11 Nov 2013

Bert Welsh grew his WIN Home Inspection franchise in the midst of the Great Recession

Bert Welsh spent most of his adult life working hard for other people in construction sales, but never feeling completely secure.

“I was in and out of corporate sales and marketing for construction materials for 25 years,” Welsh says. “I worked for a large company that sold to Home Depot and Lowe’s, and I eventually I went into business for myself as an independent rep marketing products to the building materials industry. I discovered the WIN Home Inspection option at the perfect time. I tell people every day that it’s the best move I’ve ever made other than marrying my wife Brenda.”

Welsh’s franchise, which served communities such as Clovis and Fowler in Fresno, Calif., blossomed from the beginning. He credits his success to two things — WIN’s backup support and training and the fact he’s a “people person.”

“A lot your competitors in the home inspection industry fall off the radar screen because they don’t have the marketing and sales skills that are needed to keep their businesses going,” Welsh says. “I had a leg up from the beginning because I had experience in sales, marketing and — probably most importantly — in working with people.”

What were you doing before WIN?
Just before I started this company I was worked for a large company that manufactured portable school rooms and mobile offices. I left in 2009 when the construction segment collapsed. I had gotten tired of the whole “corporate thing” anyway. It was always such an up and down situation. I started looking around for other opportunities. I ran into a WIN inspector that had a territory near where I live, and I talked to him a little about it. I called the home office and spoke with Steve Wadlington. We met and got along very well. WIN looked like something I could easily market because it was a service people need to begin with. I’ll be completing my fifth year this March. I’ve been very successful.

Why have you been successful?
I didn’t have to think about all of the parts, because WIN had already put the parts together. All I had to do was use my sales and marketing skills. I basically took their product and sold it.

Is it more secure than what you were doing before?
Without a doubt. I started my WIN Home Inspection franchise at the worst time in the economy. Everything was tanking, and people told me I was crazy. I had the largest increase of all franchisees in my second year of business.

What sets WIN apart?
The people at WIN are just great. You have really good support. All the different departments seem to have the correct set of skills. Steve Wadlington sets the franchise apart. He has the skills and personality of a great leader. WIN’s marketing materials are excellent. The training is outstanding. WIN showed me how to get past the gatekeepers and how to get into the offices to meet the brokers. If you follow the process WIN sets you up with, it really works. As I learned things, I was able to grow my business in a down market. At this point, I’m in control of my own destiny and that’s what I was looking for at this point in my life. Owning my franchise makes me part of the community. I know hundreds of people that I didn’t know before in the real estate industry.

What kind of person makes a good WIN home inspector?
That’s a good question. I’m training someone right now, and I’m stressing the importance of having empathy for people. You need a good personality. I think the technical skills can be learned, but the people skills can’t. Clients let you know how much they appreciate people skills, too. You are between two situations when you do this job. There’s the Realtor, who could stand to lose the deal if you are too picky or say the wrong thing, and your client, who is paying you to do your best. It’s a real balancing act, and I’m not sure everyone understands that. You need to be able to read people. How you handle the situation is really important. My worst fear about being a home inspector was that I wouldn’t be able to do it right on the technical side. But I learned one step at a time and everything worked out well.

What don’t people understand about home inspections?
They don’t understand the level of expertise we bring. Some don’t understand that we aren’t just going into the home doing a walk-through. I don’t think they understand that we follow a system. If you follow the system, you have to look at and comment on certain items. Our home inspections are very thorough.

People sometimes call over the Internet and ask me if I’m a contractor. I tell them if it weren’t for contractors, I wouldn’t have a job. Being a contractor does not make someone a better inspector. That’s a false belief. Contractors learn how to put things together. Home inspectors learn how to find out when they’ve put them together incorrectly.

How large is the opportunity?
Based on my experience, it’s really a great opportunity. There are probably three components everyone should look into before they go into this. You need to have some money because you will likely need to tread water for a couple of years. Like any business, you don’t start off being profitable. I think you have to be organized. Finally, you need to have those people skills. Of course you have to work at it, but finding success with a WIN franchise is highly possible.

What do you like about the business?
It all goes back to being a people person. I like constantly interacting daily with other business people. I like being in control of my own destiny. I like being able to grow the business. It brings me a lot of satisfaction to feel that I’m moving forward.

What does franchise ownership allow you to do that you couldn’t do before?
I am in control as opposed to being in a corporate situation where I feel like I could be let go at any time or downsized. A WIN franchise is what you make it. Just that aspect alone puts me on solid ground.

Would you recommend this franchise? And if so, why?
It’s an excellent way out of the rat race. When I first started in the working world, you had maybe two jobs in a lifetime. In today’s circus, nothing is solid. You make your own job, your own benefits. Everything is being pushed back on the worker. WIN makes is possible for you to determine your own future. You work for people that like you and that you like. You deal with people that are really depending on you. I like that it’s a cash business. You don’t have to deal with invoicing and billing. When I’m done with the inspection, I get paid. The cash flow is great.