Now and Then, Too

This is the second part of a two-part article. The read the first part CLICK HERE

Obviously, self-assessment is an important task and should be performed by all business owners on a regular basis. We should be evaluating our overall situation, examining our long-term goals, and figuring out ways to reach them. We should be setting milestones, figuring out the intermediate steps that we need to shoot for as we move toward our ultimate goals. In short, we need to take time to step back and look at what we’re doing, checking to make sure that we’re heading in the direction we want to go.

home inspector sitting on a hill thinking about the future of his hoe inspection company

While these 10,000-foot, brainstorming sessions are important for the long-term success of our business, we shouldn’t ignore the importance of taking the long view in our everyday business interactions. Every time we deal with a customer in our day-to-day operations, we should keep one eye on the horizon, attempting to forecast how these daily actions will impact our reputation, and as a result, our ultimate business success.

I recently performed a home inspection and was happy when I pulled up to the house to see that it was a nice, well-kept home. I met my client and their agent in the driveway and proceeded to introduce myself to everyone. I was familiar with my clients’ real estate agent, as she’d been in the real estate business for many years, but I’d never gotten the chance to work with her before, as she had always used one of my competitors.

After we had finished with the pre-inspection formalities, the client, with a little prompting from me, started to explain his concerns with the property. It was at this point when I discovered there was a pool on the property that had not been addressed when the inspection had been scheduled.

While we do offer pool inspections as an additional service to our inspection clients, this client’s agent had neglected to inform us of the presence of a pool (and her client’s desire for it to be included in his inspection) when she had scheduled the appointment.

Our standard charge for a pool inspection (when included with one of our home inspections) is $125. We typically include upcharges for inspecting any additional items that are outside the scope of a standard home inspection, as these items add to the amount of work that we must do, increase our liability, and decrease the amount of time available to do work for other clients. From a purely ‘now money’ standpoint, an additional charge is always levied for adding extra items to an inspection.

Normally, when I find myself in this situation, I typically stop the inspection and discuss the options with my client. I explain that there must have been some type of scheduling error, as I was not informed of the fact that there’s a pool on the property. I typically inform them of their options (for an extra $125, I can inspect the pool, and it will add approximately 45 minutes to the overall inspection time), allowing them to decide if paying for a pool inspection is in their best interest.

However, as a smart businessperson, I realize that there must certainly exist situations when not collecting that $125 could potentially be more profitable for my business (in the long run.) Maybe it’s an influential client. Maybe it’s an agent that I’ve been trying to gain business from. Maybe the agent works in an office where I’m trying to increase my presence. Or maybe there are some other circumstances involved whereby I might gain some type of advantage in a competitive marketplace.

Regardless of the specifics of the situation, a smart businessperson needs to be able to see beyond the short-term (now money) $125 revenue. In order to survive and thrive in a competitive home inspection market, a shrewd inspector must realize that sometimes a small investment now ($125) has the capacity to produce much greater returns in the future (later money).

Yes, I know that we’d be making a sacrifice by giving up the revenue that we’re entitled to for performing a job. Obviously, we didn’t go into business in order to give away our hard work without receiving compensation for our time. But it stands to reason that making this small investment ($125 in now money) has the possibility to return many more dividends in future money.

On this particular inspection, I had to spend my valuable time inspecting a pool for free. I wrote out the pool inspection report for free. I took on the additional liability for a pool inspection for free. I received no (now) money for doing the extra work of inspecting that pool.

Now, I understand that some inspectors will never be able to wrap their head around the fact that I kissed $125 goodbye for (seemingly) no good reason. Some people cannot see past their bottom line, and that’s OK. We should all be thankful that we live in a country where we’re free to run our businesses in any way we please. (And honestly, if you’re that kind of inspector, I really doubt if you’re reading this anyway.)

However, if you’re intent on growing your business into a professional and profitable enterprise, you must realize that growth rarely happens without some type of investment.

Yes, I’ll agree that it hurts to lose money. No one likes to give away $125 just because. It’s not a good way to run a successful business. But just like spending $125 on food and drinks while sponsoring a marketing event for your local Board of Realtors, you’ve got to consider it to be an investment in the future of your business.

Whenever we decide to invest in our future, whether it’s buying stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or investing in startup companies, most of us try to do everything in our power to help ensure that our investment will produce the desired results. Whether we do our own research, hire an individual to advise us, or put our faith in some type of digital investment group, we’re typically working hard to figure out the best way to improve our chances of success.

And we should be doing the same thing when it comes to our business investments, no matter how small they may seem at the time.

When I comped the pool inspection for that client, I made sure that everyone involved knew what was going on. I went out of my way to milk that $125 for all that it was worth. I told the agent that I had heard lots of good things about her and the way that she ran her business and was glad that I finally had gotten a chance to work with her. I advised her of the situation (that we hadn’t been told about the pool, that the buyer wanted it inspected, and that there would normally be a $125 fee for this service). I mentioned that, because of her stellar reputation, I was interested in working with her again in the future and was going to let the buyer know that I was going to do his pool inspection for free because of my respect for her as a professional. I proceeded to let the buyer know that, because of my working relationship with his agent, I was doing the pool inspection for no charge.

The buyer was happy, as he saved $125 and found out about a few issues with his (soon to be) new pool. The agent was happy because I hadn’t caused any problems by changing the price of the inspection (from what she had already told the buyer.) She was flattered by my compliments and the fact that I attributed the discount to our working relationship.

And while I can’t say that she’s totally stopped using that other inspector, I can tell you that I now do inspections for her on a fairly regular basis and have seen an increase in the number of agents in her office that use me for their clients’ home inspections.

real estate agent giving a thumbs up to her home inspector

Just like making small, incremental investments helps us grow our retirement accounts, taking advantage of every opportunity to use a little bit of our ‘now money’ can help to grow the amount of ‘future money’ available for our business. Like the old saying “putting away a little money for a rainy day,” spending a small amount of our business capital on “unconventional” marketing opportunities can pay dividends far into the future.

If you invest nothing, the reward is worth little.

Richelle E. Goodrich

Whether it’s by scheduling some time off from inspecting to work on our business plan or giving up a little bit of revenue to make us look better in the eyes of a potential client, spending some capital to work on our businesses now can produce benefits for us that last.

Future money here we come!

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Thanks, Joe

pic of me, Joseph Cook Jr, home inspector