In today’s episode, we sit down with Kenny who, with his wife, Alissa, runs McLaurin Inspections, a home inspection company here in the bay area. Kenny has years of experience working on homes in his family businesses in Michigan which led him to Florida to start his own company and be his own boss. Kenny and Alissa took a big chance on themselves when they decided to move to Florida right has the country was shutting down due to COVID. We discussed how they managed to survive and what they did to kick start their business here in Florida in this episode and more!
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Kenny McLaurin | McLaurin Inspections
In this episode, we have Kenny McLaurin from the McLaurin Inspections. He and his wife, Alissa, moved down from Michigan in the middle of the pandemic, right as everything shut down. That is how we got in touch. I met him through Instagram and we immediately connected from our first conversations. Kenny and Alissa are some good people that are big believers in giving back to the community and working hard. They worked their butts off in running their home inspection company here in the Tampa Bay area and they are good people to be around.
I’m excited to sit down with Kenny and enjoy that conversation with you. Before we jump into that, wherever you are reading, do us a favor, hit the subscribe button, follow button, or whatever it is, and share this show with your friends and family. It only helps us build that support for the local community and local business owners, and we all know that they deserve it.
That is what this show is all about. Follow us and share us. You can head on over to our website, PalmHarborLocal.com and you can join our local community there as well. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you can sign up for that. That is everything so let’s jump into this conversation with Kenny McLaurin.
Kenny, thanks for joining me. I’m super excited to sit down and have this conversation with you. We met on Instagram. Most of our conversations have been online, text, or phone calls because of COVID and stuff. It has been crazy. Why don’t you start off by telling people that you are a home inspector? Tell everybody a little bit about who you are and what you do.
Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. My wife and I own an inspection company that we started in the Tampa area. We started not that long ago. We met everybody online because of COVID. That is who we are and what we do.
You guys are originally from Michigan. Did you have the inspection company in Michigan too?
We did not have our own at that time. I have been subcontracted out by my father, who started an inspection company in 1998, so I was intrigued by that. A lot of my family were in the building trades, so that is how I was interested in it and it turned out to be. We immediately started our own when we moved to Tampa, but when we were driving down, we heard about COVID. My old technique of going to offices and meeting with people was wiped out completely. That is all I have ever known. We hit Instagram. I did not even know how to operate Instagram.
Find what works for you and stick with it.
Luckily, Alissa was pretty good at that. We met everybody that way and would offer Zoom calls to get to know them. Our first thing was we wanted to be a part of the community as much as we could and there is no better way than that to be talking with real estate professionals because you guys are all in the community more than anybody. My biggest thing was meeting you and talking with people that way. That helped out a ton.
We were talking about this. You moved down and you find out that things are shutting down. You are coming here all excited and you are like, “We are going to start a business. We are finally moving to Florida.” Where does the thought process come in of, “Here is what I have to do,” instead of being like, “We have got to go back to Michigan. This is going to work out?” Why push forward in that time?
It was such a dream that we had that we wanted to come down, do our own thing, and start fresh. Michigan is super cold so it was fun to be down here and doing that. We did not stop because it was our dream. What had happened was, on the first week we were down here, I tried my own, “Let’s do my old ways of going to the offices,” and nobody had it. I had my little mint packet and the whole thing that you were taught to do is marketing. That was not working.
People did not want to meet with me because they were scared about the virus as they should be at that time. I’m a big fan of Grant Cardone so I listened to him a lot. He always amps me up a little bit. I and Alissa were not going to give up, so we put our heads together and figured out what we could do to be different.
We also met with some other agents that gave us some ideas of how we could get noticed. We would use videos through Instagram to reach out to you instead of the old, “I’m Kenny. I own an inspection company.” Many people try to solicit that way that it gets old, so we wanted to do something different. We will send you a video stating who we are and what we want to do.
We did not want anything from you. We wanted to learn about yourself, your company, and what you do for the community and involve you with whoever we were reaching out to at the time and not have it be about us. I have always thought about how this is super important. It is not about me and me getting somewhere. It is about all of us getting somewhere and me learning about you. That way, we can all form and grow together.
