Top three things to ask yourself when opening or expanding an estate sale business
2015 saw increased interest in the estate liquidation industry. A New York Times article earlier this year declared that estate sale business is booming.
This week, we noticed Craigslist ads popping up offering estate sale business opportunities in various cities with alluring headlines like, “Do you want to own a business that’s fun and easy?”
These ads are claiming that for around $3,800 and after “a two-day hands-on training class to feature marketing, operations, antique appraisal, pricing resource guides, contracts, inventory system, staffing, and ongoing support” you would be all ready to operate your home business. The same ad said that it would be “Very easy to manage and staff.”
I’m here to support those who want to grow and improve their business but I will never lie to you and tell you this is very easy to manage. Any entrepreneur or self employed business owner can tell you there is a lot of work. We work many hours and we think about our work pretty much all the time. When a client is unhappy, we lose sleep. It isn’t like a regular job. You don’t clock out and turn back to your real life, it is your real life.
There is a lot of work involved in running any business, and this industry is no exception. In fact, I think it is harder than many other types of small businesses.
Here are my top three things to ask yourself if you are thinking of opening an estate sale business.
Do I have patience?
A lot of people see estate sales on opening day and think “Wow, this would be a fun job! I’m going to do this too.” Sure, we have fun, we love our work, but before we started our sale and opened to the public there was a lot of behind the scenes work that probably needed doing and magic fairy dust doesn’t do it, we do it. For example:
- Our clients are often coming to us for help at a time of tremendous stress, loss or turmoil. We often have to be counselors in addition to being liquidators. Expect that, and don’t be annoyed with your clients, they are dealing with hardship. You will need to be patient and kind in order to succeed.
- A lot of clients have unrealistic expectations of what their items are worth and you will have to help them accept a completely different reality than what they had imagined.
- The homes we work in are sometimes fancy high end homes, but many of us also handle hoarder homes, or homes that require major cleaning, trash removal and at times even hazardous materials that have to be properly removed before we can set up the sale.
- A lot of people think we have a glam filled life with antiques and lovely trinkets sparkling all around us 24/7, but there are many many days when I am basically a maid cleaning up dust, killing black widow spiders, removing cat puke from carpets and sometimes even discarding rat bodies from outbuildings to make my sale safe for the public.
Think about what it would be like to work with people who are struggling with a major transition and how you will handle these challenges.
Do I really want to be the boss?
Being your own boss is something that people often dream about. But in the estate sale industry, it often doesn’t end there. I’ve seen some sales that were clearly set up and run by just one person or by a two person family team. But they often aren’t pretty, nor is it an especially safe way to run a sale. Maybe if you live in a small town and have a very casual sale it would be fine. For the most part, if you are running an estate sale business, you are going to require a team to help you.
Some owners do all of the set up themselves and just have support during the sale, some use support for setting up, running the sale and breaking down. You have to decide what is going to work for you. Without a team of people to help me, I would never get my sales ready quickly. I get too distracted by organizing each category of items and would take months to finish.
With my team, we can organize an entire home in just a one week turn around when needed. I love working alone sometimes, but if I had to do everything alone, I would get bogged which would be a disservice to my clients because they often need to get their homes emptied out ASAP.
So think about what type of manager you will be.
- How will you handle conflicts?
- What will your job descriptions look like?
- Do you have employee handbooks, contracts and policies?
- What about worker’s comp insurance and payroll services?
Just think for a moment about what it would be like to have all of the things in place that would allow you to hire a team and put systems in place to get sales set up quickly.
What are the things you are weakest at in business?
- Are you great with people but terrible with accounting?
- Do you have lots of connections and ideas for your new business but no clear plan for implementing the concepts you have?
- Are you great at marketing your sales and researching your inventory but not as good at managing a team?
When you are planning your business talk to everyone you know and think about what areas you are going to need help with. Are there areas where mentoring or outsourcing will give you the best results?