Mark and Jolene Slocum explain how the WIN Home Inspection franchise set them up for success
Mark and Jolene Slocum became WIN Home Inspection owners in 2013. Networking in the community is one of the secrets to their success.[/caption]
Mark Slocum retired from the Marine Corps in 2011 after 24 years of service. While he had a pension as a veteran, he was looking for a second career and the added financial security it would bring.
Mark decided to explore franchising as a career choice, and in the process, he became especially interested in military-friendly franchises. That’s what led him to WIN Home Inspection.
In this WIN Home Inspection franchise review, Mark and his wife, Jolene, explain why they chose WIN over the competition and share details of how they got their WIN Home Inspection franchise in Aledo, Texas, off the ground.
Tell us about your background. What were you doing before you bought your WIN Home Inspection franchise?
Mark: I was born in California, and my father was a Marine. I lived in a few places — California, Maryland and Florida. I went to the University of Florida where I played football for a couple years, eventually spending eight or nine years building commercial and residential construction in Jacksonville, Fla. From there, I spent 24 years in the Marines, specializing in aviation maintenance.
My military pension didn’t provide me the financial flexibility to maintain the standard of living I wanted for my family. In January 2012, I began a one-year contract with the U. S. Navy supervising a crew of 15 mechanics working on the Navy’s version of the 737. Once that contract ran out, I contracted to supervise another set of mechanics at the same Marine squadron I served with during active duty. Nine months later the contract ended, and it didn’t get renewed. After working as a contractor for a couple years, I saw that it was going to be an uncertain way of making a living; I was always fighting for a new contracting job. I decided it was time to look into starting my own business.
How did you find out about WIN?
Mark: I got direction from a friend of mine who is also retired from the military and who’d started his own home inspection business. I looked at franchises because I didn’t think I wanted to start a home inspection company on my own. I didn’t have the background, and I felt I needed the backup and support a franchise can provide. I was looking for franchises that were military-friendly. I went to VetFran, an outreach program that helps vets, and saw a lot of military-friendly franchises. I really liked the way WIN Strategic-Partners (franchisees) presented themselves. I started talking with WIN in October 2012 and really liked the people, especially Keith Mathias.
How did the WIN for America program for military personnel help you?
Mark: It was very good. When I first started, they awarded me my first franchise, it didn’t cost me anything to purchase it. The cost of the franchise territory itself did not cost me anything.
WIN’s inspection software makes your inspection reports so much easier to complete, especially since I’m in Texas. The Texas Real Estate Commission requires a home inspection to be in a state-compliant form. With WIN’s software, it’s already compliant with TREC standards. When you’re an independent inspection company, you have to go through the extra steps to make sure you’re in compliance.
I also like that WIN gives discounts on inspection tools, including gas detectors and moisture meters. WIN’s support network is unparalleled because you can call another inspector or post a question online to have a more experienced inspector give more guidance.
You bought two WIN territories right off the bat, as a first-time franchisee. Why did you decide to do that?
Jolene: Mark and I decided to do it because we were so impressed with the product, the services of WIN and its newness to Texas. We’re the sixth or seventh franchisee in the state, and we just knew we were going to be successful. After speaking with WIN’s Strategic-Partners and other independent and competing franchisees, we saw how varied everyone else was compared to WIN’s uniform features. WIN’s competitors are not as consistent; their websites, phone answering and messaging was all over the place.
WIN’s Strategic-Partners are all very helpful to new franchisees. I can’t emphasize this enough. Another reason we chose to buy two territories is because we wanted to protect the territory and to be able to grow. Existing franchises have hit their goals within a year. Mark always says, “If you’re going to be a dog, be a big dog.”
What sets the WIN Home Inspection franchise apart from competitors?
Jolene: Mark and I believe WIN is a cut above the competition. WIN’s appearance, integrity and quality, from start to finish, distinguishes it from the rest of the industry. We drive a 2014 Ford Explorer SUV that proudly and cleanly displays WIN with a professional, eye-catching and classy-looking logo and appearance. WIN provides Mark with a navy blue embroidered polo shirt and khaki pants for a professional image. Topped off with requiring home inspectors to wear shoe covers in customers’ homes, WIN gives franchisees the tools they deserve.
Mark: The professionalism, quality of service and support from WIN is what sets the franchise apart. Compared to an independent inspector, who might have a single page on their website with little interactivity, WIN is more comprehensive. With WIN, homeowners can learn tips on how to keep their house in good shape, and real estate agents can print brochures from their website.
What kind of person makes a good WIN home inspector? Do you need experience in construction?
Mark: WIN is looking for someone with a high degree of integrity, someone who will present themselves in a professional manner. They want someone who takes pride in themselves and their work. You don’t have to have a construction background, but it can help. We met a lot of people at the conference who were completely new to the home inspection field. I have a background in construction, residential and commercial construction, and it did help me in my transition to home inspection. I didn’t start out as a lost sheep.
However, those with no experience don’t need to worry because WIN provides extensive training. You learn the basics of the business during the initial two weeks of training. For the first week, I learned everything from all the different types of inspections, including HVAC, electrical, plumbing, etc. I also learned all about the software and marketing. The following week part of my training included real-world inspections, including inspecting three different homes.
One great thing about WIN is that they offer you the opportunity to take advantage of continuing education. During each annual conference I can brush up on what I need to know to become a better inspector. For example, WIN provided foundation experts that show you how to inspect and what to look for. This is also done for HVAC and other areas of the home.
Can you walk us through your typical day?
Mark: We don’t really have a typical day. One thing my wife and I do is to maintain complementary roles within our business. Jolene runs the office, is on the phone networking with real estate agents and complementary inspectors, such as pest inspectors. (I’m not certified to do pests.) I try to do at least one inspection per day, but as business picks up and the phone rings more I’m hoping to increase it to two in the next few months.
How does Jolene help you run your franchise?
Jolene: I have a background in health care and business management. My time in sales within the health care industry made it very easy to speak with people and help promote our business. I knew our WIN Home Inspection franchise was going to be great from the beginning, and that I was going to have all of the fun meeting the people. Mark and I joined Business Network International, a networking event held in conjunction with the Parker County Chamber of Commerce. We work in partnership with other local businesses, promoting each others’ businesses. It’s like having 35 other people marketing for you. We promote their businesses, and they promote our business.
I schedule the home inspection appointments and coordinate everything on the same day. That provides an extra service to our clients.
How large is the opportunity for home inspections?
Mark: The home inspection business has grown by leaps and bounds. While there was a dip in the housing market in Texas a few years ago, the market is now booming. I would like to point out that there are 21,000 licensed inspectors in Texas, and not all of them are active. For franchisees like us, there’s a lot of room for growth.
What do you like about the home inspection business?
Mark: Besides the fact that I’m working for myself and not anybody else, it’s interesting. I spent a lot of time in the construction business, and I like the field. I even get a lot of ideas of how to update my own home. It’s also an opportunity to serve the community I’m living in. It’s similar to how I served my country.
Would you recommend this franchise?
Mark: Absolutely — and I have. I like the way WIN treats their people and the way they do business. I haven’t met anyone I haven’t gotten a good feeling from. They provided the needed support from the very first meeting. They are military-friendly, which I like. It’s great that WIN has a go-to guy for software problems. They attend to any problems I might have immediately. They’re just good people, and I like to work with good people.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned as the owner of a WIN Home Inspection franchise?
Mark: Patience. You have to get out there and be proactive for your business to grow. While the franchise sells itself, you have to sell yourself, too. I also recommend following WIN’s business plan. Sometimes you get wrapped up in things, you may disagree with something, but following the plan is the best way to become successful.
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.