Home inspections are a thinking person’s game. It takes up to six months to build a house, and in three and half hours, we have to say what’s wrong with it and write a report. It does require training.
Consider the Training You Need Most Now
There are different types of training. Pre-licensing technical training—everybody has to have it. It seems to be the hardest hurdle to jump.
You’ve also got to have ongoing technical training and CE training. Coach William has nine inspectors, so he's constantly trying to track CE training and make sure everybody gets it on time. "If you rely on them to take care of it, you are running a risk."
Today, we are going to focus on business and marketing training, something that home inspectors many times ignore.
Avoid the Roller-Coaster Income
When Coach William started his home inspection business, he says, "my plan was to do as many inspections as I could as quickly as I could." But he had no real plan, especially not a marketing plan. "In the class you take, the marketing ideas they give you are pretty lame."
Right. I’ve seen it: "You put your business card out at a real estate office, and you are good to go."
You are in business. Most people don’t have a plan to how to grow their business. Coach William says that "for about a year and a half, my way of growing the business was that four-letter word: hope."
With no plan, income becomes a roller coaster. Coach William had the same experience. "You market, you get busy; you get too busy, you can’t market."
We took a client a couple of years ago who'd been in the business eighteen years with no steady income stream. He said, "I can’t take that life anymore. I hate the holidays, because I don’t have extra money to buy gifts and celebrate, because December is a slow month." Now he's a multi-inspector firm, and we have eliminated that up and down in his income.
Think Like a Business
People don’t think of how to manage their home inspection business. One-man shops become multi-inspector firms, but how many of them don’t have the basic things like an employee manual!
Coach William says that the classes you take are "strictly based on being your own one-man shop. Most who come into this are technical folks, so they don’t have a business mindset." It's a problem when "you are trying to hire somebody or you are starting to grow, and you are clueless about how to make that happen successfully.
There are a lot of things you need to do to protect your company and your assets."
For example, when people hire someone, whether it’s clerical staff or inspectors, they may not have the right insurance. They don’t have a lot of things set up because schools aren’t teaching this.
Also, how do your exit your home inspection business? Coach William says, "It’s a shame that we put blood, sweat, and tears into building a great business and then don't have a plan to exit it, or keep it going residually so you can still make an income off it. If you don’t have your business structured correctly, that’s not going to happen."
"It’s a shame that we put blood, sweat, and tears into building a great business and then don't have a plan to exit it, or keep it going residually so you can still make an income off it."
One of our clients is a small multi-inspector firm, and he’s got a very serious illness now. He’s in his early fifties. He was going to go another ten years and then think about selling his business, but now he's going to have to exit earlier. Because he has been working on his systems, it isn’t that much more difficult to set up an early exit strategy.
Unexpected illnesses, accidents, all kinds of things can happen. If your business isn’t ready to sell, then your family is left with an unpaid vacation.
Using The Inspection Report As A Marketing Tool
The Savvy Inspector teaches you how to use your inspection report as a marketing tool.
Coach William agrees that the report is "pretty critical. We turned several one-man shops into multi-inspector firms and, much to our surprise, that was one of the big hurdles. That can make or break your company. If you are going to grow, it’s got to be as easy as possible for the new guys to come in. You have to think in terms of multiple inspectors doing the same thing, and how can you make that quick, easy and accurate."
"If you are going to grow, it’s got to be as easy as possible for the new guys to come in."
One client had twenty or thirty pages of junk before he even got to the summary. How does the real estate agent or client find the material that they need?
Think About Corporate Structure
The Savvy gets into corporate structure. There are two components—liability protection for the owners, and taxes.
Coach William's business is a Subchapter S corporation. "The profits and losses come on our personal income tax statements."
If you are an LLC—which many home inspectors are—and you didn’t ask for it to be a Subchapter S corporation, you might be paying too much in taxes. Coach William says, "It saved us a ton of money. Do a little bit of research to find out what’s the best way to run the company."
When you are structured that way, you need to pay yourself a salary every month and you need to pay yourself first. A lot of our clients don’t. They just take money from the company when they can.
If you are a C corporation, that’s even worse because you are paying 34% income tax on the corporation and then you are paying personal income tax. You need to get help on that.
How you are structured is very important. We aren’t giving tax advice. You will need to see your tax person, your CFO, or your CPA for that.
