by Nick Gromicko, CMI®
Remember when you were back in grade school? You first learned how to add. Later, you learned how to multiply. The difference between a one-person home inspection company and a multi-inspection firm is simply the difference between addition and multiplication. A single home inspector earns income for the work he/she does with their own two hands. He or she performs an inspection and gets paid. Conversely, when you are a multi-inspector firm owner, you make money from every hand working in the company. The salary you pay your employees is a portion of the value they add to your company – the other portion goes to you, the owner. The more employees you have, the more money you make. Your profits can endlessly multiply.
Inspection company owners – and, for that matter, business owners in general – often believe they are being conservative by holding out for as long as possible before hiring additional help. In my opinion, the reverse is true. If you delay hiring until you desperately need help, you've waited too long. It takes extra time to incorporate and train a new employee, and time is the one thing most inspection company owners are short on when they've waited too long to expand.
Here are some signs that indicate that you may already be late in hiring additional help:
- You are charging appropriately for your services but you are turning down inspections because you are too busy.
- You want to expand your geographical market but don't have the personnel.
- You want to add additional inspection services but don't have the specific skill sets and/or licenses within your existing staff.
- You aren't marketing because you can barely do the inspections you have coming in.
- InterNACHI's Pending Home Sales Indicator is going up.
- You don't look for or attack new opportunities.
- You are paying a lot of overtime.
- You and your employees feel burned out, overworked, overwhelmed or stressed.
- Your inspectors are eating more meals while driving.
- You are receiving complaints about your inspectors being late.
- Your back-end office work and paperwork isn't getting done.
- Your lead inspectors are doing work that junior inspectors or office staff should be doing.
- Your customer service isn't as good as it used to be.
- You have trouble taking time off.
- Your revenues aren't dramatically increasing year after year.
- You filed an extension to submit your tax return.
- You want to sell your company soon.
So, why do inspection company owners often wait until they are too busy to properly seek out, interview, hire, and train a new employee? Most of the time it is because of fear.
Do you have a fear of hiring? I once heard an InterNACHI® member say, "At this point, I feel that I really can't afford to hire help." If this is something you could imagine yourself saying, my response would be the following: Notice your use of the word "feel"? Your employees shouldn't cost you anything. I employ 105 people in a dozen different companies and non-profit organizations. None of them has a single employee that costs their operation a penny. Every one of my employees generates black ink.
So, maybe what you meant to say is, "I don't have the capital to cover their first few paychecks until they begin to bring in more money than they cost to employ." So, it's a lack of temporary cash flow... or is it?
Or, maybe what you really meant to say is, "I have the capital to cover their first few paychecks until they bring in more money than they cost to employ, but I won't hire them. I won't hire them because unless an employee can actually hand me a certain amount of cash at the end of the day that is greater than what I paid him/her that day, my brain won't let me attribute the additional profits indirectly generated by that employee's efforts to that particular employee, so I only focus on what I'm paying the employee, and not what the employee is paying me, indirectly, by making my company more profitable." So, it's a lack of basic business acumen then... or is it?
Or, maybe what you really, really meant to say is, "I have the capital to cover their first few paychecks until they bring in more money than they cost to employ. And I realize that, although an employee might not actually hand me a certain amount of cash at the end of the day that is greater than what I paid him/her that day, I do attribute the additional profits indirectly generated by that employee's efforts to that particular employee. So, I don't focus on what I'm paying the employee but, rather, on what the employee is paying me, indirectly, by making my company more profitable. However, I don't think I will be able to accurately quantify the profits generated indirectly by the employee, and that keeps me from hiring." So, it's a lack of financial analysis skills then... or is it?
Or, maybe what you really, really, really meant to say is, "I earn enough to pay my bills. My spouse has a steady job. Between the two of us, we live comfortably and can even afford a few luxuries. But I'm afraid. I'm afraid of being poor, so I work hard and take few risks. I'm afraid of being rich, so I don't hire because hiring is a risk. If I were going to hire someone, I would be afraid to hire someone much different than me, or someone much more confident than me, or someone much smarter than me." So, it's a problem dealing with your own fears then.
Look, everyone is afraid. It's a natural, useful human feeling. Bill Gates once explained that for years he was so afraid of being unable to make payroll at Microsoft that his main goal was to have enough cash on hand to cover six months of the company's payroll. But because Microsoft kept growing and kept hiring, it took him 20 years to achieve that goal and eliminate that one fear.
Unless you were born with some freak talent (such as being able to hit a baseball into the stands), it is very difficult to get rich without good help. Think of the richest men on earth: Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg... they all employ people. A lot of people.
And, most importantly, the biggest companies in the world use systems and policies to get the most out of their people. You should, as well. Whether it is building a house or building a multi-inspector firm, success depends on performing a lot of little steps.
Toward that end, I offer you 100+ steps to growing and systemizing a multi-inspector firm. Read them, implement them, scratch them off the list as you go.
Here they are:
- Write a mission statement for your inspection company. Every multi-inspector firm should have a mission statement. A mission statement helps define what your company is and what it offers, and it clarifies your company's goals to keep it on the path of service and success.
A good mission statement spells out not just the purpose, but also the priorities of the inspection company, which, obviously, go beyond, "I've put years into my training and education, and I need to support my family" – that part is understood. It also explains what you esteem, and how you intend to achieve your business goals of serving your clients, based on your values and priorities. Here's an example:
XYZ Inspection Company's mission is to provide the highest-quality inspections in CITY. We succeed at this because of the integrity of our inspectors and support staff, our commitment to being respectful and considerate of our clients and of each other, and our passion for Continuing Education.
Basically, a mission statement should state: what you do; how you do it; why you do it; who you do it for; and how you succeed at it each day. Don't let a blank screen or piece of paper intimidate you; it doesn't have to be Shakespeare, but writing down these points is a great exercise for crystalizing why you're doing what you're doing and how you're doing it. It also may help you decide whether you need to change any of it. Your mission statement should guide your company's actions and move you forward every day.
A good mission statement isn't just an excellent marketing component; it helps clarify for you (and your employees) exactly what your goals are each and every day. It's easy to lose sight of why you became a home inspector when you're booked solid and rushing from one appointment to the next. Sometimes, providing excellent customer service may be done more from memory than passion. Reading your mission statement each day before your first inspection is sort of like a coach giving his team a pep talk; you may have heard it a hundred times, but it helps to reinforce just why you're doing what you're doing, and that's great for personal morale, as well as for expanding your vision for achieving your business goals.
Ask yourself exactly what you do to help improve your inspection business on a regular basis, and write those things down. Do you take new Continuing Education courses, attend chapter meetings and special events, and keep in touch with fellow inspectors (via the InterNACHI® Message Board, etc.)? Do you get customer feedback that tells you whether you're on the right track – the one that you've set for yourself? Your mission statement is what you tell the world you are, but it's also important to find out whether the world agrees with you!
Once you've got these points written down on paper, consider hanging it on your wall so that you can see it every day. If you're not happy with it, hang it up anyway and tweak it as you go. Once you're satisfied with it, have the InterNACHI® Marketing Team put it in your brochure. A client will value someone who knows who they are and what their goals are, and how they achieve it. Putting that into words can make a confident and powerful statement that guides your company on a trajectory of success.
- Take advantage of InterNACHI® legal document library for inspectors. The sample documents are all free.
- Create an operating agreement if you have more than one partner in your home inspection company. Sometimes a multi-inspector firm is made up of multiple partners. You can use InterNACHI's sample template of an operating agreement for LLCs with more than one member.
Note: If you are the sole member of your multi-inspector firm's LLC, you do not need an operating agreement (there's no one else to agree with).
- Consider launching three separate operations. Inspectors can't be everything to everybody... or can they? Here are the three separate (at least on the surface) companies I think the multi-inspector firm may want to launch to capture a greater market share with overlapping self-competition.
Company #1: The high-end home inspection company. This company is attractive to affluent consumers who want the very best inspection services. Some strategies to employ might include campaigns that target buyers of larger, more expensive homes. Certainly build a separate website featuring images of pricier homes and estates. Such images intimidate more modest consumers who worry that Company #1 is too expensive. But they work well for attracting consumers who are buying homes in similar price ranges. Images with built-in swimming pools and four-car garages might work well. You may want to use a team approach to doing larger inspection projects. This is typically unnecessary for smaller homes. Highlight the Honor Guarantee. This is a free fidelity bond that every InterNACHI® member has. Incorporate marketing that touts excellence, perhaps leading with the Certified Master Inspector® designation's verification webseal. Add InterNACHI's Pool and Spa Inspector logo and Annual Home Maintenance logo to your website. Run ads that are placed where the affluent consumer frequents. And attack market areas that are predominantly affluent.
Company #2: The bargain home inspection company. This company is attractive to consumers of more modest means who are price-conscious. Some strategies to employ might include campaigns that target buyers of smaller, less expensive homes. Certainly build a separate website featuring images of less expensive homes. Such images dissuade wealthy consumers who worry that Company #2 is unable to handle a larger, more expensive home. But they work well for attracting consumers who are buying homes in smaller price ranges. Use a single-inspector approach where the consumer expects to get personalized service from one inspector. Incorporate marketing that touts value, perhaps using package pricing for purchasing additional inspection services, and discounts for seniors and those in the military. Add InterNACHI's "First-Time Home Buyer-Friendly" logo, popular with first-time homebuyers. Participate in InterNACHI's "We'll Buy Your Home" Guarantee, popular with consumers who would struggle financially if something was wrong with the home that was expensive to correct. Add InterNACHI's Mobile Home Inspector logo to your website. Run ads that are placed where the middle-class consumer frequents. And attack market areas that are predominantly middle-class.
Company #3: The commercial property inspection company. This company is attractive to buyers of commercial buildings. Some strategies to employ might include campaigns that target buyers of commercial properties. Commercial property buyers worry that a home inspection company attempting to do a commercial property inspection may be in over their heads. Come up with a company name that reveals that you specialize in commercial property inspections, such as "ABC Commercial Property Inspection Company." Certainly build a separate website featuring images of commercial buildings. Images of retail stores, dentist offices, and restaurants might work well. Consider using a team approach to doing commercial inspection projects. Use the Certified Commercial Property Inspection Association® (CCPIA) logo. And run ads that are placed where the commercial property buyer frequents, such as commercial real estate companies and investment clubs.
Creating subsidiaries of your company, or even simply filing DBAs (for a $25 fee, in most states) for different operations is not difficult. And, of course, back-end office duties need not be triplicated. At a very minimum, inspectors should have a separate website for their commercial property inspection operation. If you are serious about taking your inspection business to the next level, maybe it's time to create separate operations dedicated to attracting different consumers with the exact company that they are likely looking for.
- Make sure your business cards, website, marketing materials, and contract forms all show that your multi-inspector firm is doing business as an LLC or S-corporation. A court may pierce the corporate veil if it finds that upholding the separateness of the entity would be unjust. One key factor a court will look at is whether the client knew he was dealing with an entity, rather than you personally.
In addition to making sure the client knows s/he is contracting with an entity and not you personally, consider giving yourself an appropriate title to emphasize that point. If you formed an S-corporation, you would normally refer to yourself as its president. If you formed an LLC, you could refer to yourself as the manager or president. In either case, you could use CEO, but be cautious about that because it could be construed as a representation that your entity has more than one officer when it does not.
The bottom line is that you should make sure your clients know that your multi-inspector firm is doing business as an LLC or corporate entity, and make sure they know it BEFORE you do the inspection. If a client thinks they are contracting with you personally – because that’s what your written agreement says – you can’t change that after the fact.
- Create a "help wanted" ad before you need to run it. To find the best talent, include the following elements in your ad:
- An accurate job title. Do you want a veteran lead inspector or an inspector's assistant? Or maybe you need office, scheduling, or marketing help. Be clear about what position you are trying to fill.
- Required and preferred skills. Does the new hire need to have construction experience or have to know how to type?
- Licenses. Are you looking for an inspector who is already licensed (if your state/province requires home inspectors to be licensed)?
- Key job duties and responsibilities. Will they be supervising other inspectors?
- An overview of your inspection company. If this is your first employee, say so. Many candidates enjoy working for small companies that are trying to expand.
- Training. What education and training are you going to provide the new employee?
- Any employee benefits or perks.
- When you are ready to start interviewing potential hires, post your ad on InterNACHI's Inspector Jobs Forum where inspectors looking for employment and inspection companies looking to hire can connect. InterNACHI's message board has 2.5 million posts – more than all other industry forums and Facebook groups combined. So you will reach a lot of talent there. The Inspector Jobs Forum is free.
