First, you must decide whether you’ll offer commercial property inspections by expanding the scope of your existing company’s services, or whether you should incorporate a sister company specifically for commercial property inspections. There are pros and cons to each option, and the structure that you ultimately choose will significantly affect your marketing strategy and reach.
Expanding the Scope of Your Existing Company
Commercial property inspections can potentially complement other services in property management, home inspections, code compliance, engineering, general contracting, and industrial or construction trades. For that reason, many people entering the commercial sector of the inspection industry do so by expanding the scope of their existing company’s services.
This approach can be viewed in two ways. The first way is by adding commercial property inspections as an ancillary service, which is similar to a home inspector adding home energy scores, or an HVAC technician adding indoor air quality testing to his/her services. In this case, commercial property inspections are offered as a secondary service and are not necessarily part of the core business.
The second way is by adding commercial property inspections as a division within your existing company, which is similar to a property management company’s accounting or maintenance division, or even an electrical contracting company’s separate residential and commercial service teams. In this case, commercial property inspections are offered as prominently as your other services.
Pros and Cons for Expanding Existing Company
Adding any type of ancillary service or division to an existing company’s services is easy. It mainly entails updating your website and marketing materials to reflect the addition, and informing your current client base of your new offering. The downside is that, unless you aggressively market your new service, it can get lost among the rest of your offerings. But it’s certainly the most straightforward approach with the least amount of disruption to your status quo.
However, a major consideration for this approach is that the commercial property inspector’s target market is diverse. Depending on your service area, a real estate agent may:
- deal with both residential and commercial properties;
- deal exclusively with commercial or residential properties;
- deal exclusively with specific types of commercial property, such as retail spaces, offices, or apartment buildings; or
- work exclusively to provide property management services to their clients. This is common for apartment and condominium homeowner associations (HOAs).
Thus, this business structure approach works more favorably for certain types of business operations, service areas, and company brands. For example, it may be easier for ABC Property Management to start offering commercial property inspections because it’s already a player in their CRE sector, compared to 123 Home Inspections. After all, the latter company’s current marketing, branding, and real estate agent connections favor residential real estate.
Standalone Commercial Property Inspection Company
The premise for this approach is forming a standalone company that offers strictly commercial property inspections, or other CRE due diligence services. It is a practical approach for both current business owners and first-time business owners.
Current Business Owners
The following scenarios may be ideal for current business owners to separate their existing services from their new commercial property inspection services, including:
- a residential inspector who includes the words “home inspection” in their business name;
- a service area where real estate agents work exclusively with either residential or commercial properties; or
- to ensure that your existing services do not overshadow your new services.
Separating the two entities requires filing a “doing business as” name or a DBA. It is essentially creating a sister organization. Call on your legal and accounting advisers for specific steps to determine whether this is the best alternative. The good news is that forming a business the second time will likely come together more easily and efficiently.
NOTE: Refer to the Materials tab to read about forming a DBA.
First-Time Business Owners
Starting your first business can be an exciting and rewarding experience. It can offer you numerous advantages, such as being your own boss, setting your own schedule, and making a living doing something you enjoy. But operating a successful commercial property inspection business requires thorough planning and creativity.
Pros and Cons for Creating a Standalone Company
The upside to this approach revolves around marketing. Forming a standalone entity that only offers commercial property inspections allows you to compete directly with other commercial property inspection companies and create a marketing campaign that cohesively aligns with your target clientele. Consider that the typical client will be most confident hiring a company that specializes in commercial property inspections, especially if your competitors only perform a commercial property inspection occasionally, according to their marketing.
The main drawback to this approach is that starting a business requires a lot of time and money up front. As with any other business, you will need to devise your branding and acquire certain tools and materials for marketing and advertising (a website, business cards, vehicle magnets, etc.). Remember that members of CCPIA can take advantage of free design services through InterNACHI®, including your logo, business cards, flyers, vehicle magnets, and other promotional items.
NOTE: Additionally, Google My Business limitations are a significant consideration for existing business owners creating a standalone commercial property inspection company. Google My Business is a tool for companies to develop and manage their online presence. Every company should have a Google My Business profile.
However, the platform limits the number of profiles permitted under a single address. So, inspectors cannot list two businesses under a single address unless the businesses prove to be under drastically different service categories, such as inspection and alteration businesses. This is a significant issue for existing home inspection firms since Google verifies a business’s address and it must be accurate for listing purposes. Therefore, creating a standalone company may not be the best approach for your online presence unless you can prove to Google that your companies significantly differ or are located at different addresses. CCPIA recommends looking into Google My Business limitations before determining your business structure.
Choosing the Structure
The best business structure for you depends on your current circumstances, as well as any plans for expanding the scope of your services.
Critical Thinking Exercise
Based on your current circumstance and plans, answer the following questions:
- How big of a role do you want to play in the commercial side of the inspection industry (i.e., a handful of inspections a year, a couple of inspections a month, or as part of the core business)?
- If you’re a current business owner, do commercial property inspections complement your existing services?
- If you’re a current business owner, is there anything about your company that limits your potential to thrive as a commercial property inspector (i.e., your company’s branding, your service area, target clientele, etc.)?
- If you’re a current business owner, how do you plan to make sure that your new services won’t be overshadowed by your existing services?
- In addition to commercial property inspections, do you plan to expand the scope of your services?
- If so, do commercial property inspections complement your plan to expand the scope of your services?
In conclusion, starting a commercial property inspection business requires a lot of thought about your business structure’s design. The structure can play a large role in the types of clients you can retain, jobs you can land, and your ability to compete with other companies in your area. In general, you can start a standalone business, or your can offer commercial services with your current offerings.
Additional Commercial Property Inspector Resources: