Reuben and Tessa share some advice, recommendations, and guidance for new home inspectors and business owners.
Reuben shares that home inspection certifications and licenses aren’t enough to become a good inspector. Tessa mentions shadowing and learning from seasoned practitioners in the industry will help inspectors get good at the job and know what to do. They highlight that it’s important to learn from other people’s mistakes.
They also talk about tips about inspector liabilities and client relations. Tessa recommends listening to the inspection process podcast. Then, Reuben talks about books that are helpful for managing businesses.
Here are the links to some of the podcasts mentioned:
- Home Inspection Mistakes, part 1
- Home Inspection Mistakes, part 2
- Home Inspection Process, part 1
- Home Inspection Process, part 2
- Home Inspection Process, part 3
The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
Reuben Saltzman: Welcome to my house. Welcome to the Structure Talk podcast, a production of Structure Tech Home Inspections. My name is Reuben Saltzman. I’m your host, alongside building science geek, Tessa Murry. We help home inspectors up their game through education, and we help homeowners to be better stewards of their houses. We’ve been keeping it real on this podcast since 2019, and we are also the number one home inspection podcast in the world, according to my mom.
RS: Welcome to another episode of the Structure Tech podcast. Good morning Tessa. How are you doing today?
Tessa Murry: Hey, Reuben, I’m doing well. How are you doing?
RS: I can’t complain. Not too much. You know what, I always say that. I could complain just a little bit. It’s okay to complain now and then. I’ll tell you, I am hurting unit. I had a wipe out. I’ve got one of those one wheels. It’s an electric skateboard type of thing, but you stand sideways.
TM: Of course you do. [chuckle]
RS: Of course I do. And I take that thing disc golfing. It’s like my personal golf cart. And I was on a really soggy field one of those days right after the snow melted when it was 80 degrees. It was several weeks ago, but super soggy field, just had to get after it, and I lost control. It went out on me, just… I had it all last year, never wiped out once, but I had a gnarly wipe out. Thought I broke my collar bone, and I got… I screwed up one shoulder ’cause I landed on it, and I screwed up the other one ’cause I got whiplash. And it’s been a slow recovery. And then I’m playing softball with my church, my men’s league, and then I pulled a leg muscle on top of it. So I am a hot mess right now. I got…
TM: Oh my God.
RS: I got like a nasty pull at my leg and my shoulders are ruined. So I’m frustrated about all of that.
TM: I was gonna say you’re able to throw a softball, so you must be recovering. But that doesn’t stop you, right? Reuben, aren’t you still part of CrossFit?
RS: I’m still going to the gym, yeah. I’m still doing CrossFit. I probably shouldn’t. I took a week off. I did take a week off, but I can’t stay away. It’s so addicting.
TM: I wish I had your energy.
RS: Oh, if you did it for a week, you’d probably become hooked. Everybody does. But, yeah. What’s new in your world, Tess? Enough belly aching from me.
TM: Well, this weekend was the 100 Mile Garage Sale, which is an annual event. I guess it’s a really big thing, from Red Wing to Winona. I helped my… Willow Brook farms, the place that I work for, have this really big garage sale, and we gathered up lots of leftover decor from weddings and linens and things that the owner was trying to get rid of, and set it up in this huge barn on tables. And it took several days of moving and set up and everything. And, this was funny, I sent you a text. You remember when I sent you a text the other day of picture of a dining room table leg assembly, and I said, “Here’s another example [laughter] of needing one of the tools on your every-homeowner-should-have tool list.” I needed a deep socket wrench and I didn’t have one [chuckle] to tighten the nuts on that table leg.
RS: And it was so frustrating, right?
TM: It was, yes, yes.
RS: Yes. Oh, you made my day with that text, Tess.
RS: It’s like, “Alright, justification. I know she was secretly rolling her eyes at me.”
TM: I was. I was like, “Reuben would be laughing at me right now.” So just stay tuned. I wonder what’s gonna happen next week. I’m gonna need some weird tool that I never use, probably to keep this going.
RS: Awesome, awesome. I love it. We’re on a roll Tess. Good stuff.
TM: So anyways, what’s the topic of today?
