Game of Thrones has it right—winter is coming, and not just meteorologically.
While most home inspectors are swinging into the busy season, now is the time to ensure we’re making all the right moves for when the down time comes. Carl Babin is an expert in surviving the hard times. The owner of All Points Inspection, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia, Babin had a thriving home inspection business until construction projects stopped in 2008.
“When the recession hit, everything just ground to a halt,” Babin says. “Some months there were only six or seven inspections to be had…I lost about half of my business in the recession.”
Though Babin’s business has almost entirely recovered, he’s spending the feast months making sure that he’s prepared for the next economic curveball. Here’s how you can too.
One way that Babin got through the recession was to offer more than just standard inspections.
“With all the foreclosures that took place, one of my realtors started hiring me to winterize and de-winterize properties and also to go change the locks,” he explains. “That worked pretty well for a while until HUD changed the rules and only used HUD contractors…I just sort of took whatever I could.”
To make sure your business is more recession-proof, Babin recommends adding auxiliary services that are relevant to your area such as radon, mold or stucco inspections. Babin also maintains licenses in contracting and certification as an electrical and commercial building inspector in case the residential markets dry up.
2. Protect Yourself
If the cash is coming in, now is the time to stash some of it away for the bad times. While many business experts recommend that companies save anywhere from five to fifteen percent of profits for rainy days, small business owners need to financially protect themselves separate from their company.
A study by economist Jules Lichtenstein shows that small business owners are more likely than waged employees to have woefully underfunded retirement accounts. Perhaps even more scary is that many haven’t even begun to think about it. A separate study from The American College shows that about one-third of all small business owners don’t a retirement plan and among those who do, another third don’t have an estimate of how much they’ll need to retire.
If you’ve got some extra cash coming in, squirrel it away or invest it in making your business bigger and better.
3. Make Connections
The home inspection business revolves around having connections. Whether your business target real estate agents or buyers directly, establishing and nurturing connections with new business prospects is crucial while your bank account is in the black. Before ever reaching out to new contacts, you have to have a reputation for delivering good service says Babin.
“You have to be consistent. You have to take every job you can and you have to be good at what you do,” he says. Having some serious education credits doesn’t hurt either. “Whatever you can do to improve yourself and make yourself the best you can be is really necessary. I don’t think you can be mediocre and last.”
Once you’ve got a solid rep, devote some time to marketing. According to Bill Corbett, Jr., a marketing expert and president of Corbett Public Relations, Inc. in New York City, you should be devoting at least six hours per week marketing and making networking connections. Anything under two and a half hours is statistically ineffective.
4. Remember It’s Temporary
Nothing lasts forever and that includes both good and bad times. To stay on the power-producing track, Babin says to keep in mind that your feast days, at some point, will transition back to famine days and vice versa.
“There are cycles in the real estate market,” he says. “If you have great times, they probably not going to last and if you have lean times, they’re probably not going to last. That’s ok.”