SSWF – Sue Kauffman & Company
Introducing: Sue Kauffman Unger with Sue Kauffman & Company serving Southcentral PA.
How long have you been in business?
Are you solo or have a team?
We are a team here at Sue Kauffman & Company, LLC. My daughter-in-law, Amie Howes is my right hand in the business. She is the Business Development Manager, Lead Stager and heads up the Redesign side of the business. We also rely on and value our two part-time team members.
Describe any specific challenges you are facing
Everyday is a challenge in one way or another, as each day brings on a new ‘opportunity’ for us. My biggest challenge right now is figuring out how to work ON the business instead of IN the business.
The business began with me doing it all, and now that our client list and our staff is growing, I’m learning to give up tasks that I’ve done in the past and delegate to others. That may seem like a simple thing to do, but it’s difficult for me. Being a leader is a new role, as my nature is to be a ‘one-man-show’. Growing a business is a challenge every single day.
What got you into staging in the first place?
In my former life as a decorative faux painter/plasterer, clients were always asking for interior design advice outside of wall finishes. As faux painting became more passe, I got wind of the home staging business, and it was a no-brainer from there. I combined both businesses for awhile as I took an online staging certification course, and then became a full-time stager.
What was your previous career?
I’ve lead a varied career life. I was raised on a dairy farm and life revolved about the the black and white bovine through my childhood and adulthood. My first husband and I had a dairy farm. During that time, I started a dairy cattle advertising business, in which I wrote and designed advertising for dairy farmers throughout the US.
Following that, I served as the Assistant Coordinator of the Children’s Miracle Network at the Hershey Medical Center of the Penn State University. But I wanted to have my own business and took that leap into faux finishing in 2001. In 2008, my business morphed into home staging and redesign.
What do you know now that you wished you knew on your first day of business?
Looking back on this business, I wished I had known how hard it was going to be. It’s hard to run a growing business. It’s hard to make all the pieces fit. It’s hard to always keep myself motivated. It was so much easier when I was a one man show without inventory, warehouse, payroll, and the financial stress of making sure all of those things work. The mental stress is more than I anticipated.
What has been your biggest business challenge and how did you overcome it?
I didn’t think this would be challenge, but it actually is – setting long term goals for the business. I started the business because I knew I would love staging houses and I’d be successful at it. So that’s what I did. I didn’t think about how I would want my business to change and grow down the road. I intended to just have inventoried accessories of my own and rent furniture until I retired. But my love for staging and the demand for my staging services grew and I couldn’t do it alone any longer, plus I got the bug to have my own inventory because it makes long-term sense for my business.
I’m still working on long term goals, and thankfully, I have Amie to help with this. She has much more of a ‘business mind’ and together, we can take this business to new levels and expand on company objectives. Learning to put the right people in place in the company, thinking about THEIR qualities and talents, and using those talents to fill in the areas that I’m not good at is helping to overcome the stress of everyday operations.
What objection have you heard from a client and how did you overcome it?
Pricing has often been an issue, as we are not the cheapest staging company in our area. I learned to give the client pricing options. This was hard for me, because I want all our staging jobs to be magazine-quality perfect, and that pricing tended to be a ‘sticker-shock’ to clients. I had to learn that I must offer different levels of staging to clients and let them know what they are getting for each level. And I had to accept that not all our staging jobs are going to be the top-notch-picture-perfect renditions, but they are want the client wants and can afford, and the client is happy. And they still sell 🙂
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