- Join InterNACHI's inspector mentoring program. By participating, you'll get first contact with the most eager new inspectors in your area. This way, you can choose from the best. The mentoring program is free.
- Use InterNACHI's Ride-Along Release when mentoring or training a non-employee. Onsite training shouldn't come at an unintended cost for your multi-inspector firm, especially in a job that's fraught with built-in risks of injury and mishaps.
- Consider doing a background check on new applicants. A conviction for theft may be problematic for the multi-inspector firm owner, since inspectors are regularly alone in homes full of personal property.
If you adopt background checks, you're required by federal law to alert the applicant in writing that you are performing a background check. You must also notify the applicant if he or she is being denied a position due to disparaging information you've uncovered, and give him or her a chance to explain or refute that information. And don't discriminate. Do them for every applicant or none at all.
- Rest assured that your InterNACHI® inspector employees are covered by a free $25,000 fidelity bond. There is always some risk (albeit almost none) when sending a new employee to inspect a home full of expensive items.
- Make sure the applicant is able to do the work safely. There are many laws in both the U.S. and Canada that prohibit employers from asking job applicants and employees about their medical condition. However, there are exceptions that pertain to multi-inspector firms. You are free to ask about their physical condition that might cause the employee to be unable to perform an inspection or might cause the employee to be unsafe. For example, an employee who has a medical condition, disability, or is taking prescription drugs that makes him or her dizzy would not be a good fit for performing home inspections, which requires climbing a ladder.
- Consider giving the applicant a typing test. A multi-inspector firm needs their inspectors to generate their own inspection reports, and that means authoring their own narratives. You don't want to hire someone who hunts and pecks on their keyboard.
I was interviewing for a researcher for InterNACHI® once, and as part of the interview, I asked the young man to look up something on his computer. I watched as he opened his computer and searched online for the information, all using only his left hand. He typed amazingly fast with just one hand. So, I asked him why he only used one hand. He explained that years ago, he had fallen through a plate-glass window and was unable to type with his right hand. I hired him and gave him his first assignment – to write an article for home inspectors about safety glass.
- Consider hiring employees who speak more than one language. In the United States, 13% of the people speak Spanish as their first language. In Canada, 21% speak French. Multilingual inspectors are invaluable when serving and marketing to customers who speak those languages.
Much of InterNACHI's content is available in both Spanish and French.
- Use InterNACHI's Employment Agreement, which contains a non-compete clause. This agreement assumes that your employee is going to be a legal employee, and not just an independent contractor.
Remember, it's not just the IRS that has rules that determine if you can pay your inspector as a sub-contractor. Your state has its own, as well.
I was once fined $10,000 because I didn't know that Colorado has much stricter laws about determining if someone is a contractor or an employee. For example, every person must be paid as an employee except for car salesman and real estate agents. Those are the only two exemptions in Colorado.
Also, on July 9, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order that could ban non-compete agreements. This from the order: “Make it easier to change jobs and help raise wages by banning or limiting non-compete agreements and unnecessary, cumbersome occupational licensing requirements that impede economic mobility.”
- Delineate your employees' rights, responsibilities, and terms of employment with InterNACHI's editable Employee Handbook Template for Multi-Inspector Firms. It includes provisions for defining the terms of their employment, wages and salary, holidays and paid time off, workplace accommodations, confidentiality rules, employee complaints, guidelines for protecting intellectual property, and more.
There are topics discussed later in this article that you may want to incorporate into your handbook, such as personal hygiene, and using company vehicles for personal use. Your employee handbook should be a living document that you continually edit and refine.
Note: Each employee should confirm in writing that they received and read their employee handbook, and again whenever an update to it is adopted.
- As a multi-inspector firm, you should use press releases to make official announcements about your company. Some good uses include introducing new inspectors to real estate agents, when one of your inspectors has earned a new training accreditation, when your inspector has joined InterNACHI®, and when you or your inspector has earned his/her Certified Master Inspector® professional designation. InterNACHI's Press Release Template makes creating press releases easy.
Don't forget to post these press releases everywhere, including on InterNACHI's inspection forum, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Use every opportunity to get your inspection company name out there.
- Have all your inspectors join InterNACHI®. Memberships for additional inspectors of a multi-inspector firm are only $100 each per year. There are four main reasons to pay that $100 to have your employees join InterNACHI:
- The first reason is so that each employee can access InterNACHI's free technical courses. Instruct your employees to watch this short video that explains how to access the free inspection courses. This improves the overall technical bloodline of your company over time.
Some multi-inspector firms even require their employees to produce an InterNACHI® course certificate in order to get their paycheck.
Note: In some states, you are not allowed to demand homework of your employees without compensation.
Multi-inspector firm owners have back-end access to the system so that they can monitor what courses their employees are completing.
- The second reason is that it allows your inspectors to acquire the certifications needed for your inspection company to offer ancillary services, such as mold or radon testing.
- The third reason is that it gives your licensed inspectors access to the Continuing Education they need to renew their licenses
- The fourth reason is to expand the number of places your inspection company is listed on InterNACHI's many inspector search sites. InterNACHI® generates about nine consumer click-thrus per minute to members' websites. You can watch them come through and see where they go in real time. Having your employees listed on these sites generates greater online exposure for your company. And, of course, you will want them to list your company's contact information, not their own.
- Set up your InterNACHI® company dashboard. InterNACHI® offers a multi-inspector company dashboard where you can keep track of the educational progress of your employees. This dashboard provides the membership renewal date, education transcript, CPI status, and visibility for each employee, plus the option to view their educational progress, and download their certificates.
To set up your company dashboard, email email@example.com with your company name and a list of your inspectors.
- Keep an eye on your employees education transcript and let it leak to your employees that you do. As the owner of a multi-inspector firm, you or your administrative staff may want to keep track of your employees' training through InterNACHI®. You can do this by viewing your inspectors' education transcripts online. The transcripts are instantly updated every time the member completes a course.
You can also have your employees watch this short video that explains how they can access their education log.
- Order free photo ID cards.
After bringing a new inspector into your company, you want them to be able to identify themselves properly as a bona fide home inspector. This is especially true if the agents at a home inspection were expecting to see a familiar inspector instead of a new hire. The easiest way for them to do that is with InterNACHI's free photo ID card.
Also, each photo ID card includes a QR code for quick membership verification.
- Establish and implement pay policies. Here are some things for the multi-inspector firm owner to decide:
- Are employees paid weekly or bi-monthly?
- Is payday on Friday?
- Will pay be issued by direct deposit?
- If the payday falls on a holiday, will employees be paid on the last business day before the holiday?
- What is your state law regarding overtime?
- Are employees prohibited from working overtime without authorization in advance?
- Are breaks and meal times on the clock or off the clock?
- How does your multi-inspector firm keep track of an employee's time?
- Are employees compensated for taking InterNACHI's online courses?
- What would trigger an employee's pay being docked or garnished?
- Consider giving out monthly bonuses to your employees based on their individual contributions to net revenues. This has almost the same effect that is enjoyed by employee-owned companies in that employees strive to have the company succeed financially. Your multi-inspector firm's success becomes their success, and so your employees will strive to do their best. It also causes them to push their co-workers to do better.
Here is my formula for calculating monthly bonuses based on net revenues. You'll need to gather four numbers every month, and decide on a fifth. They are:
G = Gross revenue for the month. That's the total of all the money you brought into the company for the month.
E = Expenses for the month. That's everything you spent, including payroll, marketing costs, rent, etc.
P = Percent of profits you wish to distribute to your employees. This is the only factor that you decide. I would start with 10% and see what sort of bonus checks result from that. Start low, as it is difficult to decrease this percentage later.
T = The total number of hours worked by all employees. Simply add up all the hours that all your employees worked that month. Some employees probably worked about full time or roughly 160 hours. Others may have worked less, and others more. One of the things that I do is that I include my own hours in this number. I also include office staff (not just inspectors), as the success of the company relies on them just as much as your inspectors... and maybe more.
N = The total number of hours worked by the individual employee. This factor will change for each employee, as each employee works a different number of hours each month.
You'll have to calculate the bonus for each employee, as each employee's bonus will be different, depending on how many hours they worked that month. The formula creates proportional results, so if someone worked twice as many hours as their co-worker, their bonus will be exactly twice as big.
The formula for calculating any employee monthly bonus in dollars then becomes:
BONUS = (G-E)(P/100)(N/T)
Run the formula for each employee each month to determine everyone's bonuses.
Here is an example of this formula in action using made-up numbers for a multi-inspector firm that has one owner (you) and four employees. We'll call the four employees Tom, Dick, Harry, and Suzie.
- Let's say you worked 200 hours last month.
- Tom worked 220 hours last month.
- Dick worked 110 hours last month.
- Harry worked 10 hours last month.
- Suzie worked 160 hours last month.
You decide to give bonuses equal to 8% of your net revenues. So, P = percent of profits you wish to distribute to your employees = 8.
G = Gross revenue for the month = $50,000.
E = Expenses for the month = $30,000.
T = The total number of hours worked by all employees = 700.
Using my formula: BONUS = (G-E)(P/100)(N/T)
= ($50,000-$30,000) x (8/100) x (200/700)
= $20,000 x 0.08 x 0.286
= (50,000-$30,000) x (8/100) x (220/700)
= $20,000 x 0.08 x 0.314
= ($50,000-$30,000) x (8/100) x (110/700)
= $20,000 x 0.08 x 0.157
= ($50,000-$30,000) x (8/100) x (10/700)
= $20,000 x 0.08 x 0.014
= ($50,000-$30,000) x (8/100) x (160/700)
= $20,000 x 0.08 x 0.229
When your multi-inspector firm is really busy and you want to encourage your employees to work overtime, you could add a twist to the calculation by announcing that you will count overtime hours as 1.5 x the hours instead of just using the actual number of hours worked by employees. This gives those working overtime an even larger slice of the bonus pie.
- Establish a written policy about employees' personal use of the multi-inspector firm's vehicles.
- Can the employee take the company vehicle home at night or over the weekend?
- If the employee can take the company vehicle home, is it only for the purposes of getting to and from work? Or can the employee use it for personal errands?
- If the employee can use the company vehicle for personal errands, are there restrictions, such as not using it for camping, not parking it at a strip club, etc.?
- Require that your inspectors keep their inspection vehicles clean, both inside and out. Remind your employees not to neglect it, and to keep the interior (as well as the exterior) clean and tidy. They may have to eat three meals a day inside a company truck while juggling a hectic schedule, so they should police their mess as they go and keep the vehicle tidy. Your clients may notice a messy vehicle and, fairly or not, they will likely form opinions about your multi-inspector firm and your employee's work habits based on the appearance of your company vehicles. Your vehicles, just like your employees, should make a good impression throughout the day.
- Don't allow your employees to use your company vehicles for personal expressions that evoke politics, religion or humor, or identify you with non-professional associations that may have controversial reputations. Avoid (most) bumper stickers, novelty items hanging from the trailer hitches or sitting on dashboards or attached to your vehicles' antennae, as well as questionable images on mud flaps, and flags that are not state flags or the U.S. flag. It’s simply not appropriate to display such items at your workplace — or your workplace on wheels — and doing so may create unwanted notions about you and your work ethic and unnecessarily alienate potential clients. Can you afford to say no to new business? Just as you instruct your employees to use discretion and good judgment in choosing their work wardrobe by avoiding t-shirts and hats emblazoned with logos, images, jokes and text that some may find offensive or which may be misunderstood, the same advice holds true for your work vehicles. Err on the conservative side by sticking to business; your no-nonsense approach will be appreciated by your clients.
- Remind your employees to be courteous and conservative drivers. Your employees should not speed or tailgate such that other drivers find their driving aggressive. Since you’ll have your multi-inspector firm's contact information splashed all over your vehicle, your employees may create negative consequences with driving that will hurt your inspection company professionally — and possibly legally, as well.
- Save money on inspection vehicles. If you're going to provide company vehicles for your inspectors, InterNACHI's exclusive deal with the Ford Motor Company can save you up to $8,000 per vehicle!
Watch this one-minute video and save thousands on your inspection vehicles.
- Use a wrap for your company vehicles to strengthen your company's brand. A study by American Trucking Associations, Inc., showed that a truck sign creates almost 5 million visual impressions a year. For inspectors located in major cities, their driver’s-side signage may be seen up to 44,000 times per day.
Truck ads are the oldest form of mobile advertising still used today, dating back to 1912 when delivery trucks needed to distinguish themselves in New York City. Given the massive exposure gained just by driving around, it really is a marketing no-brainer.
