By Brent Podruzny
I always dreamed of owning my own business and being my own boss. After years of working behind a desk, I decided it was time for a change. In 2010, I opened the first A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections (ABCHI) franchise in Alberta. Seven years later, there are more than 25 in the province and that number continues to grow.
Finding my way
I grew up in Camrose, Alta., before moving to Edmonton, where I still live today with my wife, Lori, who is a litigation lawyer, and our two teenage daughters. I also have two adult children: a son, an electrician, and a daughter, a nurse.
I’ve always been very athletic. Growing up, I played every sport imaginable, including hockey, baseball, volleyball, badminton and basketball, just to name a few. I had a lot of energy to burn and never wanted to sit still.
I attended the University of Alberta (U of A) and Mount Royal College (now Mount Royal University) in Calgary. I liked working with people and I thought I would make a great teacher, so I decided to pursue my bachelor of education (B.Ed.). During the summers, I worked with my dad. He was a carpenter his whole life, doing everything from pouring foundations to building roofs. By the time I started helping him, he was doing a lot of renovations. It felt great to use my hands and work out on a construction site. I started to consider different career paths when the Alberta government started cutting teaching positions in the 1990s.
Construction is tough work. Over the years, I saw the effects a physical job can have on a person’s body. That scared me away from a career in carpentry, though I’m glad I learned a lot about home building from working with my father.
Building a future
Two years into university, I transferred to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT). I had always excelled in mathematics, so I decided to take a computers systems course to see where it would take me. After graduating with honours in 1997, I landed a position in software development in Edmonton and worked in the field for 15 years. It was a great career. I wrote code and managed large-scale projects. My bosses and co-workers were terrific people and the industry paid well, but I found myself jumping back and forth between companies. I always left on good terms, but it was hard to figure out why I felt so restless. It took years to put together that I was bored with my career—not the jobs. I wanted to feel fulfilled with my work. I thought about starting my own business, but
I wasn’t sure about self-employment options. I didn’t feel well-suited to real estate or selling insurance and I wasn’t really sure what else was out there.
A friend of mine worked in plumbing and heating and he mentioned wanting to get into home inspections part-time. He told me it was a lucrative field where you could make your own hours and not be chained to a desk all day.
There were a few people working in Edmonton who had made names for themselves as home inspectors. I thought about starting a business on my own, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. I heard breaking into the industry was tough and new businesses had a high failure rate. The inspection industry is ‘sink or swim’ and I couldn’t afford to sink.
A few years passed before I seriously looked into home inspection as a career. Rather than risk starting my own company, I researched different franchise opportunities. When I first came across ABCHI, it looked like a great opportunity. The company had been started in Halifax, so it was proudly Canadian, which was very important to me. ABCHI had built a solid reputation on the east coast and in Ontario, but no one had opened a franchise in the west yet.