Tag Archives: business

National Property Inspections, Inc.: The Genesis of a Franchise Business

By Roland Bates, President, NPI/GPI

Roland_101614New franchisees oftentimes ask me how I first started National Property Inspections, Inc. Hopefully the following information will be helpful for anyone thinking of starting any type of business and certainly to someone thinking about franchising their business.

Just to preface things a little, when I first started this business there were not a lot of property inspections being done, and selling property inspection franchisees was rare indeed.  I was, in fact, doing inspections at the time, and being an entrepreneur at heart, I had a strong sense that the property inspection business was poised to take off. It’s a maxim that you have to spend money to make money. And sometimes you have to spend a lot of money on research so you don’t blow a lot more money on a bad idea. One last preface: I thought the property inspection business held a lot of promise, so I wanted to take it to another level by franchising it.

I went to a marketing and public relations firm here in Omaha. I told them I thought that I was on to something with the property inspection business and shared with them what I was thinking. But I first needed something a little more scientific to go on. Four weeks and several thousand dollars later, the agency came back to me with a study that more or less said, “No guarantees but we, too, think you are on to something.” (They were kind enough to accept cash, check or money order.)

Now I more or less had my instincts confirmed, but I felt I needed one more test. I ran a rather expensive ad in a national newspaper, which said, “Property Inspection Franchise … call for more information.” I received enough phone calls to convince myself that I could go forward. I spent money to make money, but the other side of that is I ultimately spent money to confirm that I had a high probability of success. And in business, that’s all you can hope for.

Now, for anyone who might actually be considering franchising their business: There’s a lot more involved with franchise attorneys, developing training and support programs, and the like. Make sure you have a business model that you can duplicate, as well as that you will, in fact, be adding value to the franchisees for becoming part of your program. Think it through, do your homework and spend money on research. Good luck.

What Makes a Successful Franchisee?

By Roland Bates, President, NPI/GPI

Real estate agent on cell phone uid 4It’s hard to quantify everything that’s important in a successful franchisee — for example intelligence, providing quality service, having a positive attitude and sincerely wanting to help people. However, if these attributes are not present, then it’s just a matter of time before a drop in sales is inevitable. And, of course, sales are quantifiable — just ask the IRS.

A number of years ago, NPI/GPI used sales figures and as best we could, some unquantifiable traits to identify our top 25 franchisees. Once identified, we asked each of them to take a personality/aptitude evaluation. For the sake of brevity, I will talk only about personality. In a lot of ways the inspection business is a public relations business. Thus, you would think these 25 most-successful franchisees would all be extroverts. That was not the case at all. Perhaps 15 were extroverted, but the other 10 had the skills and self-confidence not only to conduct a good inspection but also to communicate their findings. And, the 10 slightly introverted franchisees learned the sales skills to book the inspection when they got the call.

In short, what makes a good franchisee? Intelligent, honest and hardworking are good places to start. Add in a willingness to learn new tricks. The Internet, computers, software, websites and social media are all important to our business, and they are forever changing. The last two points I would add for success are an appreciation of being part of something bigger and a willingness to tweak and work a proven business model.

Practical Business Tips for Entrepreneurs

RE0025It’s not easy starting and operating your own business. You have the big things to plan for and worry about — business and marketing plans, legal services, accounting and more — but you can’t let the small stuff escape under the radar, either. Here, we offer some easy tips for entrepreneurs.

Operate your business with honesty, integrity and professionalism. There’s a reason that NPI/GPI uses these three words as our motto, and it’s that they are critical in doing good business and making a good name for yourself. Treat everyone — your customers, your vendors, your employees — fairly and honestly.

Develop an elevator pitch. This is a brief “in-a-nutshell” description of your business and services or products. Basically, it’s what you’d say if someone in elevator asked you what your business is and they were getting off the elevator in a couple of floors.

Diversify. If you get 50 percent or more of your business from a single source or channel, then start seeking out more sources and channels in order to grow your business. Don’t become dependent on only one or two resources.

Seek out repeat customers. It’s easier and more cost-effective to win repeat business from your customers or contacts than to continually be trying to make relationships with new customers. Treat your clients well so they’ll continue to do business with you and become loyal, long-term customers.

Make it easy for customers to pay you. These days, payments are all about debit and credit cards, so make sure you accept plastic. If you’re on the go with your business, you can get a mobile card reader from a company like Square or PayPal.

Build a database of your clients. Use this to periodically reach out to them via mail or email with special offers, reminders or newsletters. Contact your best customers and referral sources every couple of months.

If you work from a home office, set office hours. You can’t work 24×7, so be sure to make time for family, friends and yourself.

When Is the Right Time to Start Your Own Business?

By Roland Bates, President, NPI/GPI

Inspector + ACThis is a tough question to answer, since anyone could have unique circumstances — or at least feel their situation is unique. However, some circumstances generally apply.

One of the reasons most often given for not starting a business is, “The economy is bad. I’ll wait for it to improve.” This may seem counterintuitive, but a bad economy is not a reason to wait. In a bad economy, weaker and less motivated competitors close up shop or simply try to weather the storm. In fact, most businesses cut back on their sales and marketing efforts during a bad economy. A less crowded field makes it easier for your voice to be heard. Although a factor, a bad economy is not a show stopper. If you have a solid business model, execute an effective marketing strategy and enjoy what you do, then when you start your business shouldn’t be dictated by the nightly news (which is always depressing).

