It may seem a long way from being an analytical quality control chemist to owning a home inspection business, but for Eric Donald, it’s not a big leap.
“It seems a lot different,” said Donald, who spent 16 years in various industries – primarily the food industry – as a quality control chemist. “But you go by guidelines in the food industry. We know what we want the product to be and we analyze it and let the customer know the outcome. It’s relatively the same idea, just in a different medium.”
Donald had been a food safety inspector for the meal kit services company Blue Apron.
The 39-year-old Fort Worth resident is one of the newest franchisees of Pillar To Post Home Inspectors, launching his business in January.
Founded in 1994, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is based in Tampa, Florida, and has nearly 600 franchises operating or preparing to open in 49 states and nine Canadian provinces.
Donald had always been interested in owning his own business, so with a growing family and a job that required a lot of travel, he began to focus on finding a franchise business where he could be his own boss. He and his wife, Kimberly, have a 7-year-old son, so being able to carve out more time for them was key.
Donald began researching franchise opportunities and hit on Pillar To Post, a home inspection franchise business that consistently ranks high on lists of affordable franchises.
According to the 2018 Franchise 500, startup costs for a Pillar To Post franchise are between $34,400 and $42,600. The company website says its franchise fee is $21,900 and notes that it offers financing for $9,000 of that fee.
“I figured that the mentality I had gained from working in quality control would translate well into home inspections, so my decision was made,” said Donald, whose territory covers Tarrant and Johnson counties.
Donald has an undergraduate degree in analytical chemistry and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. After undergoing training, he opened his franchise.
Donald entered a business that was booming. Nearly every sale of a house includes a home inspection by a professional and the Dallas-Fort Worth area is one of the fastest-growing markets in the country for home sales.
According to a report from IBISWorld, the building inspection industry generates about $3 billion in revenue annually and consists primarily of small, independent contractors.
Pillar To Post provides a professional evaluation inside and outside the home. Inspectors put data and digital photos into a computerized report that is printed and presented to clients in a customized binder.
Donald believes in the product he is providing.
“I think they’ve got a great system,” he said.
Donald notes that Pillar To Post has three different home inspection packages for clients. There is a standard package and a premium package aimed at older homes that includes some technology that looks for moisture and a safety recall checklist on all appliances. A prestige package adds further checks for mold and allergens.
Still, as the new kid on the block, there is work to do.
“Customer engagement is key,” he said. “Doing business in the real estate market is all about trust. An agent refers a home inspection to someone he or she trusts, so building great relationships is one thing I’m learning.”
To build those relationships with Realtors and other potential long-term customers, Donald has been offering a free home inspection.
“It sounds crazy, but we’re so confident in the product we provide, we want to let these potential clients know what we offer,” he said. So far that strategy is working, he says.
He has also joined the Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors and attends several events to market his company.
And he’s even using his experience in the food industry.
“I cook something from scratch like chocolate chip cookies and take to the different agents’ offices,” he said.
He’s also fulfilled a big goal of starting his own business, having more time for his family. Since starting his business, he hasn’t missed one of his son’s soccer and football games.