RS: Well, today, you know what? I thought we’d go over an email. I got this… I won’t say the full name ’cause I didn’t get permission, but we’ll just say Christopher. Christopher wrote in about the podcast and he’s starting a new home inspection business, and he had some questions about getting into. He’s looking for some advice about really what to do during the first three months to get the ball rolling. So, at first I thought he was talking about just business advice, but he says he’s already got insurance, and he’s got a certification through a home inspection organization, but he’s mostly looking for advice on the actual inspections. He’s talking about advice on the dos and don’ts for a newb, for someone who hasn’t done this before. He’s really concerned about liability, and he’s concerned about making mistakes and how to… How do I not make these mistakes? How do I not get sued in my first three months of business? So he’s got a bunch of different questions here, and I thought that’s a fun thing to talk about. ‘Cause you and I were just discussing that offline besides this email, right?
TM: I thought that it’d be a really good podcast to dive into kind of some of the things that you’ve learned as a business owner, running a home inspection company. Dos, don’ts, lessons, guidance, recommendations. So let’s dive into it.
RS: Sure. Alright, let’s talk about it. So we’re gonna do this in no particular order because we have not thought our thoughts out well enough to make them logical. [chuckle] It’s just gonna be stuff that comes to mind. A lot of these podcasts, we take a blog posts that I’ve written or a video that I did, and it’s already been thought through and researched. This is all off the cuff. Sorry, this is just a conversation between me and Tessa. Let’s just start with some of the terms we got in Christopher’s email. One of the things he said is… And I’m not even gonna throw any home inspection organizations under the bus here, but he says, “I am certified and licensed and blah, blah, blah through this organization.” I’ll start off by saying your home inspection certification means squat. It’s something that home inspection organizations love to pat themselves on the back over and make a big deal about. You’re this certified, that certified, blah, blah, blah. And you know what, it doesn’t mean you know how to do a home inspection. It means that you spent a little bit of time watching some videos, or you sat through a class and you sent in some money, and that’s about it. I mean, it doesn’t take much. You had to pass some type of test.
RS: If you’re certified through InterNACHI, you gotta take their at-home exam. I think they now have proctoring for their exam where they have somebody watch you on a video camera. If you’re ASHI certified… ASHI’s got different levels of certification. One of them is an ASHI inspector, that’s where you haven’t yet passed the national home inspector exam. The other is the ASHI Certified Inspector, means you have passed the national home inspector exam, and you’ve completed at least 250 fee-paid home inspections. I think it’s one of the higher certifications you can have, but still, it doesn’t mean you’re any good. There’s a lot of other stuff that means you’re good at home inspection, that means you know what you’re talking about. You’re gonna do 250 inspection on your own, and you can do 250 of them really, really poorly. It doesn’t mean you know what you’re doing. And, Tess, I think you know where I’m going with this. What does it take to get good at home inspections and know what you’re doing?
TM: At least for me, it was shadowing a bunch of people that knew what they were doing, and picking up information and knowledge from a vast array of people.
RS: I knew you’d know where I was going with this, Tess.
TM: I’m glad I answered correctly.
RS: How else are you gonna know what you’re doing? That’s it. Unless you’re following somebody around who knows what they’re doing, it doesn’t matter how many classes you take, you’ve got to shadow people. And I mean, at Structure Tech, we’ve talked about it on the podcast a number of times, but it’s probably been a few years since we discussed it. How many ride-alongs do we have our inspectors do before they go out on their own?
TM: Oh my gosh. Well, it all varies, but we had inspectors going out on multiple inspections for at least three months. Multiple inspections a day, I should say.
RS: We’re talking a ton. Probably somewhere around 100, 150 inspections.
TM: At least 100.
RS: Yep. It’s a lot. So if you’re not doing that, I don’t care what kind of background you have, whether you are in the trades, you’ve been a plumber, an electrician and all that, it doesn’t matter, that doesn’t equate to home inspection experience. You may be very knowledgeable, but it doesn’t mean that you are skilled at finding defects inside a house. It’s two different things.
TM: And I’ll add to this too. I learned a lot of things of what not to do. That’s one of Chris’s questions, like, “What can I avoid to reduce my liability?” And it’s like there were so many stories I heard while I was shadowing from different inspectors on things that resulted in a disaster, and that stuck with me and helped me avoid making the same mistakes.
RS: Yes, yes, absolutely. And if you wanna hear some of those, for any podcast listeners, find our podcast on some of our top home inspection mistakes. Besides just being great stories where you can laugh at me and some other people…
TM: And me.