Dream Big and Create a Vision
One thing that hurts home inspectors is that they don’t have a vision of their company in three to five years. The Savvy Inspector has a ten-question worksheet to determine that.
We don’t want you to say, "Here’s where we are today." We don’t care about that. If you could wave a magic wand and have your home inspection firm to be anything you wanted, what would that be? Dream big.
Coach William says, "When I first heard that from The Savvy, to me, that was kind of silly. I did not see the value in that. I had to be out there sweating and swinging the flashlight. That has changed dramatically. If you don’t know where you are going, how the heck are you ever going to get there?"
Don’t hold yourself back. If you dream small, you will achieve that. If you dream bigger and you don’t achieve it exactly, you are way better off anyway.
That’s one of my biggest frustrations, the failure of home inspectors to dream big. I know that’s hard. It’s how you grew up.
Set Goals Based on Your Vision
The next step is to set up goals.
Only three percent of Americans have written goals. Why? I ask clients, “Have you got written goals?” They say, "No, they are in my head." How worthless is that?
The second thing that bugs me is that their goals aren’t congruent with their vision. For example, they want to get business from the Internet and from the public, but all of their goals are around the realtor market. How does that work?
According to Coach William, "If you don’t work through those goals, then you are missing golden opportunities that you may not have known were there."
And if you don’t have goals, how will you plan performance? Set goals that are congruent with your vision, then work out the details, so you have a marketing plan and marketing counters. Every day you get up and you know what you need to do. When the month closes out, if the result was spot on, perfect. But if it wasn’t, did we actually do it? What did we do differently?
Coach William talks about sharing the goals with your staff. "If we don’t know what our specific goals are, how can we begin to keep everybody moving in the right direction?
"We report back to each other at our staff meetings, to find out where we are and what the next goals may be. We are holding each other accountable for our part.
"If you are setting goals and sharing that vision, everybody knows there’s a purpose behind what you ask them to do. You have somewhere you want to be and you are taking your crew with you.
"Most inspectors are just flying by the seat of their pants. I don’t know where they plan to be at retirement stage.
"You have to grow and replace yourself. Sherri and I try to be as hands off as we can because, at some point, I want to be completely hands-off. That’s where my goals come from. The folks within our company profit from that as well. They move up the ladder or make better money, and so it’s a win-win for everybody involved."
Coach William didn't expect to be at the helm of a corporation. "Heck no. That was way beyond me." But he warns, "Be careful what you ask for, because sometimes you get it. When you start hitting those goals, you need to be prepared for that.
"Don’t just start striving for it without a way to handle it. Is it going to take a marketing person? Is it going to take more management people? What’s it going to entail to get there?"
Become a Marketer
I don’t want you to be a home inspector; I want you to be a marketer of home inspection services.
"It changes when you’ve got that mentality," Coach William says. "It changes every move you make and the way that you make it.
"You are no longer inspecting to get that job done and get paid. You are inspecting to gain another inspection. How can I handle myself, what can I do to impress the client, the agent, to grow that business? It’s about creating jobs for tomorrow.
"You will grow leaps and bounds."
Marketing starts with your driveway presentation. Don't push clients off. Tell them to come from the beginning. Develop the wow factor. Show them all the things you do to protect them from buying a money pit. Build a friend.
Consider Market Segments
There are multiple market segments: top-producer, non-top producer, mortgage brokers, prior clients, networking. When you set up your goals, you have to say, "How much business do I expect from each of those market segments, based on my vision?"
"It’s pretty much a no-brainer that the real estate agents will send referrals," Coach William says, "so everybody puts all their eggs in that one basket. That’s not super-reliable. Real estate agents are fickle. Maybe you did something they don’t like; it’s easier to start using someone else than to address that issue with you. You’ve got to find other avenues to grow that business."
This doesn’t apply just to new inspectors. Inspectors who have been in business ten or fifteen years still rely on one source for their income. It’s generally real estate agents. It’s pretty scary.
Most home inspectors are not business people. At the end of the year, they say, "I did this many home inspections and I had this much revenue. That’s fantastic. I’m 2% up from where I was last year." Or, "I’m slightly behind where I was from last year." Most home inspectors do not do any analysis of their numbers. Where did the business come from? What was the average cost per unit from that market segment?
We can show you how to make your life better, more predictable, by looking at this in a different way.
