01 Nov 2013

Robert Vierra says growth potential is huge for WIN home inspection franchise owners

When Robert Vierra bought his WIN Home Inspection franchise in 1998, he was looking for a job that would tap into his natural sales and marketing abilities. With a growing family, he also wanted a franchise that presented an opportunity to grow a substantial income year after year.

It’s not that he wasn’t doing well to begin with. Vierra had successfully worked his way up at a national paint company. But in order to keep climbing the corporate ladder, he’d need to move out of the Monterey, California area, a place that had been home for many years.

“I took my time in deciding on a franchise,” Vierra says. “WIN stood out for me because they were interested in so much more than just making a sale. The folks at the home office are top notch, and they were never pushy with me.”

Vierra has never regretted his decision. Along with his wife Jennifer, he has raised three children — Brannon, 18, Cole, 17 and Cassidy, 12 — all within the borders of his beloved home in San Benito County. He is also one of the stars of the WIN Home Inspection network, consistently winning national awards for sales and branding.

What were you doing before WIN?
Before purchasing a WIN franchise I worked for the Sherwin-Williams paint company for almost 15 years. I started out of high school working in their backroom and worked all the way up to store manager and then outside sales rep. I joined WIN in 1998 because I decided I wanted to do something for myself where I could be my own manager. I wanted to be in charge of my own sales. I never thought of myself as a salesperson, but I was just naturally good at sales. It had reached the point where in order for me to move up at my previous company, I would have to move out of the area. I’ve lived in the Monterey Peninsula most of my life and didn’t want to move away from home.

How did you find out about WIN?
I started looking through entrepreneurial magazines. First, I looked at a fire restoration franchise, and I was seriously considering it before I found out about the opportunity available in the market for home inspectors. It was about the time we were looking to buy our first house. I needed to schedule a home inspection in five days and the quickest we could get one done was two weeks. That was my first inkling that there might be a demand for home inspections. I headed back to the entrepreneurial magazines and found WIN.

What sets WIN apart?
WIN was one of about three franchises I was considering. The people at the home office made WIN really stand out. My conversations with WIN were never high-pitched sales. I got the information I needed, and they let me go at my own pace. I took about six months to decide because I was still working another job and I was growing a family. I flew up to WIN headquarters and met with everyone in the franchise. I had a very good feeling about it. It made my decision easy at that point. It’s a really good organization.

What kind of person makes a good WIN home inspector?
You have to be self-motivated. WIN gives you the system of how to create a successful franchise, but if you’re not willing to follow it, or take the extra steps needed, it’s probably not the right fit for you. You need to be detail-oriented. For example, in my area I’m dealing with some extremely high-end homes where people are expecting more from you. If you make a promise to someone, you have to be willing to take it all the way to the end. Don’t promise something you can’t achieve!

You have to be willing to push yourself. If you want to be successful, you can’t just do this part-time or half-way. Without a doubt, you can be successful with WIN’s system. We aren’t reinventing anything, but for the most part you have to follow the system. WIN has a structure but it’s not a straight-line structure. They also give you the ability to put your own spin on it.

What don’t people understand about home inspections?
Not everyone understands that we are generalists. We don’t have a crystal ball. We can’t know everything about the house. Over the years, as home inspections have increased and pushed the bar, some people’s expectations of home inspectors have become unrealistic. Some expect us to do much more than we can do.

How large is the opportunity?
It’s as much as you want it to be. In my area, I could hire three to four inspectors. You can be a single operator and make a comfortable living or you can have multiple-inspectors and make a lot of money. There can be fluctuations because of ups and downs in the economy, but there are always people who need home inspections. I’ve had my WIN Home Inspection franchise 15 years, and yet I’ve been fairly steady even through recessions. I would only consider myself having one bad year so far, but most people would have considered it a very successful year. That year I decided to take time off for coaching Little League and refereeing football. It was nice that I had the freedom to do it to begin with.

What do you like about the business?
There’s so much I like about WIN. When it comes right down to it, it’s all about being your own boss. You can make your own schedule and work at your own pace. There’s a lot of variety. I deal with anything from a $20,000 manufactured home up to a $40 million dollar property

What does franchise ownership allow you to do that you couldn’t do before?
When it’s time for me to retire or switch career paths, I have the ability to sell my franchise. When you leave a job at a traditional corporation you are back to square one. All that money stays behind with the company you worked for. When you own a franchise you have something to show for it. It’s one of the main reasons I looked at buying and staying with a franchise.

WIN gives you a little bit of freedom to put your own spin on your business. They do give you the structure, but you’re given a chance to try things such as unique marketing ideas.

Can you share one of your marketing ideas?
I’m an affiliate with our local real estate group the San Benito County Real Estate Association. We have a lot of events — chili cook offs, golf tournaments, etc. I bought a wireless amplifier with a microphone and actually became the emcee for a lot of the group’s events. It’s worked really well. I’m always in front of people, which is good for my franchise.

Would you recommend this franchise?
WIN has a proven system. I just looked at my monthly sales numbers last night. I see the people who’ve been in the system quite a while rise to the top. The people that follow marketing plans seem to be at the top every month, every year. As with most things in life, you get what you put into it.

There’s a family feeling at WIN. You work with good people all the way around. When I get overbooked, I refer quite a few jobs to my neighboring WIN inspectors. I inspect quite a few large homes. Rather than spending six or seven hours on a property, I’ll ask another WIN inspector to come along and we’ll do the inspections together. WIN is a community. It’s great when we get together once a year at our annual conference in January. We get back to the basics, learn and see old friends.