Starting your own business is more about personal satisfaction than about money. Although generally a business owner will earn more money than most, it’s all about job satisfaction. We sell property inspection franchises, and we’ve had lawyers, dentists and psychologists inquire about purchasing and operating our franchise. These bright and well-educated individuals had great incomes; they simply did like what they were doing. However, don’t let more money be the only reason you start your own business. Let more money be a pleasant side effect.

Does money motivate people? Money is considered a satisfier, not a motivator. For example, corporations tend to conducted exit interviews with departing employees to find out why they are leaving. The most common answers given are something to the effect: “I hate my boss,” “I don’t like my coworkers,” or “I have no advancement opportunities here.” Surprising to most, money has typically been fourth or fifth down on the list.

At the risk of sounding redundant, people leave their jobs not for more money but for reasons tied to job satisfaction. This is likely why you will start your own business, and if you do, remember why employees leave: Be a good boss/employer. Provide them with a good opportunity.

Lastly, to try and answer the question that is the topic of this blog: How do I know when it’s time to start my own business? If on Sunday afternoons you start to get this hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach as you realize, “I have to go to work tomorrow,” then it’s time.

What’s It Like to Be a Professional Property Inspector?

By Roland Bates, President, NPI/GPI

2Inspectors + Tablet +Camera4The value of what a professional inspector does is obvious. If a small business is stretching its budget to buy an office building, then later discovering that that building needs a new roof could be devastating. The same is true for any number of similar scenarios for individuals buying a home. National Property Inspections has performed millions of inspections across the United States and Canada, and we’ve seen firsthand how inspections help close the sale. An inspection removes the unknowns, and that’s the practical side of what we do.

I, as the founder of National Property Inspections, Inc., have been on many a roof and looked into many an attic. That’s the physical part of what we do. Performing the physical parts of our jobs leads to the business opportunity side of what we do.

I met a lot of great people while I was doing inspections. I made friends with Realtors, bankers, buyers, investors and the like. They introduced me to a lot of other people by inviting me to various meetings and gatherings. This is where and how I began to truly understand what was important to my clients: how I could be a better inspector and provide better customer service. Trying to become better at what I did actually helped me grow my own business. To use a cliché, that is win-win.

Most people who have never been in sales or marketing are surprised to learn that those areas can be the most enjoyable part of what inspectors do. And, if you like what you do, you are going to be more successful. Buying someone a cup of coffee and talking about sports or the weather can be fun for both of you, and then you just add, “And, oh, by the way, don’t forget to call me for your next inspection.”

I’ll share a couple of interesting stories from the field: I was inspecting a house that was for sale. It had cathedral ceilings and needed a new roof, to include some new roof sheathing. A roofing crew was doing this work while I was there. I heard a loud crashing sound and walked into the living room, where I saw a roofer’s leg dangling down through the ceiling. He had stepped through some rotten sheathing. Fortunately only his pride was hurt, especially since he was automatically inducted into what is jokingly known as “the foot through the ceiling” club.

One last story/encounter: As inspectors, we have all encountered some interesting color schemes; people decorate to their individual tastes. The strangest one I personally encountered was this: The seller had painted everything inside black. This included walls, ceilings, doors, cabinets, counter tops, furniture, etc. There was nothing but black inside that house. Not that I was uncomfortable, mind you, but not for one second did I turn my back on that individual, and I finished that inspection in record time.

What You Need to Know When Starting a Business

Submitted by Roland Bates, President, NPI/GPI

Roland Bates, NPI/GPI President

Over the years, I have been asked numerous times to review business plans. Starting a business is exciting, and I have always been flattered when someone asks for my help.

As companies that sell franchises, NPI and GPI have a business model that covers all of the bases, and most of our franchisees are successful. When you are starting either on your own or with a franchise, don’t leave anything out. Let me give you an example.

Let’s call this gentleman Bob. Bob’s education and work experience classify him as a “professional.” Bob was tired of working for someone else and wanted to start his own business. He dropped off his business plan a couple of days before we were to have lunch.

Bob knew where he wanted to office, how many square feet he would need, what his rent, utilities, insurance and the like would cost. He knew the kind of business-related software he needed and its cost. He backed it all up with Excel spreadsheets. For what he did, it was impressive. However, he was so focused on the operational side of his planned business that he overlooked two of the most important aspects and any business: sales and marketing.

When I met Bob for lunch, I complimented him on what he had done but when I asked him, “How are you going to make the phone ring?” he just gave me a blank stare. Bob had always done the work placed in front of him, but he’d never been involved in bringing any of that work in the door. Ultimately, Bob decided against starting his own business, which was too bad; he just needed help with sales and marketing.

In business, you must deliver a good product or service — that is a given. But first, you must have a strong grasp of both sales and marketing.

In conversation, we use sales and marketing interchangeably. Though intertwined, they are two very different things. Marketing is an understanding of when, where and how to promote your business. In sales, it’s about knowing where and how to find customers and closing the sale, which is not always easy.

You probably don’t love everyone, and not everyone is going to love you. OK. Some potential customers are going to prefer a competitor. OK. Accept that for the present and move on. However, don’t give up on these prospects. Periodically touch base with them and let them know you are still interested in earning their business. With low pressure and effective follow-up, some of them can be won over. Good luck in your ventures.