Tennessee-based franchise owner had a bad impression of franchising until he found the WIN Home Inspection franchise
Mark Steffan’s WIN Home Inspection franchise is still growing in its eighth year. Mark recently hired his second inspector.
After a bad experience with a company that overcharged its franchisees and provided spotty customer service, Mark Steffan was, in his own words, “completely turned off” by franchising.
He just hadn’t found the right franchise.
In 2007, Mark found out that the owner of the local WIN Home Inspection franchise in suburban Nashville was retiring and wanted to sell his franchise. As he learned more about the WIN, Mark realized it was the exact opportunity he’d been looking for. Even though he bought his WIN business during the housing downturn of the late 2000s, Mark was still able to build a recession-proof business that has kept growing. His franchise, WIN of Old Hickory Lake, which is in Hendersonville, Tennessee, recently took on a second inspector.
Mark shares his story in this WIN Home Inspection review.
How did you decide to become a WIN franchisee, a Strategic-Partner?
I was about to become a single parent and wanted something that would allow me to provide for my family and spend more time with them. I have four children, including three teenage daughters living at home. WIN sounded like something I’d like. That was eight years ago, and my business is still growing today.
Tell us a little about your experience before you bought your WIN franchise.
I was a GM dealer in Buffalo, New York, for 11 years. That was my first experience as a franchisee. I enjoyed the car business. I was active in the community and even served in local government as a city manager. One term was enough! That’s about the time my family and I moved to Hendersonville, near Nashville. I worked for a while for a franchising company that does home restoration. I was not happy with the way they treated their franchisees, so I was looking for a new opportunity.
How did you decide on a WIN Home Inspection franchise?
I have a firm belief that Americans today are franchise-oriented. Just look at McDonald’s. People prefer a trusted brand with consistent quality. So I started researching. In Buffalo, I had a sideline business of restoring old Victorian houses to their original condition. Since I was familiar with home construction, I looked at home inspection companies.
WIN had the nicest website and seemed like the most professional, so I gave them a call. A local franchisee was retiring and wanted to sell his territory. The corporate office put me in touch with him and worked to help me get in at a good price. They could have encouraged me to buy a new territory for a higher price, but instead, they helped me save money. That’s the kind of people they are.
Did your franchise grow immediately?
Not immediately. I had to get focused. I bought it in 2007, and everyone remembers what happened. The market fell. Plus, I had a side interest. I’d bought a franchise selling rental cars. It was taking a lot of my time and attention.
Another WIN franchisee told me it takes time for Realtors to get to know you, and you have to get out there and market yourself. When they realize you’re established, they want to work with you. I decided to concentrate on one thing — my WIN Home Inspection franchise business. It worked. I grew and hired two full-time employees. I just hired another inspector, who is taking his state-required training.
Who’s your competition?
It’s mostly the mom-and-pop operations or the guy in an old truck. WIN’s professionalism really makes us stand out. I don’t feel other franchises are major competition for me in my market. I never would have done this work by myself as a mom-and-pop outfit. It’s so difficult to break into by yourself.
What do you like about WIN’s marketing?
It really works. The uniforms, the vehicles with the logo, the technology we use, the standardized reports — all of those make a good impression on Realtors. That’s so important because the Realtors make recommendations to their clients about hiring. Everything we do reflects on the Realtor, so they want to work with someone professional. Ninety percent of our business comes from Realtors.
The WIN website adds a lot of credibility. People tell me their Realtor recommended three inspectors for them to choose from. When they looked at the WIN website, they chose me hands down.
What are the characteristics of a successful WIN Strategic-Partner?
I don’t care what type of business you’re in, you have to have credibility and a good product at a good price. You have to establish yourself. You have to make a good first impression. You also have to focus on growing your business. I love going out and doing inspections, but it makes more sense for me to do the marketing. When I call a customer to ask how their inspection went, they love it. I’ve hired my new inspector so I can do just that. There are a lot of inspections out there. The trick is, you have to go out and get them.
We did 600 inspections last year. I was personally doing two a day. Then I decided to shift my focus, going to Realtor events and open houses. I realized when I did that, I was busier. Now I do one inspection a day, and my employees do the rest. The rest of my time is for networking, administrative work and follow-up calls to clients. I love meeting people and networking, and that’s the best way for me to spend most of my time. But one thing’s for certain, I’ll always do a few inspections a month. I love getting dirty!
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.