That is huge. That is where a lot of local businesses, people in the service industry, or an industry like yourself, especially around real estate. There are a lot of real estate agents, mortgage lenders, home inspectors, and all the different services that are built around it. If you are in any one of those fields, you have a lot of people reaching out to you. The majority of them are that approach that you talked about. It turns you right off, where it is like, “Here is my name. Here is what I can do for you or here is my service. Do you want to do business together?” I do not even know you. You probably sent me a video when we first connected on Instagram. That is probably why we reached out. We set up a Zoom call and that was the first time we met.
Me or Alissa did. We would split up in the morning, she had sent her videos and I would send mine. We got as many Zoom calls as we could and it worked out because we were able to meet people virtually, which is now how it is gone. Even now, people do not show up to the inspection. We got to do virtual report overviews. I will FaceTime them while I’m there if I need to if they are out of town. Everything has gone virtual and it was super hard to adapt at first, but it is a good thing overall.
I would agree. It makes things a little bit more efficient in that stuff. Let’s talk a little bit about what you enjoy about the business of being a home inspector. I know you enjoy doing what you are doing and you are passionate about that.
I absolutely love what I do. I will talk about Alissa for a second. Alissa is my wife and she was a teacher back in Michigan. I wanted a little bit of a change, although she loved that as well, and I could never do this business by myself. It would never happen. I do not know how people do it themselves and I give them so much credit. Between answering the phones, finances, and marketing, it is a job and a half. I’m giving her a little shout-out.
I love what I do because I can help people. We build such a fast trust with some of the clients that we work with because it is the biggest investment you typically make in a lifetime. For them to put their faith in us and more so you, as an agent. It is a weird feeling because you become so close to somebody so fast and you barely even know him but in the end, you almost feel super good friends because you went through such a weird time with them and an emotional time for them.
I watched all my family become something in the building trades. I had an uncle that was a framer, who then became a builder, and then I had an uncle before that who was also a builder. I always liked talking with people and being around people. When I would be building houses with them, I was secluded by myself, had my own thoughts, and could not talk to people. That turned me off for that, although I know there are builders that are more involved now and they can be more talkative with people in the community. I just did not see that. My dad started an inspection company and I did not even think about inspections. I was like, “It is weird.” It seems like a hobby. I did not think it was such a big thing and the industry has grown so much.
When I first started, I had a laptop and a regular camera. I would take the camera and I take the pictures, and at the end, we did not leave. We sat there with the clients. I filled the whole report out on the laptop, downloaded all the pictures, and then went over it with them. We are wasting so much time because the client and agent are there. It was bad.
You can’t just jump into something and know everything. You’re never going to know everything.
How long is an inspection at that point?
By the time you are done with the house, we sit down and do that, it is every bit of four hours in. Looking back, it was nice because I did not have to do reports until 1:00 AM, which is what I do now. It was totally different. Between the software now that they offer, it is easy. It tracks where I go, the name of the client, and your name as a real estate professional. It does everything for you. It has gotten so big and it is awesome. I love it.
Technology has completely changed the industry. When I first got started in real estate, inspections were typically four hours. A couple of years ago, they were cut in half now. It is 1.5 or 2 hours, depending on the home.
These inspectors are good. They are getting it done while they are there. My brain does not work like that. I need to be full-on there and when I get home to do the report, but other people can do that. That is awesome.
You have got to find what works for you and stick with it. Talk to me a little bit more about the people’s side of the business and what you enjoy connecting with these homebuyers.
I enjoy getting all these friends. I get invited to the barbecues and whatever else. It has gotten me involved in the community more than anything I ever could have. I remember being in a job where I was gone from 9:00 to 5:00 and I did not see anybody. I could not do anything with the community if I wanted to, whereas I’m meeting so many people. I’m at least meeting two different families a day which is incredible. They know people and I get to be involved in so many different things. It never gets old. I love helping people. I know that is what a lot of people say with their careers. Helping people is what they love and it feels good. It feels like I’m doing something productive and I love it.
