April, 2006
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



A Test for Tough Business Times

BRYANT BARRY

The inspection business has slowed up in a number of markets, and many inspectors are at a loss for remedies.

Here’s a test, I developed from my experiences in dealing with changing market dynamics. Take it to see how you score. There are no MRCs awarded; only your own fiscal CE.

What is your action plan for when your business begins to trend down (3 consecutive months lower than previous year)? Choose the answer that best describes your actions.

1. Pricing–for inspection services
      A. Lower price to attract more business.
      B. Offer added value and leave price the same.
      C. Raise the price and offer more value.

2. Marketing activities—spending
     A. Cut back on everything; spend nothing.
     B. Become selective in what I invest in as I do cut back.
     C. Look for deals and increase expenditures.   

3. Equipment—investment spending
     A. Buy nothing extra; replace nothing.
     B. Replace and spend only to normal inspection activities.
     C. Buy new equipment and try to sell what it adds to my value presentation.

4. Services—offering more to clients
     A. Diversify by adding services, such as radon testing, code enforcement, etc.
     B. Expand to new markets, such as commercial.
     C. Add services selectively that don’t dilute my core business.

5. Marketing and sales—my activities        
     A. Increase exposure with personal calls—visits to my referral base.
     B. Look for new referral bases.
     C. Work on internal business systems during down times.    






Answer Key:   

1) a 5, b 10, c 20      2) a 5, b 10, c 20      3) a 5, b 20, c 10      
4) a 10, b 5, c 20      5) a 20, b 10, c 5.

Scoring

70 to 100—You’re very productive and should be ahead of most of your competition.

50 to 70—You’re doing some things right, but may fall behind the top producers.

Below 50—You may be thinking about doing something other than inspecting homes—something that doesn’t require a personal financial investment.

Remember this about declining business trends: they are cyclical, but you have to be able to hold out. Those who are prepared for these times will have an advantage as business improves.

Prices

If you book most of your inspections from phone book ad calls, you are probably priced too low.

The key is to offer a perceived value that makes your services look reasonable. Consumers don’t expect to pay the same for an Escalade as they would a Trailblazer, but they have to be able to visualize the differences. Because it’s more difficult for a prospective client to visualize your services before the inspection is performed, you have to sell your entire value package from the beginning. If the consumer saw a great deal on the Escalade compared to the cheaper Trailblazer and is persuaded to upgrade, then he or she will buy. Remember, there is no way you can fund your needed activities trapped in a low price cycle.

Marketing Spending

Although it is tempting to cut way back, this is the time you can stand out from the crowd in the most economical way. You need to have faith in your approach and not just think of tomorrow’s payback, but of next week’s and the months to come. ASHI is part of your value package and dropping it or other credentials places you at a disadvantage to those who continue to emphasize their professionalism.  

Equipment Spending
This may not be the time to expand, so replace/repair as needed to protect your core inspection and never cut your basic offering. Selling added value through new equipment is always good, but since it takes awhile to get this into your referral-marketing base and requires other expenditures, payback could be slower than you might anticipate.

Adding Services

Diversifying away from your core business dilutes your offerings and has you moving away from your charter. Taking a part-time job has the same dilution effect on your business. Adding services that enhance your offering without diluting your core efforts, like contracting for radon services instead of doing it yourself, makes sense because you created the potential for payback with minimal effort or investment.  

Marketing and Sales Activities

Make calls and increase your exposure in person as much as possible. Have something to leave behind. While it’s important to introduce yourself to new referral sources, don’t neglect connecting with those who are already familiar with your work. It will take you longer and more effort to establish yourself with new referral sources than it will take you to remind your current referral base that they can call on you. Remember to be productive by not taking “prime selling time” to do Internet work, etc.

Don’t mistake busywork as being productive for growing your business.
There are only two income-producing activities an inspector can do:
  • Doing inspections.
  • Doing marketing and sales activities that bring in inspections.
Doing anything other than these two activities is not producing income.