Storm Chasers: A Plague On Our Business or Just Part of The Business?

True story: I got home the other day and checked my mail like I always do. As I was thumbing through the advertisements, a flyer caught my eye. It was a notice from my insurance company, warning me about the impending storm season coming for me and millions of homeowners who live here in the Carolinas.  I get this flyer every year and most people probably get some version of it from their insurance companies, highlighting some best practices for preparedness and little tips and tricks to stay safe.  But this one also offered a dire warning to me about something I am all too familiar with: watch out for Storm Chasers!

Now, I’ve always been satisfied with my insurance company and I have high confidence that they will be there for me if and when I need them. However, this warning to homeowners creates a tough objection that I face every year during storm season here in North Carolina. Storm Chasers are exactly that. They are companies, usually roofing and exterior companies, that quite literally chase storms. They relocate to affected and impacted areas, they set up small satellite offices, maybe bring a few sales reps and crews and they get to work with canvassing efforts in neighborhoods.  

But are they a bad thing?

Am I Getting Scammed? Think Like Your Client Would

It’s unfortunate that the term “Storm Chaser” has developed such a negative connotation because, in and of itself, it’s not a terrible business model: low overhead, hungry commission-only sales reps and a seemingly endless pool of clients. But the sad reality is that, like most things, the actions of a small minority have a greater effect on the many. There are contractors that come into town, set up these satellite offices, canvass neighborhoods and solicit storm customers who then collect that money and then utilize inferior products, install something incorrectly or, worse yet, just take the money and run. The reality that people who live in a storm zone face is that there will always be scammers, because there is so much money to be made.

Therefore, it’s important to think about SDR contractors from the perspective of the homeowner.  Just like I did, they’re receiving notices to be on the lookout for contractors soliciting their business after a storm hits and being advised to work exclusively with their insurance company to find qualified contractors who can get the work done on budget and without incident. They are being conditioned to avoid working with you as a contractor because of a few yahoos running around.  

It’s important to understand that this is a real phenomenon you will encounter if you delve into SDR.  The minute you enter the arena of canvassing for this type of work, you become part of it, whether you realize it or not. There is no obvious, differentiating factor between the local, reputable contractor and a potential dirtbag when the customer opens their door. You both knocked on the door and you will both start with the same stigma attached.

There are certainly things you can do to stand out from the competition and clearly define a professional brand – name recognition from years of work within the community is the first one that comes to mind. But the point I want to get across is that, once the clouds clear and the storm is over,  people’s perception is that all roofers and contractors knocking on their door are storm chasers.

Storm Chasing as a Business Model

Let me say this and make sure it’s clear – most companies strive to put on a quality product and put it on right. Not every storm chaser is a scammer. There is a very small minority of these cons running around, while most of the rest pride themselves in delivering a quality service.

Chasing storms is not inherently a bad or negative thing. It’s actually a solid, workable business model through which you can make a lot of money. But don’t do it if you can’t deliver the quality, service and follow-up that is necessary for the job. One of the biggest issues with storm chasers is follow-through with the warranty. If your home office is based in Kansas, and you come out to the Carolinas to chase SDR work, how can you possibly provide repairs that are guaranteed under your warranty?

If you are an honest person who has the skill and knowledge to set up a business (and to build some brand recognition by actually helping people in an affected storm area), this can be a very lucrative venture. But it’s critical that you do the work and deliver results. Otherwise, you just become part of the problem.

Chasing storms is a reality to SDR work and you will, at some point, either encounter someone who is doing it or do it yourself. I’m a proponent of making money and building businesses, so my formal stance is that it can be an effective model for someone who has the resources and drive to do it, provided they do it full-assed (and not half-assed). That said, the consultant side of me warns anyone reading this that the deck is stacked against you, and that many of your predecessors haven’t done you any favors in setting up a golden road to success with SDR. Remember to be ethical and strive to help people who need your help. Chasing storms doesn’t have to be negative – and it doesn’t make you a scammer – but it’s going to take effort from anyone engaged in SDR to change the preconceived notions associated with it.

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