Riding Out the Storm

Eternal optimism. It’s one of the most important traits that a small businessperson can have: the belief that, against all odds, we’re going to be successful. We know that most small businesses fail within the first two years. But we’re going to buck the trend; we’re going to be the one that makes it! It’s good that we’ve got a positive outlook on the success of our business. We’d really be screwed if we didn’t!

positive about my future as a home inspector

But eternal optimism can also be a detriment, causing us to ignore the inevitable pitfalls waiting for us on the road to success. Looking at everything through rose-colored glasses, always being confident that everything is going to work out, can certainly help us to navigate the minefield of failed businesses we must traverse on our way to success. But it can also lead us to fall along side all those other businesses that weren’t properly prepared for the difficulties of running a small business.

Problems occur.

Clients cry, bitch, and moan.

Things break.

Shit happens.

And all too often it happens to us.

We know it’s coming. We’re not fortune tellers, psychics, or soothsayers. We don’t have tarot cards or a crystal ball. Hell, we don’t even have a magic 8-ball! But we’re smart enough to know that, eventually, everyone’s luck runs out. We can’t duck it forever. Eventually, we’re going to have to deal with some kind of client troubles.

It just comes with the territory.

C.O.D.B. Cost of doing business, it’s called.

The question is not if and when the problems are going to come, the question is what are we doing to make sure we’re ready when they arrive.

In the New Orleans area, where I grew up, hurricanes are a way of life. Every year, we knew there was a chance that the area would be hit by a big storm. We never knew if it would be this year, but we knew that, eventually, one was coming. No fortune teller needed. It was just a cost of living so close to the Gulf of Mexico. It comes with the territory.

So, everyone that lived there had all their boards at the ready. Plywood, cut out to perfectly cover the glass in the doors and windows of the house. Already pre-drilled with the holes for anchoring them to the window frames and pre-marked with descriptions of what board went where: living room window, kitchen door, Joey’s bedroom (that was mine), etc.

Even though no one was sure exactly when the next storm was coming, everyone took the necessary precautions to make sure that, when the hurricane did eventually hit, they were ready to defend their property. Everyone had storm supplies (non-perishable food, gallons of water, flashlights, and extra batteries) at the ready, so they’d be able to survive in case of a multi-day power outage.

Why should we act any different when it comes to our business?

home inspector getting ready for a hurricane

Knowing that a hurricane of a client is eventually going to hit us, we’ve got the be ready with our storm protection. At a minimum, we should have a high-quality inspection contract, reviewed by an attorney, and signed before the inspection. We should check up on our insurance policies, making sure that we have enough coverage for our home inspection business and verifying we’re covered for every ancillary service (termites, infrared, sewer scope, etc.) that we’ve added over the years. We should have “boiler-plate” language included in our inspection report, reiterating the things we don’t do and can’t see during our limited visual inspection. We should also include some educational materials, letting our clients know what to expect as the new owner of a home that’s going to require constant maintenance, repair, and upkeep.

We all hope that every one of our clients will be honest, trustworthy, intelligent, and overflowing with common sense and human decency. And some of them are. But we’ve got to be ready for the reality of running a small business: most of our clients are going to fall far short of this ideal. We’re going to have clients that have no idea what they’re doing, no idea what we’re providing, and no clue about what it takes to own, operate, and maintain a home.

We know it’s coming.

We can see the storm approaching.

Are we ready?

Do we have our house in order?

Because it’s coming whether we do or not; so why not be ready?

I welcome all feedback (both positive and negative) on this post.
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Thanks, Joe

pic of me, Joseph Cook Jr, home inspector