RS: And you, laugh at some people on our team, it’s a lot of mistakes that a lot of home inspectors have made. Learn from our mistakes. Trust us, don’t do this. I’m stubborn. I’ve gotta… I don’t know, I have a tough time learning from other people’s mistakes, I gotta make it myself. But if I was smarter, I would learn from other’s mistakes a lot quicker.
TM: I think it’s one thing to hear something, but then it’s another thing to actually do it. I’ve made my own fair share of mistakes as well.
RS: Yeah, yeah. So check out those past episodes of our podcasts, look for home inspection mistakes. We’ve got a gazillion of them. For just some general stuff, I jotted down a couple of ideas, and this is more on the liability side, making sure you don’t get sued. When you’re brand new, you get your first home inspection, I think there is a tendency for home inspectors to just be so excited they got their first job that they’re gonna skip some of the more important stuff, like getting their home inspection agreements signed. I’ve heard multiple stories of home inspectors where they didn’t get it signed, it was their first one, they forgot, or they didn’t know how to tactfully get their agreement signed. And they got sued on their very first home inspection. [chuckle] How bad would that be? So get your home inspection agreement signed, and don’t try to have your client sign it on-site. You need to have a way of sending it to your client ahead of time. Now, we use ISN. If you’re brand new to business, you’re surely not gonna have anything fancy like that, you’re gonna be doing this on the back of a postage stamp, essentially. That’s how everybody starts with their first inspection.
RS: But at least you should have some type of agreement that your insurance company helped you produce, and you can email it over to your client and tell your client, “Look, I need you to sign this and send it back to me if you don’t have some type of electronic signature capture system,” or you can tell them, “Print it out and sign it and take a picture with your phone.” Or, my insurance company has told me this is acceptable. Just have your client email you back and say, “I have read the agreement and I agree to the terms.” That’s good enough. It’s not like you need some stupid electronic signature. Just have them acknowledge that they got it, they understand it, they’ve read it, that’s good enough. So get that done before the inspection. If you don’t, if you do it on-site, I have heard from numerous insurance companies that attorneys can argue that this was signed under duress. They did not have time to do it, they didn’t have any choice but to sign it, and any logical person wouldn’t actually take the time to read it in full, they had to sign it. Therefore, the contract is null and void. Attorneys have found ways of making it null and void by making people sign on site. So don’t ever have your client sign the inspection agreement on-site.
TM: That is really, really good advice. Along those lines, we talked about just the technical aspect of what are some things you can do, and listening to that podcast would be really good about how… Don’t make the same mistakes we made. But we have another podcast too talking about our inspection process. If you’re interested in hearing how we go through a house and what we inspect and what we don’t, we went into detail on that, didn’t we?
TM: Over a few different podcasts.
RS: It was over a few different podcast.
TM: We should link that.
RS: We should. And I’ll tell you what, Tess, the home inspection mistakes and the home inspection process, those are some of the most downloaded podcast episodes we’ve ever done.
RS: They kind of top our charts. Yeah. Those were very popular.
TM: Very interesting.
RS: I know I don’t share these stats with you ’cause, you know.
TM: And I was gonna say, the technical aspect is really important, obviously, that’s what we’re here to do, is to inspect the house. And we wanna do it well, and we want it to be accurate and we want to be thorough. But one thing that was interesting to me working for Structure Tech for several years, watching some of the most successful inspectors in the company, I think were successful because of their communication with the clients. And one of the most important things you can do is to make a connection with your client and really hear them out and understand their expectations, and try to deliver on that. And [chuckle] I’ve also seen some other inspectors who you could argue maybe aren’t technically the most thorough or accurate, but they’ve got really good people skills, and they don’t get complaints.
TM: And on the other spectrum, inspectors who are really accurate and thorough, good at what they do technically, but don’t have great people skills, get complaints about stupid things.
RS: Tessa, you hit the nail on the head.
RS: Yes. There is a… Well, this person isn’t in business anymore, and I won’t even say where they’re located, but it’s somebody I know. And this person was one of the most knowledgeable home inspectors I’ve ever met. They had been doing this for ever. Their ASHI number was like a double digit number or something, I think. Now, for reference, for anybody who doesn’t know, they’re in the six digit. Super smart inspector, but had a horrible bedside manner, and had a lot of negative Google reviews basically just saying they were a jerk.
RS: It’s like, it doesn’t matter how much you know, if you’re a jerk, people want to work with people they like.
TM: Exactly. Yeah.
