I was a mediocre inspector at best. I had been a custom builder though and new my way around a house and an electrical panel, but not a strong technical mechanical inspector (my weakness). At the time there was only one big home inspection school in the country run and taught by ASHI Presidents (it has since been sold). I signed up for their 2 week course but left after day 4 as the instructors were incorrect too often and I got tired of researching everything they taught us to determine if it was right or wrong.
I knew I was incompetent mechanically and didn’t want to mess up my own market (that I eventually wanted and succeeded at dominating), so I decided to develop an initial, temporary market in the city of Philadelphia (about 30 miles outside where I wanted to end up). That’s where I got strong fast. The homes were older and rougher. I knew if I could work there for a couple months I’d come out a good inspector.
I had to fill my technical gap and did it by hiring retired HVAC contractors to go with me as assistants. HVAC contractors understand nearly everything; roofing, plumbing, heating, electrical, cooling, insulation, etc. Retired HVAC contractors make perfect inspector assistants and normally aren’t interested in starting a competing inspection company. Stay away from the young bucks.
Not only did I learn much but they impressed the clients. Remember, the inspection industry is weird in that you don’t meet your client until after they hire you. I was younger and so would down dress (sneakers and a T-shirt). I’d have my HVAC contractor dress up nice. When we got out of the truck I prohibited the retired HVAC contractor assistant from carrying any tool boxes. Instead, I would carry everything and walk behind him up to the home. The client would naturally shake hands with the older, better dressed, empty-handed HVAC contractor (my assistant) thinking he was the lead inspector or the owner (many clients wouldn’t even say hi to me)… and away they would go to the furnace where he would impress the client to the point that the client would say something like “Well, it looks like you guys know what you are doing, I’m going to measure for curtains” or something. I’d of course be free (no client hanging on me) to inspect the areas of the home I had responsibility for.
After a couple hundred inspections with well experienced HVAC contractors teaching me everything they know, on-site, in rough neighborhoods, my technical gaps got filled and I switched all my marketing over to target the town I lived in.
REALTORs are people people and have a nose for B.S. At that point I was confident… even cocky. When I walked into a real estate office and told the agents that I was the best inspector in town, I believed it to be the truth, and so they believed it to be the truth. I probably wasn’t. I (my team) was second best. Joe Hagarty, my local competitor, was probably better. But the two of us competing with each other for years made us both very strong businessmen.
Anyway, the company built-up to 4, 2-man crews. My crew worked every day except Christmas for 5.5 years and never took in less than $1,000.00 a day. Often twice that (in PA most home inspections are performed with WDO and Radon tests). My schedule stayed overbooked constantly.
Eventually I sold the company to my brother and our other lead inspector and carried the note for them. The money I saved (after business expenses and feeding my family) plus the money I sold the company for exceeded a million dollars.