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 14

The Multi-inspector Mindset

Even Jeffrey Gaines can build an army.

In the early 80’s when Security Home Inspections was founded, there wasn’t an Internet. There weren’t inspector training schools like there are today.

Phil & Patty Thornberry had no idea what a home inspection company was supposed to look like, and there were few competitors. The one right down the street was Surette & Associates, owned by Dave Surette. He had multiple inspectors and ran the business out of a house that had been converted into an office. He had three sons who eventually got into the family business, and when the time was right he passed on the torch and went on to found RAL, the company that sources the lion’s share of relocation inspections throughout the U.S.

Dave Surette had office staff answering the phone and did a pretty decent job of branding his business. I’m not sure how much Dave influenced the way my parents conducted their business in the early days, but it seems hardly coincidental that they did everything they needed to in order to get that first office...about a quarter mile away from Dave’s and on the same street (Now a burger joint called “Bub’s”). Dave and Phil would often see each other in the morning at the post office, with incoming mailboxes on the same wall.

Phil and Patty Thornberry took the brand name of Phil’s electrical contracting business (Security Electric) and Patty’s knowledge of the real estate transaction, and went to town building what would become one of the largest inspection companies ever. You can’t do that without multiple inspectors to cover demand when you et ten, twenty, or even fifty plus orders per day.

It was common sense to them that the limiting factor to home inspection growth was capacity.

This is the defining characteristic of someone who has the multi-inspector mindset. They look at the business model and go into it wanting to serve as many clients as possible, being involved in as many real estate transactions as possible, and creating jobs  through expansion.

Profit is certainly a consideration, but it’s almost secondary.

For the inspector with the multi-inspector mindset, the goal of being the biggest and the best is much more exciting than making the most money off any single home inspection. It’s the thrill of growth, getting more business, and being more competitive than anyone else in the market.

The single-inspector mindset is much more subdued-it focuses primarily on the inspection process itself. Some will even get to the point that hiring another inspector might be a good business decision, but they don’t. They might be concerned that the next guy will be a liability or won’t be as good as they are at inspecting. They may just not want to manage people, and that’s a perfectly respectable position.

I’m the opposite. I want hundreds of employees, offices in every major city, and a brand that is recognizable coast
to coast.

You could tell me that I would be happier, even perhaps wealthier, with a medium-sized company with a staff of less than twenty, but I wouldn’t be interested. That sounds boring.

If you’re the same way, you’ve got the multi-inspector mindset. If you don’t, there’s nothing wrong with you and no book will change who you are. Read the rest of this book five times and skip this chapter. Come back if something changes.

There’s nothing more important than doing things your way, and being happy about it. Your way may include not having employees, and that’s perfectly fine.

Now let’s examine the structural changes you’ll need to make in order to be successful as a multi-inspector firm.

If the name of your inspection company includes your first or last name or both, you need to seriously consider making a change. As a multi-inspector firm, you need to be able to schedule inspections with your staff. If your name is on the door, people are going to want you and they’ll potentially feel cheated if they don’t get you. It might be painful, but the longer you wait the more painful it is. You may be able to use the name you have but convert it to an acronym. For instance, if your company is called “P. Nathan  Thornberry Inspections,” you could very easily transition to “PNT Professional Inspections.”

Now that the name is determined, clients absolutely need to get the sense that when they call you they are dealing with an enterprise. If your cell phone is your company phone number, change it. If you personally answer every phone call, get a call center.

If you’re going to build a big inspection business, it can’t be based on your personality or personal ability to sell your service. You need to create a system for taking  orders, and either place that in the hands of a call center or hire an office administrator to handle the calls. If the system doesn’t work, fix it.

At any given time at Security Home Inspections, ten phone lines can light up and eight of those calls might be orders. Calling people back is not an option. The staff is in place; they’re all perfectly qualified to take an order.  Will they do it as well as Phil or Patty Thornberry the owners, himself or herself? Probably not, but the business is not Phil & Patty. It’s Security Home Inspections.

In one page, we’ve addressed most of the structural issues from a business operations perspective.

Now comes the painful part for most inspectors.

Is your inspection process efficient and duplicative?

From the process of inspecting itself, to filling out reports and delivering them, is the process something that could be learned by someone with basic home inspection training in a period of 90 days?

The immediate response you just had in your head is very telling. Maybe you thought to yourself, “Yes!” If that’s the case, it should be smooth sailing. If the answer was either “No,” “Not Really,” or “Umm...” then we have a problem.

How many 1,500 square foot home inspections can you do in a day?

If it’s two or three (preferably three), this is going to be easy for you.

If it’s one, you have a problem. A serious problem.

If your goal were to be a single man operation, the answers to these questions wouldn’t really matter much.  If you’re personally comfortable with what you do, great, but as soon as you start hiring staff and you have committed to keeping them busy, one inspection per day just doesn’t cut it.

Your inspection needs to have plenty of comments ready to go, and it needs to come out of a system that’s easy to use and scalable to any number of inspectors. You need to seek out someone in the inspection software industry who has experience in this-like Carl Fowler with 3-D or Dominic Maricic of Home Inspector Pro or John Kwasnik of Horizon. I’ve listed some others as well in the resources section of this book, but these three I have personal experience with specifically implementing multi-inspector firms.

Don’t worry so much about the process until you get the report down, because a good, easy to use report can help you greatly in defining a process for your future inspectors.

Stay away from software that doesn’t allow you to brand yourself exclusively. This is extremely important. You need to brand yourself. When you brand someone else, clients can very easily find a smaller competitor with the same system and think, “They’re the same, only cheaper.”

This is something you want to avoid.

Likewise, there are newsletter services out there, free Websites, all sorts of resources that would be fine if only they focused on YOUR brand.

This is just one area where it’s worth mentioning that The Inspector Services Group really meets your need to brand yourself.  Everything we do is branded with the inspector’s logo and we ensure the inspector gets credit for everything (or the agent who  referred him, whichever makes sense).

Which brings us back to the pricing models we covered in the last chapter. With a multi-inspector firm, pricing becomes an incredibly complicated labyrinth.

You really have to take into consideration so many factors that a simple equation to follow just doesn’t exist.  To some extent, you  are limited by supply and demand and prevailing rates, but at the same time a well-branded multi-inspector firm can become a  trailblazer when it comes to setting inspection standards and pricing as well.

In the resources section, you’ll find a section regarding pricing for multi-inspector firms. It would be a good idea to check that out. 

Running a multi-inspector firm is much more about running a business than it is about home inspecting. If you decide to go down that path, it will be stressful at times, but incredibly rewarding.