The Hungry Home Inspector by P Nathan Thornberry :: Why Some Inspectors are Always Hungry for More While Others Just Go Hungry

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The Hungry Home Inspector

Why Some Inspectors Are Always Hungry For More
While Others Just Go Hungry


Chapter 2

The Journey

Red pill or blue pill. Your Choice.


It’s tough to get a sense of what’s going on somewhere without actually being there yourself. You’d think that everyone in Nashville wears a cowboy hat and boots and loves country music if you watched the Country Music Awards on CMT and if country wasn’t your thing, you’d have no interest in going. You’d be surprised to know, if you had spent as much time there as I have, that downtown Nashville is quite stunning. Walking between the skyscrapers, on rolling hills of concrete and grates, there are phenomenal restaurants and clubs. There’s a B.B. King restaurant with live blues every night. There’s a Coyote Ugly- that place where the bartenders dance on the bar every 15 minutes or so and yes, it’s the same Coyote Ugly featured in that movie, just a different location. $20 to do a body shot off a bartender, so I hear.

They have a huge music venue downtown, across Broadway from an incredible convention center connected to a ridiculously lavish (and big) hotel. Two of the new skyscrapers downtown, built in the last decade, are high-end condominiums with a style that seems very Chicago or even Manhattan. The only country music related stuff I see when I’m down there is along one strip of Broadway- 9 or 10 bars with live music and a couple of discount boot and hat stores mixed in.

If you’ve experienced downtown Nashville, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, then you don’t.  You may think it’s just a bunch of rednecks listening to [fill in country music star of your choosing here] and running amuck in pickups. You may have a different idea of what it’s like, but no matter what that idea is, it won’t truly match reality until you go there.


Much the same can be said about success.

Which is why we are starting this book with a journey-the journey I took over the last three decades but mostly in the last ten years- because I could tell you in less than five pages of text exactly what you need to do to be successful in the home inspection business? If we were face to face, it might take less than three minutes. Most of it would have nothing at all to do with any of my products or services. I could do that...

BUT THAT WON’T WORK.

It’s been proven time and time again. I attended an event in North Carolina, the NCLHIA (North Carolina Licensed Home Inspector Association), and it was a great experience. I probably picked up no less than 45 new clients, which is slightly higher than my usual percentage based on the number of people there. Why was it higher? I had been invited to speak the day before the event, along with Dominic Maricic, Dan Huber, and a few others. Those in attendance listened to great presentations, and accounted for the majority of our signups that weekend of those who didn’t attend, we didn’t sign up at nearly the same frequency. 

There was one moment that was the “proof” I speak of above- the proof that simply giving you the short answers to increasing your revenue levels and overall client satisfaction won’t work- and I have a witness to this. A home inspector came up to my booth and started talking to me. He wasn’t doing a lot of inspections, he felt real estate agents were in the way and he wanted to go around them (a topic we will cover at length later on, but needless to say...he was wrong!) He was looking for some advice on how to do that. Dan Huber, the witness, looked on with curiosity as I proceeded to tell this particular inspector about how agents in his area largely
weren’t the problem, but that in fact, he was. He was real estate transaction Kryptonite- for several reasons.  Not because he did a “thorough” inspection, not because of what he found or didn’t find on his inspections, but because of the way he worded defects and his overall attitude toward agents. Some things he mentioned in his report weren’t defects at all.

What inspectors don’t realize when they approach the vendor hall at these conventions with trepidation is that most of the vendors there are seasoned professionals who have been around the business as long as or longer than most of the inspectors. As I’m writing this book, we (The Inspector Services Group and Residential Warranty Services, Inc.) are involved in more real estate transactions in a month than the average home inspector could accomplish in over 200 years in the business.  That’s not an exaggeration. If anything, I’m underestimating for believability. 

My point being, you can get some great advice (probably the best advice you’ll ever get) from vendors and you’ll be surprised at how many vendors don’t really “sell” anything at these events. Most are well-established in the industry, and many of them will tell you that the reason they go to events is to keep connected to their clients and deliver support for their products.

Also at the event in North Carolina, an inspector I was talking to had some serious foundational issues related to his business and I wanted to help him fix that. He didn’t want to hear it, he wanted a quick fix and to move on. I helped him as much as I could, then helped him with the “moving on” part and told him to come back and see me in a year or so when his way still isn’t working and when
he’s ready to try it another way. I don’t need (or want) someone out there attached to our brand who is hateful or holds disdain for those who refer most all of the inspections that ever happen (real estate agents) and shows it in everything he does.