A lot of businesses are built around that. In some way or another, you are helping people. It is like how a restaurant owner is feeding families and stuff. You are helping to make sure that the family is making a sound investment and everything that they are purchasing is what it is and not going to cost them more money on the road. I want to circle back to the transition from Michigan to Florida. Where does that desire come from? Moving to Florida, what does that process like of saying, “Let’s do this.”
It is not the easiest thing but once you do it, it can pay off, especially if you do not give any other option but to succeed. Alissa and I grew up in a small town in Michigan. You basically are taught to stay there, you do your thing, and do not move outside of there. It is a little small there whereas when we moved here, you have an idea and people are like, “Do it.” Whereas in Michigan, if you had an idea, they were like, “You are crazy.” We felt different in that way which was a huge reason why we are like, “We need to go somewhere where our ideas do not sound so crazy.” We are constantly thinking.
I got my inspection license in Florida six years prior because in Michigan, you did not have to be a licensed inspector in the state. I was like, “If anything, I’m going to move to Florida. I love it there.” I had had my license there so that was an easy transition. Alissa had moved to the Fort Myers area previously before we had even met and did not like it. We wanted to get out but we did not know where.
When I was like, “If anything, I only want to go to Florida.” She was like, “I lived in Florida and I do not like Florida.” When we came to Tampa, St. Pete, Clearwater, and the Dunedin area, it changed our lives. We had never experienced it so we were immediately drawn to this area and loved it. We started putting our heads to the ground and saving as much money as we could. Once we knew where we wanted to be in and the area we wanted to be in, we started saving.
I was tired of splitting my commission, which is my biggest thing and I always wanted to have my own company. I somewhat felt like I did because I was subcontracted out by my dad. Splitting your commission is not fun for a while. You know that there is more and you want to progress the business how you want to. Sometimes, you cannot do that under somebody else. We had such a burning desire to get out and do it. It changed our lives and we have met some of the most amazing people that we will ever meet in our entire lives. That has been incredible.
We saved up everything that we possibly could. We moved a lot sooner than we wanted to. That threw another brick into everything because we were like, “We need a whole other year.” We were going to push back. My dad was like, “You are not going to go if you do not ever go.” He fired me so I was like, “What are we going to do?” We wanted to have a year of salary. That was our thing. That way, we could go there and if God forbid, we did not have any business that year, we would be fine.
When he fired me, we were like, “What do we do? We are going to move. Maybe we won’t move and our dreams will be crushed.” Alissa and I looked at each other like, “We have got to do it and put everything to the ground.” We did not have any money. We had our house and a little equity there but we did not plan to use it. We went down with almost little to no money and started going. I was like, “I do not care if I got to do construction again.” I was about two seconds from joining a road construction crew. I’m like, “I’m doing the marketing and the construction.”
Within a month, we started pulling at least 4 to 5 inspections a week. That was enough to pay our bills and move forward. After that, we kept going. We did not stop marketing there. Once people are pushed so much, there is no option, and your family is not there to go, “We will take you in,” there is only one way to go. I do not have any family here but that is how we did it and we were so thankful for that.
Your dad was pushing you.
He was tired of me saying we were going to do it. He was like, “You are not going to do it.” We had some differences about how we wanted to run it. He was like, “Go.” That was the push that we needed. We would have moved. Let’s think one more week or two, COVID hit, and we would have been like, “No way.” I’m glad he did it in a way. I was so upset at that time.
A lot of businesses can be built around helping people.
I can’t even imagine that. That is crazy.
We had gotten married. Marriage, job transition, and moving are some of the most stressful things that somebody can go through and we are like, “Let’s take it all on at once.” It was not on purpose but it was a learning curve. Honestly, I would not take it back. It was the scariest thing we have ever done but the most rewarding thing we have ever done. We are never going anywhere. We love it here.