Coach William demonstrates. "I say, 'I did X number of inspections through real estate agents and it brought me Y amount of money. I’m going to try marketing to lenders this year. My goal for that is going to be Z. What am I going to do to make that happen?'
"Previous clients are fairly easy. They already know they can trust you, so that’s a great resource to go after. How are you going to do that and what do you expect to get from that? Set those goals and work backwards from it to make that happen.
"Previous clients—I just did one yesterday. Four years ago, he used us. Now he's purchasing a new home, and because we stayed in contact with him, we were top of mind. His agent recommended someone else and he wouldn’t stand for it. He had to have us back."
When you come inside the members' portal of The Savvy Inspector, there is a big placard that says, "He who implements wins." We can talk all day long about these things, but I can’t come out to somebody else’s shop and make them do it.
Bullet-Proof Your Business
The market is volatile. "If you know anything about real estate at all," says Coach William, "you know that it’s never completely steady and stable. We had a recession, and now we are almost in a reverse recession, because we are running out of houses. If you don’t see the potential that these things can happen and prepare for them, what are you going to do?"
We take a multi-prong approach to bringing business in. We are working in this area, this area, and this area. We have strategies for each one of those things so that if one market slows down, the others are still delivering the number of inspection units we need.
The inventory shortage continues, so a lot of home inspectors are in trouble because of that. Yet schools are still pumping out tons of home inspectors.
Coach William says, "I’ve got two guys ready to take the national, and I can’t get them in there until the end of March because the scheduling is full. We are about to get slammed. Not only have we got all of this new competition coming in, we’ve got a shortage of houses."
He has back strategies and action plans for that. In the 2008 recession, the people who didn’t go out of business had these things in place.
New home inspectors think they can gain market share by cutting prices. In Atlanta, we will see a home inspection for $197.
Coach William talks about an inspection he did recently. "The seller of the home was following me around, and she was blown away by our detail and thoroughness. She was so freaked out, she thought I was killing her deal—which I wasn’t. It was a nice home. The inspector she used when she bought the home charged $200, including the termite inspection. She said he was there for, like, 45 minutes. I said, 'Well, this is America. You get what you pay for.' It was almost a three-hour ordeal with me.
"I don’t play the price game. We are about $50, $75 higher than our competitors. We market that correctly so it’s not really a big roadblock for us."
When you know where you are going, and you have a plan to achieve that, including securing business from multiple markets, you are bullet-proofing your firm. Bullet-proofing it from recession, inventory shortage, and competition.
Our class gets worked up sometimes about what other inspectors do. I say, "Focus on your plan. Be the best you can be and forget them. You are always going to have new competition. You are always going to have market complications. The only time you need to be worried about it is when you don’t have a plan and you are not working your plan."
Zig Ziglar said, "Plan your work and work your plan." He also said, "People don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan."
Plan Your Personnel
Coach William advises, "Structure it as a business. Who’s going to be the CEO? Who’s going to manage it? Who’s going to market it? Who’s going to answer the phone?"
We help you with the hiring and training of an inside marketing person and outside marketing person. We teach you how to increase the success of a hire to about 80%.
"You are only as good as the folks you surround yourself with," Coach William warns. "You have got to have this recruiting, hiring, and training program down to a science, so that it can happen quickly.
"We always try to stay 'one man rich'. Life happens, and if you’ve got a guy here today and gone tomorrow, now you don’t have the manpower to serve the customer.
"This can make or break your company. One bad hire could cost you out the wazoo. And one great hire could take you to the next level. I’ve learned that the hard way. Do the work up front, to make sure that you’ve got the right candidate, to train them, to expedite that process."
In the old days you had to kiss a lot of frogs to get a prince. When we automate the recruiting process, we talk to a handful of people who have pre qualified themselves, and that makes life easier. Coach William agrees. "It really narrows that pack down to the folks you know are great candidates."
Consider Becoming a Multi-Firm
When one-man-shop clients join The Savvy Inspector, we ask them to fill out a form. We call it ,”Where are you right now?” We use that information to custom-tailor our training and strategies.
If they say they are a one-man shop and want to go to multi, the form asks, "What are your biggest fears about that?" It lists some things—liability, or that the home inspector will say the wrong thing and run off clients, or they will learn the business and leave. We have systems we teach to minimize that.