Truck signage is the easiest marketing you can do all day without having to lift a finger. It works while you’re working. The larger your service area, the more people will see it. The smaller your service area, the more people will recognize it and become familiar with it, along with the services it advertises.
Truck signage demonstrates that you’re a professional company. When you have truck signage, you carry your brand with you to every job, every day. Truck signs are especially important in jurisdictions that restrict the use of yard signs. Mobile signage goes where you go, and the design options are virtually unlimited. Add advertising to the roof of your vehicle if you work near high-rises or apartment buildings.
- Decide what personal protective equipment (PPE) you are going to supply your inspectors. The process of inspecting for safety defects can itself compromise the safety of inspectors and their clients. Here are some of the PPE you may want to not only provide to your inspectors, but also require your inspectors to wear:
- Clothing: Coveralls are made from a variety of materials, such as canvas or Tyvek®. While canvas is thick, Tyvek® is disposable and lightweight, as well as anti-static, breathable, puncture-resistant, and chemical-resistant.
- Footwear: Especially for roof inspections, shoes form the only constant point of contact between the inspector and the roof's surface, and the bond between them needs to be firm. Generally, shoes should have non-slip, non-conducting, flat soles – ideally, high-traction rubber soles. Footwear such as boots with heels can become caught on an impediment on the ground, a rung on a ladder, or on the roof, potentially causing the inspector to trip, slip or fall.
- Headwear: A hardhat should be available for protection from hard or sharp obstructions in areas with low clearance, such as attics and crawlspaces, and under decks and porches. A canvas hat may protect the head from dirt, dust and lightweight debris, and can be used to attach a headlamp to keep the hands free. Inspector Outlet carries a bump cap that is perfect for home inspectors.
- Gloves: Insulated rubber or leather gloves should be available for inspecting potentially hazardous electrical components, especially electrical panels, to reduce the chance of electrical shock. Leather, canvas or cotton gloves should be worn to keep hands free of dirt and oily substances, especially while inspecting crawlspaces and basements. A certain amount of crawling on all fours through these areas will be necessary during inspections, and gloves will certainly make this activity safer. Gloves should fit snugly and have a grippable surface. Inspector Outlet carries crawlspace gloves for home inspectors.
- Eyewear: Eye protection should be available at all times. Goggles can protect against many types of harmful airborne substances, such as mold spores, sawdust, and insulation fibers. Inspectors should be sure to wear goggles or some other type of eye protection while inspecting electrical panels, which can emit dangerous sparks or arcs. Goggles or safety glasses with optional sideguards and heavy-duty protective lenses (either non-prescription or prescription) are worthwhile investments.
- Face Masks/Respirators: A disposable paper face mask that covers the nose and mouth can help filter out mild irritants, such as odors and occasional dust, but they don't offer a tight seal against the face, especially for inspectors with facial hair. A safer, long-term investment is a respirator. A respirator should be worn in attic spaces, especially where insulation is present. Common types of insulation, such as fiberglass, loose-fill or vermiculite, release tiny particulates into the air when they’re disturbed. Just walking through the insulation is enough to disturb it. These particulates are small enough to be inhaled, and, once you inhale them, they can become lodged in your respiratory system. This can create health problems long after the initial exposure. Respirators come in a variety of configurations for different levels of protection, including a half-face respirator, which, like a dust mask, covers the mouth and nose, and a full-face respirator, which covers the eyes, nose and mouth. A lower-face or half-face respirator can filter out irritants and some pathogens, but offers no protection for the mucous membranes of the eyes. A full-face respirator provides greater protection against certain toxins, such as mold and hantavirus, because it protects the mucous membranes around the eyes, as well as the nose and mouth. However, some wearers may find a full-face respirator uncomfortable, and the mask’s air filtration mechanism makes it somewhat difficult to breathe freely, especially in warm, enclosed areas where the inspector must crawl and bend using physical movements that may restrict full breathing anyway.
- Purchase InterNACHI's "STOP – Inspector at Work" signs for each inspection vehicle.
When inspecting a residential property, inspectors aren't bound by any legal requirements regarding signage, but that doesn't mean they aren't potentially liable if someone is injured. A lack of adequate notification to clients and those present on a property being inspected can lead to injuries and lawsuits, and the costs can be devastating to a multi-inspector firm. To avoid liability and to ensure the safety of all persons present at an inspection, InterNACHI® has created compact, lightweight "STOP – Inspector at Work" signs for inspectors to use on the job site.
They are specifically designed to be placed on ladders, near crawlspace entrances, and at other areas that are being inspected that may hold hazards.
Made of strong, durable plastic, these handy signs can stand up on their own and fit snugly over the rung of a ladder, and fold up flat for easy storage and transportation. These indispensable warning signs may also provide legal leverage for inspectors who are sued for harm suffered by a client during an inspection. They can be ordered online from Inspector Outlet.
- Purchase InterNACHI's "Inspector at Work" throw rugs and issue them to each of your inspectors.
The rugs catch insulation and protect the home's tile and carpeting. I once scratched up a hardwood floor when I didn't realize that my step-ladder had a stone stuck in the bottom of it. You can get them from Inspector Outlet.
- Use your InterNACHI® discount at Inspector Outlet to outfit your new inspectors with the apparel and equipment they need to help them do their best for your company. Having additional inspectors on staff means needing additional tools. Inspector Outlet has everything you need.
- Save time, impress your clients, and never leave a tool behind at an inspection again.
Try my Cloth Trick. I was reminded of it while giving advice to a young inspector who didn't want to be viewed as not knowing what he's doing on the job.
First, have your inspectors lay a large soft cloth on the kitchen counters at their inspections. A table placemat or two will work. Much like shoe covers, this step shows everyone that your inspectors are careful not to damage or dirty the seller's property. Then, have your inspectors take all of the meters out of their toolboxes and lay them out on the cloth to prepare for the inspection. Everyone in the room will begin asking what this or that meter does. Having specialized meters demonstrates professionalism.
Another thing I did was that I drew an outline using a permanent marker around all my expensive tools onto the cloth.
I adopted a post-inspection procedure of putting my tools back onto the cloth in their correct positions before I put them back in my toolbox. You should adopt the same strategy for your multi-inspector firm.
The cloth alerts your inspectors if they've left a meter on the job somewhere.
This simple system accomplishes three goals:
- Specialized tools put on display like this for your clients (and any agents present) can make your multi-inspector firm look experienced and professional, instilling consumer confidence.
- The cloth protects the seller's counter, which demonstrates consideration for the seller's property, even if they're not your client. That message subliminally extends to how your inspectors conduct their inspections, write their reports, and provide customer service after the job. It's details like this that can do your marketing for you.
- The outlines drawn onto the cloth ensure that your inspectors never accidentally left behind any tools on the job. It's not fun to lose a $600 meter! It also demonstrates an attentiveness to detail and organization, which further transmits a sense of your positive work ethic to your inspectors. And you can add more outlines as you acquire more tools for your inspectors.
- Require that every inspector complete two safety courses. And make your employees bring you the certificate of completion that comes with completing each course.
Note: In some states and provinces, you can't require an employee to do homework or take a course without paying them for their time.
The two free online safety courses designed to protect both the inspector and those attending the inspection are:
- Supply every inspection vehicle with a first aid kit. Keep them stocked and include them as part of your periodic vehicle inspections.
- Supply every inspection vehicle with InterNACHI's Stucco Identification Field Guide if your inspection company is in an area with stucco homes. You can order them from Inspector Outlet.
You should also supply every inspection vehicle with some Stucco Identification Decision Tree Cards. They are free from Inspector Outlet.
- Provide your inspectors with company phones. You want to own their phone numbers and to be able to lawfully review their calls and texts. Upon leaving your employ, your employees should return their company phones to you.
- Establish a "fully-charged mobile phone" policy. Every inspector, for safety and other reasons, should have a fully-charged phone. You may even want to go as far as instituting periodic morning phone inspections.
- Get those pre-inspection agreements signed. It's important that all of your inspectors are getting their inspection agreements signed before performing their inspections. InterNACHI's Online Agreement System makes that easy by allowing your office staff to receive an instant notification when the client has signed the agreement, and allows them to check the signed status of your company's agreements.
Some multi-inspector firms go as far as refusing to pay any of their inspectors for any inspection where they failed to get the pre-inspection agreement signed. That's one surefire way to make sure your agreements get signed.
InterNACHI's pre-inspection agreement can (and should) be sent to the client when the inspection is booked. It is smartphone-ready, so there really is no excuse for not getting it signed.
- Consider using InterNACHI's state-specific home inspection agreements.
- Get a guarantee if you are allowing payment to be made at closing. As your inspection company gets larger, more clients will feel comfortable in asking to pay at closing. If you grant these requests, get credit card guarantees. You can download InterNACHI's credit card guarantee for free.
- Establish a dress code for employees.
The dress code may be different for office workers than for inspectors who are interacting with the public and clients. Should an inspector be judged by what he/she wears? Perhaps not, but the reality is that proper staff attire is an important part of a multi-inspector firm's success. A multi-inspector firm's core product is its inspectors, and those products should be packaged professionally.
Below are some possible tips you could pass on to your employees:
- Never arrive to an inspection in dirty clothes. It's fine for clothes to get dirty during the inspection because your client expects this to happen.
- Consider keeping a pair of coveralls or a Tyvek® suit in your work vehicle. They will keep your clothing from getting dirty while you crawl through attics and crawlspaces.
- If you have more than one inspection scheduled for the day, consider bringing a change of clothing, or at least a fresh shirt.
- Dress appropriately for the type of property. Inspecting a horse farm may require boots. A dentist's office may require shoe covers.
- Dress for the climate. Cargo shorts (modest length, and with plenty of pockets) are fine in southern and beach areas but are often not adequate in cooler, northern climates.
Khakis or jeans can both be appropriate, depending on the client base.
Tank tops and sleeveless tees are never appropriate to wear on an inspection.
- T-shirts are generally not recommended unless they sport an inspection-related logo or your inspection company's name.
- T-shirts that have sports teams logos, or political or pop-culture references or images are never appropriate. Such messages and images can passively offend clients. And they simply look unprofessional on the job.
- Polo shirts and collared work shirts are fine, especially if they sport your own company logo or the InterNACHI®, CPI or CMI® logo. Shirts should be made of materials that do not easily ignite or combust, such as polyester.
- A suit or dress/skirt is not appropriate, as it implies that you are not dressed to inspect. A rare exception is for leaders of multi-inspector teams.
- If you want to dress up a bit for the consultation portion of your inspection, that's fine, but be prepared for a quick change in case part of that appointment includes actually inspecting.
- It is acceptable for inspection clothes to be loose-fitting. Inspection requires a great deal of reaching, climbing and crawling – activities that will be made more difficult by tight or restrictive clothing.
- Shoes should be lace-up and rugged. Lace-up shoes or boots ensure that your feet will not slip out of your shoes. Inspectors should be prepared for a dirty and strenuous job.
- In warmer climates or on summer days, you can wear clean tennis shoes or boat shoes.
- Open-toed sandals are not appropriate, even in summer, and even in beach towns.
- Women inspectors should not, of course, wear shoes with heels.
- Neither gender should be sporting flashy or excessive jewelry. It looks unprofessional in terms of the work you need to perform, and it could pose a safety hazard, such as a dangling wristwatch or bracelet, earrings, or a necklace that isn't tucked inside your shirt, all of which can get caught on something while you're inspecting.
- Remind employees that you expect punctuality from them. You have to be on time in the inspection business. Excessive absenteeism or tardiness may subject the employee to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
- Hold a company meeting and go over what you expect your inspectors to do upon meeting a client for the first time.
What your inspectors do before the appointment can ensure that they leave the client ready to hand you a glowing recommendation that you can use for future business.
Your inspectors only get one chance to make a good first impression, and the initial meeting with the client sets the tone for the rest of the inspection.
Here are a few reminders to prepare your inspectors to meet a new client for the first time so that you set the proper, professional tone for your inspection company.
Your inspectors should:
- Wash their inspection vehicle in the morning before their first inspection of the day.
- Schedule enough time for lunch. They should avoid eating in their vehicle, and check their clothes for drips of food and stains before arriving at the inspection.
- Not pull into your client’s driveway with their radio or CD player blaring, whether it’s music, commercials or talk radio. Anything loud is annoying and disrupts the environment, and shows a lack of respect for the client and the neighborhood.
- Conclude mobile phone conversations before exiting their vehicle. You want your client to feel that s/he is your inspector's only priority.