A month later, he decided to open up and try it “the other way.” It worked out great, but he had to take that journey to discover why he needed to change and how he was going to do it without losing his identity. You have to be yourself, just not the self that sabotages your own business and seemingly hates money. My editor who works full time for a major business and finance publication had crossed out the phrase “hates money” and indicated I should change it because in her words, “No one hates money!” Then I had her read two pages of an inspector forum online and she later admitted, “Apparently, there are people who hate money.”

I’m hoping your journey is just a few pages in a book rather than another month of lackluster sales and struggles.

So let’s start that journey together, and I’m going to go back several years. Remember at this point that I’ve been around the business; I think I know everything about it, and I get a call from a friend of my family. He used to run a large inspection company and was in a mastermind group where a dozen of the largest inspection companies in North America exchanged thoughts and ideas with my parents for years (maybe decades) and was running a coaching group now.

As you can imagine, I’m pretty skeptical at this point. If I hadn’t known this man for many years, I would have hung up the phone within ten seconds of hearing the word “coaching.”

His name is Mike Crow, and he invited me to one of his mastermind groups, this one being held in California.

I wasn’t told what to expect, I wasn’t told to bring anything, just to show up.

I had no idea walking into that room that by the time I walked out, I would develop lifelong friendships, all home inspection company owners from around the country.  We spent three days locked in a conference room of a hotel, talking about all sorts of things. Much of it is proprietary and confidential and I can’t share it, but some of it is common-sense marketing stuff we should all be doing and just need a reminder of at times. Mike regularly shares a lot of these things on the public stage.

It was brought to my attention at that meeting by a few of the attendees that there was a huge void in the market. They had heard of my one-year home warranties I sold through real estate agents, knew I did 90-Day Home Inspection Warranties for my parents’ company, and wondered if I could do these warranties for them as well.

My response: “Sure, let me look into it.”

Usually, I respond with a very quick “YES!” when someone wants to pay for my services, but in this case there were a lot of variables I had to deal with. Various state regulatory issues were the biggest things on my mind. What the attendees in that room didn’t know at
the time was that the other players in the 90-Day Warranty market weren’t just disappointing them on the service and marketing side, they were about to be hit with notifications from multiple states (i.e., Florida, Wisconsin, and The Commonwealth of Virginia) regarding
their lack of compliance with those states’ laws. What it came down to was that they had no idea these regulations existed because they weren’t professionals from the warranty industry. They didn’t even have insurance backgrounds. One of the players was super-
strong in home inspection, the other was a small venture firm whose largest undertaking appeared to be bison farming. There’s only a slight difference between running an agricultural operation and managing risk. In risk management you have to create actuarial models, develop processes, and most importantly, comply with regulations.

A few months later, we had released the RWS 90-Day Inspector Warranty Program nationwide. We started calling, e-mailing, and mailing promotions to home inspection companies. We booked conferences, hired a manager for the operation, and for about four months or so the business was pretty easy to run. The first 300 inspectors or so were easy, they “got it.”

“You want to offer a warranty with your home
inspections?”

“Yes! That would be awesome!”

And it was awesome. We helped this first group of clients with scripting, customized brochures, getting the word out. They were using the 90-Day Warranty to separate themselves from the competition in a very real way. They offered a warranty, the competition didn’t.

A majority of these companies were multi-inspector firms, the kind I grew up around. They had systems in place, they marketed constantly, and they understood how to inspect thoroughly, the way they had all been taught when they got into the business. At the same time respecting the position they had in the real estate transaction, and respecting the “customer” in the transaction (the real estate agent).

This is probably the most difficult concept for most inspectors to grasp: the real estate agent as a customer.  There’s often confusion about who is a client and who is a customer.

The key difference is this: Without clients, you’re not doing any business, and the way to obtain clients is to have a line of customers ready to supply you with business.

This is kind of a difficult thing to do when you have no respect for those who have the potential to make you or break you. There’s an entire chapter in this book about how Web pioneers get slaughtered. The chapter isn’t what you probably think, I’m not against good Web marketing. You should have a good Web site, you can buy ads and do some SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and you can do some consumer direct marketing to supplement your business. The key word being “supplement.”

We very quickly ran out of inspectors who ran their businesses professionally and competitively, or at least on the level that they could grasp the concepts we were promoting easily. It became increasingly difficult to convert inspectors into clients and we had to make a
change.

The realization had set in...

I (we) knew nothing of the home inspection industry. It was not full of business owners. It was full of home inspectors.