By Special to Capital Business
Monday, June 7, 2010; 21
A messy office is one entrepreneur's ideal work space.
Neat freak? That might be pushing it, but Kacy Paide has definitely always been organized. Her philosophy is that everything should have a place so when something is out, she always knows where to put it back. In college she heard that people actually make careers out of organizing. Paide was sold -- she hit the ground running as soon as she graduated in 2001 and aside from a few part-time jobs, it's the only career she's ever known.
She started out organizing anything and everything -- closets, kitchens, children's rooms, attics, offices, hoarders' spaces and more. It took Paide more than 200 clients to realize her favorite jobs were messy offices, and this was clearly her strength -- call it a passion for paper. In 2008, the Silver Spring resident decided to market her services just to the office niche, and she calls that the best business decision she's ever made.
"Imagine the messiest office you've ever seen. That is my idea of a perfect client and a good time.
"Creative business owners are my favorite population to work with. I like the challenge of working with someone who is a master at what they do, with a million ideas coming at them, but hates paper. They don't want someone to tell them to 'file not pile.' They need creative systems that mirror the way they think and operate. I've worked with attorneys, professors, writers, shop owners, consultants, speech language pathologists, photographers and more.
"I have people committing to eight-, 12- or 18-hour packages. I sit side-by-side with my clients and I do the work -- I don't just give them the plans; I'm very hands-on. Usually, half the time is spent throwing things away and the rest of the time is spent dealing with what the client has chosen to keep. For most people that's setting up a very visual, very creative paper-flow system. If your office is that out of hand in the first place, it's almost always a sign that traditional filing systems do not work for you. The end result is a highly customized, user-friendly system.
"I really try to stay true to my niche and what I'm good at. I even sometimes turn work away if it's not for offices and paper. So I know my target market, but I keep hearing that for entrepreneurs, you're not making money unless you're making money in your sleep. How can I 'make money in my sleep?' I have to leave my home to make money. I'm still trading hours for dollars. Though I love consulting, I'd like to be able to reach more people. I'm open to ideas about products, virtual organizing services or anything else!"
Asher Epstein, managing director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
"You're certainly not failing at business if you're not making money while you sleep. Because you're in the service business, you're trying to figure out how to scale to a point where you can be most efficient with your time.
"It's great that you've identified a niche and you're selling your services as packages. Think about how you offer the packages -- instead of productizing as hours, offer monthly packages. This could have you organizing clients in a more efficient manner. For example, you could line up three clients in Tysons Corner to work with each Tuesday, then spend Wednesdays with clients near Dupont Circle, and so on. Focus more on developing a monthly package strategy and selling to a targeted geographic area.
"For other ideas, could you create a workshop where you get 25 to 100 people in a room at the same time and teach them a good method for organizing their offices? Or approach human resources heads at major companies and sell your services as a time and money saver for a firm's top executives. Also consider specializing further and really go after people who deal with huge paper flows and need to keep those organized, such as attorneys and accountants. The challenge is identifying and landing work efficiently. It's not efficient to spend two hours landing one hour of work, and finding people who are disorganized is not always obvious."
"Commitments to monthly packages would be a dream, and I totally agree with zeroing in to make my niche tighter. I actually have a list of attorneys and law office managers that I plan to target with a mailing -- what are your thoughts on mass mailing?"
"Mass mailings can be effective, but really depend on response rates. You really need to anchor your appeal to a catalyst and a call to action. What's the clean-up-your-office equivalent to a New Year's resolution to join a gym? Find a compelling way to home in on your audience's breaking point."
"I'll definitely focus on finding disorganized people in a more efficient way and homing in on a compelling hook/catalyst that will make those people with disorganized offices come to me. Every client I work with has a story about that 'last straw' that propelled them to take action and call me, so now I'll focus on communicating that to other potential clients."
Looking for some advice on a new business, or need held fixing an existing one? Capital Business and the experts at the University of Maryland's Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business are ready to assist. Contact us as firstname.lastname@example.org.