15 May 2014

WIN Home Inspection owners Brian Kelley and John Gross say having separate but equal skill sets strengthens their thriving business

Brian Kelley and John Gross bought their WIN Home Inspection in Central California in 2006. They are now on the verge of hiring their fourth home inspector.

The WIN Home Inspection franchise that serves Placer, Sacramento and Nevada counties in Central California is designed somewhat differently than many WIN businesses. Co-owners Brian Kelley and John Gross, who launched the franchise in 2006 after meeting in their sons’ karate class, split their duties in half. Brian is in charge of everything to do with sales and marketing, while John oversees the nuts and bolts of the actual home inspections. To further strengthen their team, they hired Tipton to be the company’s Inspection Manager. The division of labor has worked out quite well. The franchise recently had its most lucrative month, completing 37 inspections in one week. Brian and John are almost ready to add a fourth inspector to their team. “Our partnership is amazing,” Brian says. “John runs his half, and I run my half. We really respect each other and know how important our separate skill sets are to our success.”

Early on, the duo added another twist that adds revenue streams and profits to the franchise. They have an affiliate business that offers services that complement home inspections — pest removal, well inspection, septic services and small construction jobs. “I’ve set it up so that Realtors can call me for everything,” Brian says. “You can’t go wrong if you focus on the needs of Realtors.” In this WIN Home Inspection franchisee review, Brian shares his strategies for growing his WIN franchise.

Your WIN Home Inspection franchise is structured a little differently a typical WIN franchise. Can you tell us a little about your role in the business? I focus almost exclusively on sales and marketing on the front end. John Gross, my partner, does the back end and focuses on the home inspections. I went on 1,000-plus inspections when we first started, but we grew to the point where I could concentrate on what I do best. I love the sales and marketing part of it. It’s my strength. I’m at every local office presentation and every real estate-related event I can get to.

Why did you choose the WIN Home Inspection franchise over its competitors? It’s their constant dedication to keeping us the best. WIN makes sure they bring every tool to the table they possibly can. WIN is willing to help you grow as much as you can, and they give you the tools to do it. The home office never sits on their hands. They make sure WIN is always at or ahead of where this industry is. The customer can never say, “You guys are behind the times.” Sometimes potential owners get nervous about paying royalties, and I have to say I don’t even look at that part of the business as an issue. WIN provides so much help, and it makes the royalties worth it.

Can you share some of the secrets to your success? In business, people tend to go after the really big fish. They take their eye off the ball. I go after all those small fishes in the world. When I wanted to do 100 inspections, it was easier for me to get 100 Realtors to give me one inspection each than to get one Realtor to give me a lot. When I first started part of my strategy was to go after new (real estate) agents. I worked with them and got their loyalty, and they grew along with our business.

In 2008, we started a trend of inspecting really big homes — 5,000 to 10,000 square feet. Instead of bringing one home inspector, I’d bring four. This approach made an impression with a well-known listing agent here who sells very large homes. He started using us, and things snowballed from there. Word got around to all the high-end agents. We are getting good money to inspect them, and the top agents are willing to pay. About 99% of our referrals are driven by relationships with Realtors.

I think it’s important to study your market. Find out what services the Realtors need. Find out what additional services you can integrate. Make sure you don’t find yourself too stretched. You have to grow your business carefully. Now we have an office manager, inspectors, someone taking care of the books, but I also try to cross-train. That’s one of my hidden secrets.

It’s important to take risks and grow. Every time we grow 30 inspections a month for three months consecutively, we sit down and seriously consider hiring another inspector. That’s where we are right now. We’re ready for another inspector.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a WIN Strategic-Partner?
Focus on your vision. What are your goals? I think most of us get into business because we want to be our own boss, control our own destiny and ultimately control our income. Some S-P’s may set a goal of making $4,000 a month. That’s fine, and you don’t have to conduct a lot of inspections to make that. Hopefully, many S-P’s have higher goals than that. They want to see how big they can grow. They might want to incorporate family and friends into the business. I’d also tell them to take a close look at what their market is bearing. There may be some great chances to add to your territories, or even add services like I have done.

Does owning a WIN franchise offer you more flexibility than you’ve had at previous jobs? The problem with a corporate job is they put you on a plane. You are flying around all week and never able to be home when it counts. I opted out of that. It’s why I got into WIN to begin with. I love it that WIN is a home-based business. I actually have a garage that’s been converted to a space that can accommodate the business. I have been able to be really close by for my kids. They grew up thinking I was always home. I didn’t disappear from 8-5 and just sit down for dinner. I got to take them to the skate park and pick them up after school. I didn’t have to miss the school plays. I think it’s been unique for them to have me so close.

What makes a strong franchisee? It’s all about faith and trust. If you don’t have those two things, your business will crumble. Believe in what you are doing, and have faith in your skills. You can’t listen to all the nightmare stories, even from the ones you love. If you set your expectations right and focus on a good business plan, you’ll do well. It took me six months to write a business plan. I didn’t expect that business would just come to me when I started. I knew I’d have to work hard to get it.

Learn about starting a 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.