| Selling and Saving Green – Green Entrepreneurs|
By Bill Roth
December 10, 2008
These two entrepreneurs have learned the cost savings and
competitive advantages of going green. Learn how you can be a green entrepreneur in your industry.
When pondering the question "how many ex-environmentalists do you know?"
Village Associates real estate agent Ben Olsen's answer is immediate. "The
answer is none--once your customers get it, they get it forever." That's
why he's incorporating green strategies into his business plan.
Sustainability as a business practice and opportunity in real estate is
just emerging. The industry is beginning to add green data into its
Multiple Listing Service (MLS). If it's true that you are what you
measure, then green is hitting the real estate radar. In addition, real
estate transactions are paper-based--generating large paper files. And
they've spent decades conditioning buyers that the key buying factors are
location, price and square footage even though personal health, operating
costs, commute distance and resale are major issues for home owners.
Olsen and other entrepreneurs are stepping away from traditional practices
by adopting sustainability. Chris Bartle, president of Green Key Real
Estate, is also jumping on this trend. He's starting a national franchise
that establishes green-based brokerages.
According to Bartle, new home sales show that green homes sell for a
premium and sell faster.
"We're still waiting for the data from the MLS to support this," Bartle
says, "but shouldn't this be true for existing homes, too?"
A study produced by McGraw-Hill Construction in conjunction with the
National Association of Home Builders found:
The market for "true" green homes is expected to grow from $2 billion to
$20 billion in the next five years.
Existing homeowners are making their homes greener by using green
products for 40 percent of their remodeling work.
Both Olsen and Bartle have seen increased sales from green marketing.
"What happens is that I get referrals and leads from environmentally
conscious customers who are aware that I have been licensed as an
EcoBroker," Olsen says.
He estimates that 10 percent to15 percent of his business is from green
customers and about 25 percent of his marketing is green-focused.
Bartle's agency also attracts customers with shared environmental values.
In fact, he says his franchise focuses on states like California or cities
like Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Boulder, Colo., where customers are
already biased toward buying green.
Changing the traditional mode of home-buying is a long-term process. But
the goal is to educate and introduce customers to the cost, health and
environmental benefits of going green, Bartle says.
This means introducing customers to higher efficiency appliances, compact
fluorescent light bulbs, water conserving toilets, low VOC (volatile
organic compounds) paint and other eco-friendly products.
"This doesn't cost any more, and in real estate, the goal is to have
something to talk about," Bartle says. "What I am seeing is more and more
customers wanting to talk about being green and about 90 percent of them
responding positively to a home that is staged green."
For entrepreneurs looking to increase profits and save money, green is
Green is a strong and fast-growing niche market. In the next five years,
the trend is projected to increase 10 fold. If your current market space
doesn't afford this level of growth, you should be looking at going
Going green is still a work-in-progress for most businesses and
consumers. "Look, the keys of real estate are and will be: location,
price and square footage," Olsen says. "In most cases, green is a
buying influence and not a core buying decision driver."
Going green can save. In terms of reduced paper use, water and energy
across stakeholders, you can find savings for your business, your
customers and your vendors.
Gain a competitive advantage by going green. Village Partners is gaining
sales and lowering costs through Olsen's passion for the environment.
People identify with a company that values green agents and green homes.
Buy green knowledge from other companies. Another way your business can
go green is buying the knowledge from companies like Green Key Real
Estate that have successfully developed a formula that works.
"My business goal is not to convert the masses," Bartle says. "I am
focused on [maximizing] the existing green market and building data that
will be compelling to later adopters."
If you want to participate in the green economic revolution, I would post
that last quote someplace where you can see it and think about it every day.
Bill Roth is president of NCCT, a San Francisco-based consulting firm
facilitating innovations in sustainability marketing and green business
strategies. In addition to participating in the launch of the first
hydrogen-fueled Prius, he has held executive leadership positions as
senior vice president of marketing and sales with PG&E Energy Services, as
COO of Texaco Ovonics Hydrogen Solutions and president of Cleantech
America, a developer of solar power plants. Roth’s latest book, On Empty
(Out of Time) details an emerging multi-trillion dollar green economy that
is revolutionizing how the world does business, and how you can make money from it.