THE BLOG
09/13/2016 11:20 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

10 Tips for Starting Up Your Disaster Restoration Business

The disaster restoration business is very challenging, and it's also very rewarding.

When I first opened ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba here in Chicago, my sights were naturally set on startup success. I also knew that I would be in a position to have a positive effect on the lives of my customers.

If you like the idea of owning your own company in an industry with great growth potential, I definitely recommend the fire and water damage restoration business. If you're genuinely drawn to helping others, that's one of the best reasons for entering this unique field.

Ten Points to Consider
servicemaster by zaba
I've been very successful with my company, and I strongly believe in sharing my knowledge and experience with others.

If you're thinking about becoming a part of this exciting business, I offer these 10 points for your consideration.

  1. Do Your Homework.
    When I first started my company, I jumped in and figured things out. With a lot of determination and a little luck, my strategy worked. However, you can get ahead much more quickly by learning all that you can about the disaster restoration field before opening your doors. For example, are you thinking about starting your business from the ground up or purchasing a franchise? Once you've done your homework, you can make the big decisions with confidence.
  2. Develop a Business Blueprint. servicemaster by zaba
    Frame a solid business plan documenting what your company is about, how you plan on hiring and where you should concentrate marketing. Detail your projected investment and expected returns.I met my goals within five years of starting up, but I could've done it sooner with a good business blueprint.
  3. Target Your Customers, Focus Your Reach.
    Identify your target customers and service area. In the beginning, you're hungry for business, but you have to factor in the time and personnel it takes to cover different locations. As a franchise, my company works within certain zip codes, and that lets me focus resources where they best serve my business and my customers.
  4. Get to Know the Competition.
    Don't assume that other restoration company owners won't talk strategies with you. It's a tough market, but we all have the same goals: to make our companies successful and to help our customers through difficult situations. However, you'll do best by contacting businesses that operate outside of the areas that you plan on covering. Also, speak with owners who take care of customers in a market similar to yours. This assures that the insights you gain will be relevant to the plans you have for your company.
  5. Start Certification Now. servicemaster by zaba
    You can't become certified in this business with just one course. Water damage restoration requires training that's different from understanding the science behind fire damage cleanup. Get started now on the certification process, and make sure that at least one of your employees is also certified. This allows you both to monitor and field-train new hires as they go through their certification.
  6. Resist the Temptation to Over-Equip.
    Handle your startup budget wisely by equipping your business with the basics. You need moisture meters, air movers, dehumidifiers and cleaning products, and you need fleet vans. You don't need six of everything right now, and you don't need bells and whistles. Invest in additional equipment as your company grows.
  7. Know Where You Want to Start.
    This strategy helps you make those important decisions about start-up equipment. Are you going to concentrate on water and fire damage projects? Do you want to include mold remediation? In my experience, it's easier to offer basic services in the beginning. As your business grows, you can expand and add specialized areas like commercial and house cleaning services.
  8. Trust Someone Else With Digital Marketing. servicemaster by zaba
    When customers need fire or water damage restoration services, they usually start with a smartphone search. You need to be highly visible on that digital radar so that you're always available for quick connections. Even if you have the talent, you don't have the time it takes to handle marketing strategies. Outsource this critical business component to a reputable SEO agency or company that specializes in digital media, web design and social media management.
  9. Hire the Right Qualities.
    The disaster restoration business requires hard physical work, long hours and real job dedication. My staff and techs form the backbone of my company, and we've become a strong working family. When you hire employees, experience counts, but you also want people who have qualities that you value both professionally and personally.
  10. Keep Your Skill Set Sharp.
    You're ready to run your own company. That demonstrates leadership capabilities, so set your professional standards high because you serve as an example to your employees. Keep smart time management and flexibility in your skill set, and balance everything with sincere empathy. Customers need your professional abilities to recover from disasters, and they need your genuine compassion too.

Finding Your Place
servicemaster by zaba
Before you open any type of business, you need to have a strong sense of what you want for yourself and how you can serve other people. Whether you help budding entrepreneurs develop marketing plans or assist people after they've gone through a disaster, your rewards will always be more than monetary.

You have to achieve financial success to move forward, and that's easier to do when you take the best possible care of your customers and your employees too. I salute your interest in the water and fire damage cleanup business, and I hope my advice can help you find your place in this amazing industry.

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.