October 7, 2014

Experienced entrepreneur brings WIN’s polished, professional brand image to Big Sky Country

Justin Kirkbride is a lifelong entrepreneur accustomed to being his own boss and creating his own opportunities. His previous successes include working as a licensed Realtor and starting a company that manufactures devices that help diesel engines run cleaner. When a competitor made an attractive offer to buy that business, he began setting his next goals.

Today Justin is the WIN Strategic-Partner in Hamilton, Montana, and he is already considering expansion to other areas of the state. Being affiliated with the WIN Home Inspection franchise gives him a huge advantage over mom-and-pop competitors who can’t match WIN’s professionalism and high-tech equipment. “When I arrive in my WIN-branded vehicle and wearing a company uniform, customers notice, and appreciate, the difference,” says Justin.

Justin tells his story in the following WIN Home Inspection review.

What were you doing before you bought your WIN Home Inspection franchise? I was a Realtor in New Mexico and a business owner. After selling the business, my wife, Amanda, and I moved to Montana. This is a wonderful place to raise our kids, who are 6 and 10. We can let them go outside and play. It’s nice.

The company I sold, CleanAir Systems Inc., manufactures emissions control equipment for diesel-powered machines, including generators, trucks and construction and earth-moving equipment. We were a supplier for Caterpillar, and they made an offer to buy the company. That’s when we moved to Montana.

How did you find out about WIN? When I was a Realtor with Coldwell Banker, I was familiar with several inspectors. One that I regularly used was affiliated with WIN. I always thought about it. The company was successful in Santa Fe, and I decided to do it here.

There are other franchises out there. What makes WIN stand out? One thing customers notice and appreciate is the modern equipment, like the radon detector. I call it the “gizmo.” It connects with a computer and checks the levels every hour. Very impressive. If you don’t have it, you’re like everyone else.

The technology isn’t cheap, but to build your business and stand out, you have to provide a level of service beyond your customers’ expectations. I’ve invested $30,000 in my business and charge $300 and up for inspections, so my ROI is attractive.

Why did you choose to join WIN over going out on your own? The inspection industry didn’t have a professional presence here. There are several people doing it, but it’s not organized. For example, instead of writing reports for a client, they might just scribble some notes on a piece of paper.

There was room for someone more branded, with a more professional feel than a guy with an old truck. I chose WIN because I knew what WIN’s system was, and I knew it was successful. I arrive wearing a professional uniform. I drive a late-model vehicle with WIN’s branding on it. I love my vehicle, and I use it extensively. This being Montana – Big Sky Country – I have a large territory.

Did you look at other franchises? No. I was familiar with WIN, and Amanda, my wife, was enthusiastic. Since I knew the franchisee in Santa Fe, my wife encouraged me to give him a call. I also spoke with Keith Mathias (director of strategic market development for WIN).

How long did the process take? About 45 days. I’ve never been risk-averse. I’m a “go for it” kind of guy, so I made a decision and did it.

What do you like about WIN’s marketing? WIN has easily accessible materials and fliers, with downloadable information that’s simple to use. When I want expert advice, I can contact Blair Dufresne, the marketing manager.

Marketing a home inspection business is not rocket science; it’s about taking advantage of opportunities. I go to open houses, talk to friends, give presentations to real estate companies. It’s about being available and reaching out to potential customers.

The WIN car with the logo and graphics package really gets attention and makes a great impression. It’s a great marketing tool, especially when a lot of competitors drive older pickup trucks.

It helps me live up to clients’ expectations. People are paying me a lot of money. They’re paying me about $100 per hour. They want to know they are paying professional wages to a professional.

How much education and training was required to take on this job? I have years of experience as a Realtor, so this wasn’t entirely new to me. But real estate experience is not a requirement. Someone who’s never been in the business can succeed.

I spent time at the corporate office, learning the ins and outs of inspections, learning ways to interact with clients, learning marketing techniques. The training helps you build the confidence to put yourself out there. It gets you over that hump.

I learned about WIN’s unique corporate culture. We need to make a professional impression, to maintain a clean, solid, consistent presence. It helps the company, and at the same time it helps franchisees. It also sets WIN apart. It’s something an independent operator can’t copy. I could have hung out a shingle on my own, but it wouldn’t have been the same.

In business, getting the business starts with talking to people. If you never ask, you are guaranteed to lose. If you ask, you have the opportunity to win.

How does being part of a national organization help you? I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I have support and can benefit from others’ experience. For example, WIN has a spreadsheet that guides me through how to build the business. If I call headquarters, I get immediate feedback. If I email Gary Greenberg (WIN technology support manager), I have my answer within a day. Usually sooner than that.

I called another franchisee to review my client reports. He gave me the feedback I needed to feel confident. I like that aspect. I know I have a backup if I have an issue. And being affiliated with WIN gives you credibility. We have 200 offices and are in 30 states.

Do you foresee owning more than one franchise? My plan is to expand. For the first three to five years, I’ll stay in my current marketing area, then grow into other cities. Realistically, I see the possibility of three franchises in Montana. When I achieve that, my plan is to take on more of an executive role. I’ll do the marketing and scheduling, and my employees will do the inspections.

How are you enjoying being your own boss? I have never liked having a structured schedule. I like having control over my own time. Amanda is a teacher, fifth grade, so I have family responsibilities, including taking our son to school. He’s in first grade this year. Being my own boss gives me the freedom to plan my time around important things like that.

Would you recommend a WIN Home Inspection franchise for others? I love being in business. WIN can provide that opportunity to someone with the right motivation. If you want to make a living, you can. You just have to go out and do it. As the economy recovers, more people are going to buy properties and need inspections. I expect demand to grow.

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. 

Let's Talk