In our new series, “How I Did It,” we’ll profile home inspectors who overcame a specific challenge, whether it be finding that killer marketing strategy, getting over a slow patch, taking your inspection business to the next level or something else entirely. For the next few weeks, we’ll be featuring this series in an effort to show how successful home inspectors have overcome business hurdles and how you can do it too.
To kick off the series, we wanted to focus on a situation most home inspectorsface—running a one-person shop. Brent Simmerman, owner of Midlands Home Inspections, Inc. in Papillion, Nebraska has been doing that for the last five years. A former construction worker and printing press operator, Brent jumped into home inspection only to find that being the chief inspector, marketing director, operations manager, accountant, bookkeeper and janitor isn’t easy. Here’s how he found balance.
The Problem: You can’t do it all…and you shouldn’t. According to the US Small Business Administration, more than half of all small businesses fail within the first five years of opening. A big reason is that there’s too much work to do, too few resources and never enough time to get everything done. For single-person home inspection companies, human resources are even more crunched.
The Solution: Do what you do best and hire the rest out. “My biggest tip is realizing that other people need to come in and help,” says Simmerman. “I tried doing my accounting myself and it’s just gotten to the point where I can’t do that without being at the computer 24 hours a day. I’ve finally gotten an accountant to do it. I’ve finally gotten someone to do my marketing for me. That frees up my time to do inspections.”
The catch is that outsourcing certain tasks requires capital-something many home inspection firms are short of. Before hiring outside help, Simmerman spent several months perfecting his networking techniques-spoiler: go through the DETI database of real estate offices in your area and get friendly with the person working the front desk.
“[They] can introduce me to real estate agents that are in that day or they’ll hear gossip about who’s not happy with their home inspectors,” Simmerman says. “I’ll get an introduction from the secretary so it’s not a cold call.”
Simmerman’s real advantage is that he regards his time as a valuable resource and analyzes where it’s going and where it’s paying off as closely as many business owners do money. To ensure that he was making the most of his time before hiring outside help, Simmerman examined what networking strategies were working, what strategies were bringing in new customers and what was wasting his day.
“Once you start a business, you get hundreds of calls from anybody and everybody wanting to marketing for you. You get all kinds of crazy calls for people wanting money,” he explains. “…Golf courses call me all the time wanting me to sponsor a hole for an event, but the general public isn’t going to see that. I try to stay as focused on real estate agents as I can.”
Simmerman found that his time was better spent networking through his BNI group, attending local chamber of commerce events and strategically focusing his time on places where he knew real estate agents and those looking for homes hang out. In the next few months, he plans to allot more time and resources on wooing direct buyers, carefully measuring what strategies work and what doesn’t.
“Real estate agents are constantly revolving. You get a good relationship going with one and then they’ll be out of the picture in a year or so,” he says. “We plan to redo our web site and boost our internet presence. We’ll see if that pays off.”