Three challenges of running a radon mitigation business
Running a radon business isn’t easy. It is more challenging than people outside of the industry or sometimes even your own employees think. Radon mitigation requires hard physical labor in addition to the everyday stress of running a successful company. This business is risky, challenging and not as profitable as outsiders think. It doesn’t help when your clients keep telling you how they got a lower bid from someone else assuming that the system, service or even the radon fans quoted are comparable. Sometimes as a radon mitigation contractor, you feel like you are on an island all alone trying to survive…..then you wake up and realize you are in a crawlspace, all alone and trying to survive….
If you are like us, you started your radon business on a shoestring budget and big dreams. You chose a business name, got certified or licensed through a radon proficiency program, gathered the necessary tools and hit the ground running. At first the jobs were easy, because all of your first clients were family and friends. Then the weeks got a little slower so you needed to figure something out to get more business. You got in touch with the local real estate community and that is when you realized some of the first challenges of the radon industry:
Dealing with running a radon business in a real estate driven market
Often times in dealing with radon in real estate transactions, price is the biggest player. Unfortunately, when the seller is your client often they are only concerned about two things: the cheapest install and pass only one test so they can close on the house. A radon mitigation system becomes a commodity where the lowest price, quick and easy become the winner of the bid. We feel that this isn’t right, especially for the sake of the buyer who has to live with the “cheapest radon system.” Often times the methods of install and radon fans are not the proper solution to permanently fix the radon problem for the future owners of the house. So what is the solution? The price wars are not going to go away. We believe the solution starts with educating your market to expect certain things from radon mitigation company. We have done that in the past by doing as much education as you can about how good radon system work and why. We believe that when educated about the intricacies of radon mitigation systems, real estate agents will become your advocate when it comes to selecting the best company for the job because they realize that their reputation is on the line too. When it clicks with the agent and the seller that if the system doesn’t work right, they might lose the deal; they are more willing to have a good radon mitigation system with a high quality radon fan installed.
Eventually, you got in good with the local agency and the jobs started coming in during the busy real estate seasons. You were cruising along installing systems and then it happened, the problem house! The one that took you four trips, dozens of micro-manometer readings and hundreds of dollars in lost time and material to finally get the radon levels to drop….
The problem house radon mitigation-
We have all been there. No matter how good of a radon contractor you are, there are sometimes situations that your design should have worked but the radon levels still remain elevated. These situations can be stressful on your mind, your ego and your bottom line. There is no cut and dry solution to end all problem house situations but there are ways to minimize the likelihood. Avoid those phone bids and try to do as many on-site estimates as possible. That way you are able to design a system that is engineered for that house and you get the chance to factor into your price/warranty all of the variables that go along with the construction style and the right radon system for it. Try to do those diagnostics. We understand that often times your customers are in too big of a hurry to allow you to make multiple trips before settling on a firm price. Try to educate your customers on the importance proper system design. You know those pressure field tests will tell you a lot about what is happening under the slab and the selecting the right radon fan for the job. When radon fans can vary by $100+ depending on the model, it can have a big impact on the bid working within your budget and the system working to reduce radon levels. Lastly, get off the island by making more friends in the industry. Find trusted peers who you can bounce these situations off of because it’s likely that they have gone through similar situations as well. That is one reason why we started using Festa AMG® radon fans years ago. They are humble, friendly people who made themselves available to talk with us if we had any questions about their fans. They were not too big for us, they were some of our first trusted people. We are available to be among your trusted peers in the industry.
Finally you got it fixed below your warranty and learned some valuable lessons along the way. You built a crew and were starting to pick up steam and then a new radon company rolls into town and changes everything! Then you have to deal with your biggest challenge:
Competition in the radon market -
This is the big one. Radon is a niche industry with a relatively small demand compared to other trades. In any given market things like local economy, real estate and weather can have an impact on the amount of demand there is for radon mitigation. Some radon companies are ma-and-pa shops, some are mid-sized with several employees and others are bigger but may not have an official local presence bouncing in and out of markets as demand allows. This makes it difficult to bid jobs and win jobs. Every one of these companies has a different set of financial circumstances, bidding approach and method of installing a radon mitigation system from you. One way to deal with the competition is to know who you are and believe in what you are doing. We are firm believers that you cannot fail if you keep working hard and doing what is right. You have created this business and have been put in this position for a reason; you don’t have to let your competition define you. Good clients respect a job that is done right and they are willing to pay for good work when it comes to the health of their families. We also know that good, healthy competition has a benefit in each market because it increases demand from those who care about the health effects of radon not just real estate transactions. This industry has bred a culture of competitiveness from the beginning. It’s time that more companies and suppliers work together to improve their markets to the benefit of the industry. Like in sports, good competitors can go out into the field after the game and shake hands with respect.
These three challenges are only a small fraction of what you go through on a daily basis in your radon business and we don’t have all of the answers but it’s a start to the discussion. We wish you success and hope that we can all play a part in making this young industry prosper and grow all while helping people reduce their chances of lung cancer from radon gas.
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