As technology becomes more intuitive and commonplace, it is entering every aspect of our lives. Once thought to be the exclusive province of the workplace, technology is allowing our homes to run more efficiently now, as well. So what is home automation? It is networking appliances and devices together to afford us seamless control over our homes. It allows us to program our devices to work together in ways that enhance our lifestyle. For instance, say you want to keep your home at a temperate 68 degrees – home automation of the central air and cooling system will allow it to perform readings and monitor the temperature inside your house.
Home automation has been around many years, mostly for the control of lighting and sprinklers for self-watering lawns and gardens. Now that technology has caught up to a science fiction fanatic’s dreams; it means our homes are smarter overall. Imagine being able to control the appliances in your home with your smartphone from wherever you are in the world – that is home automation. The demand for this service is growing every year and won’t be subsiding anytime soon creating an ideal business opportunity. How do you start a home automation business?
Decide What to Offer
Consumers considering a home automation service expert will need a generous budget. Several devices are required to set up this complex system, which typically costs several thousand dollars. Home automation involves technologies such as sensors that use the internet to control lighting and HVAC services as well as the dryer, dishwasher, smart security alarms, entertainment electronics, smart fire and flood detectors, smart window dressing controls and smart thermostats.
As a home automation expert, you will need a strong background in diverse technologies and be well-versed in which kinds of devices to offer your customers. Many home automation business companies make money by affiliating themselves with specific systems or brands and offer those to their clients, sometimes exclusively, so do your research to find which systems you would like to offer. One profitable option is to offer direct installations which are a service where you automate your customer's existing devices and appliances. Nearly all customers will need to learn how to operate their systems, so a huge key to your success will be excellent interpersonal skills and patience to help them through the learning curve.
You will also have to choose between the existing brands in the market as they each offer complete or semi-complete home automation systems. There is a current race between companies offering smart home systems, including the likes of Google, Apple, Amazon, Samsung, Control4 and Microsoft. The state of the industry is such that most of these aren’t interchangeable. So if you pick Apple, you’ll have to get comfortable with Apple systems and learn to install them. The same applies to the rest. Note, however, that these technologies are constantly changing and improving, which means things could look very different in a year or two.
Franchise or Sole Proprietor
This is going to be one of the most important business decisions you’ll make while you’re starting out: choosing between a sole proprietorship and a franchise. Each option has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
As a sole proprietor, you will have full control of your business. You won’t need to follow anyone’s rule book while you’re out in the field. However, you will have to work on organizing your business from the ground up by yourself. You might also have to work on getting expensive licenses for yourself if you decide to be the sole operator of your business.
As a franchisee, you will have to follow the procedures of the brand whose franchise you acquire. There are great advantages, however, such as free training, referrals and a complete organization of your business. You will most probably get a complete roadmap for your branding, business location, insurance, accounting, legal, licensing, data systems, finance, sales and marketing, customer acquisition and so on. Ultimately, the choice will depend on whether you want freedom or security when you’re starting out.
Solo or Team?
This is all about strategy. Here you decide between being the sole operator dealing with clients and handling installations, as compared to managing a team of operators and handling other aspects of the business, such as finances and executive decisions.
As a sole operator, you’ll have to seek out all the necessary professional licenses and certifications. This can be a long, arduous and expensive process but it cuts down on employee salaries in the long run. On the other hand, you can be a managing operator and put together a team of contractors who do the installations and automation on your behalf.
As far as contractors are concerned, you need someone for the system, the piping and wiring, the smart home integration and suppliers for the physical devices and equipment. A complete team of professionals means you get the work done faster and in a systematic fashion, raising your credibility among your clients.
Get to Marketing
Purchase a domain name for your business and create a fully responsive website which looks excellent whether viewed on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. A top-notch website is vital for any tech-oriented business. Consider hiring a developer if you are even slightly unsure how to create a great site. Next, establish your brand name’s social media presence by securing your home automation business name under different platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are all good places to start.
These different social media should showcase your abilities and what you have to offer. Keep them fresh by updating a few times a week. Social media can be used to establish connections to people like contractors, architects, electricians and others who work on the home building front. Networking like this is crucial. Reach out to businesses that want to allow their customers to benefit from what you have to offer. You should also leverage physical opportunities to engage with potential clients and distribute sales and marketing materials to them. This includes going to home expos, tech conferences and so on. These events are wonderful opportunities to engage with leads and show them what you have to offer.
Nobody wants to have to chase someone to offer to pay them. A lot of old-fashioned courtesy is still needed no matter how 21st century our homes get. Answer calls, emails and social media inquiries the same day you receive them. Be clear about what you offer and what you can and cannot do for clients. Be punctual and prompt. Remember that people are allowing you into their homes and personal devices, which means you are liable to see the most intimate parts of their lives so developing and maintaining a stellar reputation can make or break you.
Technology is developing at a faster pace than anyone imagined even 20 years ago. Every year more and better technology is invented which means it is becoming more commonplace. The need for home automation will only grow so it’s a great time to consider going into business.
Nicky is a business writer with nearly two decades of hands-on and publishing experience. She's been published in several business publications, including The Employment Times and Business Idea Factory. She also studied business in college.