Some are a one-man shop and are happy. They are successful and make tons of money. They have no desire to take on the employee headache. But the employee headache is worth it in some ways. When I run the math for one-man shops and they see the numbers, they say, "Why didn’t I do this sooner?"
For Coach William, the advantages go beyond that. "It’s the time that you buy back for yourself, to spend with your family, or to get sick and still make money, or anything like that. In ’07 I made my first hire, and in ’08, Sherri, my wife, and I were sitting on the beach in Fort Myers, Florida, and I was scheduling this inspector. I looked over at her and said, "Honey, this is the way this is supposed to be done.
"To be sick and not worry about the money that you are losing, or to go see the kids’ ballgame. As a one-man shop, every time you are not there inspecting, you are losing money. As a multi-firm, I’ve got guys out there inspecting every day."
We’ve seen home inspectors fall out of attics. We’ve seen all kinds of injuries. You take a vacation, and you can’t serve your top producers. Guess what? They select number two on their list. Do they come back? Who knows?
According to Coach William, "If you’ve got plans to retire, or to sell and make a big profit, you’ve got to go to a multi inspector firm." And if you have systems in place and you are not the one generating all the leads, your business is worth way more money.
Coach William and a couple of other coaches turned eighteen or nineteen one-man shops into multis in six months. But we don’t let them make that transition until they have all of the building blocks in place. We make a place for all these things, think about the potential roadblocks they are going to face. We’ve had so many great success stories.
Use Systems and Automation for More Freedom
Freedom is an important thing for us as we reach our sixties and beyond. We’ve earned it. Let’s have some fun. At this year’s workshop, we are going to be focused on automation and other systems that allow you to get you the freedom that you want.
When Beth and I want to take a vacation for four weeks, we do it. We have little or no communication with the office, because our staff knows what to do. We put our systems in place so the firm runs on autopilot.
"That’s what really allows people to be stress-free," Coach William says. "It’s the systems that you have in place. It gives you so much freedom."
If you want to know whether you have effective systems in place, think about your life. If you feel like a fireman putting out fires every day, you don’t have systems.
We want you to be proactive, not reactive. Systems allow it.
According to Coach William, call backs are "the most dreaded thing out there." It’s not if you are going to get call backs; it’s when. The larger you are, and the more home inspections you do, the greater the chance for call backs.
The Savvy Inspector has introduced a system to automate the dispute resolution process. Coach William is thrilled with it. "You talk about taking a weight off your shoulders. It’s so helpful." The dispute resolution process has made the quality of life of our inspectors way better.
Coach William adds, "When you get a nice little system down, you can pick that up and set it in another spot. We had been in Indiana for quite some time, and we had proven strategies, proven marketing material. When we decided we wanted to thrust into the Kentucky market, we weren’t reinventing the wheel. We just took what we had. It’s like a franchise. It’s the systems within a franchise that make it work, that make it attractive."
Consider the Returns on Your Investments
We have tools, we have partner vendors, we have all of the things an inspector needs to grow and prosper. Why go out and research the market yourselves? Build relationships with these providers, making sure that you get the best products and services at The Savvy Inspector pricing.
A lot of inspectors say, "I can’t afford this." Coach William retorts, "You can’t afford not to. It’s critical. I’m one of the tightest guys out there, but it’s not about the investment, it’s about the return."
There are free services and paid services. Let’s look at the pros and cons.
With free ones, the quality of the information you get varies greatly. If you go to a local home inspection meeting, for example, these home inspectors have a scarcity mentality. They think if they tell you anything, you will take business from them. But most of those businesses don’t produce big profits anyway.
I’ve seen these groups on Facebook and LinkedIn where these home inspectors are giving advice. I shake my head and say, "I can’t believe that person is telling that other person to do that." And others are agreeing: "Oh, I do it. I do it." I think, "That is horrible advice."
Okay, it is free.
Then there are paid services. At first, Coach William wondered, "What’s the ulterior motive? What’s it going to cost? You need to know what you are getting before you get into it. But typically, with the paid training, you gain a lot more."
We have clients who said, "I’m going to learn all I need, and then I’m going to quit." But they are still in the coaching group. They are huge, multi-million dollar firms, and they are still in the group because what we teach works. And we develop new strategies every month to help you achieve your dreams."
Coach William loves the forums and association meetings. "People can’t wait to share what was successful for them. I have learned so much just from the social hour.
