Category Archives: Business Tips

5 Small-business Marketing Tips From a ‘Shark’

HerjavecIf you watch ABC’s “Shark Tank,” then you are likely familiar with Robert Herjavec. Born in eastern Europe, Herjavec and his family immigrated to Canada when he was a boy to escape communism in the former Yugoslavia (now Croatia). The son of a factory worker, Herjavec emerged from humble beginnings to build and sell several companies in the IT industry. Today, his company, Herjavec Group, is recognized as a global leader in information security services.

Like many small-business owners, Herjavec started with very little — and he didn’t have a business degree. But his is a success story that proves that determination, hard work and commitment pay off in the end. Now, besides running Herjavec Group, he helps small-business entrepreneurs and start-ups take their businesses to the next level on “Shark Tank.”

It’s no wonder, then, that entrepreneurs and small-business owners are interested in what they can learn from Herjavec. Recently, Entrepreneur sat down with him and asked for his top five small-business marketing tips:

  1. Target your customers on social media.
  2. Make selling online a key part of your business model.
  3. Make your website and marketing materials visually appealing.
  4. Market to your customers in ways they are receptive to.
  5. As your business grows, hire marketing assistance.

Click here to read the full article on Entrepreneur.com.

Why Every Business Owner Needs a Mentor

By Roland Bates, President, NPI/GPI

Mentoring_shutterstock_189356114Several years ago, I read a white paper that said that about 70 percent of the decisions a business owner makes ultimately prove to be wrong. (That 70 percent is the number in the report; that is not a typo.) That’s a lot of zigzagging to get from Point A to Point B.

Imagine how much more successful business owners could be and how much faster they could grow their businesses if they reduced their errors to just 35 percent. Suffice it to say, reducing mistakes or eliminating some of the trial and error can make a huge difference.

For this reason, all new business owners should seek out at least one mentor. A mentor does not have the emotional attachment to the business that a new business owner likely has; thus, he or she can look at your business objectively. A mentor also has experience and can advise you away from making certain mistakes. A mentor who is truly interested in helping you will go out of their way to do so. Sometimes the introductions a mentor can make for you so you can expand your network are more than enough reason to seek them out.

Our role at National Property Inspections, Inc., is that of a mentor to our franchise owners, although we also encourage our franchisees to seek out one or more mentors where they live. As a franchisor, we have a proven business model, and we can help advise franchise owners on what works and what doesn’t so they can avoid so much trial and error as they start their businesses.

With that said, and as an aside, wouldn’t it be great if teenagers would listen to Mom and Dad’s advice and mentoring? Oh, well, we can dream, can’t we?

Roland PhotoRoland Bates’ high energy, willingness to work hard and optimistic outlook are the cornerstones of success for NPI and GPI. His easy manner and family attitude inspire a friendly and close atmosphere at the company. Before he founded NPI/GPI in 1987, Roland owned a general contracting company, where he worked for eight years as a general contractor. Prior to that, he spent five years as a property claims supervisor and regional claims manager.

To learn more about an NPI or GPI franchise opportunity in your area, click one of the links below:

Self-employment Tax Mistakes

RE0025Some business owners attempt to save money by preparing their own taxes. In the end, they actually may pay more in taxes than are necessary, or they may underpay, which could result in losing hundreds or thousands of dollars.

According to an article published by Tyler Martin, CPA, here’s a list of things business owners commonly forget on their taxes:

Deduct Advertising and Promotion Costs. This includes media, Internet and any other advertising that promotes your business. It would also include novelty items or promotional gifts, such as coffee cups, t-shirts and pens with your company name or logo on them.

Deduct Dues and Subscriptions. This includes magazines and periodicals that are necessary for your business, as well as membership fees paid to any business-related organization.

Deduct Licenses and Permits. If your city requires a business license, make sure to deduct the cost of it.

Deduct Business-related Internet Costs. If you use the Internet for your business or have a website, then there is a good chance some or all of your Internet bill is deductible.

Deduct Business-related Cellular and Telephone Expenses. Calls or lines for business purposes are all deductible.

Deduct Office Supplies. Office supplies used for your business are deductible.

Deduct Business-related Meals and Entertainment. Do you take clients out to lunch or dinner to discuss business? If so, 50 percent of these costs is deductible.

Deduct Business-related Travel. Whether it’s airfare and hotel costs to attend a trade show or the cost of gas to drive to training or an industry event, you can deduct these expenses.

Deduct Business-related Auto Expenses. There are couple of ways you can deduct auto expenses, such as tracking your mileage or deducting the cost of a vehicle dedicated solely to your business. It’s best to consult a tax expert to determine how much you should deduct.