RS: And I don’t know how you could possibly work on your personality. I feel like that’s just something that we would hire for, ’cause I felt like I can’t teach someone to have a good personality, but…
TM: No, you can’t. But for Christopher…
RS: There are things you can do.
TM: Yeah, for Christopher who’s writing in or anyone else that’s listening, I think it’s really important to take some time when you meet your client on-site, whenever that is, to hear out what their concerns are, understand their questions, and explain what you’re doing. Explain what you’re looking at, what you’re inspecting and what you can’t inspect. And just make sure that you’re making that client feel heard. And at the end of the day, if there is something that you missed, you’re much less likely to get sued over it because of that. [chuckle]
RS: Yeah, yeah. And just making that personal connection. And Tessa, it’s so funny you say that, ’cause I just read a review that came in overnight. And this is a Google review, so this is public information. I’m not going to be sharing anything that’s not out there publicly. In part of this review, this woman left a glowing review. She said, “The inspector and my fiancée also connected over their shared knowledge of Star Trek, which help make a more personal connection.” This is right in the five-star review.
TM: So funny. Yeah.
RS: Love it. It just speaks to the importance of making those connections.
TM: Yes. Super, super important. That’s great. I think I know who that inspector is.
RS: We won’t say.
TM: That’s awesome.
RS: And along that, one of the best books I’ve read on that, I think you know what I’m gonna say, it’s How To Win Friends and Influence People. Timeless classic.
TM: Yep, we’ve mentioned that on the podcast a few times, I think, but it’s good to just bring it up again. And are there other books, Reuben, that you would recommend for people that are thinking about starting their own business or are running their own business and are looking for recommendations on good reading?
RS: Oh man, Tess, I’ve got so many books. I came out with my recommended reading list back in 2019, and I had it pulled into books for everyone, books on business, books on health and fitness, blah, blah, blah, and I just did it again. I just did another one this year, what was it, in March. I did another blog post called Reuben’s Recommended Reading for 2023, my favorite books from the past four years. And it doesn’t mean books that were published in the last four years, it’s just, “Here’s an update to my last list. Here’s some of my favorites over the last four years.” And I don’t wanna bore you with all of them here.
TM: I’m curious to dive into your list, and maybe we’ll have to talk about that on another podcast. But yeah, what are some of your top business book recommendations?
RS: Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brené Brown. Lots of discussion around leadership, trust, shame, for perfectionism, vulnerability, sympathy versus emotion, just relating to people. Brené Brown, and I like audio books. She read her own audio book, which is especially great. She’s very entertaining. Love her books. Who Not How. Really good book once you get into hiring and starting to grow your business. And the premise of this is that quit focusing on how you’re gonna get things done. Think more about who can you bring in your world who already knows how to do it, and then they can get it done. Like Tessa, if you’re trying to build a website, quit trying to spend all your time thinking about how am I gonna build this, how am I gonna find content, how am I gonna figure out which platform to use and publish in, who’s gonna host it? And start to think who can help me do this, and who’s gonna hold my hand? So the book is called Who Not How. That’s the essence of it, but there’s just so many aha things I took out of it. Another good one.
RS: This one I would not have sought this book out, I don’t think he’s a… Walking over to pick it up off my desk. The author’s name is Ryan Hawk. The book is, Welcome to Management. [laughter] I saw this guy speak live, semi live, it was a very intimate event. And I got his book for free, and it was fantastic, the subtitle is How to grow from top performer to excellent leader. It’s really, it’s not for the one-person shop, but a great book on leadership and getting into management, and then…
TM: What’s it called again?
RS: It’s called, Welcome to Management, and the dude is just super smart. I was so impressed by this guy, and then… Okay.
RS: Two more. These are the more recent ones, The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek, and it’s talking about… Well, I’ll just read my summary here. I said that finite games have a fixed set of rules, known scoring methods and an agreed upon objective, but Infinite games have known and unknown players, no agreed upon rules. There’s no such thing as winning, and the primary objective is to keep playing, and examples of Infinite games, things that have no end to them, you can’t win at these things are things like marriage, education, careers, and global politics, and it’s so important if you wanna be, well, it depends on how you define success, but it’s changing your definition of success for your own business to not think about winning, but think about continuing to play the game and going on forever, and it’s changing your mission statement, thinking about what it is that you’re trying to accomplish. If you set out to establish a business where you say, My goal is to earn a million dollars a year, well, once you earn that million dollars a year, your rudderless.
TM: What’s next.
RS: Yeah, what’s next.