- Not embarrass themselves by allowing empty cans or other trash to fall out of their truck when they open the door.
- Not arrive at the inspection smoking or chewing tobacco.
- Not spit.
- Not slam the door of their vehicle.
- Not arrive carrying a cup of coffee or other beverage.
- Keep at least one hand free so that they can greet the client with a handshake.
- Maintain a calm — rather than a rushed — demeanor, even if they are running late.
- Call the client if they are running late. When your inspectors arrive, they should acknowledge their tardiness and thank the client for their patience.
- Have their business card ready as they approach the property.
- Wear a nice watch. It shows that your inspectors respect the client’s time.
- Shake hands with everyone, unless they indicate that they want to do the COVID elbow bump.
- Not hold the client's hand tightly or test his or her strength.
- Make eye contact during the handshake to show that they are interested in the other person, and also to pick up on the other person’s mood and non-verbal cues.
- Shake hands with the seller or listing agent if they are present, as well. They are not the enemy.
- Keep their heads up and maintain eye contact with the other people.
- Keep their hands in a natural position by placing them on their hips, by holding something (such as clipboard or a pen), or by gently clasping their hands together in front of or behind their back.
- Nod their heads occasionally while engaged in face-to-face conversation to indicate to the other person that they are listening.
- Maintain personal space (at least 3 feet). If your inspector is male and he is on an inspection alone with a female client or real estate agent, your inspector should greatly increase his personal space well past 3 feet.
- Not start looking around for defects or start their inspection until they connect with the client.
- Start establishing rapport with the client by exchanging pleasantries, asking general questions, and perhaps talking about something they have in common. They could try any of the following: "Are these your children?", "How are you doing today?," "This is a really nice neighborhood. I don't live very far away from here.." or "I’m looking forward to helping you out today.”
- Require all inspectors to bring a second pair of indoor shoes to their inspections. Boots or work shoes can be swapped for a clean pair of slippers or sneakers before entering living areas. Never track mud, roofing tar, or pet droppings into a home. Also, some customs require the removal of shoes and hats upon entry.
You could also use shoe booties. They are available at Inspector Outlet.
A personal note: No one wears shoes in my house.
- Have frank discussions with your employee about personal hygiene. Before an inspection, employees should make sure they have showered, brushed their teeth, flossed, used mouthwash, trimmed their nails, shaved or trimmed their beards (if they have them), combed their hair (and tied it back, if it's longer) and applied deodorant. Also, go easy on the cologne/perfume.
Between inspections, freshen up with a travel bag that contains a hand mirror (or a camping mirror), a comb or brush, chewing gum (preferably a minty or otherwise sanitizing flavor), mouthwash, deodorant, a spare bag for dirtied clothing, and wet-naps or waterless hand cleanser to clean and sanitize your hands before meeting with the client.
In summary, you as the multi-inspector firm owner should carefully consider how your employees are perceived by your company's clients. Clothing and hygiene can create impressions that are as valuable to repeat business as the quality of the inspection.
Remember: Your employees don't get a second chance to make a good first impression.
- Remind employees that you expect political neutrality at your multi-inspector firm. Of course, employees are entitled to their own personal political positions but they should not engage in political activity or discussions on an inspection or when clients, real estate agents, or others are within earshot.
- Require that every inspector complete InterNACH's free online Customer Service and Communication for Inspectors Course. Technical competence isn't quite enough for a multi-inspector firm. All of your inspectors need to know how to communicate with your company's clients as well as you do.
Also, make your employees bring you the certificate of completion that comes with completing each course. They can watch this short video to learn how to download their certificates of completion.
Note: In some states and provinces, you can't require an employee to do homework or take a course without paying them for their time.
- Consider sending new inspectors to a House of Horrors® Inspector Training Facility. Properly training a new inspector by taking him/her out on real inspections and seeing the same common defects over and over could take months. InterNACHI's multi-million-dollar House of Horrors® training facilities are much more efficient at getting your new hires up to speed. Each house is packed with thousands of defects. Give us your inspector for a week and we'll give you back a battle-hardened assistant who will be showing your lead inspectors what they missed on their inspections.
There is a House of Horrors® in Colorado, Florida, and Pennsylvania. Classes are taught by Certified Master Inspectors.®
- Offer additional inspection services. Success for multi-inspector firms relies on constantly adding ancillary inspection services. It's one of the main ways to make more money: Do more inspections, charge more for your inspections, and offer more types of inspections. You can acquire the education and credentials you need to offer additional ancillary inspection services by taking InterNACHI's free online and accredited courses.
Also, mention the specific ancillary inspection services you offer in the first few paragraphs of text on the home page of your inspection business website, and then try to work them into a few other paragraphs (at least). This will help potential customers who are searching online for those services to be able to find you.
I would have different inspectors acquire different certifications for the various ancillary inspections you plan to offer. You never want to put all your eggs in one basket, or have all your licenses held by one employee.
Here is a list of just some of the ancillary inspections you may want to start offering:
- Annual Maintenance
- Commercial Property
- Green Certification
- Home Energy Report
- Individual System/Component
- Lead-Based Paint & Lead Pipes
- Log Homes
- Meth Testing
- Mold Testing
- New Construction
- Pools & Spas
- Seller's Pre-Listing
- Project Oversight
- Radon Testing
- Septic Systems
- Sewer Scope
- Thermal Imaging
- Walk-Through Consultation
- Water Quality Testing
- Wind Mitigation
- Join IAC2® for one dollar.
Most multi-inspector firms have inspectors who specialize and/or are licensed to provide radon and mold testing. InterNACHI® members can join the International Association of Certified Indoor Air Consultants® (IAC2®) for only $1 per year.
- Consider creating a system to resolve employee disputes. In-house arguments happen and the sooner you deal with them, the better. Some components of the system might include a requirement that the employee promptly notify you if they have a dispute with a fellow employee and to participate in mediation, if necessary.
I once had two inspectors who couldn't work together, so I did my best to keep them apart and in different inspection crews. Nevertheless, they'd constantly get into it in the hallway, the lunchroom, and in the parking lot. It was on the verge of becoming physical. So, I took a long shot. I booked a fake inspection that was nearly 100 miles away from the office and I sent them both, in the same vehicle, to go do it together. I then waited for the phone call. They called and explained that the address I gave them led them to a restaurant in a small town. I told them they were at the right place, to go inside, and that I had called in a credit card for them to eat all they wanted and enjoy each other's company for as long as they like on my dime. It worked. They ended up being friends.
- Try to hang on to your best employees. Multi-inspector firm owners have all heard the stories before. You hire a home inspector, you spend a lot of time, energy, and money training him/her. And then, at just about the time they start making you money, they quit and open up their own home inspection business. You ended up training your competitor. What can you do?
There are three common ways of preventing this from happening:
You can have them sign a non-compete agreement. The problem with one is that you generally have to go to court to enforce it, and courts often don't uphold non-compete agreements. You can have them agree that if they quit, they have to repay you some amount for the training they received. And, again, this would require you to go to court if they simply quit and refused to pay.
On a personal note, I've never used either aforementioned method (legal or financial) as a mechanism to force another person to work for me when he/she wanted to leave. It's just not my style.
Or, you can pay them enough money to keep them from quitting. There is a problem with this method that is particular to the home inspection business. Home inspectors who work for you often know how much the consumer is paying. Many home inspectors even collect the fee on behalf of the company, on-site, at the inspection. This means that the employee is privy to the revenue side of the business. This causes employees to believe that you are making a lot of money off of the sweat of their labor. It is difficult, and maybe even financially impossible, for an inspection company to pay an employee as much as the employee believes they are bringing in for the company. Most employees anywhere would agree that they're underpaid.
Or, try this: Give them a desk project. Give him/her access to all the company's expenditures, including the checkbook stubs, paid invoices, credit card receipts, etc. Don't give them the revenue side of your books, just the expenses. Ask them to sit down and categorize all the company's expenses, adding up how much the company pays for things like marketing, insurance, training, vehicles, payroll, etc. Have them produce a report with the totals for each category. This project may take the employee one or two days.
You'll get three benefits from this exercise:
First, the employee who had no intention of quitting will gain a greater appreciation of what your company has to spend to employ them.
Second, the employee who was considering quitting and opening up their own competing inspection company will come to realize that there are a lot of costs he/she likely hadn't considered. This exercise will dispel any myths he/she possessed about the net revenues being anywhere close to the gross revenues of the business.
And, lastly, you as the business owner might actually learn something from the expense report that will help you to better manage the costs of running your inspection company.
In any case, do your best to compensate your employees at the market rate, and add extra where you can, whether it's in the form of additional compensation that's higher than average, health benefits, paid time off, etc. Make it difficult for them to leave by treating them as well as you can afford to.
And if an employee leaves to become your competitor, it might be just the jolt you need to re-evaluate your business. Keep an eye on their business, including their marketing – just as you would with any competitor you didn't personally know – and see if there's anything they do that you can do better.
- Remind employees who may have access to confidential information (such as your business strategy, future plans, financial information, pricing, contracts, suppliers, customers, personnel information, or other information) that you consider proprietary to keep that information confidential.
Employees must protect this information by safeguarding it when in use, using it only for the business of the multi-inspector firm, and disclosing it only when authorized to do so and to those who have a legitimate business need to know about it.
Upon termination of employment, the employee should immediately return proprietary material, including the narratives used in authoring inspection reports, and past-client lists. This duty of confidentiality applies even after s/he employee leaves the multi-inspector firm.
- Remind employees that any intellectual property they create (such as company marketing material, letters, videos, photos taken during inspections, computer databases, and narratives authored for inspection reports) is considered work-for-hire and are the intellectual property of the multi-inspector firm, which owns the exclusive rights to such work.
- Allow InterNACHI's team of professional designers help you develop and maintain consistent branding for your company. Multi-inspector firms like yours require branding of your company, not branding for the individual inspectors working for your company. And that branding has to be consistent throughout all of your marketing. Utilize InterNACHI's Member Marketing Team.
- Give your company brochure the "BMW Test." You can be the biggest, best multi-inspector firm in your service area, but if your marketing materials don't reflect the top quality of your services, you might as well be the worst inspector around. And the worst single-operator inspector in your service area can have the best-looking marketing materials and get the phone call that should have been answered by you. How's that for fair?
Can't tell if your marketing is up to snuff? I recommend that every multi-inspector firm owner do the BMW Test. Take your home inspection brochure to your local Mercedes or BMW dealership. Go into the lobby and find the brochure display. Put your home inspection brochure next to the car brochures, and then ask yourself, "Does my home inspection brochure hold its own next to Mercedes and BMW?" Then, ask yourself this: "Can I imagine that they all could have been designed by the same marketing team?" If you answered "no" to either question, it's no exaggeration to say that you're putting your livelihood at risk, as well as the livelihood of your employees. Can you afford that?
As a member of InterNACHI®, one of your most valuable benefits is free marketing design for your home inspection business done by professional designers and marketing specialists. They know exactly what it takes to sell your services through the power of engaging text, original designs, and polished images, all laid out in a way that anticipates the needs of your prospects, and – most importantly – converts them into clients. Why leave one of the most important aspects of your business in the hands of amateurs, or – worse – up to yourself? Just as you've trained to be the best home inspection company you can be, InterNACHI® has invested your annual dues in the best-trained staff that works hard every day to help your business succeed.
Good marketing requires good design. You can't effectively promote your business with weak marketing. A good design equals perceived quality of service. (Remember the lousy inspector with the gorgeous brochures?) The direction of your design is determined by your market, not by your personal preferences. InterNACHI's Member Marketing Team will create your logo just as you imagine it, but they're also going to steer you clear of any disastrous choices. Trust them because they've seen it all. Your market consists (mostly) of home buyers, and we're going to help them find you. Your marketing will be built to last.
And if you've already invested money in marketing that isn't paying off for you, they'll help you course-correct so you can start seeing dividends.
Just as you get only one chance to make a good first impression, your marketing materials may be the first and only chance you'll get to reach a prospective client. Don't you want your brochures to inspire trust, confidence, respectability, and the quality of a large multi-inspector firm? You've made the investment in growing your company; now, make the investment in your marketing. If your brochure doesn't pass the BMW Test, it's time to step on the brakes and get in touch with InterNACHI's Member Marketing Team.
- Add your company logo to your fully-editable agreements at www.nachi.org/onlineagreement. There are two reasons to add your company logo to your inspection agreements:
- You always want to be strengthening your company brand, and adding your logo to your agreements is another way.
