Steve Wadlington | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Steve Wadlington


As one of the fastest-growing home inspection companies in the nation, Nashville-based WIN Home Inspection has more than 150 operators in some 185 locations in 28 states. The company recently announced a Tennessee expansion, targeting 12 new locations over the next five years. 

The Mistake:

I'd say my mistake was more of a discovery, or more of a heightened awareness. The easy one to point to is the need to meet people where they are and help them find a path to whatever it is they're trying to do.

One particular case that really caught my attention years ago was when a franchise business partner came into play. There was no question about intellectual ability, but they just weren't absorbing the skill sets or gaining traction.

When you got into a real deep discussion with the person, he realized he never really wanted to be a business owner in the first place. He really just wanted to be a home inspector, and he himself didn't realize that. We didn't realize that. It was one of those things where he didn't have the ability to pursue the business with passion, because he really wasn't all in.

At the franchisor side of things, you know things that the prospect doesn't know. So you have to help the prospect understand as thoroughly as you can what that business experience is once they are in it. People can see the happy side, like work-life balance, but your first couple of years, your head is down. People don't realize that. If they haven't owned their own business before, they just don't know.

Unclear is unkind. It's critically important that you really are clear with people.

The Lesson:

We do know, so we've got a stewardship responsibility to make sure they understand very clearly what small business ownership is about.

Unclear is unkind. It's critically important that you really are clear with people. We take full ownership of making sure that the prospect really understands the experience. Then it's a matter of if it meets their dreams or not. If it doesn't, I need to go help you do something else.

Now, in our very first phone call, we're very clear and direct, but we try to understand what the nature of their interest in our business. Is it a casual inquiry? We need to know where they are. The classic example is that home inspection to a casual observer looks like a highly technical kind of thing. That part of the business is highly teachable.

The part that people can't see is the relationship skills, because that home inspector holds up a mirror and helps people understand the house – maybe for the first time.

Make sure the candidate is very clear on what they're trying to do. If they don't have clarity of what they're trying to achieve, we can't do that for you. I can help you understand what our business is, and you can see if it aligns with your skills.

Pictured: Steve Wadlington | Photo courtesy of WIN Home Inspection

Follow WIN Home Inspection on Twitter at@WINHomeInspect

Do you have a good story you’d like to share, or know someone we should feature? Email

And be sure to sign up for your local newsletter from Crain's Nashville.