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A matchmaker for improving your property
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Small businesses have a lot in common with private homeowners --
many large, well-known contractors perceive their jobs as too small
That leaves the next tier of contractors -- the smaller companies
less widely known reputations. How does a small law or accounting
office, or a solo dentist, or veterinarian guess which ones will
do good work -- and show up when they promise?
Real estate agents looking a deadline in the face also need to
can do the fix-up or cleaning job right and do it fast.
Laura Cicholski found herself wondering who to call when she and
husband moved to Holland. As she slowly learned about area contractors
and service providers, she decided to set up a referral service
for other homeowners and small-business owners. She launched Lakeshore
Home Referrals this past spring.
Like any good matchmaker, Cicholski personally checked the companies
she asked to join her network. She looked into business references
as well as licenses, insurance coverage and Better Business Bureau
Her network includes general contractors, handyman services, electricians,
window installers, drywallers and painters, as well as service companies
such as computer-repair companies, carpet cleaners, lawn-service
companies and even a seamstress. They cover the lakeshore area from
South Haven north to Grand Haven, and a few are based as far inland
as Grand Rapids.
Lakeshore Home Referrals makes its money when network members get
work. The network members pay what could be termed a finder's fee.
"We've been around 21 years, but when she called, it sounded
interesting way to go with a service and a good way to get more
referrals," said Mitch Van Den Berg, owner of Van Den Berg
Pest Control in Holland. "Over the years, we've found by asking
people why they're calling us, more and more (they) are telling
us it was a referral from a neighbor or a friend. So we thought
it was a good idea to go with a referral service."
Van Den Berg Pest Control doesn't deal ordinarily with squirrels,
raccoons or rats, but mice and insects are typical reasons factories,
restaurants and churches call the company, he said.
"We don't do big commercial clients," said Greg W., owner
manager for a 39-year-old construction company. "We found this
beneficial because you've always got to have more work. It's always
nice to open up yourself for new services for your clients."
Cicholski also doesn't simply refer people to her Web site,
westmicontractorconnection.com, but runs interference for customers
when they can't connect with anything but voice mail at the business.
"I have their cell phone numbers," she said. "Lots
of times customers
don't, so I can contact them for the customer."
She looks out for network members, too. When a real estate agent
complained that paint wasn't completely dry for a Saturday open
Cicholski pointed out the contractor had come in late Thursday,
stripped the wallpaper, prepped the surface, painted and cleaned
thoroughly -- all in just 48 hours.
End of article.
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