Deduct Business-related Electronic Equipment. Computers, printers and smartphones used for business are partially or fully deductible.

Deduct Outside Services. Costs related to your business, such as tax and accounting help, are typically deductible.

Pay Self-employment Tax. If you are a newly self-employed person, you may not be aware that you will be responsible for a new tax: self-employment tax. It can add to your tax bill quickly, so make sure you understand how the tax is computed and plan your cash flow accordingly.

Pay Payroll Taxes: If you operate your business solo as owner and operator, then you may have yet to face the complications of payroll taxes. As your business grows and prospers, you may need to hire employees. Payroll taxes can be complicated due to compliance policies and deadlines. Inaccurately paid payroll taxes can, in fact, cause businesses to go “belly up,” according to Jessie Seaman, a licensed tax professional and senior staff associate at Tax Defense Network.

Some of the stress and pressures of calculating or miscalculating taxes that are due can be relieved by outsourcing to a tax professional. The fees incurred to hire a licensed tax professional are relatively cheap in comparison to the potential expenses paid by the business for improperly prepared tax returns.

In addition to considering hiring a professional, it is crucial to keep good records throughout the year, and you can pay taxes quarterly to stay on task. If you are not keeping up with expenses and receipts and/or avoiding deadlines, it will be very difficult to try to accurately run down all documentation and figures that are required in order to file your taxes.

Best Business Advice From Our Franchise Owners

Are you considering investing in a home and commercial property inspection business? National Property Inspections and Global Property Inspections offer fantastic opportunities with a top-ranked franchisor. But don’t just listen to us — here’s some practical business advice and commentary from our franchise owners.

Vaughn_JimJim Vaughn, NPI Franchise Owner, Cape Coral, Florida
“With a franchise, you do not enter a new industry alone. You have technical support, technology support, world-class training and marketing, not to mention the tools, inspection software and commercial inspection leads. If I had gone the independent route, there is no way I would have been as successful as I am in my first year. No way!

“Joining NPI was my best business decision I have ever made in my entire life. The single biggest reason that I choose NPI over the other four or five home inspection franchises that I looked at can be expressed in one word: integrity. Every single thing that NPI said I would receive, gain, do, learn and experience has come true. There is not one instance where anything has gone sideways or turned bad. It hasn’t always been easy or unchallenging, but NPI has always stood by their word and come through.”

newhook_toddTodd Newhook, GPI Franchise Owner, Markham, Ontario
“I joined the GPI team approximately eight years ago. Owning a franchise allowed me to start my inspection business within a fairly short period of time. The benefits of owning a franchise are being able to utilize the marketing program, technical support and business support provided by the franchisor from the get-go. Another benefit of owning a franchise with GPI is the friendship and comradery with the team and other inspectors, and taking advantage of learning from the top-performing franchisees to help grow our business. GPI taught me to diversify my business with additional services and build the business to a point where I could bring on additional inspectors and run the franchise like a small business. We’re now a team of four and growing. We’re excited about the future with our friends at GPI!”

yost_clydeClyde Yost, NPI Franchise Owner, Kansas City, Missouri
“The inspection field has given me the opportunity so see the interior of homes and commercial buildings that are not open to the general public, meet interesting buyers, and become knowledgeable in various styles of construction.

“I chose the franchise route for starting my business because I had a lot of experience in large commercial projects but very little knowledge in residential properties. I was also looking for help in starting a new business and not being an employee. I have had a very good experience with NPI and look forward to the annual meetings.”

If you are ready to make your dream of owning a home and commercial property inspection business come true, National Property Inspections in the United States and Global Property Inspections in Canada have franchise opportunities available in your area. Contact Julie Erickson at 1.800.333.9807, Ext. 24, for information about our franchise opportunities.

Tools of the Trade

By Randy Yates, Training Consultant Administrator, NPI/GPI

Tools_IMG_0601Home and commercial property inspectors need specific tools to perform certain portions of the inspection. Inspecting properties requires more than just a clipboard and flashlight — although a flashlight is one of the tools needed. An inspector’s basic set of tools includes the following:

  • Shock-resistant combination flat/Phillips screwdriver. This tool is primarily used to remove electrical panel cover screws, which is why it’s imperative that the screwdriver is shock-resistant.
  • Combustible gas detector (e.g., TIFF model 8800). This device is used to detect raw gas leaks and the presence of carbon monoxide in natural and propane gas piping systems, as well as in gas- and propane-burning appliances. This device is more advanced than a simple carbon monoxide detector, which only provides a number of parts per million and cannot detect a raw gas leak.
  • Moisture meter. This device is used to detect the presence of moisture in locations such as kitchens and bathrooms, as well as around the exterior of a house or building. A moisture meter can also be used to determine whether a water stain indicates an inactive or active leak. Whether a stain is active or inactive, it should still be listed in the report.
  • Two digital thermometers. These are used to check the air conditioning temperature differential, which should be between 14 and 22 degrees between the supply and return air for the HVAC system.
  • Inspectors use binoculars to inspect roofs from the ground when circumstances do not allow them to put a ladder at the eave or to physically walk the roof.
  • Static electrical tester. This device is used to detect stray current and live current, and it’s a good tool to use to test whether a service panel cover is energized.
  • Electrical circuit analyzer. This device is used to check electrical outlets for proper wiring, reverse polarity (hot and neutral switched), open grounds, and missing or bootlegged grounds.
  • Good quality extension and or universal ladder. If an inspector uses an extension ladder only, then the recommended length is 24 feet — that should get you up on most if not all residential roofs and some commercial roofs. We recommend using a fiberglass ladder whenever possible.
  • Various hand tools. Other tools often come in handy during an inspection, such as a tape measure, a 2- to 4-ft. level, a plumb bob or a laser level.

The cost for a property inspector’s tools can really add up, but they are crucial if you are going to perform inspections properly and expertly. If you are interested in starting your own inspection business, make sure to purchase the proper tools.

Did you know that National Property Inspections and Global Property Inspections provide every new franchise owner with the tools they need to conduct home and commercial building inspections? From the tools listed here to a tablet computer and portable printer, our franchise fee includes everything you need to start your inspection business. Learn more about our franchise opportunities:

Want to Be a Successful Business Owner? Don’t Make These Mistakes

7K0A0014-2While the idea of owning a business is a dream for many people, there are times when entrepreneurs fail to think things through. Funding the business, having an in-demand product or service to sell, and hiring employees are some of the common challenges that entrepreneurs face:

  • Hiring employees too quickly can financially drain your business. If you pay people to do nothing, and no sales are generated from their work, then employing a staff is a financial loss.
  • Borrowing money from lenders can be of great service to you, but don’t make the mistake of borrowing more than you really need. You will likely spend that money and have to pay interest back on money you didn’t really need to borrow.
  • Assuming your business will make money in the early years is one of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make. If your business shows a profit early on, that’s great — but don’t assume it will, and be prepared for all of the expenses.
  • Marketing your business is necessary and takes time. You must market to both win and retain customers who may not know anything about you or your business.
  • Leasing Space You Don’t Need. If you don’t really need a retail or office space, then don’t rent it. You can save money working from home — and receive a few tax incentives for doing so.

Many successful entrepreneurs did not succeed at first and experienced their fair share of trial and error to find out what works for them. Check out these business leaders who failed before they succeeded:

  • Akio Morita is the founder of Sony products. The first product was a rice burner that burned the rice. But Morita kept pushing forward with new ideas.
  • Bill Gates started a company called Traf-O-Data that failed, and he dropped out of Harvard. Gates didn’t give up, though, as he is the billionaire behind Microsoft.
  • Colonel Sanders was 65 years old when he founded Kentucky Fried Chicken. Did you know his famous secret recipe was rejected more than 1,000 times before a restaurant agreed to use it?
  • Henry Ford’s first two automobile companies failed and left him broke. He refused to give up, though, and founded Ford Motor Company with assembly line production. The result: He was once known as one of the three richest men in the world.
  • Walt Disney was fired by an editor for lack of imagination and having no original ideas. His first animation company went bankrupt, and he was turned down hundreds of times for loans to build Disney World. Today, the Disney Company averages $30 billion in revenue annually.

Many people have failed at first only to ultimately succeed. Learn from them and gain inspiration from them on your journey as an entrepreneur.

If you are ready to make your dream of owning a business come true, National Property Inspections in the United States and Global Property Inspections in Canada have franchise opportunities available in your area. Contact Julie Erickson at 1.800.333.9807, Ext. 24, for information about our property inspection franchise opportunities.

Should I Start My Own Business or Buy a Franchise?

Couple + Inspection Report_shutterstock_186413990You have reached a point in your life that brings you to making a decision about your career. You know what kind of work you want to do, and you know you want your own business. Now you are down to the final decision of choosing to start a business or buy a franchise. What should you consider before making that choice?