TM: You know what, Reuben? I think just hearing you talk about this, it’s helping expand your perspective on the mission, on your purpose for your business, and instead of thinking in a close-up perspective, you’re taking a step back and looking at it from a 10,000 foot view. And I think that’s really important just long term for society and for our planet as a whole, we need to be thinking about that.
RS: So true, so true.
TM: For your perspective. That’s great.
RS: I’ll give you one more. This one is Extreme Ownership by Jocko Wilnick and Leif Babin. Again, the book is Extreme Ownership, how US Navy Seals Lead and Win. And the basis of this is that no matter what happens to you in your life, there’s something you could have done differently to change the outcome, it’s about owning everything that happens to you and everybody ought to read this book. Doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, but it’s really focused more on business leadership. So really enjoyed that one too.
TM: One of the things that’s so important, if you are going to be running your own company, Reuben, you were a good example of this, was just having humility and like you said, being willing to just be real and be human and admit when you make mistakes, ’cause no one is perfect. I think it just builds trust and builds respect within the company.
RS: Yeah, it does. And something I found is that the more you know and the more experience you have, the easier it is to admit when you don’t know something. It seems counter-intuitive maybe, but the more experience I got, the easier it was for me to say, uh, Great question, I have no idea. I’ve never seen one of these before, and in the back of my mind, what I’m not saying aloud is I’m thinking to myself, I’ve done thousands of inspections and I’ve never seen one, and it’s okay, it doesn’t mean that’s I don’t know what I’m doing. It means, got a new one but I’ll look into it for you.
TM: Right. Exactly.
RS: I got way more confident with saying, I don’t know, but in the past, when I was only at this for a year or whatever, it would really scare me to say that.
TM: Yes, yeah, I think it’s just, the comfort level comes from having more confidence, the more you do something, the easier it gets. The more confident you get at it and the more comfortable you are being a little bit more vulnerable.
RS: Yeah, so how do you learn that? How do you do it first off? I don’t know.
TM: Oh man.
RS: I wish I had some good advice.
TM: You know what we do when we were training our new inspectors, it was like, Okay, you’re brand new at this, you don’t need to tell your clients, this is your second inspection or first inspection, but you are going to run across things you’ve never seen before, and you are gonna have questions asked of you that you don’t know the answer, and that’s okay, and what we want to do is tell that client, Hey, that’s a really good question, and I haven’t come across that before, but let me ask the team and I will go back to you with an answer. You don’t need to explain anything else, that’s fine, and that’s gonna be a solid answer from day one to day 1001 for you as a home inspector.
RS: Timeless reply. Well put, Tess. Yep, I like it. All right.
TM: Well, that’s a good… That’s a really good book list, and I know that was hard for you to just give me like… What was that? Maybe six books, seven books?
RS: Something like that.
TM: ‘Cause I’m sure you’ve got hundreds on that list, right?
RS: Yeah. Those are the latest ones on business and leadership, but we’ll put links in the show notes, we’ll give a bunch more books.
TM: That’s interesting. Would you say that your view of running a business has evolved over the last few years, where you were at three years ago, and the coaching you were receiving, the books you’re reading is different than kind of what you were diving into today?
RS: Not entirely, I think it’s pretty similar. I think the biggest difference today is that I found a lot of people to take on a lot of the tasks that I used to do, I’m constantly asking myself, I know I’ve shared this with you Tess, I’ve got two things at the bottom of my screen I look at every day, one of them, it’s printed out and says, Who else can do this, and the other says, Is this the best use of my time? And I’m always trying to think about who else can do stuff so I can do higher level activities, and I try to spend a couple of hours a week simply meditating just thinking about the business, thinking about what I need to do, thinking about what needs to fill my task list, and I spend way more time in silence and reflection than I ever used to, and lots of ideas come to me. So I’m doing a lot more deep work working on the business than I used to. It used to be so much more caught in the whirlwind and I could barely keep my head above water, so what I do day-to-day has changed, but the ideology hasn’t.
TM: For the people listening to this that are out there that are just running their own business and it’s a very small company, maybe they’re doing it all on their own, or they have a spouse helping them, or they maybe just have one or two other employees, that’s really challenging because they don’t have a client care coordinator to pass this off to or someone to handle the complaints. They’re the person that everything has to go through and they have to be able to do all these little tasks and take a step back and reflect and recalibrate and plan a path forward. Do you have any advice for people that feel like they might be struggling with the minutia, but they can’t pass it off.
