Unpredictable, Disorderly, and Illogical

Running your own business is not for the faint of heart. It seems like every day there’s some new thing to figure out, some irate person that needs calming, and some spontaneous fire that needs quelling. All too often, it seems like we’re going it alone, left to our own devices as it were; standing alone on the shore trying to figure out the best way for us to make it back to the mainland. Yes, we may feel like we’re swimming upstream all alone, but if we’ve made it this far on our own, then we must have something that’s going right for us. And, more often than not, that thing is our own resourcefulness.

the swiss army knife of the home inspection industry

Being able to make do with whatever’s on hand is an important skill for any business owner, and one can argue that no entrepreneur has to figure it out on the fly as much as a home inspector. It seems like every day it’s something different (because it is!), and it’s up to us to cobble together a solution to a brand-new problem. Thankfully, that’s exactly what they taught us how to do in home inspection school! (Isn’t it?)

I remember the time that I was methodically working my way through an inspection, when suddenly, my inspection phone decided it had done enough work for the day and totally crapped out. Unable to revive the stubborn device, I thought I might be high and dry without my software, destined to resort to the old days of writing things out by hand. Fortunately, I had my personal cell phone handy and was able to make do by taking a bunch of pictures while inspecting, using made-up hand signals in the photos to remind me what I needed to write in my report. When I got back home, I was able to use my laptop and those pictures to create an inspection report to deliver to my client, saving the day (and my paycheck) in the process.

Then, there was the time that my outlet tester’s ground prong decided it wanted to stay behind in a GFCI, leaving me without the most used tool in my tool belt, just as I had started inspecting a beast. As I was more than an hour from civilization (and the nearest Home Depot), I didn’t have too many options to choose from. I thought about simply fudging the outlet section of my report. After all, the odds were pretty good that most of the outlets in this newer home would be wired correctly. Suddenly, I remembered that I had a small voltage tester in my tool bag. I was able to actually check the outlets, which allowed me to put honest information in my report. I even discovered that the clips on the back of the tester hold the leads together in exactly the right configuration to verify the polarity of 120V outlets.

In a nutshell…

I once had two big P.O.S. houses on the same day, each one a big nasty with even nastier crawlspaces. I burned through my main flashlight, my backup flashlight, and my emergency flashlight I keep hidden in my vehicle. Desperate to finish crawling that P.O.S., wrap up the day’s inspections, and get home to a nice warm (and well deserved) shower, I conveniently borrowed a flashlight from the garage of my second inspection. It provided me with just enough quality light to finish the crawl, the inspection, and the last of the two beasts that almost wrecked my day and shattered my love for inspecting.

And resourcefulness isn’t limited to our day to day either. One of my most stressful occasions was the time that I was set to give a big presentation to my area’s largest real estate office and my laptop crashed after the first slide! (Man, I’ve got some luck with those electronic devices.) Not wanting to waste an opportunity, I played it off and pivoted from my planned monolog, making it up as I went along. I told the agents that I was going to walk them though a sample of the inspection recap that I give my clients once I’m finished inspecting, inviting them to ask questions and offer input along the way. Instead of crashing and burning, it turned into one of the most productive presentations I’ve ever given, gaining me some new agents, and providing me with some insights into how to better relay my findings to my customers.

We’ve got an unpredictable job, in a disorderly world, often working with illogical clients in a stranger’s home. What could possibly go wrong?

Being quick on our feet and versatile enough to muscle through is the hallmark of a professional inspector. We never know what we’re going to find and how things are going to break for us (or when, where, and why they’re going to break on us…) Having the resourcefulness to be able to make lemons out of lemonade is a prerequisite if we’re going to succeed in this business.

drinking lemonade after a rough day doing home inspections

Being smart enough to learn from our mistakes doesn’t hurt either.

(BTW, I did learn some valuable lessons from those stressful days. I now have my inspection software installed on both my work and personal phones and I still use those made-up hand signals to remind me what I’m focusing on in my inspection pictures. I always carry two back-up outlet testers (and yes, as it turns out, most of the outlets in that house were wired correctly.) I now carry a backup emergency flashlight, just in case, and try my best not to schedule myself multiple P.O.S. houses on the same day. And my presentations are now backed up to my Google Drive and can be accessed from another device if needed.)

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Thanks, Joe

pic of me, Joseph Cook Jr, home inspector