- It legally reinforces that your inspection company entity is the one doing the inspection, not you personally.
- Watch this short video explaining how to add your company logo to your InterNACHI® profile. Then do it.
- Perform the "Aunt Penny Experiment." Consumers want the very best inspectors and nothing sounds better to a consumer’s ear than “Certified Master Inspector®.” To consumers, it is instantly evident, without any need for further explanation or support, that a Certified Master Inspector® is the best. And when consumers come to a point where they think they have found the best, they do something wonderful: they stop looking.
The Certified Master Inspector® professional designation has been used in our profession for 15 years, and Certified Master Inspectors® have testified over and over on industry forums and message boards that the professional designation works wonders to land more consumers, convert those consumers into clients, and command higher fees. I couldn’t be happier. But don’t take my word for it. Conduct the “Aunt Penny Experiment.”
Most of the marketing and home inspection business success programs I’ve developed over the years have been utter failures, with Certified Master Inspector® being the rare exception that we all now know works great. But back when we first filed for a federal trademark (Certified Master Inspector® is a Registered Trademark in the U.S., Canada, and other countries), I was trying to confirm my belief that consumers who knew almost nothing about the inspection industry would view Certified Master Inspectors® as the best and choose Certified Master Inspectors® over all other home inspectors.
My elderly Aunt Penny, who knew nothing of the inspection industry, volunteered to be my experiment’s guinea pig.
I had a huge dining room table at the time. I covered the table with everything I could find related to the inspection industry that might possibly cause a consumer to choose a home inspector. Among the clutter on my dining room table was an InterNACHI® logo, other association logos, an IAC2® logo, inspector resumes, home inspection business licenses, numerous custom home inspection business logos, certificates of course completions, E&O insurance certificates, inspector qualifications briefs, brochures, inspection industry taglines, education transcripts, home inspection flyers, inspection advertisements, screenshots of home inspection websites, Continuing Education logs, a professional engineer’s diploma, ads I custom-created that touted years in business and number of inspections performed, and even sample inspection reports.
Buried in that huge mess on my dining room table, I stuck in a modest Certified Master Inspector® logo. Then I asked my Aunt Penny to look through the pile and pull out the one thing that would cause her to hire that inspector over all the others. You can imagine what she chose.
I repeated this experiment with one person after another, and each time, the experiment concluded with the consumer choosing the Certified Master Inspector®.
Since then, several inspectors have conducted their own “Aunt Penny Experiment,” and all have reported the same result.
I urge you to conduct your own “Aunt Penny Experiment.” I happen to already know what that result will be.
In the real world – a world where consumers who are about to hire a home inspector are looking for the best home inspector, but making their decision to hire or not hire each inspector within five seconds – Certified Master Inspector® works. Five seconds is not a lot of time to explain to a consumer that they've found the best inspector in their area. Five seconds isn't much time at all. Five, four, three, two, one. That's all the time you get.
Those three little words, "Certified Master Inspector®," work great. They work every time. And they work with two seconds to spare.
- Record your office staff's phone calls.
I own a construction company. In construction, you get to meet your client, bid the job, sell the job, kiss your client's ugly baby or whatever, first... before the client hires you. The home inspection business is different from the construction business and most other businesses in that inspectors usually don't meet their clients until AFTER they've hired them. A successful inspection business relies heavily on marketing but affords only one opportunity to sell... and that occurs when the phone rings.
As a multi-inspector firm owner, your office staff's phone sales skills can make or break your inspection company.
Here's a simple strategy you can use to gauge and improve your phone skills. Using an inexpensive digital voice recorder, listen to both the way your staff answers your phones and the way they interact with potential clients who call for an inspection.
Don't actually “tap” your own phone, as there are laws about recording the caller's side of those phone conversations.
Listen for your staff's general tone of voice. Are they friendly and cheerful, or are they stressed and anxious? Is their speech clear? Are they speaking too quickly, or are they relaxed and articulate? Do they listen without interrupting? Did they actually offer to schedule the inspection?
Then, ask your friends and family members to listen to some of the recordings and have them comment on what they hear.
Remember: You get only one chance to make a good first impression. For office staff, their first contact with a prospective client is often over the phone, so make sure their phone skills aren't un-selling your services without you even realizing it.
Tip: Use InterNACHI's free online SoundSmart incoming call converter.
- Systemize your lead generation.
As your inspection company grows, your need for good inspection client leads will grow. Use InterNACHI's "Tips for Homebuyers" e-booklets to capture more leads from your website. Their main purpose is to capture your visitor's email address to give your office staff an opportunity to engage that consumer, over time, until they are finally ready to hire a home inspector. It is not unusual to work a lead for many months until the consumer is ready to hire a home inspector.
If your multi-inspector firm has office staff, give them something profitable to do between answering your phones. Have them work every lead forever, or until it converts into a client who is ready to hire a home inspector... you!
There are six steps to creating this inspection lead-generation system for your multi-inspector firm. The six steps are explained in this article: Get More Inspection Work: Capture Leads from Your Website.
- Get your own company-branded home maintenance books for just $2.70 each. Multi-inspector firms are different than single-operator inspection companies in that as multi-inspector firms grow, they need to learn to rely less on relationship marketing. All of your inspectors in your multi-inspector firm must put the company first and market your company, not themselves. Toward that end, they should be using a customized version of the Now That You've Had a Home Inspection book, which promotes your company, not your individual inspectors. Discover how you can have your own custom-branded home maintenance book for only $2.70 each at www.nachi.org/now
- Use a magic marker to market to real estate agents.
Order your custom Now That You've Had a Home Inspection books with your multi-inspector firm's contact info, logo, staff pic, phone number, etc... printed on the book cover. They are $2.70 each.
Put some of your inspection business brochures inside the book. If you don't have business cards or brochures, you can order them from InterNACHI's Member Marketing Team (the design work is free for members).
With a Magic Marker, write on the front and back covers "OFFICE COPY. DO NOT THROW OUT."
Deliver one or two copies to each of your local real estate offices. They will never get thrown out.
We have inspectors who are still getting work from these $2.70 books a decade after delivering them. It's the $2.70 marketing tip that keeps on marketing... you.
- Add InterNACHI's First-Time Home Buyer-Friendly logo to your company website.
As your multi-inspector company gets bigger, you don't want to appear to be unwelcoming or too large to help first-time home buyers of modest means.
- Get alerted every time a potential client wants an inspection, automatically.
Multi-inspector firms can't afford to lose any inspections. Each InterNACHI® member has his/her own "Have this inspector call me" button. When a potential client clicks on it and submits his/her call-back number, the InterNACHI® member is instantly called by an automated office assistant and given the client's call-back number. Go here to add an automated call button to your company website.
There are no phone tolls, lead generation fees, or other charges for this service. It is a free InterNACHI® member benefit that every multi-inspector firm should adopt.
- Get some hot leads. While your inspectors are onsite, they may notice business cards that have been left on the kitchen counter by real estate agents who have shown the house to their home-buying clients. Don’t ask your inspectors to take any of them, but do have them take pictures of them so that you can collect their contact information.
Later, your office staff can email and snail-mail each agent your business card and brochure. These agents are representing actual active home-buying clients in your local market who are about to hire a home inspector, and a lead doesn’t get any hotter than that. Have your office staff work those leads!
Be sure to note in your marketing pieces that you provide both buyer's inspections and seller's inspections, since many agents represent both buyers and sellers – sometimes simultaneously – and you don’t want to leave any money on the table, should the buyer also have a home in the area to sell.
Also, don’t reference the address of the home you inspected in your email or snail-mailed letter. Here’s why. It could harm your client’s position even without revealing their identity through their home address. A real estate deal isn’t final until it closes. Up until then, the seller and your client are still negotiating things, including what you found and reported in your inspection report. By alerting all the agents with competing buyers that the seller accepted an offer contingent upon an inspection, a savvy agent could put in a competing backup offer without an inspection contingency, causing the seller to negotiate harder with your client, or – worse – reject your client’s request for repairs in the hopes your client walks away from the deal altogether. Not only is it essential that you keep the contents of your inspection report confidential, but the fact that you’re doing an inspection at a certain address at all should also be kept confidential for many reasons, including the one I cited above.
- Give RESPA-compliant gifts to real estate agents who recommend your inspection company. Marketing to prospective clients is practically a full-time job for multi-inspector firms, and real estate agents are a necessary part of that equation. So, make your efforts count while being ethical, frugal, practical, and memorable. Our industry is notorious for wasting money on delivering candy dishes, boxes of bonbons, and dozens of doughnuts to real estate agents in the hopes that some of them will remember our inspection company once they bite into a piece of dark chocolate. Silly.
Here are four RESPA-compliant gifts you can give to real estate agents to make your mark. Whether it's holiday time, or just time to try a different tactic, consider these low- to no-cost options. They can truly promote your inspection company in practical and meaningful ways that a jelly-filled pastry can't.
- Get real estate agents to hand out cards with your multi-inspector firm's contact information. As a REALTOR® for many years, I dreaded the thought of having to listen to a local home inspector’s presentation at the mandatory Tuesday morning sales meeting. Home inspectors are so boring and never offer any information that is useful to my real estate business: “Hi, I’m Bob from ABC Inspections. I’m thorough, I arrive on time, uh… did I say I was thorough?” Uggghhh! So, when I became a home inspector, I knew I needed to do something better, something interesting, and something that would actually be useful to real estate agents.
I came up with this:
I asked the broker/owner/manager of the real estate office if I could bring in a truckload of insulated concrete forms (ICFs) and demonstrate how a corner of a foundation is constructed using ICFs. I also explained that I was going to bring in a stack of 3.5x8-inch cards with all the sales talking points for ICFs printed on them. The cards would help a listing agent highlight a home with an ICF foundation, and they'd help a buyer’s agent talk intelligently about ICF foundations when showing a home built with them. The cards were sized to fit in the glove compartment of the real estate agent's car. I said that I would provide enough cards for agents who wanted to give them out to their clients who were buying a home with an ICF foundation.
The presentation was very dramatic. Setting up the block corner gave me something to do with my hands and allowed me time to compose my thoughts between periods when I would turn to the audience of agents and tell them about the next benefit of ICF construction. I also passed around one of the insulated concrete forms, since they’re light. Some agents actually stood up to watch and listen to my presentation. You know you're keeping your audience’s attention when they rise to their feet.
At the end of my show-and-tell, I offered the cards. Every agent took them until I ran out. The broker/owner/manager asked if she could call the manager at one of their other offices and have me repeat my presentation at their sales meeting, too. Word got around town, and I eventually gave that same presentation at many real estate offices' sales meetings.
I was often asked to leave the ICF corner and a stack of the cards in the meeting room for an extra week so that agents who missed the presentation could see it and get some informational cards.
Agents would also call me when they ran out of cards. It was really great for my inspection business to have those talking-point cards in the glove compartments of all those agents' vehicles, knowing that they were being handed out to all those consumers who were about to hire a home inspector.
You can probably guess what was on the back of those cards: my inspection company's contact information.
Remember that you can take any type of concept to make this marketing strategy work. Find some local product or trend that may be especially popular in your area. Skylights, water features, septic systems, pools, barns, historic homes, bamboo flooring – the ideas are endless. Once you land on an idea for a presentation, you don't need to spend weeks putting it together; just find the manufacturer's information and build on that. If you want to add some demonstration component like I did, you can look for DIY videos on YouTube, or visit a local installer. It just doesn't get any simpler.
- Quadruple your inspection business in two years. If you want to seriously grow your business within the limited time frame of two years from now — an endpoint that’s virtually around the corner — but think that it’s absurd that you could actually quadruple it that quickly, you need look no further for mathematical proof of the possibility than the story of the wheat and the chessboard.
When an Indian mathematician named Sissa created the game of chess at the end of the 5th century A.D., he presented it as a gift to his king. The king was so thrilled that he told Sissa to name his reward for the amazing gift — anything he had was his for the asking. Sissa, perhaps in feigned modesty, asked the king merely for some wheat. The king thought he was getting the better end of the deal by far and asked Sissa how much wheat, thinking this a meager and even insulting prize. Sissa said that he would like to use the chessboard to count out his reward: one grain of wheat on the first square, then doubled to two grains of wheat on the second square, and then doubled again to four grains of wheat on the next square, and so on, until all 64 squares of the chessboard were accounted for. Amused, the king ordered his servant to retrieve a bushel of wheat to count out Sissa’s reward.
