lead management estimates, takeoffs, invoicing, there’s Gantt chart functionality, to share Gantt charts and project plans with clients, but also with subcontractors. There’s the ability to manage change orders. There’s the ability to ask people for payments all on Houzz. So you’re getting all of that and you can integrate it straight with your accounting package. So you’re getting all of that value. It is a long way away from being just a directory. Okay. So that’s how I’d say we are trying to specifically develop technology for these types of companies. It isn’t generic, it isn’t just an off-the-shelf software app or something that you get for one specific thing specifically for people like business owners who are listening to you and I right now.
Greg Wilkes (25:46):
Yes, no, that’s a really good answer, Andrew. Thanks for that. So I really appreciate your time going forward. One thing we haven’t touched on is the cost of HouzzPro. Now, I know on podcasts it’s always dangerous to say it costs, it can change like a year later, but where are we at? So we’re in March, 2022. What’s the current cost of HouzzPro? What would it cost someone to sign up for that?
Andrew Small (26:06):
So if you’re just getting started, you can get started on Houzz of 49 pounds a month for one of our basic starter packages. Now that is just going to give you some of those software features that I’ve mentioned. Now many of our clients that we’re working with actively will be spending anywhere between three and 6,000 pounds a year with Houzz because they see it as a medium-term investment in again, putting the right foot forward at every step, great website, regular consistent visibility, their images being seen in front of relevant homeowners, making sure they’re in our directory, they’re receiving leads through our platform. They’ve got that live connection service. So it is very customizable. You can get started with us for 49 pounds a month. You can also come to Houzz and just create a profile and start experiencing Houzz for free. But if you want to start actively solving a problem, growing your business, really making a meaningful investment in your business, and I’d say to any business owner, if you’re actually serious about changing the trajectory, whether that be the trajectory of the type of work or the size of work or the profitability of work or your habits, the amount of time you are spending in the evenings, the amount of time you spend with your children, if you’re serious about actually making a difference, then investing a few thousand pounds a year is a sensible quantum, I think, to be thinking about in terms of actually changing how you think about your business and the outcomes of your business.
Greg Wilkes (27:39):
Sure. That’s it. You’re investing in your business, you’re investing in yourself and your family and everything, aren’t you? So, no, that’s really good. Well, Andrew, look, I really appreciate you. I know you’re a busy guy, so thanks for taking the time out today to talk to us. I know that’s going to be a great benefit to our listeners who are considering HouzzPro or who might be on Houzz at the moment, but don’t quite realize how much it can be leveraged. So really appreciate you spending your time.
Andrew Small (28:02):
Awesome. Thanks, Greg. Thanks for having me on there. Cheer.
Greg Wilkes (28:10):
If you’d like to work with me to fast track your construction business growth, then reach out on www.developcoaching.uk.