It probably gives you a big boost of confidence, too, to know you are in that situation where you had nothing. You moved out-of-state, you had no family, no friends, you do not know anybody here, and now, you are forced to figure it out, and you guys did that.
It does but I try to stay so humble because everything could be stripped from me in a second. I have always been superstitious about that.
I will go back to if everything was taken away, you know how to build the backup now.
I know that I will never give up. I know that I will go sweep roads or do whatever I got to do to make it work. As long as I know the end goal, I will get there somehow or Alissa and I will get there somehow.
You guys are great together. I know that both of you work extremely hard to start a business and stuff in a completely new area. It is fun to watch you guys grow. It is motivating to watch you guys do what you have done over the last few years.
She went from not knowing anything about inspections or knowing almost more than I do. In some instances, she put her head in the books like I have never seen before. It is crazy because it takes a long time to learn how a process like that works for a business in general. You can’t jump into something and know everything. You are never going to know everything but I’m surprised by her. She went and did it, and she knows a ton. You can talk to her about wind mitigation and four-point. She knows it all, so it is cool to see.
I can’t believe your dad was like, “Go. You guys are done here.”
It took a minute to get over that because if you do not push yourself to be uncomfortable, you are never going to do anything. I know this has been said multiple times, but I do not ever want to think about what I could have done and not do it. If we are going to fail, we are going to fail in a warm state where we can sit on the beach and not worry about it.
Going back to when I started in real estate, I spent a year researching real estate and being an agent. Is this what I wanted to do? I originally wanted to be an investor. I will come in and be an agent for a couple of years, learn the business, and buy properties. I did the research for a year and I got to the point where I was like, “I have to at least try this. I’m going to regret it if I do not try it. Why not? Let’s do it.”
What tied you into being more for the people in the sense of you wanting to pursue being a real estate professional, not as an investor. You represent people in the real estate world.
It is the people. It is what we talked about earlier and what this show is based around. It is being able to connect with people and meet new people from all over the place from Michigan from other states and people that are moving here. I want to learn more about them, their stories, and that stuff. That has been a fun part. It is what you enjoy in the inspections. It is meeting people and a cool part of this business.
Nobody loves their community more than you. You love Dunedin, Clearwater, and Palm Harbor.
I grew up here and it is like what we had talked about in Michigan. Everyone stays there. There was one point I was like, “We have got to go. I want to get out of here and stuff.” We did it. My wife went to school in Gainesville so I lived up there for a couple of years, and then we came back. We realized that we love this area. This is a great area to live in and raise a family in. There are a lot of cool things in and around Palm Harbor. I know you talked about how Fort Myers was not an area. What is it about this area that you love so much?
It is growing so fast. From the time that we moved here, I have seen major improvements even by where we live in South Tampa. It is incredible but it is not an older community. It is a good mixture between retirees and young, motivated people who want to do things. It is all-around cool. You cannot run out of things to do here.
If you do get bored, there is so much community activity going on whether it is cleaning up garbage. For a while, I was doing that Bag A Day Trash, which I’m going to start doing again. Alissa and I looked at each other like, “We have got to do that because a week goes by and there is more trash on the side of the road.” It drives us crazy, especially by the ocean. We are going to start that again.
Do you pick up a bag of trash every day?
A Bag A Day is what we called it. We always try to go for a walk, ride a bike or something because sunset is beautiful, so we pick up a bag. We take a tour at the complex and throw it away. It helps out and it feels good. A lot of people were inspired to do it as well. It was cool to see that. It was a super fun and easy thing to do.
We started trying to find the best places to eat food. That is another fun thing to do here. You can never run out of good food places. My mom visits and she likes this oyster bar down in St. Pete. She loves this place. I do not even remember what it is called. Every time we go down there. I won’t even eat an oyster. They do not look good to me.
Do you take your mom there every time?
She has to go. We are on the phone with her and we have a friend in town. She was like, “Are you going to take her there?” I’m like, “We will see if she even likes oysters.”
