At least once a week, a surveyor contacts me who has received a complaint or claim and doesn’t know what to do, or is now struggling to obtain PII insurance. And yes, while the market for insurance isn’t great, the premiums are high, customers are a pain in the neck and didn’t read the report. The plain truth is that at some level, you do not have a well-run business and you’ve left yourself exposed.
The surveyors who have received a claim are often in denial that they’ve made a mistake in their business, and that is a difficult pill to swallow. Not understanding that your business is a vehicle for making things happen is usually the first hurdle. Just like a car, if you don’t oil it, put fuel in it, get it serviced and maintained, it will grind to a halt at some point. The same goes for directions. Which way is your business heading? Are you stuck? And if you find yourself heading towards this situation, what do you do?
First off is to make sure that you’re a RICS member and that your firm is regulated, so you can qualify for the assigned risk pool. It’s a limited cover, but it does mean that you can get PII and that you can continue trading with your business in the same way. Also, make sure you’re a limited company, which will help you reduce your own personal liability, should you ever get to that stage. Or, you can make sure that you start allocating time in your week or month to work on your business. As a rule of thumb, that should be one day working on your business, one day working in your business and three days fee-earning.
Working on your business should include things like sales and marketing, building relationships, working out the kind of clients you want to work with, the type of work you want to do, and creating channels for you and your clients to find each other. Working in your business is all about processes, procedures, ensuring everything is documented.
There are three areas you should be focusing on: assessing the risk in your business, making sure you have the right customers and clients, and understanding your and your team’s skillset and motivation.
Assessing the risk in your business
Assessing the risk in your business should not be approached with the fear of being sued. Risk should be seen as a support mechanism. It’s how you approach risk, not the fact that you have insurance. That is the safety net, so do your due diligence, ask questions. Sometimes a lack of experience can lead us to take on high-risk work, and not look after our business vehicle.
But sometimes, it’s also that we’re so stuck in accepting poor work, that we don’t believe we can get better, do better and be more. And that is all about mindset. If you put your mind to it and get the right support, you can get off the treadmill and work at a much more enjoyable pace that is also less fraught.
Understanding your customers
Understanding your customers is key in assessing risk. The service you provide as a surveyor is often seen as transactional. In fact, it’s a relationship and like any relationship, it has to be a good fit.
If you’re having a conversation with your clients, make sure you’re speaking the same language. Also, make sure that you have the same expectations on how you’re performing. It is also important to keep the line open so that, your client can speak to you or your team when needed, and feel reassured.
Because relationships are built on trust. And if your client has a niggle and doesn’t trust you, and you don’t offer them that reassurance, then the relationship is doomed.
Understanding your and your team’s skillset and motivation
Finally, you should take a good look at the skill set of your team. Do you have a personal development plan for you and your team and your business? Do you have your work externally audited or peer-reviewed? And if you do, do you act on it in a good time? A personal development plan can help you keep on top, as well as explore something new.
But it needs to be relevant to your business to help you reduce risk and validate your experience. Every business needs to evolve, so start thinking about what you can do. Do some work on your mindset. Think about building a business doing what you love, being paid good money by people that value what you do. That will in turn make you comfortable with the risk involved in your business.
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