What the king didn’t realize until halfway through this exercise was that Sissa’s reward was becoming so enormous that the kingdom was in threat of losing its entire wheat stores, and more. The king’s accountant pleaded for him to reverse his promise, explaining that, with 64 squares on the chessboard, and doubling the number of grains of wheat on each successive square (1 + 2 + 4 + 8, etc.), the total number of grains would equal 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 — far more wheat than that held by the entire continent.
This story beautifully and simply illustrates the theory of exponential growth.
Of course, there are limits to growth at this pace, as the king quickly discovered. And any inspector would balk at the notion of growing his or her business year after year after year, ad infinitum. But you can do this, too. You can grow your business exponentially. It is possible to grow your business at a rate that you never thought possible and yet keep it manageable so that it doesn’t eclipse everything else in your life. You can double your business next year, and you can quadruple it in two years. Any inspector can do this, regardless of his or her current average number of inspections.
All you have to do is to get every past client to refer one inspection to you. If you did 100 inspections last year and can get 100 referrals from 100 former clients, you will have effectively doubled your business. During the second year, repeat what you did during your first year (having a larger base of past clientele), and so on. This is exponential growth.
The question now becomes: How do I get my past clients to refer me? You can get your past clients to refer you using the following marketing strategy: Send each past client three copies of the Now That You’ve Had a Home Inspection home maintenance book with your business card attached to each one, and a brief letter asking your former client to pass along each book to someone they know (family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker) who is buying, building, or selling their home, or even just planning to in the near future. Even if just one of those three books results in an inspection appointment, you’ll have met your goal for growth. And while you may be tempted to opt for a less expensive alternative, such as mailing out a half dozen of your brochures and business cards instead, the likelihood of those ending up in the trash is high, whereas no one will throw away a book. (And this assumes that you’ve already given your past clients their own copy of Now That You’ve Had a Home Inspection — you wouldn’t want them to keep for themselves what you want them to give away to someone else.) It’s a strategy that can be repeated year after year, on top of your new business.
Why did Sissa the mathematician ask the king for grains of wheat? The beleaguered ruler came to the conclusion that it would be less expensive to surrender his kingdom than to make good on his promise to Sissa. And that’s what happened... Sissa was crowned king. The theory of exponential growth is profitable, indeed. Always remember that your past clients are your best source of new business.
- Instruct all your inspectors to give children who attend inspections something safe to do. InterNACHI® has coloring and activity books for this purpose. Keep your inspection vehicles stocked with these items, along with boxes of crayons. Get them here:
- If there is a Sams Club in your area, instruct all your inspectors to offer these Sams Club cards to their clients and agents. It allows them to join for free. You can order as many as you like at no charge.
- Instruct all your inspectors to leave literature behind on every inspection. Most home sellers are moving locally (within your inspection market area). After each inspection, have your inspectors leave behind a letter that asks the seller to hire you to inspect the home they are moving into. Download a sample leave-behind letter.
- Have your staff mail letters to the neighbors of the homes you've inspected. Many inspectors recommend that their clients have an annual inspection performed every fall. Seasonal maintenance is extremely important for keeping a home in top condition, and the best time to have an annual inspection is before the weather turns cold.
In addition to recurring business from repeat customers, inspectors can capitalize on offering Annual Home Maintenance Inspections by alerting the client's neighbors. The neighborhood is really a built-in local market, so inspectors should take advantage of this kind of close-proximity marketing opportunity.
Upon completing an annual inspection, it’s a good idea to mail a letter to all the neighbors asking them if they would like a pre-winter inspection. Include a copy of the testimonial from the client whose inspection you just completed (but be sure to first ask your client for permission to do this).
You can look up the neighboring homes' addresses on the county assessor's website, and by matching up the owners' addresses to the homes' addresses, you can personalize each letter.
And if some of the homes are rentals, you can still send a letter to the owners and offer an inspection, and suggest that it will minimize and/or pinpoint their own landlord maintenance tasks.
Here’s a sample letter:
YOUR NEIGHBOR IS A GENIUS!
Dear [Prospect’s Name],
I’m writing to let you know that we performed an annual home inspection for [Client’s Name] on [Client’s Street]. [Client’s Name] has given us permission to send you their enclosed testimonial. As an InterNACHI® member trained and certified in providing top-quality home inspections, I offer my extensive experience to help you keep your home in optimum condition. Before the onset of winter, let me evaluate your home and help you discover any deferred maintenance and other potential issues before they become problems.
Winter is the most inconvenient time of year for daily disruptions and costly repairs, which is why I strongly recommend that you have me perform your first annual inspection now.
I’d like to talk to you about our annual inspection service. Please call me on my cell phone at [Your Phone Number] for a free consultation. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
[Your Inspection Company Name]
[Your Phone Number]
[Your Email Address]
[Your Website Address]
Encl. 3: Testimonial, brochure, business card
Annual inspections clustered in the same neighborhoods during the fall can mean big business at a time when new home builds and purchases are slowing down for the year.
Just a little bit of research (and some stamps) can mean the difference between a dip and a drop in revenue.
- Use InterNACHI's multi-inspector tagline The Right Inspector, Right Away.® It's trademarked for your protection and free for your inspection company to use.
You may want to use this tagline on your inspection vehicle wraps, especially if your company name or logo doesn't instantly reveal that you are a home inspection company. For example, if your company name is "Tri-State Services," the tagline would help potential consumers realize that you are an inspection company when they see "Tri-State Services... The Right Inspector, Right Away®."
- Post frequently on InterNACHI's message board. At nearly 2.5 million posts, InterNACHI's message board is the largest accumulation of inspection-related material on the internet.
Make inspection-related posts in the open forums of InterNACHI's message board so that they're accessible to everyone, including consumers and search engines.
Keep political and silly posts confined to the members-only sections of the message board.
Also, make sure your message board signature contains a live link to your inspection business website and NAP. This instantly gives you a lot of link juice (proportional to how many posts you've written).
- Sign up for Inspector Media. Inspector Media was founded on the overwhelming need for tools and services aimed at helping home inspectors establish a dominant presence on social media.
Why do you need a Facebook page that is consistent and professionally managed? There are five new Facebook profiles created every second, with 2.23 billion active monthly users. Your potential audience on Facebook is growing exponentially. Studies show that between 70-80% of people research a company online BEFORE visiting the small business or making a purchase with them.
Inspector Media is the only social media marketing company that sends every one of its inspector clients a report each month, proving how successful Inspector Media was at generating inspection jobs.
- Add new content to your inspection company website on a regular basis. Content freshness counts for much as search engines cycle through their search algorithms.
Contrary to what you may have learned, don’t try to stuff your text with keywords. It won’t work. Search engines know if your use of a term is abnormally high because people have tried to game the system, and this practice is a red flag. They prefer natural language content. InterNACHI® offers hundreds of free inspection-related articles for this purpose. Use them.
- Title the navigation links on your inspection business website with search engine optimization in mind. For example: "Contact ABC Inspections" instead of "Contact Us."
- Add your local market region to every page of your inspection company website. For example, if your market area is Cheyenne, Wyoming, find places within your company's website to refer to Cheyenne, Wyoming. This will help potential customers find you online when looking for an inspection company in your area. By tracking IP addresses, Google knows where their users are searching from and customizes their search results accordingly. Therefore, it is important that Google knows where your service area is. Incorporate your address, market suburbs, market subregions, satellite cities, and metro areas into your website. Do this by adding geographically-specific phrases about your market area within your website's text. If you serve more than one town or city, include them all.
Also, be sure links to your site and within your site use your keyword phrases. In other words, if your target is Cheyenne home buyers, then your link title should be “Cheyenne home buyers” instead of “click here.”
- Place keyword-rich captions under the images on your inspection business website... just like newspapers do. Title the images on your inspection business website using relevant phrases, such as “Photo of inspector inspecting a roof in Cheyenne” instead of “Picture of me.”
- Make sure your name, address, and phone number – often referred to as NAP by SEO professionals – is on your home inspection business website and elsewhere on the web. Google and other search engines rely on this data to inform local search ranking, which has become one of the biggest ways prospective clients find home inspectors online. InterNACHI® highly recommends you add this to every page of your website.
Make sure that search engines can “read” your NAP. The information should be actual text, rather than an image with text on it, because Google can't “read” or see images like we do. The placement and look of your NAP doesn’t have to be complicated. A simple blurb with your name, address and location somewhere on your homepage is sufficient, preferably above the fold where people will see it first thing when they arrive at your website. (Borrowed from newspaper parlance, "above the fold" refers to the area of your homepage that people can see without having to scroll down.) But do render that information in the exact same order and format on each page of your website. Google's bots will read "1750 30th St." differently than "1750 30th Street."
In a wider scope, your NAP should be listed and consistent in the major business directories and search engines. These include Google, Facebook, Foursquare, Superpages, Infogroup (now Data Axle), Localeze, Factual, Citysearch, InsiderPages, Best of the Web, Yelp, Bing, and the Yellow Pages (in addition to any websites that cater to your town or city).
The ranking factor identified as the most important in competitive markets is the consistency of these listings. References to your business’s name, address, and phone number can be almost anywhere, but most of them are in local directories. Consistent data in these directories shows search engines that a business is real and located at the listed address, and search engines reward that consistency with higher rankings.
- Make sure you have “I serve customers at this address” checked in your Google business preferences. Unless that is checked, Google will not show your listing on that search.
- Make sure your home inspection company's domain name isn't private. Private domain-name ownership increases a search engine’s belief that you are a spammer. If you are paying for privacy with regard to who owns your inspection company's domain name, you are paying to harm yourself.
- Renew your inspection company domain name a few years into the future. It shows search engines that you are keeping your domain name, and that assures them you are legitimate. Most services like Network Solutions and GoDaddy permit you to renew your domain name for up to 10 years. Do it. A distant renewal date is part of Google's ranking formula.
InterNACHI® actually negotiated a special deal and paid to renew its domain name for 100 years into the future. Yes, I said 100 years!
- List your inspection company's markets in InterNACHI's inspector search tools. Naturally, multi-inspector firms service larger market areas. If you are operating in multiple locations or serving multiple markets, you can (and should) list up to 10 different market areas in InterNACHI's "Find an Inspector" search engines.
Watch this short video to learn how to add your inspection company to our inspector search engines.
- Use InterNACHI's Local SEO Tool for Inspectors. As Google and other search engines have shifted away from traditional search results pages and toward "local" search listings for small businesses, the process of SEO (search engine optimization) for home inspectors has changed. Getting links to your site has become less important as Google and others have started to focus on citations, or references to your company's name, address, and phone number (your NAP).
Having consistent citations across the web has a significant positive impact for a home inspector's SEO. That's why InterNACHI® has developed a Local SEO Listing Tool for Home Inspectors
(members-only login required). This tool makes it easy to tie your InterNACHI® listing to your Google Places listing, which will help ensure that you get the most benefit possible from your listings at InspectorSeek
and the thousands of other sites that InterNACHI® operates.
- Make a modest (even $20) donation to Cozy Coats for Kids®.
Cozy Coats for Kids® is an award-winning registered charity supported almost solely by the home inspection industry.
When you make your tax-deductible donation, your inspection company logo and live website link will be permanently displayed on Cozy Coats for Kids®' Donors page, forever. This gives your inspection business website an SEO boost.
Cozy Coats for Kids®... Kids Choose. We Deliver.
- Find out what each of your clients thinks about the particular inspector who performed their inspection by using InterNACHI's Client Satisfaction Survey.
When I have a bad experience at a restaurant, I unfortunately do something horrible to the restaurant owner – I don't let him or her know what was wrong. I simply pay my bill, leave a tip, and never return. I guess I'm just too shy to complain.
The Client Satisfaction Survey prevents this from happening to you. It hits seven birds with one stone for the multi-inspector firm owner:
- It reduces liability for the company. Often, a dissatisfied client will describe your inspector to his/her agent – or, worse, to a judge – much differently than the truth. Procuring and maintaining a copy of this survey will bring them back down to Earth, so to speak. It is a handy document to have to present to a complaining agent, and can often end a legal action all by itself. It's the next best thing to a deposition taken at the peak of their satisfaction with your company.
- It alerts the multi-inspector firm owner to weaknesses. Often, a client is too shy to complain to you about your employees – or worse, complains only to the agent who referred you. Providing this survey offers your clients a way to express their dissatisfaction while you can still do something about it. Client feedback is very useful to improving the service of a multi-inspector firm.
- It reminds your clients that your inspectors don't have X-ray vision. It is important to explain to your client that a home inspection can't reveal every defect that exists, or ever will exist, in their new home. This survey works in conjunction with InterNACHI's Pre-Inspection Agreement (between your company and your client) in that it again reminds them of this fact.
