While this post is about being a home inspector and a builder, the principles can be applied to almost any business.
As a builder and a home inspector I have always developed business models that one would not likely find in any textbook.
While these business models have never gotten me rich, they have always kept me busy even when others had to quit what they were doing and find employment in “other” areas.
I have always thought that if one is the best at what one does there is no competition. Nearly 45 years of building and inspecting has not altered this view.
As a footnote: being the “best” is defined as: “There being very little difference between one’s own perception of the work one does, and other people’s perception of the work one does.”
This takes a lot of the pressure off of us when we might otherwise be consumed with wondering how we are going to deal with our competition.
Of course, becoming the best at what one does, creates another type of pressure–but at least that is something one can have some control over. We have the pressure of knowing that it is all up to us–every single day.
Please don’t think that this guarantees that there will be no one better than you at what you do.
It is more about how you go about doing what you do–IN YOUR HEAD. You can come from a place in your head where you know you are the best. This concept is somewhere outside of “belief” as well. It is who you are. You are consumed with learning, inventing, creating, and pursuing your career to the point of obsession. Not forever–it tapers off to some degree as the pictures you have in your head come into line with the pictures outside of your head. It also helps when other people start agreeing with your perception of yourself. Depending on your focus, and the career you are chasing, this can take a year, 10 years or even a lifetime.
It is a “process” not a destination.
Time is of no consequence–time is merely another tool to get you from point A to point B, knowing all the while that all the stuff you cram in-between is what really matters–it is where the real value lies. It is the only stuff that we get to take with us when we go.
In over 33 years of building and in 10 years of inspecting, I never competed with another builder or inspector. I never paid for advertising. Actually that is not “totally” true; I did pay for a Yellow-Pages add the first year. The only call I got from the add was some guy that wanted me to give him an estimate to remodel his house. He only wanted the estimate so he would know how much money to borrow to do the remodel himself. This he told me after I gave him the estimate. So much for advertising.
I never bid against another builder to get a job. All of my work came by word of mouth–by the kind words and recommendations of previous clients.
The primary focus of my business was to proceed in such a way that when the job was done the client felt that they had been taken care of.
It was from this model that the “quality” of work sprung. It was from this model and the quality of work that the money came–most of the time. I never built on speculation. I never used my money to build someone else’s dream project–meaning I always got paid in advance. This takes building trust and having a history of doing what one says one is going to do–this is of priceless value when it comes to referrals. Even when I screwed up the cost of the job and the money didn’t flow as necessary, at least the other two aspects where firmly in place enough to create the next referral–sort of my own personal job security.
Divorce can also seriously mess with any business model–I seriously recommend avoiding it if possible. The bottom line was that money, while a part of the equation, was never the “focus” of my business models.
And so it is with Home Inspections–since I became a Seattle Home Inspector. I do not compete with other inspectors. I do not care what they charge for inspections and I do not worry if I am charging too much or too little–I know it is more than most. I simply charge what I need to charge in order that at the end of the day the buyer feels taken care of and I am not left feeling like I did the job for too little. I know that I provide service that fits only my own business model and I am able to successfully sell that model to my buyers. Over and over I hear about buyers that choose me over cheaper inspectors because I provide the value they are looking for. Are there people that want cheap? Sure–lots of them–or at least there used to be.
That is what is great about a free market–there are business models for everyone. In this market however, many buyers are looking for more value in everything they do.
They are educated and internet savvy.
They are crossing their “t’s” and dotting their “i’s” like never before.
So while the cheapo inspectors and their check-list reports–their gutless reports–are whining about not having enough work, and how terrible the real estate market is, I am having another great year.
What is your business model? Are you wrestling with your business model or enjoying a model business?
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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