  • Ownership: Whichever way you choose to start your business, you will still be the owner of the business.
  • Time: Neither owning your business independently nor owning a franchise will have a factor on the time you spend running your business. More than likely, much of your time will be spent on the business, especially during the early years.
  • Ambition: Make sure you have the ambition to start a business. Starting and running a business is a lot of hard work, and you will face obstacles and challenges.
  • Financing: Of course, you will have to provide a certain amount of funding to get either business started. Click here to read our post about how to fund your small business.
  • Knowledge: You will need some type of knowledge or experience related to the business you are starting. If you choose to purchase a franchise, your franchisor may provide the training you need.

Now that you have considered the fundamentals that you need to get started, it’s time to narrow your decision-making — possibly by considering the pros and cons of starting your own business versus buying a franchise. Consider the following:

Marketing: If you start an independent business, you will have to begin marketing your product or services by either attempting it yourself or hiring someone to do it for you. If you purchase a franchise, the franchisor will already have an effective, ongoing marketing plan that has been tested and proven.

Methods: Starting your own business independently will take a lot of time, money and effort to find the methods and models that work. A franchise already has proven methods and models in place, as well as an established brand. This in itself proves that there is a demand for this particular product or service.

Area: If starting your business independently, you don’t really have a set area to sell or market to — you will have to try diligently to capitalize on certain areas to become established. This can be difficult and expensive, as there is competition and you may spend a lot of time that results in low sales as you try to get established. A franchise will provide you with a specific territory to work and provides you startup power as you work to gain recognition in that area.

Ownership: One benefit specific to franchises is that people tend to work harder and be more accountable if they are part of a larger company.

Guidelines: If you become part of a franchise, you will have rules to follow without exception. While you won’t have these rules if you start your business independently, many of the rules are based on best practices and are in place to help franchisees succeed.

Royalty Fees: As part of a franchise, you will pay a royalty fee based on your sales. When comparing franchisors, be sure to compare royalty fees. Some franchises charge a straight royalty, while others have multiple royalties — such as a royalty on your sales and an advertising royalty.

Association. As part of a franchise, you are associated with that company, so bad products or services can affect the whole.

If you are ready to make your dream of owning a business come true, National Property Inspections in the United States and Global Property Inspections in Canada have franchise opportunities available in your area. Contact Julie Erickson at 1.800.333.9807, Ext. 24, for information about our property inspection franchise opportunities.

Choosing the Right Franchisor

IMG_1108Do you find yourself thinking that you are just not where you want to be in life? Maybe your daily work routine is too monotonous and you need to do something else. Or have you come to the conclusion that you really want to make an investment in your life, to discover and flourish your own potential?

You’ve likely spent many years working for someone else, and you have gained a lot of business knowledge. After all the years of working 8 to 5, you want to become your own boss. You want to start a business.

Maybe you’ve decided the field you want to work in and you have the investment money you need to get your business going. You are confident the in the direction that you are going, and you have decided to purchase a franchise. With a franchise system, you’ll get brand recognition and the training you need. You’ll receive proven and tested business, sales and marketing plans, and you’ll have support from the franchisor’s home-office team. You understand the advantages of becoming a franchisee and all of the resources available to you.

The final step is choosing the right franchisor. You should know what to look for when choosing a franchisor. Here is some key information to seek when considering the purchase of a franchise:

Supply vs. Demand — Inquire about the market for the franchisor’s services or products, and find out how many people really need the service. Research competitors in your market. Ask the franchisor why and how their franchise stands above its competitors.

Track Record — Learn about the company — how long it has been operating, and how it survived economic recessions. This information may be indicative of business strategies and the market demand under any given circumstances.

Technology — What types of technology do the franchisees use and how does the technology compare to that of competitors? What are key differentiators in services or products for marketing and customer service? The quality of the technology may also indicate financial stability of the franchisor.

Education — Does the franchisor provide thorough training and continuous support and assistance if needed?

Franchisee Selection — Is the franchisor selective as to who they choose to become part of their company? Requiring certain criteria or qualifications is beneficial and necessary. If you are trying to protect your investment, the franchisor should be trying to do the same.

Franchisees — Franchisors want franchisees who show the most promise. Most franchisors will look at the big picture when selecting new franchisees so everyone in the company benefits. Be flattered that a franchisor wants to get to know you and asks for information about you. Likewise, the franchisor should provide you with contact information for franchisees who can help answer questions you may have.

Corporate Office — How does the franchisor’s corporate office assist you when you have a problem or need? Whether it’s a marketing matter or something to do with accounting, will they help you? What is the turnaround time for your issue to be addressed and resolved? These could be questions you ask of current franchisees.

