A franchise family
A few years ago, NAIT, my alma mater, introduced a home inspection course. Since then, there has been an influx of new inspectors in the Edmonton area. I’m not afraid of the competition. It has encouraged me to work even harder, which has kept me busier than ever.
I am lucky to receive a lot of support from head office. My regional manager, Martin Fiesel, joined the company in 2012 and today he oversees franchises across the country. Martin develops ‘big-picture’ ideas to help generate business and researches new ways to keep ABCHI workers ahead of the competition, such as the implementation of a third party warranty program and maintaining records of manufacturer-recalled appliances. He helps sponsor events and looks for potential community marketing opportunities for franchisees. The ongoing support from Martin and head office lets me focus on my day-to-day business and local marketing campaigns. I can spend more time with customers and ensure I’m providing the best service possible.
Martin also facilitated my relationship with the Realtors Association of Edmonton. I’ve been supporting their Community Foundation for years. The organization unites local real estate agents and funds local charities that address community issues, such as poverty, homelessness and crime. I officially joined the foundation in 2016 and am the first non-realtor to sit on the board. Martin always purchases a table for Edmonton’s ABCHI franchise owners at Realtor Community Foundation events. It’s a great opportunity for neighbouring franchisees to get together and offer support to the local community.
For the most part, ABCHI franchisees can work outside of their territories, but we limit marketing to within our own turf. This means realtors can contact a franchisee for an inspection outside of their, but inspectors will not initiate that interaction. There’s plenty of work available in Edmonton and we don’t need to compete with each other to generate business. This kind of co-operation helps strengthen our support system. I can take time off from work, knowing I can forward calls to a nearby franchise and my customers will still receive great service.
Room to grow
The housing industry has slowed down across the country in the past few years, but Edmonton is a budding city, with new neighbourhoods and subdivisions popping up all the time. This type of steady growth is ideal for my industry, as there are plenty of houses being sold, but ‘bidding wars’ are less common than in other areas of the country. My colleagues in Toronto have noticed a drought in pre-purchase home inspections. Many buyers opt out of the service when bidding on a property with multiple offers because these bids are often rejected by sellers. Home inspectors are then called in to perform a walk-through after the sale is final, which can be very stressful for new homeowners.
I am fortunate to work in a steady housing market, as 2017 was by far my most successful year to date. I recently acquired a second territory in Edmonton, which gives me access to 30 more real estate brokerages. I am looking forward to expanding my franchise and adding two or three more inspectors to my team, but I don’t want it to get too big. When realtors contact me, they know who will come and perform the inspection. I want to make sure the confidence and assurance remain as I expand my franchise. I’ve tried out a dual-inspector model, where two employees attend each site. This allows for a more thorough walk-through to be completed in 90 minutes instead of three hours.
I am very careful in selecting new members of my team. I want to be sure any new inspectors are committed and have an appreciation for the work, as well as excellent customer service skills. My most-recent hire is a former realtor with senior management experience at Rona, which is an ideal skillset. He has strong customer service skills and also has a keen understanding of how to market to realtors.
These days, I’m enjoying the freedom that comes with being my own boss. I am able to spend time with my family, dropping the girls off at school in the morning and taking the occasional long weekend with my wife at our second home in Parksville, B.C. This past winter, during my franchise’s slow season, I took a month-long vacation to Indonesia and Thailand and led a group of 20 people on a diving expedition. Sometimes I still wonder where I would be if I completed my B.Ed, but in-between home inspection walk-throughs and diving instruction, I guess I still became a teacher in my own way!
Brent Podruzny is a franchisee for A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections (ABCHI) based in Edmonton. For more information, contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A BUYER’S CHOICE HOME INSPECTIONS
Date of first franchise: 2007
Franchised/corporate units in Canada: 70
Investment range: $23,900 – $39,900
Initial franchise fee: $23,900 – $39,900