"You go to association meetings and everybody’s clammed up. 'I don’t want to tell you anything. You’re just going to compete against me.' One of the greatest advantages of being a Savvy member is that everybody is so willing to help and share. You know, 'This worked for me, and this didn’t work for me, we are doing the same thing but differently, try this.' It’s just amazing that that camaraderie is so tight."
"One of the greatest advantages of being a Savvy member is that everybody is so willing to help and share. It’s just amazing that that camaraderie is so tight."
Historically, the Savvy workshop has only been open to Savvy members. It’s open to everybody now. We’ve got a big event coming up and it’s exciting. Beth and I look forward to it every year. We get to see people who were clients and are now friends and celebrate their success. Great education comes from the stage but also in the networking.
You invest in fees for our coaching and you get a return. Coach William is enthusiastic about this. "You get a return ten times if you get the right training. It just makes everything so much quicker. Why reinvent the wheel?"
Consider What The Savvy Inspector Can Offer
Whether you get a positive return on your investment from paid coaching depends on what you do.
He who implements wins.
In paid coaching, you have a team of people working as your success advocate—not only our staff, who will help you in every aspect of your business, but the other members. We have a private Facebook group for our members and they are in there helping each other on a daily basis. "The camaraderie, the willingness to share and help, is phenomenal," Coach William says, "It’s like having a whole family of professional home inspectors that are willing to hold your hand and help you get to that next level."
Our corporate culture is that of helping. If clients are critical and mean and don’t want to add any value, they are no longer our clients. You have a safe space to work in. Everybody’s excited. Everybody’s helpful.
Everybody starts in Group Coaching, where you have access to Coach William and me in a group. Then we have a hybrid of Group Coaching combined with one-on-one coaching with Coach William and me. That’s our Accelerated Roundtable or Advanced Strategies.
We have two Mastermind Groups. We have to know you and trust you before we put you in one of those. Coach William and I meet with the Mastermind Groups two times a year, for two days each, off site. We travel to Fort Myers, Florida or Dallas, Texas or wherever, and we meet with the members. You are totally immersed.
Coach William describes it. "Talk about having your feet held to the fire! You’ve got five or six other successful firms in there, and you’re held accountable to report back to them. We set out ninety-day challenges that have helped our company grow exponentially. Their aim is to help you—and you are to help them—achieve goals or deal with problems. You celebrate their successes."
In the Mastermind Groups, you get an accountability partner. You meet them as often as you feel you need to. Some meet weekly. These guys turn into our friends, and their staffs can call on us for anything they need.
We’ve always provided training and support materials to our members, but our new e-commerce store will make training materials available to non-members as well. Members get discounted pricing.
We have an annual, three-day event, and we limit the number of seats to around 120, so Coach William and I and the rest of our staff have plenty of time to interact with you. It’s always sold out and we have a waiting list.
Coach William puts in, "I want to pump the workshops. We have such a good time. We have continued to make these better.
"In the past, we had everybody in one huge room with a stage, and we would just switch out presenters. But it was like drinking from a fire hose. Last year, we tried a new concept with break-out sessions and got really good feedback about that. You were able to choose a track and absorb that information for whatever duration you wanted."
We have three break-out sessions going simultaneously. If you are thinking about recruiting, hiring, or training, you will focus on those types of presentations. We don’t want you focused on taking notes. We want you focused on interacting with the presenter, so you can learn more.
Coach William adds, "All of the workshops are recorded, so you can get the complete workshop. You won’t miss a thing."
You can get the details on The Savvy Inspector website. It comes up every October or November. I think we are going to move it to October so that the weather is better across the country. Watch for an announcement.
Coach William has some last words about other companies' workshops. "You go to these workshops, and half of the time, you are sitting there listening to vendors. They pay for that workshop, basically. You pay to come and be educated and have hands-on learning, and you sit there and have to listen to vendor after vendor after vendor.
"I love it that we don’t do that. Vendors are there, but they don’t eat up the valuable real estate on the stage. The time is dedicated to providing you with information. It’s not a money-making venture on The Savvy Inspector’s part. It’s what’s in it for you guys."
And it’s relationship building. You spend three or four days with the Savvy inspectors you may have known from our private Facebook group, and you start building a personal relationship.
Home inspection training pays when you work the systems we teach you. We look forward to helping more and more folks in the home inspection industry.