Royalties and Legalities — This area is one you must inquire about with the franchisor. Any fees or legalities should be clear and concise, well-documented, and upfront before you sign on the dotted line. You should not be pressured or misled. You should be given time to review all information and take precautionary steps before closing the deal.

Integrity — A franchisor’s integrity will come into play in all areas of your business. Make sure your franchisor has proven integrity by all means of business. Check with current franchisees to find out about a franchisor’s integrity.

What to Know Before You Buy a Franchise

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You made your decision and have evaluated the franchise you want to purchase. You are ready to make the investment and complete the required training to start your business. Before you make a final commitment, you should check out two things: the FTC and the FDD. Let’s look at what each of these acronyms stand for and what they mean to your business.

  • U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC): The FTC’s mission is “to prevent business practices that are anticompetitive or deceptive or unfair to consumers; to enhance informed consumer choice and public understanding of the competitive process; and to accomplish this without unduly burdening legitimate business activity.”
  • Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD): The FDD is a legal document that the FTC requires franchisors to provide to franchise candidates. The prospective franchise owner must receive the FDD at least 14 days prior to purchasing the franchise. An FDD is intended to give candidates the information they need to make a wise decision about whether to buy the franchise.

The FTC more or less provides legal guidelines that a franchisor must follow in order to protect both consumers and franchisors. FTC guidelines are designed to promote integrity for both franchisors and franchisees, and the information is upfront, clear and concise.

However, a franchisor’s FDD may be lengthy and contain legal descriptions that a potential franchisee needs clarified. With the FDD, both parties are protected, as all information is documented and available before closing the deal — there are no verbal agreements that may prove to be worthless for the prospective franchisee.

The franchisor’s information in the FDD is accurate and legally binding for both parties. In the event that you are not comfortable with the FDD, you could hire an attorney to provide you with the legalities and commitments written in the document. It would be good practice to review with a qualified franchise attorney regardless of how comfortable that you are with the agreement.

The FDD is an important part of your business venture. It provides the rules and regulations that must be followed, as well as information that you may not be able to easily obtain on your own. Some types of information that you will find in the FDD:

  • Industry trends
  • Competition
  • Advertising costs
  • Current and former franchisees
  • Territory
  • Renewal and termination
  • Royalties
  • Financial statements
  • Obligations

Most of the time, franchisors have worked hard and succeeded with a proven business model and they have prospered. They will have in criteria in place to which franchisees must adhere to, or else you may not be eligible to continue to do business with and for the franchisor.

How to Fund Your Small Business

Man writingAre you confident that you want to start your own business and that you have what it takes to succeed? Perhaps the only dilemma that you have about starting a business is how to fund it. There are many options for financing your small business:

  • Family and friends. You may have a close friend or family member who could loan you the money you need to start your business. If you choose this option, make sure to have an attorney draw up a contract to protect both parties involved.
  • Savings. If you have been lucrative with your earnings and have socked away money in a savings account, then can use that money to fund your business.
  • IRA and 401k accounts. Perhaps you have money in a retirement plan — you may consider borrowing against or withdrawing from these accounts to fund your business.
  • A part-time job or even a second full-time job can give you the extra income needed to start saving money to invest in your business.
  • Co-partner. Going into business with a partner could reduce your portion of the start-up costs, or your partner could fund your portion of the expense. Be sure that the person you partner with in business is honest, trustworthy and responsible, though.
  • Sell personal items. Parting with your boat, motorcycle, recreational vehicle or vacation home may give you the money that you need for your start-up.
  • Bank loan. Apply for a business loan at a bank to see if you qualify for financing based on the bank’s loan criteria.
  • SBA Loan. The U.S. Small Business Administration is designed to fund small-business loans of varying types and criteria depending on the business type and need.

Bank and SBA loans will most likely be harder to attain. It may take some time to collect all of the required documentation and to complete and submit the prequalification information. However, be persistent; if one resource bank or resource doesn’t work out, try another one. And, you may be one of the lucky people who receive a loan hassle-free on the first attempt.

In the event that you cannot seem to acquire the funding needed for your business, don’t give. You will just need a little more time than expected to get your business up and running. As is true for many successful business owners, determination and perseverance will get you a long way.

If you are ready to make your dream of owning a business come true, National Property Inspections in the United States and Global Property Inspections in Canada have franchise opportunities available in your area. Contact Julie Erickson at 1.800.333.9807, Ext. 24, for information about our property inspection franchise opportunities.