- It suggests to your client that he/she may wish to order ancillary inspection services from your company, such as radon testing and mold testing – for additional fees, of course. This survey reminds your client to ask about other services your inspection company might offer.
- It grants you written permission to discuss the report with others. And, even more importantly, you can point to this document when a seller's agent demands a copy of the inspection report by saying: "I'm sorry, but my client has given me written orders not to share the results of his/her report with anyone."
- It lets your client know that you care about his/her opinion. Everyone likes being asked for it.
- It helps your inspection company get more work. By sending a copy of the flattering survey back to the agent who referred your company, you remind that agent that your inspector did a great job and to refer your company again.
- Give your clients a way to vent, instantly. If you don't want your inspectors personally handling any complaints about the inspections they've performed, InterNACHI's free online Issue Resolution Service is something you may want to consider.
Often, a consumer simply wants a place to vent to a third-party authority. InterNACHI® provides that place at no cost for all your inspectors.
The resolution system often also helps consumers realize that their issue is outside the scope of their home inspection.
- Get a letter of reference if you settle a complaint. Right or wrong, in some cases, it makes sense to cut a deal with a complaining client to avoid a lawsuit.
If you have to pay to have a repair done to correct a defect your client claims you "missed," always ask for a handwritten letter of reference thanking you for quickly resolving the issue. Then, take a stack of those letters back to the referring agent, brag about how you paid to keep your mutual client happy, and ask that the stack be passed out at the next real estate sales meeting.
Then, after you get the reference letter, get a release signed to end the issue forever. Click here to download a copy of a general release for inspectors.
Also, InterNACHI® has built the release into its free online agreement system for you to procure the release digitally.
- If you are doing multiple inspections for the same client, use InterNACHI's Master Inspection Agreement.
- Make sure consumers find only your company's contact information, not any individual employee's phone number or email address. Multi-inspector firm owners fully control what their employees display to the public from their company dashboard. You only have to edit your employees' contact information from your InterNACHI® dashboard to change it everywhere. You don't want your inspectors to be directly receiving calls for inspections, and, even worse, you sure don't want your inspectors to be doing those inspections on the side, without you knowing about it.
I own an excavating company. At the end of the week, I noticed that one backhoe consistently required more fuel than the others that were working about the same amount. I called John Deere about the issue to explain that I thought this particular backhoe was eating too much fuel. They told me to compare the fuel usage to the hours of use (because heavy equipment doesn't have odometers; they have hour meters). When I did, I realized that this particular machine was logging way more hours than we were billing for. My first thought was that this machine was not only eating too much fuel, but that the hour meter was off. I then pulled the security videos. One of my employees was taking the backhoe out on Sundays and doing his own jobs with it each weekend. I'd have never discovered the problem had he only replaced the fuel that he was using.
You don't want this to happen to you as a multi-inspector firm owner. So, make sure all your employees' contact information is the company's contact information.
- Periodically audit what contact information your employees are using. InterNACHI® generates about nine consumer click-thrus to its members' websites every minute. When you add your contact information to your inspectors' member profiles, you increase the places your inspection company appears on InterNACHI's many inspector search sites, and thus the number of inspection jobs they generate.
You can actually watch the number of click-thrus that InterNACHI® generates in real time.
Remind your employees that you expect them to use company phone numbers and emails for all company business.
- Bring more consistency to inspection reports written by different inspectors who you employ. The InterNACHI® Narratives Library, authored by Certified Master Inspector® Kenton Shepard, will increase your report consistency between inspectors, help newer inspectors formulate the text of their inspection reports, and make all your inspectors' reports clearer and more professional.
- Direct all your clients who ask about service life expectancy to InterNACHI's Estimated Life Expectancy Chart.
The life expectancy of a home's systems and components can be subjective. You don't want your inspectors giving clients different or incorrect answers to the same questions about service life expectancy.
Tell your inspectors to leave this one to InterNACHI® and stock your inspection vehicles with copies of the chart.
- Get the right insurance for a multi-inspector firm. InterNACHI's E&O insurance company provides discounts for multi-inspector firms, and endorsements to cover a wide variety of ancillary inspection services.
InterNACHI®-insured inspectors also enjoy free five-year tail coverage, which is especially important for your multi-inspector firm, plus a vanishing deductible.
Get a free quote in just a few minutes.
- Join CCPIA.
Most multi-inspector firms are robust enough to offer commercial property inspections, along with residential inspections. InterNACHI's sister organization, the Certified Commercial Property Inspectors Association® (CCPIA), can help your multi-inspector firm enter the lucrative commercial side of inspections.
Her are just a few videos from commercial inspectors who are making a lot of money:
- Help your office staff sound smart. Is someone other than you answering your company phone? You get only one chance to make a good first impression. InterNACHI's free online SoundSmart page can help whoever is answering your phone to competently converse with your callers. It's like having a little helper on their shoulder, whispering in their ear. It's the perfect tool for helping new office employees answer the phone sound knowledgeable and helps them book more inspections for your company.
- Up-sell radon testing. Sometimes a caller will ask whoever answers your company phone if radon is really that dangerous. The easiest way to help such consumers decide if they want to have you perform a radon test is to email them the link to this Chart of the Causes of Death in the U.S.
The chart compares deaths from radon to deaths from most other causes. It's quite eye-opening.
- Don't try to make it up on volume.
If you've been in the inspection business for a while, you've probably heard one of your clients say, "That's a lot of money for only a few hours’ work!" As more and more home inspectors use time-saving report-generating software, including pictures (worth a thousand words), and even generate their reports onsite, they also start to make it look easy. It isn't. Just because you can handle more volume as a multi-inspector firm doesn't mean you should lower your fees.
The famous painter Pablo Picasso was dining at a restaurant in New York City. A fan introduced herself to him and gushed at how thrilled she was to meet the great artist, and how she loved his work. Encouraged by his polite acceptance, the fan begged, "Oh, Mr. Picasso, would you draw me a sketch?" Picasso grabbed some paper and, with a pen, promptly sketched the waiters passing by with parfaits. As the woman reached for the sketch, Picasso said, "Madame, that will be $10,000." Shocked, she replied, "But that only took you five minutes!" "No, madame," replied Picasso. "It took me 50 years."
Picasso priced his service to its value, not to the cost of manufacture. Picasso did not price his service based on the cost of the paper plus the cost of ink plus some hourly wage... and nor should your inspection company. Keep your pricing up.
- Help your office staff bid inspection jobs correctly. InterNACHI's free Inspection Fee Calculator helps your office staff bid inspection projects correctly. You can customize the calculator to your inspection company so that your office manager or whoever answers your phone can bid inspection jobs just like you would – not underbidding, and not leaving money on the table.
The fee calculator uses factors that you first determine, including a base price, a mileage factor, an age factor, a size factor, and a factor based upon how busy your multi-inspector firm is. It then determines the perfect fee for the inspection – not too little if the home is far away, large, or very old, and not too much if the home is close buy, small, and newer.
Once you set up the fee calculator to your liking, you can hire someone at 9 a.m. on Wednesday and by 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday, your new hire will be bidding inspection jobs exactly as you would.
Watch this short video that explains how to set up your online inspection fee calculator.
- Help your office staff allot the correct time between booked inspections. You don't want your inspectors to have nothing to do between inspection jobs that have been scheduled too far apart in time, and you also don't want them to be late to an inspection.
InterNACHI's free online Time Slot Calculator will properly space apart inspection jobs based on their distance from your office and each other, as well as the size and age of the home.
- Give your inspectors 24/7 access to immediate assistance. Imagine that one of your inspectors is on a job and needs immediate technical help. InterNACHI's free Emergency Help Forum to the rescue! It's only for time-sensitive emergencies when an inspector finds something on an inspection and doesn't quite understand it or how to report it.
The Emergency Help Forum is monitored 24/7 by fellow InterNACHI® members, subject-matter experts, and Certified Master Inspectors®.
Your inspectors can upload photos to it, ask questions, and get instant help onsite or when writing their report.
- Dress up your inspection reports. InterNACHI® has more than 4,000 inspection-related graphics for inspectors to use to make their reports easier to read, as well as more professional-looking.
Each graphic includes a link to its hi-res version, should that be what you want.
They are all free at InterNACHI' free online Inspection Image Gallery.
- Charge extra for experience.
Are some clients insisting that you personally perform their inspection, rather than one of the junior inspectors in your company? You might as well charge extra for yourself and your very experienced inspectors. The best way to do this is to become a Certified Master Inspector® (CMI®) and charge accordingly.
Charging extra for a Certified Master Inspector® isn't like charging extra for a radon test or a mold test. The extra you charge for your CMIs® is 100% pure profit.
- If you are a Certified Master Inspector® (CMI®), make sure you exploit this customized Safe Home e-book that has your contact information embedded throughout. It is free.
- Participate in InterNACHI's "We'll Buy Your Home" Guarantee.
With more inspectors comes more risk, and more need to manage that risk. InterNACHI's "We'll Buy Your Home" Guarantee allows you to sleep soundly at night. And we offer quick bulk registration for multi-inspector firms.
Most top-producing real estate agents have their "pet" inspector whom they've been working with for years. You aren't going to get these agents to start referring your company by merely dropping off your inspection business card at their office. To get their attention, you are going to need something with the "Wow!" factor. The "We'll Buy Your Home" Guarantee gives real estate agents another way to attract buyers by telling them about your Guarantee.
It encourages hesitant clients of real estate agents to make offers on the homes their agents find for them. So, it doubles as a real estate sales tool.
- Have your office staff send out this letter to real estate agents. Assuming your inspection company is participating in the "We'll Buy Back Your Home" Guarantee, use this sample letter to introduce it to local real estate agents so that you can promote both the Guarantee and your services.
You can copy and paste the text from here and customize it with your signature line on your company's business letterhead.
Dear Real Estate Agent,
As a Certified Professional Inspector®, I’m able to offer your clients not just a thorough inspection and reliable report, but something that no one else in the industry provides: InterNACHI’s "We'll Buy Your Home" Guarantee.
This program gives you a way to assure hesitant homebuyers that it is OK to put in an offer on the home you found for them. The Guarantee is a sales tool that will make your buyers say, "Wow!"
Please contact me to let me know how we can serve local homebuyers together.
- Have your inspectors give their clients these "We'll Buy Your Home" Guarantee certificates.
Assuming your multi-inspector firm is participating in InterNACHI's "We'll Buy Your Home " Guarantee program, order some certificates now. They are free.
- Get your inspectors licensed for more types of inspections in more geographical areas.
There may come a time that your market area expands into nearby states. If that's the case for your multi-inspector firm, rest assured that InterNACHI® can help you get your inspectors licensed to perform inspections in other states. InterNACHI's courses enjoy some 1,400 governmental approvals and accreditations.
InterNACHI... Around the world and in your neighborhood.
- Keep improving overall competency. As the owner of a multi-inspector firm, you should always be doing that which improves the technical bloodline of your inspectors. A great way to improve the overall competency of your inspectors is to have them complete any of InterNACHI’s dozens of online courses each month. In addition to becoming better inspectors over time, they'll also be completing courses accredited by the U.S. Dept. of Education. InterNACHI® is the only USDE-accredited school in the inspection industry. Visit www.InterNACHI.edu
Also, watch this one-minute video tip for multi-inspector firm owners who want to continually increase the overall technical competency of their company.
