Pros Line up at Home & Garden Show

03/01/2011

Pros Line up at Home & Garden Show

Written by conric on 2011-02-27

Quality Service Pros takes the gamble out of the contractor game

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Opening the Yellow Pages can feel a lot like spinning the roulette wheel – especially when looking for a company to help you repair or remodel your home.

In these economic times, people don’t like to take unnecessary chances. They make careful choices about which improvement projects are essential, and which ones can be put off.

Shouldn’t the choice of a roofer, plumber or remodeling professional also be made with the utmost care? That’s where Quality Service Pros can help. The online directory offers risk management for your contractor hiring process. And if you were at the recent Home & Garden Show in Fort Myers this month, you got to meet 15 of the Pros, all lined up in a row.

Buyer Beware

After Hurricane Charley, unlicensed contractor activity in Southwest Florida reached a fever pitch, with unscrupulous outfits developing predatory scams designed to target homeowners already in a bad situation. Customers of Coastline Window Cleaning, Inc., started asking its president, Jason Evers, for referrals to reputable companies.

He developed a database of trusted companies, and passed them on to those who inquired. Usually, however, the request would come after the customer had already fallen prey to a scam or was left with a project half-finished and their deposit long gone.

Evers realized the need for consumers to be paired with dependable, skilled service providers was acute, even in non-hurricane times. And it was not being met through sources like the telephone book or Internet searches.

Evers’ informal database has evolved into an online directory of pre-screened professionals that include more than the home repair and construction fields. The Quality Service Pros directory contains providers in dozens of categories – from accountants and outdoor lighting to home security and feng shui consulting – that have provided proof of licensing and insurance, and passed a rigorous screening process.

“Our mission is to educate consumers how to hire smart,” Evers said. To this end, the Quality Service Pros Web site offers informative articles and e-books on how to verify licenses and insurance, check arrest records, prepare for a hurricane, and many other important topics.

Power in Numbers

A directory focused on the principle of competent, honest business practice naturally drew the interest of local service companies who prided themselves on operating on that very tenet. It then snowballed, and a networking group grew out of it. The group further set itself apart by offering an educational component, according to Evers,“to better ourselves, not just get together to give referrals.” Training seminars have focused on business administration, customer service and quality management topics.

Some business networking organizations pride themselves on category exclusivity, where a member is guaranteed no other similar company will be allowed as a member. This is another point of departure for Quality Service Pros, and for a good reason. Category exclusivity would be a detriment to that core “hire smart” mission.

Evers explained, “We have multiple people per category because one of the things my Web site tells people is: hire smart – get three qualified bids from licensed, insured professionals.”

And for the contractors, there’s power in numbers, too. Taking the networking group model even further from its traditional model, Quality Service Pros offers Web site exposure for its members, press release services and group media and marketing campaigns. At the Home & Garden Show, for instance, 15 members joined forces to commandeer an entire row of display space to promote themselves individually as well as the group as a whole. They also provided live seminars, such as a hands-on faux finishing workshop, and consumer education presentations, including how to research a company’s credentials .

Aside from booth space, members went in on giveaways and decorations that created a visual impact that wouldn’t have been feasible for a company on its own. “We created quite a buzz,” Evers remarked.

The extra attention allowed member companies to educate consumers about the QSP Hire Smart philosophy and to make plenty of on-the-spot referrals to other members on the floor. “It was a great way to put people at ease. They knew we are approved pros and I had already done their homework for them.”

Get in on It

Local companies can get involved by undergoing the credentialing and pre-screening process and by paying a monthly membership fee of $99, which amounts to less than the cost of a daily cup of Starbucks coffee. Meetings are scheduled only once a month because, as Evers said, “time is money. If you think about the time spent in weekly meetings, you’re investing a lot more than $99 a month.”

Go to http://www.qualityservicepros.com for more information.

Comsumers may download the free guide, “Ten Things You Must Know Before Hiring a Contractor,” at http://www.qualityservicepros.com/ebooks/

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