How an Underemployed Military Veteran Found a Successful New Career as a WIN Home Inspection Franchise Owner
In this WIN Home Inspection review Tom Lemieux explains how he kicked his WIN business into high gear
Tom Lemieux struggled to find full-time work after the economic downturn of 2008. The military vet had worked a variety of jobs over the years — truck driver, licensed real estate agent, landscaper and home remodeler among them. He also had a solid technical background in maintaining missile installations and quality control for different branches of the military. But finding a career that really gelled remained an elusive challenge.
Tom knew one thing: He wanted more stability in his life. He wanted to be able to take care of his family without having to worry about the economy.
“I wanted a job that was family-friendly and with flexible working hours,” Tom says. “I wanted to have more of a final say over the final work product. It can be hard to deliver top-notch work working for someone else.”
In the following WIN Home Inspection franchise review, Tom explains how he found WIN and established a thriving WIN Home Inspection franchise — and a brand new career — in Madison, Alabama, a city of about 42,000 people near Huntsville.
How did you find out about the WIN Home Inspection franchise? As the economy slowed in 2009, I couldn’t find much work. I was working part-time for the city of Madison, Alabama, at the parks and recreation department. A friend told me about the Still Serving Veterans organization, and I looked into it. I learned about WIN from Commander Sgt. Major Mitch Williams, who was from that organization. I visited WIN’s corporate headquarters; it was only eight minutes from my house. I met Theresa Sims, WIN’s Franchise Administration Manager, who set me up with an appointment with Keith Mathias, WIN’s Director of Strategic Market Development.
You went through the WIN for America program for military. What is the program like? It helped me immensely. This program awarded eight franchises to qualifying vets in 2012 at no cost, and thankfully I was one of those eight recipients. The cost of a franchise was $40,000, and it helped me defray the costs of obtaining a WIN Home Inspection franchise. Although I still took out a VA loan for operating capital, it took care of a big financial burden.
What did you do to really jumpstart your WIN Home Inspection franchise? I did a couple of things. I improved my public speaking skills through weekly networking meetings in the community, and I made connections with real estate agents. Realtors look for established inspectors. I’ve really learned how important it is to connect with the real estate community. It takes a little time, but you end up getting repeat business from some Realtors. If you are networking and getting out in the community, the word-of-mouth referrals start to come. If you have the basic skills, you’ll definitely make money with a WIN franchise.
What sets WIN apart from competitors? The WIN report software is one thing that sets us apart. It is very comprehensive and has 450 fields to check. I may only use 300, but it’s still important to have these comprehensive inspection points. I am able to be very detailed on every inspection point. The inspection software permits inspectors in different parts of the country to inspect regional requirements such as solar panels in the west and desert southwest or stucco for homes in Texas or California.
What kind of person makes a good WIN home inspector? Do you need experience in construction? The best WIN Home Inspection owner is an attention-to-detail kind of person.
Someone who has been self-employed, a veteran or a law enforcement professional are a few good examples. You don’t need experience in construction, but it doesn’t hurt if you have it. Having a lot of common sense, regardless of one’s background, is what helps the most.
What was the WIN training like? WIN’s training is two weeks long, about 10 hours a day, sometimes more. It’s not breeze-easy, but it is very informative and helpful. WIN prepared me well, whether it was Pat Knight teaching home inspection topics, Jimmy Rocchetta teaching marketing principles, Blair Dufresne leading the computer training or Gary Greenberg providing insight on the software. I like the training because they don’t just teach you how to do inspections; they teach you how to run your business.
The training took me out into the field, and I learned how to do hands-on inspections. I also learned how to use WIN’s software properly. The training’s homework enabled me to learn my market — my competition, the going rates to charge and what licensing requirements are for each state. WIN training helped me obtain my license for the state of Alabama in only six months.
Can you walk us through your typical day? There is no typical day, but that’s fine by me. My franchise is always open; there’s no closing shop. Depending on the day, I might have a networking event, or I might be performing an inspection or two. Before my inspections, which I perform mid-day, around 10 a.m. or 11 a.m., I check my messages, gather my gear and head to my home inspection sites. Once I return to the office, I get busy answering the phones, following up on past inspections by answering questions from homeowners and real estate agents and scheduling new ones for the upcoming week.
One highlight includes dropping off an inspection report to a Realtor’s office. The one thing Realtors like about WIN is how the inspection report is delivered to the buyer. The report is enclosed in a binder, and it has a bright green Post-It Note on top of it with the property address and buyer’s name written on it. This makes my Realtors happy, and it gives me plenty of exposure. After doing it regularly, it has brought me more and more business over time. I followed this procedure for one Realtor who belongs to a team of four agents, and after doing one or two inspections a month for the agent, I now perform three to four a month for the same office.
How large is the opportunity for home inspections? It’s not an easy thing to break independently into the home inspection market in this area. However, with the backing of WIN Home Inspection, it’s a different story. I researched my area and found out there are only six home inspectors. There’s definitely room for quality home inspectors!
What do you like about the home inspection business? I like the variety of the home inspection business. I’ve always been an active person. I couldn’t stand working in an office or digging ditches all day. I get to meet new people, perform new inspections, take care of my franchise’s finances myself. I don’t have to do the same thing every day, so I don’t get bored.
Would you recommend this franchise? Yes, I would definitely recommend this franchise for many reasons. WIN has a great training system. I love the WIN software and its marketing system and backup. WIN encouraged me to go to networking breakfast meetings and give short presentations on my franchise. The results have been great. If you have the basic skills, you’ll definitely make money with a WIN franchise.
I can’t say enough about the software and the detailed reports. They are broken down by each segment of the house (roof, foundation, etc.). I am able to check off the condition (satisfactory, etc.) and give more detailed comments on what I find. Unlike independents who buy their own software, I know what I’m getting when I write reports with WIN’s report-writing software. You end up having a more professional report than your competitors.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned as the owner of a WIN Home Inspection franchise? Doing a good job goes without question. I’ve learned to make the homeowner and the real estate agents feel as comfortable as possible by educating them on the house’s condition. I do this by carefully explaining exactly what I find to the potential buyer. I talk to them about what’s wrong and how it can be fixed. You don’t have to scare a client off when there are problems with a house. They appreciate hearing their options.
One example is when there’s wood rot a crawl space. Understandably, a client is usually concerned about this issue, especially if it’s their first home. I listen to their concerns and patiently go over their crawl space issue giving them two options – a way to fix it quickly and make it structurally sound, or they can spend a little more money to have it repaired once and have peace of mind it won’t have to be repaired for years to come. Walking buyers, sellers and agents through the home inspection process makes it a smoother, less stressful process for everyone involved.
Learn about starting a WIN Home Inspection franchise
The WIN Home Inspection franchise provides extensive training to help Strategic-Partners understand the technical skills needed to be great home inspectors. Many consider WIN to be one of the best home inspection franchise opportunities on the market. To learn about WIN Home Inspection training and support, as well as start-up costs and financial performance, visit our research pages. To read a WIN Home Inspection franchise review, visit our blog. To start a conversation, please fill out a form to download our free franchise report or call us at 1-866-430-9308. We look forward to talking with you.