In my position as an educator, I often find myself speaking with people about the home inspection business. Whether its inspectors that are brand new to the industry or individuals who are interested in becoming an inspector, the questions they ask are usually quite similar, and the answers apply to all types of new businesses.
How hard is it to be an inspector?
Is the field too crowded?
Will I be able to make a living doing this?
As you would expect, my answer to these three questions is always yes, yes and yes. And before you say it, I know that the first two ‘yes’ answers should lead to the third answer being a ‘no.’ That’s common sense. If starting is hard and the field of potential competitors is too crowded, then it should follow that starting a new business in this field is a bad idea.
However, as we’ve all learned (numerous times) throughout our lives, things aren’t always as they seem. Let’s look at seven things that can influence your level of success when starting a new business.
1) Reality. The reality is that starting any new business is a difficult proposition. The majority of new business start-ups result in failure within the first few years. This is a well-reported fact of life in the business world. Going into a new business with rose-colored glasses is often the first step on the road to failure.
2) Procrastination. Starting a new business is certainly a stressful situation. Many potential business owners fail before they even start, worried that they simply don’t have all the necessary tools needed to become successful. They become paralyzed by their fears, failing to even take the first step towards success. In spite of this, many people are still able to overcome their fears and become successful. Without forcing yourself to take that first step, you’ll never know if you could be one of them.
3) Unrealistic Expectations. It’s ironic that the thing that causes the most problems for successful home inspectors (their clients’ unrealistic expectations) is the same thing that leads to many new inspector’s downfall. The fact is that starting a new venture is very difficult, and the chance of failure is high. The smart new business owner has thought this through and has made contingency plans for the difficult start-up phase. It’s imperative to plan ahead in order to survive those lean start-up years, and doing so can help to keep you from falling victim to our next demon:
4) Disappointment. Starting any new business venture is difficult, but dealing with the initial rejection can be even harder. This overwhelming feeling of rejection often proves fatal for a new business and can be the most difficult hurdle to overcome on the road to success. In order to get past this roadblock, we must remember this one rule of business: It’s going to take longer than you think. While there may be an occasional (seemingly) over-night success story, the vast majority of small businesses succeed because of the determination of their owners; they refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer.
5) Marketing. Marketing is often considered a dirty word by new business owners, like some underhanded way to get someone to buy our product. The reality is that most of us are simply scared to put ourselves out there; too timid to try. We are afraid of failure and scared of rejection. But marketing isn’t simply running around wearing a crazy mascot costume, twirling a sign around on the side of the highway. Marketing is an attitude; it’s the way you conduct yourself and your business. While there are many ways to go about it, the biggest failure is succumbing to your own fears and not putting yourself out there at all.
6) Liability. Owning a business is risky; lawsuits happen. It’s an unfortunate part of business, and you must be prepared for this eventual reality. Take the necessary steps to minimize your exposure and maximize your (eventual) ability to defend yourself in court. Provide a good product to your client. Attempt to align their expectations with reality. Protect yourself with a legitimate service contract. Educate yourself on common problems and current litigation. And take advantage of one of the most important methods of protecting your business: having a comprehensive insurance policy.
7) Business Management. Often, we go into a new venture, business or otherwise, unprepared for the reality of the situation. Many new home inspectors go into business with blinders on, not realizing that they are now the inspector, marketer, bookkeeper, accountant, secretary, human resources director, complaint department, legal adviser, and on and on. Many people are good at doing a home inspection, but they fail because they suck at all the other aspects of owning a business. You must put as much energy into learning how to successfully complete a P&L statement as you do in becoming a good inspector. Utilize every educational opportunity available, taking advantage of every tip and trick you can find to muddle through these other aspects of running your new business.
Starting a new business is certainly no cake-walk. It involves a lot of hard work and sleepless nights. However, with determination and desire, you can become one of the success stories. Take the necessary steps to go into your new venture with your eyes wide open. Investigate the industry, so that you know what you’ll be up against and you’ll have a few ideas on how to deal with the inevitable problems. Being prepared can help lessen your stress and increase your chance of success.
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