RS: I don’t know if this is gonna answer your question or not, but… It’s the first thing I thought of, and one of the things that’s tough to juggle for newer home inspectors is answering the phone versus doing the home inspection, ’cause if you’re in the middle of a home inspection and you get a call coming in, that might be someone who wants to book with you, and it’s impossible to not take that call, but if you’re in the middle of an inspection, you cannot take that call. You’re interrupting your clients, and I know there’s many home inspectors who they say, Well, then I turn to my client and say, would you excuse me, this call won’t be more than one minute, and just, I’m in the middle of an inspection, can I call you back? Okay, I get that.
RS: That works for you. I think it’s totally unprofessional to do that, you should not be taking any calls, unless it’s your office and your office knows that this interruption can only be 10 seconds. You can be like, Hey, this is my office. This would be really quick. Excuse me, it might be about the inspection we’re on right now. Alright, you can take those. But that’s about it. Otherwise, no taking calls during the inspection, that was just a hard line, I would always draw in the sand, but one thing I did do is I would change my voicemail every day, maybe even twice a day, it would always be a fresh voicemail, and it would go something like this. I’m a little rusty, I haven’t done this for about 15 years Tess, but it is something like…
TM: We’ll forgive you.
RS: Yeah. Alright. Hi, this is Reuben with Structure Tech home inspections. Today is Monday, June 1st, and I am doing a home inspection from 8:00 AM to noon, I will be returning calls immediately after that, and I have openings for home inspections as early as tomorrow, so if you need a home inspection as early as tomorrow, please leave me a message I will be sure to get back to you. Thank you so much. That’s my message. It’s like, I’m saying when I’m gonna call them back, what I’m doing right now and when my next availability is. I think that’s about the best I could do short of having somebody else answer the phone or taking a call in the middle of my home inspection and it worked really well. I would get a lot of messages from people saying, That’s great, I need an inspection tomorrow, now hopefully it wouldn’t be like five people leaving that message. [laughter] I never had that problem.
TM: That’s really good advice, really good advice. You know, along those lines, Reuben, I wonder, what information do you wish you would have known when you started? Structure Tech was not started by you, it started in, what was it, ’87. While Neil was actually not even the original owner of Structure Tech either, but we’re going way back here, the point is, is that when you took over Structure Tech, you dove in and there was a lot of stuff that you probably didn’t know, but you figured out and you’ve learned along the way, and there’s been some bumps and bruises, but you know, you are where you are today, and you run a successful company, and what advice do you wish you would have known when you started running Structure Tech that you know now that you wish you could tell yourself.
RS: Good question, Tess. I’d say, learn from experienced inspectors and when they tell you not to do something or to always do something, ask why. Ask more probing questions, like, the home inspector says, don’t ever operate this valve, why? Well, ’cause it could leak. Have you ever had a leak? Well, no, I’ve just heard it. Okay, all right, that’s fine, but when they say, Yeah, I had one leak one time and it ruined my day and it cost me $1000. Oh, okay. Alright, got it. Like that’s a powerful story, and those meaning a ton to me, so just following a lot more advice. Another thing would be following a system, having a routine down. Just about every time I’ve done something that was stupid or cost me money, or it was a big mistake it’s because I got out of my routine, I broke my routine, or I broke my system for doing the inspection, and it was painful. So stick with your routine, no matter how excited you are to be doing your first couple of home inspections or who’s there, whatever. Don’t let it break your routine, that’s how you’ll screw stuff up.
TM: Good advice.
RS: I wish I had something better for you, Tess.
TM: Well, you know, I feel like those are great answers for almost like on a home inspector level, but what about running a business, a multi-inspector company, what kind of things do you wish you would have known when you started, that you’ve learned? And this could be anything from managing people to teach different types of software to anything, that’s a broad question. Sorry, you can hit me with this, and we didn’t prepare, so this is…
RS: That’s okay.
TM: It’s tough.
RS: I’d say, trust my gut, listen to my gut a lot more. I know that there have been some people that we hired where it didn’t work out, and my gut told me in the very beginning that it wasn’t gonna work out, and it didn’t, but it was painful. It was expensive and painful to have these people not work out, and you’ve heard this before, but it is so true, I can’t emphasize it enough. Hire slow, fire quickly. There have been people where… This is not when you were a part of the hiring process. But when it was just me, where we hired people too quickly, we didn’t do enough vetting, we didn’t get to know them well enough, and they were bad hires, and there’s other people where it took us way too long to get rid of them. I knew in my heart that this person should not be a part of the team and took way too long to let them go, should have done it way sooner.
