I've made my living solely as a home energy pro since 2004, and I was building a high performance home for two years before that. For six of the past eight years, I've been running my own business, and Energy Vanguard is halfway through its fourth year now. It doesn't take a PhD in physics to be successful in this business (though it's certainly helpful to have one), but I can point out a few factors that I believe have contributed to my success and longevity in this business.
- Be passionate. Why do you want to be a home energy pro? My longstanding passion for the environment is what drives me. I also love seeing things done right, hate waste, and fear collapse. A passion for money may work for some people, but long-term success, I believe, comes from more meaningful passions.
- Keep educating yourself. Everyone I know in this field is constantly striving to learn more. Taking a one-week HERS Rater or BPI Building Analyst class is just the beginning of your education if you want to stay in this field. You need to keep taking more classes, reading books, going to conferences, subscribing to blogs (box at top right)...
- Build a network of other home energy pros. Going to conferences is the traditional way to do this, but with all that's going on in social media these days, anyone who has access to the Interwebs can build a network. Being able to discuss home performance or marketing issues with pros in other markets can lead to new ideas and a stronger business.
- Remain flexible. Some people take a Home Energy Rater or Building Analyst class and think they're going to go out and easily make a living doing energy audits. That's not so easy unless you live in an area with a well-funded program that keeps you busy. Most new energy auditors will probably have to find other sources of revenue. Be aware of how your skills may match up with what potential clients are asking for. Look for opportunities to add new skills to your company.
- Find mentors. They may be nearby or they may be far away, but having more experienced, knowledgeable people who are willing to help you learn makes your path to success a lot easier. I was able to get valuable mentoring during my short stint at the Southface Energy Institute, especially from having the opportunity to teach about 20 HERS rater classes there with Mike Barcik.
- Develop strategic alliances. You can do it the hard way and try to bring in every client yourself. Or you can develop strategic alliances with other companies where the relationship is mutually beneficial. If you're a home energy pro, you need to ally yourself with HVAC companies, insulation contractors, home builders, remodelers, building inspectors...
- Learn all about programs. Research all the green building, energy efficiency, and home energy retrofit programs in your area. Get involved with them where it makes sense to do so.
- Do good work. If you get known for doing things the right way and leaving happy clients behind, your path to success will be a lot easier. Getting referrals from satisfied clients is much easier than having to go out and find new business every day.
- Care about people. If your clients feel that you really care about them and their needs, your business will benefit. This is really what we're all about anyway. It's not about houses. It's about people.
- Be persistent. This is one of the most important points. It's not like buying a Chick-Fil-A franchise and having people camping out waiting for you to open your doors. You're going to have work hard at this to make it happen. You may be one of the few who start making money right out of the gate, but most of us who have been in this business for a while had to keep pushing and pushing even when it wasn't clear that we'd succeed.
- Be patient. Give it time. If you have the resources to stick it out and do the things I've listed above, you'll eventually succeed. It may not be easy. It may seem futile at times. But your breakthrough will come if you give it enough time.
Looking to become a home energy pro? Take our Home Energy Rater class. The next one starts on 1 February.
If you've counted the bullet points above, you may wonder how 11 = 9. The answer is that the list contains a really dense 9 steps that only look like 11. Or maybe it's because I like to use numbers creatively. If it were the other way around, I could claim that I'm using a base 8 number system. Probably, though, it was a cosmic ray zipping through my computer that flipped a 0 to a 1 and messed up the numbers. Or aliens.