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 3

The Technician Mindset

Often our greatest weaknesses are also our gretest strenghts.


In the spring of 2012, on my weekly radio show on FOX, I had an author by the name of Micheal E. Gerber as a guest. We had an hour-long chat about the Technician Mindset. Michael is a big deal, like a really big deal. With seven million + books sold, every major business magazine has given him huge credit for his advice to small business owners, and he’s been a New York Times best-selling author many times over.

Micheal’s book series, The E-Myth, is all about the “Entrepreneurial Myth.” I highly recommend reading the book, because although it’s written for a general audience, it may as well have “Home Inspector” stamped on the front cover.

We are, with notable exceptions of course, an industry full of technicians that are in business for themselves. Most inspectors are operating as a one-man shop, working every day to get orders next week in order to go out, do some inspections, make some money, and repeat the process. The fact that the clients make the checks out to us and the fact that we don’t have health insurance, a retirement plan, or regular work hours and paid vacations is what defines many inspectors as entrepreneurs. You can add to that liability that many in the industry have little protection themselves personally from liabilities, both financial and legal, that the “company” incurs.  Why is it that the home inspection industry seems to be
so fragmented? Why is it that the average home inspection company performs only about 200 inspections
annually, with a gross revenue of less than $60,000?

More importantly, why is it that most inspectors don’t want to do 1,000 inspections or more per year? Why is it that home inspectors don’t want to make more than $60,000 per year?

I’ve tested this theory out more than a dozen times. The first time was at an ASHI chapter meeting. I had an inspector, Tony Smith, a client of mine from Iowa, come up to my booth and start talking to me about how great business was. He asked if I had anything more to offer him in the way of marketing advice, and wondered why I wasn’t speaking at the event. I said, “Tony, if you ask any
inspector in this room what the most important thing is in their business, I’d say making money wouldn’t even make it to the top ten.”

He said, “You’re wrong! Everybody knows that profitability is the most important thing to running a business, without it you don’t have a business!”

I pulled up Microsoft Word on my projector and said, “Okay, let’s give this a shot.”

It was a break, inspectors were grabbing donuts and coffee, and they were walking up. Tony stood there as I asked ten inspectors in a row what the most important thing to them was in their business.

The first one came up, said, “I would say being very well-educated about home systems.” 

I typed it up on the screen, agreed, and commended him on his principles.

Tony said as the first guy walked away, “Well, that’s just one...”

Next inspector walked up...same question. The response was basically “doing a thorough inspection”. Then another inspector said “liability.” Then another said “being respected by my peers.”

Seven more inspectors came by, gave similar answers, and we kept a list. I saw an inspector I knew who had a multi-inspector firm and I waved him over, asked the same question, and he said without hesitation, “Duh! Making money!”

It was number 11 on the list. Tony’s eyes were wide open, and he shook his head as we had another conversation about how  inspectors would generally rather hear mechanical theory on how a toilet flushes than anything that makes them look like an actual business that markets to those evil, evil...Real Estate Agents!

So you really think you want to make more than $60,000 per year? Is that so?

Well, how many pure business books did you read last year? How many marketing seminars did you attend?
How many times in the last year have you gone to a real estate agent, the source of almost all referrals for home  inspections, and asked them what would make the home
inspection process better or easier?

Maybe I’m being hard on you for no reason. Maybe you do all these things.

Most inspectors do just that: they inspect. They inspect, and then they go home, and then they put together their reports. They send  out their reports. They take very good care of their clients...and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just a misnomer to call it “being in business for yourself” if you don’t have systems that make it easy, systems that make the process repeatable and duplicable, and a platform that could be run by anyone else with the skill set of a typical home inspector.

Let me give you some examples of the Technician Mindset.

- “I’m the only one who can do my kind of inspection.”

- “I don’t offer clients anything other than a good inspection.”

- “I work for the client, and I don’t market to those agents. They’re not my client.”

I could go on and on...but why do that when we can tear these examples apart!

“I’m the only one who can...” Stop! Why would you ever create a process that only you could do? Is there any better way to guarantee you’ll retire with exactly the amount of money you have in the bank at that time?

The fact is, whether you are planning on making good money and taking vacations and giving yourself a break from doing two or three inspections a day by some point in your 50’s, or if you’re planning on taking it easy from the start and don’t have any inclination to manage people, either way there is no reason to create a process “only you” could do.

This is classic technician mindset combined with mistaking yourself for an entrepreneur when you’re really an inventor or an innovator or both. I know this disease well, because even though my dad is incredibly business-minded, creates systems and has more than a
dozen inspectors and probably 20+ employees at any given time, he’s still a technician and an inventor at heart. If it weren’t for my mother, the inspection process would be complex and convoluted.

Remember when infrared cameras first hit the scene, and the only available ones cost over $20,000? Yep, my dad bought two and he’d play with them. He gave one to another inventive technician who worked for him for more than 20 years, he took it home and started shooting everything in the house figuring out long before any of these IR training companies came around what all they could do with this new technology.

If you’ve ever seen something on TV or in Popular Mechanics and thought to yourself, “I invented that years ago!” – you’re prone to making processes complicated.  Recognize this; recognize that it is not a strength unfettered. By the way, if you subscribe to Popular
Mechanics you fit the bill whether you’ve seen one of your inventions in there or not.

“I don’t offer clients anything other than a good inspection.” You’ll hear it soon enough if you haven’t said it yourself. The sad part is that this isn’t just something they say to make themselves look “ethical,” this is their entire marketing plan.

The everything else inferred in the statement is one of two things;

1. Ancillary Services

2. USP’s (Unique Selling Propositions)

The ancillary services they don’t offer might include termite, radon, water testing, well and septic inspection, pool, spa, etc.

Inspectors who avoid doing these services generally do so thinking they are somehow a more “pure” inspector. “I don’t inspect pools because I’m not a pool guy.” “I don’t check for termites because I’m not a termite guy.”  Basically I’m an inspector and that’s it. My abilities and desire to make money are both equally limited.

What’s worse is that inspectors will actually avoid these easy moneymakers like the plague while they dive head first into the deep end of infrared cameras and even energy audits.

It can’t be rationalized, so don’t try to figure it out. Why would anyone not want to be the guy who offers pool inspections? More money, bigger houses...by the way, probably the easiest part of the inspection. But that’s how they run their business, not as a business at all.

The USP’s (Unique Selling Propositions) are things like guarantees, warranties, checking for recalls with RecallChek, offering agents marketing tools, giving clients discount coupons and rebates on products and services they’ll need as a new homeowner. Many inspectors with the technician mindset like to call these things “gimmicks,” and when you hear this from an inspector you can be sure of two things.

- This inspector is on the low end of the income range for home inspection company owners.

- He’s getting his butt kicked by one of his competitors offering something “gimmicky” and
resents the way the world is headed.

He longs for the good old days when putting your number in the phone book and your name on a Website and your business card on the corkboard at Home Depot got you enough calls from people who didn’t know who to call that you could make a living. It’s sad.

“I work for the client...not the agent!” This is the one where you have to read between the lines and hear the real message. “I don’t market.”

All inspectors realize, and rightfully so, that yes, we have a responsibility to the client. So whom are you talking to? Whom are you trying to convince of what?

Your obligation to the home buyer or client isn’t unique to you at all. You’re really just driving home the point that you don’t care for real estate agents. You probably think they don’t care for you either. You’re probably right. So let’s fix it.