TM: I think kind of what I hear you saying too is sometimes the right thing to do may not be the easiest, and you just have to trust your gut in that inner voice, whatever it is within you and take that leap and do it.
RS: Yes, and same thing with clients. If you got a client where it feels like this is a bad client, this is not gonna end well, we’re off on the wrong foot, you got such a temptation to just say, Okay, I’m gonna take their money, or for me, I felt like, okay, I need to provide good service. I am not the owner. In the beginning, it’s like, alright, I’m not the owner, and what kind of a bad employee or representative in my being if I got this really difficult client and I just say we can’t work with you. It’s like, I don’t have the right to fire clients as a new person, and you may not feel like you have the right to do that, ’cause there’s so many people involved in a real estate transaction. It’s complicated, you got the real estate agents and everybody else, and it’s all hinging on this home inspection, but there are a handful of home inspections where I wish I would have just stopped the inspection in the middle of it and said, look, we can’t work together, or I had a belligerent seller who wasn’t even our client, somebody who was just obnoxious at the house, and I should have said, Look, either you need to leave or leave us a loan and say in a different part of the house, or I’m gonna leave.
RS: We can’t both be here at the same time as respectfully as possible, and I didn’t in a couple of those cases, and it was just nasty, nasty situation.
TM: Those are tough. Yeah.
RS: Very tough.
TM: Those are tough situations, for sure.
RS: You had your share of those.
TM: I have had a few of those, yeah. Those are not easy, and it takes confidence to be able to say that, but it’s for the best in the long run. [chuckle] If you again, you go do those hard things. One thing I was gonna add to this list that one thing I’ve observed with you, Reuben, over the years that we work together, was that you always just kind of had an open mind and were willing to try something, you were open to suggestions, open to new things, and you were willing to kind of take risks and invest in things or people that… There was no guarantee it would work out, and sometimes things worked out and sometimes they didn’t, and that was okay. That was kind of part of the company culture. It’s like we are trying to be the best versions of ourselves. And change is a part of life, and I think it helped ultimately Structure Tech kind of find its way, but through a process that doesn’t have to be perfect, and you stay curious, you stay open and you stay humble.
TM: And ultimately you grow and you improve.
RS: Yeah, and kind of the guiding question for any of that stuff, should I do this new thing, it’s not what we’re accustomed to, is what does it do for your client, for your customer? Does it result in a better product like, Hey, normally I don’t move this out of the way, and we’re really not supposed to move this, but it’s really important that I get back here to see this. Someone does it and they break something, I will never get on them for that. The reason was I felt like I really needed to get back here and see this. Well, good on you. Fantastic, I will pay for that broken, whatever it was every single time, ’cause you were trying to do a better job for your client, I totally have your back 100%, but if it’s the other direction like this is gonna take too much time or it just… It stemmed out of laziness and not doing a better job. That’s where it frustrates me. So the guiding question is always, Are you doing a better job for your client? Is that what it comes down to, or on the opposite side of that, are you trying to protect your own butt? That’s the opposite.
TM: Yes, on closing, one other thing I think that has helped Structure Tech grow to where it is today and helped the success of the company is just your humility and your integrity, which is then reflected amongst all of the employees as well. It’s something I think that is definitely not valued enough, and we could use more of it in this industry. [laughter] I’m not saying everyone is a jerk out there, but we could all use a good dose of humility and an integrity goes a long way when you’re building relationships and building a company.
RS: Well, thanks.
TM: So I think… Yeah. I think that’s…
RS: I know you spend a little time on home inspection forms every now and then.
TM: There are some rude mean people out there, and it’s not just home inspectors, just this entire world, so just be a good human. Treat people the way you wanna be treated and be kind.
RS: We’re not gonna do any better than that, Tess. That’s a good wrap. [laughter] Way to close that out. Thank you. Alright.
TM: Alright. This was a fun discussion, and I’m glad Christopher rode in and appreciate that feedback, and if anyone else is listening to this podcast and you have any questions or ideas on topics that we could discuss, please send us an email, Reuben, how do they reach us?
RS: You can email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. Alright, thank you all for listening. Appreciate it, we’ll see you next time. Take care.
TM: Thanks, bye.