Here are just some of the free online courses available to your inspectors through InterNACHI®:
- How to Inspect the Attic, Insulation, Ventilation and Interior
- How to Inspect HVAC Systems
- How to Inspect the Exterior
- How to Perform Deck Inspections
- How to Inspect for Moisture Intrusion
- 25 Standards Every Inspector Should Know
- Residential Plumbing Overview for Inspectors
- Safe Practices for the Home Inspector
- Structural Issues for Home Inspectors
- How to Perform Roof Inspections
- How to Inspect Fireplaces, Stoves and Chimneys
- InterNACHI® Code of Ethics
- How to Perform Residential Electrical Inspections
- InterNACHI® Home Inspection Standards of Practice
- Energy Movement for Inspectors
- The House as a System
- Performing a Home Energy Audit
- Inspecting Commercial Electrical Systems
- Inspecting Portable Fire Extinguishers
- How to Inspect Pools and Spas
- Wind and Hail Property Damage Inspection
- How to Perform Deck Inspections (video course)
- Customer Service and Communication for Inspectors
- How to Inspect Septic Systems
- Fundamentals of Inspecting the Exterior
- 10 Steps to Performing a Roof Inspection
- How to Perform Wind Mitigation Inspections
- Advanced Electrical Inspection Training
- Advanced Stucco & EIFS Inspection Training for Inspectors
- Building Science and Infrared Thermal Imaging for Inspectors
- Advanced HVAC Training for Inspectors
- Wood-Destroying Organism (WDO) Inspection
- How to Perform Mold Inspections
- Advanced Mold Inspection Training
- Inspecting Foundation Walls and Piers
- Commercial Property Inspection Prerequisite Course
- Advanced Inspection of Crawlspaces
- Infrared Thermography Inspection Training
- How to Inspect Water Heater Tanks
- Inspecting the Means of Egress
- Log Home Inspection
- Green Building Inspection
- Radon Measurement Professional Initial Training
- Inspecting the Masonry Chimney Flashing
- Property Maintenance and Housing Code Inspector
- Master Class for Home Inspectors
- Healthy Homes, Part 1: Housing History and Purpose
- Healthy Homes, Part 2: Basic Principles of Healthy Housing
- Healthy Homes, Part 3: Housing Regulations of Healthy Housing
- Healthy Homes, Part 4: Disease Vectors and Pests
- Healthy Homes, Part 5: Indoor Air Pollutants and Toxic Materials
- Healthy Homes, Part 6: Housing Structure
- Healthy Homes, Part 7: Environmental Barriers
- Healthy Homes, Part 8: Rural Water Supplies and Water Quality Issues
- Healthy Homes, Part 9: Plumbing
- Healthy Homes, Part 10: Onsite Wastewater Treatment
- Healthy Homes, Part 11: Electricity
- Healthy Homes, Part 12: Heating, Air Conditioning, and Ventilation
- Healthy Homes, Part 13: Energy Efficiency
- Healthy Homes, Part 14: Residential Swimming Pools and Spas
- Certified Drone Pilot Training
- How to Inspect Swimming Pools (video course)
- How to Inspect Lawn Irrigation Systems
- How to Perform a Garage Inspection
- Advanced Residential Roof Inspection
- How to Perform Tree Inspections
- How to Inspect Private Drinking Water Wells
- Meth House Hazards and Remediation
- Inspecting Commercial HVAC Systems
- Residential Structural Design for Home Inspectors
- Roof Data Technician
- Inspecting Slate Roofs
- Home Energy Blower Door Training
- Inspecting HVAC Energy Efficiency for Inspectors
- Appliance Inspection for Home Inspectors
- Defect Recognition and Report Writing
- Inspecting Metal Roofs
- Calculating Envelope Energy Loss
- Inspecting Tile Roofs
- Inspecting Wood Shingle and Shake Roofs
- Lead-Safe Work Practices for Home Inspectors
- Inspecting Asphalt Shingle Roofs
- General Roof Inspection Training (video course)
- Exterior Safety for Inspectors and Contractors
- Ladder Safety Training
- Professionalism: Sales, Customer Service and Communication
- Wind and Hail Inspection and Roof Replacement
- How to Inspect Manufactured and Mobile Homes
- Indoor Air Quality for Inspectors
- Comfort and Climate for Inspectors
- Turn off your TV. Better yet, take a hammer and smash it to bits. InterNACHI's free online webinars aren't just limited to technical subjects. InterNACHI's "Filter by Category" allows you to enjoy business success and growth webinars, many of which are geared to multi-inspector firm owners. These free webinars hosted by my brother, Certified Master Inspector® Ben Gromicko, are simply awesome.
- Become a businessperson. As a multi-inspector firm owner, you're not just an inspector any longer. You're a businessperson who happens to be in the inspection business. Take InterNACHI's free online Inspection Business Course.
- Regularly remind your competitors that you are interested in acquiring their inspection companies and perhaps having them and their employees come to work for your multi-inspector firm. Don't wait till your competitor announces that his/her inspection company is for sale. It never hurts to ask a competitor if they are interested in being acquired. When you buy a competitor, a lot of good things happen:
- You may get additional experienced inspectors.
- You acquire the relationships your competitor had with real estate agents.
- You grow your multi-inspector firm and its revenues.
- You remove a competitor from your local market.
- If you are the one planning on selling your multi-inspector firm, read: Exit Strategies to Sell Your Inspection Business.
- Read these two books. I think every multi-inspector firm owner should read them. Humility prevents me from revealing the author ;). They are free and downloadable at:
- Read InterNACHI's Membership Guide and see if there is anything else that InterNACHI may be able to help you with.
- Reduce and defer your taxes. As your company grows and your profits grow, so do taxes. Here are some year-end tax tips for multi-inspector firm owners:
- Pay for your inspectors to join InterNACHI®. Membership is only $100 for inspectors in multi-inspector firms and their dues are tax-deductible.
Go here to print off your receipt for dues.
- Renew your membership in InterNACHI® early. If you or any of your inspectors are due to renew in January, February or March, you might want to renew before December 31st and take the deduction this year.
- If you do a bunch of inspections between Christmas and New Year’s Day, you may want to hold the checks and deposit them on January 2nd to defer the income to next year.
- If you collect credit card payments at the end of December for inspections you have performed, you may want to wait until New Year’s Day to process the batch, as they aren’t considered income until the year the payments are actually deposited into your checking account.
- A check written for a business expense and put in the mail in December can be deducted that year, even though the check doesn’t clear until the following year. Therefore, any check for business expenses written this year is deductible this year, even though it might not come out of your bank account until next year.
- Putting a business expense on your credit card in the month of December is also deductible in that year, even if you don’t pay on your credit card until the next year. So, use your InterNACHI® discount to do some shopping at Inspector Outlet in December.
- If you provided any employees with paid sick leave related to COVID-19, you can receive business tax credits that completely cover those expenses. More info can be found at the IRS website.
- If you apply and pay for your Certified Master Inspector® (CMI®) professional designation before December 31st, you will be a CMI® for life, even though you are deducting the entire fee this year.
- You can join the Certified Commercial Property Inspectors Association® (CCPIA) before December 31st, you will be a member for all of next year, even though you are deducting your membership dues this year.
- In the past, many inspectors who ran their businesses from home have been reluctant to take a home office deduction for fear of triggering a red flag with the IRS. This year, because of COVID-19, the IRS isn't likely to scrutinize home office deductions. So, take your full deduction for running your inspection business from home.
- Because InterNACHI® is a U.S. Department of Education-accredited school, you may be eligible for educational deductions and credits. Ask your accountant.
- And, finally, Cozy Coats for Kids® is an award-winning registered charity. Give your inspection company's website an SEO bump by making a tax-deductible donation. Cozy Coats for Kids® will then list your inspection company's contact information on the Cozy Coats for Kids® Donors Page, forever. Scroll down that page to see a list of other inspectors who have donated.
- Increase your personal net worth. If you are implementing the steps I laid out, your larger inspection company should come with larger profits. Store those profits so that you acquire wealth over time.
I recently attended a home inspector marketing event where the inspector-attendees were encouraged to reveal how much their inspection companies made in gross revenue during the previous 12 months. The ones that reached a certain level get to go up on stage and the audience claps for them. It's really weird. Anyway, gross revenue is important. I'm guilty of emphasizing this importance myself, and even authored a free book titled Stacks: A Home Inspector's Guide to Increasing Gross Revenue. But increasing gross revenue is merely a way to help increase net revenue. And net revenue is merely a way to help increase your net worth or wealth. Wealth – not gross revenue – is the ultimate goal of being in business. And wealth has to be stored.
The mistake I see many multi-inspector firm owners make is that they are allowing their measurement of gross revenue, which is made in dollars, trick them into thinking dollars are a store of wealth. It's not. Dollars are digital wealth (zeros and ones). And until you cash in those dollars for something you can touch, it's just paper. Or, worse, digital wealth.
Digital wealth is wealth on paper or online. Examples of digital wealth include bank accounts, stocks, bonds, 401Ks and ETFs. Digital wealth preservation is dependent on third parties fulfilling their obligations. Counter-party risk is the possibility that some third party you do business with will not live up to its obligations.
When you have money in a bank... you actually don’t. You’ve loaned the bank your money. Your bank statement isn’t an accounting of how much money you have, but, rather, how much money you’ve loaned your bank. The bank is obligated to repay you your money upon request, and perhaps pay you a little interest for allowing them to borrow it. You are relying on your bank to fulfill its obligations, and the risk of them failing to do so is the counter-party risk. You can’t touch your money at the bank, so, therefore, it is digital wealth and exposed to this counter-party risk.
Diversification is an effective way to reduce counter-party risk. Spread out your deposits and investments over multiple banks, institutions, and locations. This will protect you from most disasters short of a national financial meltdown.
Now, I'm not a religious person (I don't go to church), but I continue to discover excellent financial tips in the Bible, so this article contains some scripture. With regard to diversification, the Bible gives us the following advice:
“But divide your investments among seven or eight places, for you do not know what risks might lie ahead.”
– Ecclesiastes 11:2
Now, this doesn't mean to invest in seven or eight stocks in the stock market. That's not diversification. That's putting all your eggs in one basket, one fraught with counter-party risk.
This leads us to the very best way to protect your wealth... counter-party risk-free wealth storage. For centuries, the rich have stored their wealth in hard assets: farmland, railroads, castles, fine art, and precious metals. You can, too. I've written an article titled: Wealth Storage for Home Inspectors and it explains what hard assets you should consider, and the ones to avoid.
- Get your office staff to start knocking out the 100+ suggestions you've just read.
Try thinking of each of the steps as physical products that are on imaginary shelves in a warehouse. Pretend the shelves are full of inspection business-boosting ideas. Tell your staff that you want them to start with Step 1 and implement them as fast as possible.
You should always have an inventory of tasks for your multi-inspector firm's staff to work on when they aren't busy.
- Interact with me and others in this private forum reserved for multi-inspector firm owners. It's where we help each other "scale up." Join me there.
- Give me your contact information. I promise to only send good, helpful things.
- And finally, make some suggestions to improve this book and get paid $100 for every one I use in this book.
Nick Gromicko, CMI®
What leaders in the home inspection industry are saying about "SCALE UP":
There is only ONE Nick Gromicko, and he continues to help home inspectors across the world be successful. I know – I have grown two home inspection companies that gross over a million dollars, and I have helped over 100 others build million-dollar companies. Nick and I have traveled and spoken together over and over and I am always amazed at how authentic and knowledgeable he is at helping people help themselves. Maybe you are finally ready to take your business to the next level. If so, then his book "SCALE UP: 100+ Steps to Growing and Systemizing Your Multi-Inspector Firm" is a must to work on getting it right. So many people try and don't understand why they fail; Nick helps explain that and more. One last secret: To be successful, be around those who are successful.
– Mike Crow, Founder of Mastermind Inspector Community and the Home Inspector Marketing Podcast
Nick Gromicko and InterNACHI have done it again. Systemizing is the cornerstone of growing your successful inspection business and ultimately your multi-inspector firm. With “Scale Up,” the complexity of all the to-do’s of inspection businesses are simplified in an easy-to-understand format to ensure that many of the critical gaps of business building are identified. “Scale Up” answers: “What do I do next?” "Scale Up" provides both solutions and, most importantly, the valuable resources that only InterNACHI can provide. As the owner of a multi-million-dollar inspection business and co-founder of the most successful coaching community for multi-inspector firms in the U.S. and Canada, I recommend “Scale Up.” This is a read that I have included in my personal resource library.
– Greg Bryan, Owner of Bryan & Bryan Inspections and
Co-Founder of Inspector Empire Builder
Well, Nick Gromicko hits another HOME RUN with this new book! As the owner of one of the largest privately owned multi-inspector firms in the nation, I 100% APPROVE THIS MESSAGE! From the mission statement, to a masterful marketing plan, to a robust operational strategy, to a comprehensive learning curve surrounding your state’s employment regulations, to building a vital business culture with an effective employee (home inspector) recruitment and education structure… one thing is sure in scaling up in this industry: DETAILS MATTER! No doubt we are all looking forward to scaling up our businesses in some way. While it was and still is quite the adventure for my company with over 75 full-time home inspectors, I really wish I had a guidebook like this one to help me along the way! Thank you, Nick, for all that you do for our industry, and for always being one to look out for the future of home inspectors and home inspection companies! In a new world of collaboration, employee empowerment, and an overwhelming opportunity for growth, this book, down to every detail, is an absolute masterpiece! Cheers to the next 10 years of growth and adventure!
– Chad Hett, Co-Owner
The Elite Group Property Inspection Professionals
Home to the biggest and best multi-inspector firms!