January/February 2018

Millennials in Franchising: Pillar to Post

Thirty-three is a young age to become a successful business owner, but for Pillar To Post Home Inspectors franchisee Tyler Burley, the timing was perfect to launch his franchise career. “The biggest benefit of being a young owner is you have less financial responsibilities: no kids yet, no crazy bills, and I have the freedom to take risks in the business, and if it fails, I won’t ‘lose the house,’” explains Burley.

Burley’s chosen franchise, Pillar To Post, is a Canadian home inspection franchise, a service most people consider necessary when purchasing a new home. Burley’s background is in construction, but he also has nine years of sales experience. “My sales experience helps me converse with the clients and make sure they’re comfortable during what is a very stressful situation,” he says.

His search for a suitable franchise employed a familiar tool: LookforaFranchise.ca. “The idea of buying a Pillar To Post franchise came from the CFA website,” says Burley. He used the search function to narrow down franchises that were at his chosen investment level and in his area. He already knew that he wanted to become a franchise owner, and he had some knowledge of the brand from a few years ago, when Pillar To Post did a home inspection for a townhouse he purchased. “They were highly recommended by a friend and my agent. The inspector I used was fantastic, and it left a memorable impression on me,” he says.

Overcoming the initial challenges

The first four months of getting his business up and running as a young business owner were the most difficult. There were a lot of hurdles to overcome. “I had a lot to learn and quickly,” Burley admits. As a new inspector on the scene, he needed to market himself to real estate agents, many of whom had likely been using the same inspectors for years. “You need to convince them to give you a shot,” Burley explains. “I was lucky, as I have many friends who are realtors and with their help, and the help of my fellow franchisees, I was able to persevere through what was a very slow first few months of business.”

Burley says that this was a very stressful time.  “If I had a dollar for every time I said, ‘Why did I do this,’ I would have a few hundred dollars,” he recalls. He cites budgeting during the slow months as one of the biggest challenges for a business owner new to the financial side of things. But in the end, he was able to persevere. “My experience has been awesome; I exceeded my first-year goal.”

To overcome the slow months and the challenges of starting up a new business, Burley says the franchise model is a recipe for success. “Stay the course, and believe in the steps the franchise has provided to get through the tough months,” he emphasizes. “As somebody who doesn’t always follow the plan, I’m glad I did here, because it worked.”

Now that the first few hurdles are over, and he has clients across the Greater Vancouver Area, Burley has turned his efforts to making sure he maintains his success. “From rebranding to new technology, you need to constantly evolve the business to stay relevant and be an exciting option for clients,” explains Burley.

Even though Pillar To Post’s head office stays current with trends and technology, the franchisee also needs to do the legwork to keep current clients and ensure new business is coming in. To this end, Burley employs a number of methods: he sends out monthly emails to real estate agents, he provides seasonal discounts, and he keeps his contacts close with calls and lunch meetings so that he’s top of mind when real estate agents think of who they should recommend for a home inspection.

Succeeding through system support

While Burley enjoys the perks of being the boss, like being able to work at his own pace and the ability to take a Friday off without asking permission first, the biggest benefit of franchising that Burley has encountered so far is the support from the franchisor. “You can’t beat asking a system of 35-plus people at head office and 15 local franchisees, and a total system of close to 600, when you have a question. You can get an answer within a minute from a quick text or phone call,” he says. “If you have a computer or tablet problem, it’s a quick email and it’s fixed.”

As for ongoing training and support, “Pillar To Post provides all the training we can handle, if we want it,” Burley says. “In addition to yearly regional meetings, there are also weekly emails with articles, inspection techniques, and updates on what’s happening throughout the business.”

Now that he’s had a successful first year, Burley has some advice for prospective franchisees. He says that the franchise model is great for young franchisees, thanks to the support of the franchise system.

“When you’re starting a business, support can be the difference between staying open or closing the doors. If you follow the plan put in place for you, then you will be successful. If you veer off, then you can be in trouble,” he says. “What I enjoy the most about this franchise is that I have the freedom of being an independent, with the support of a franchise. Whether I do five inspections a month or 40 inspections a month, our head office is supportive, which makes this a positive experience.”

When considering a franchise, he says the first step, before signing any agreements, is to ask a franchisor for a list of franchisees. ”Call them all and ask them about the good, the bad, and the ugly,” he says. “Every business has issues, but it’s how they handle them that makes the business successful.”

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By Karen Stevens

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