There is one question I would like to ask everybody so it could be anywhere in this area. What is one of your favorite local businesses? That could be one of your favorite restaurants or favorite businesses.
We love the Salt Shack over by us. It is a good little restaurant. I have to shout out Tampa Bay Plumbing. We like them a lot. They are an awesome company. They have always done well for us. That is a super hard question. There are a ton of businesses we love around the area.
One cool thing about our area is there are a lot of local businesses that are doing good things. Like Tampa Bay Plumbing, we were talking about giving back to the community and that stuff.
It is incredible to see that nominate a neighbor. That inspired us to want to do something similar. We could not do exactly what they did. We did it during Christmas. It is not as elaborate as they did but we did something similar where somebody would pick or nominate somebody, and we gave a free inspection away. We also gave a lot of gift baskets away from local companies in the area because people were somewhat struggling with the business.
Try to stay humble because everything could be stripped from you in a second.
We would go around to all small businesses in the area, buy at least one thing from them and Alissa would fill these baskets up with small business items that we would buy, and we would give them away at the inspections, which was such a good idea on her part. We might even do that again. Each month we give away to a charity. We will put it on social media and have you guys pick or give us an idea. We give a lot to Wounded Warrior. If you have any other good ones, too, you should let us know.
You made me think of a local food pantry. It is called FEAST Food Pantry. I did not realize this, even growing up in the area, but there are a lot of families and stuff in and around Northern Pinellas County who are not able to get food for their families every single night. In this place, you can donate, drop off money, donate money to it, or drop off food. If you are a family in need or whatever, you come in. You show up at certain times or days of the week and stuff and they have food for you.
I’m definitely going to be involved in that.
There are a lot of cool charities and a lot of cool people around here who are doing a lot of good things in the community. It is another reason that makes this place so special and why a lot of people want to live here.
It is the best place ever. There were some other things that contributed to what happened but I got a little homesick when we first moved down here. With a couple of other things that we had to take care of, I was like, “We have got to go back to Michigan.” When I moved back, I’m like, “We made a huge mistake.” We did everything we could to come back. It was crazy but we will never leave again. For anybody who does move here, I want them to know that homesick feeling, just get over it. There is nowhere better.
Let’s talk about that for a minute because I remembered that I called Alissa for something and that is when she told me that you guys were moving back. I’m like, “What?” I was crushed.
I do not know what it was but it was the way it happened, being kicked out, fired, and the whole thing. It never left my head. We were super busy there. We were busy here too but there was so much thought going through my head about how I thought it was going to go and how it went. When I went back, I was like, “I needed that reassurance.” I have put Alissa through heck because she never wanted to go in the first place. There were a few other things that made it happen but we turned around as fast as we could. It was not even the weather at all. It was like, “That place is incredible.”
If I could help anybody that does move to this area and does feel that way because I know that some people do and they feel like they are missing out at home, you are not. You have got to get out in the community again. Get out there and know that things are calmed down with at least the virus a little bit and people are getting vaccinated or whatever. People are starting to get to go out and live somewhat normal lives a little bit more. It is a little nicer. We all are cooling down a little bit.
It will definitely be nice to get back to somewhat normalcy and whatever the new norm is going to be. It is good to have you guys back.
We are rooted. That is not a small trip either. It is 1,200 miles North and 1,200 miles back. We were with friends at a dinner spot and they were talking about how they were homesick. I was like, “Go back to your hometown for two weeks and let me know how you feel.”
Thank you for taking the time. I know you are super busy so I appreciate you jumping on the show with us. How can people get ahold of you? If they need an inspector, what is the best way to do that?
Thanks for having me on. If anybody needs to get ahold of us, they can on social media @McLaurin_Inspections, and or they can call us at (813) 858-5061 and we will always be there to answer the call.
Do you have a website too?
We have a website that Alissa built. It is incredible. If you want to check it out and get some tips on how to build a website, you can do that too, but it is McLaurinInspections.com. It is super easy.
I appreciate it, Kenny. Go check them out, guys.