Tracy Lonnen - CEO of Home Alyze

Date: MAY 6th, 2012

Topic: Interview with a CEO

Tracy Lonnen was born in 1974 and has two older sisters and an older brother. When Tracy was in grade six the question was presented to her “what do you want to be when you grow up” and her response was “I want to run my fathers company”. She was 11 then and officially started working for Home-Alyze® in 1993, at the age of 19.

Like most family run businesses, Tracy started at the bottom doing basic filing, and taking messages, then booking inspections, ordering product and bookkeeping. There wasn’t much that she didn’t get involved with, and when her father decided to franchise the business, she was all in. A few years after the launch of franchising, Tracy felt it would be a benefit to both herself and to Home-Alyze if she gained some experience outside the family business. She worked for two years at an HVAC engineering firm, where she learned a lot and loved it.

When she returned to Home-Alyze she was full of ideas and really started to take the reins. In August of 2011 Tracy officially assumed the position of President and CEO of Home-Alyze, now a National franchise organization, with the support of her amazing husband and her two very energetic little boys.


BeTheBoss.ca: Tell us about the Home-Alyze® concept:

Tracy Lonnen: The concept of Home-Alyze and Home Inspections in general was created by our Founder Peter Salmon in 1978 when he was watching a documentary about a young family who discovered very serious problems with a home they had just purchased. Their investment and safety were in jeopardy because no one had recognized the telltale signs of these problems before the purchase was made. Home-Alyze was founded that day and prides itself on being a dedicated impartial consumer’s advocate.


BTB: How and when did you become involved with Home-Alyze?

TL: The how and when are pretty simple. Home-Alyze is a family run business, my family. I grew up with Home-Alyze and realized at a very young age that this is what I wanted to do. I have a passion for helping people and started working fulltime with Home-Alyze in 1993, prior to beginning the franchise organization. I also took a few years off and worked for an engineering firm to gain some experience outside of Home-Alyze.


BTB: What was your background prior to joining Home-Alyze?

TL: Besides finishing High school, I was working at a drugstore when I was 15. Growing up with Home-Alyze also meant that I had the time to help Peter at a very early age doing basic office duties like filing and photocopying. Before I was officially hired as an employee I already had a very good knowledge of the business and what needed to be accomplished.


BTB: What are some of the advantages in being a Home-Alyze franchisee?

TL: I believe that one of the largest advantages with Home-Alyze is how we work as a team. We believe that everyone on our team has something to offer in the home inspection industry. We host quarterly conference calls where each franchisee has the opportunity to discuss issues, problems, new techniques and to learn from each other.

The support that is provided is not just office procedures and marketing materials, it is also on site. If any of our Franchisees come across something during an inspection that they would like a second opinion on, we are available to them by phone at anytime.

Another very important advantage is our own specially developed "Profile and Assessment Reporting System". It is specifically designed by Home-Alyze to best meet our client's needs using our own history and knowledge, trial and error, testing and success and is continually evolving, as are construction technology and materials.

Home inspection reports started out as typed narrative reports back in the days when there were no computers. We eventually changed to a pre-printed system offered by Carson Dunlop and Associates, which was the best one available at the time.

After using it for about two years, it did not continue to meet our own evolving standards and requirements, which is when the Home-Alyze System was created. Although it is not yet available electronically, it is by far the best reporting system available and is provided to your clients on site at the end of each inspection. What we have heard from clients is that it is very easy to read and understand and is extremely detailed.


BTB: Who is your ideal franchisee?

TL: Our ideal franchisee, well that’s a loaded question. Construction and renovation experience for the most part is something that we look for however, just because you can build or renovate a house doesn’t mean you would make a good inspector. It is the ability to examine houses as a functioning system not just as separate components. It is also the ability to present what you find in a manner that does not “make a mountain out of a mole hill” but provides your clients with the information they require to make an informed and safe choice.

Having good business sense is also a good place to start as this is a business and you are not just an inspector. The ability to market the system and yourself, I have found, is a major roll as a successful franchisee. <.p>

BTB: Tell us a little about the Home Inspection Market.

TL: When we talk about Home Inspection we generally see residential sales, however this is not the only market. Home inspections for residential sales started in 1978 but took years to take hold in the market. Likewise, with other markets. What we have found is that people are unaware how much a house can change in a matter of 5 years. Just like your car, teeth or general health it needs maintenance and for most people you need a professional to help you. It really is no different with your home. Having regular inspections done on your home every 5 years or so will help you to budget for and prevent any major items from happening by catching then early.


BTB: What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?

TL: That like a house, not all franchisees are the same. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses and part of our job in being a franchisor is to assist them where they need it. That’s what being part of a franchise system is all about, to provide each other with support and advice to achieve the best of your ability.


BTB: Do you have a mentor and is their someone you use for inspiration?

TL: My mentor is my father, Peter Salmon. He started an industry, helped to create and was co-founding president of CAHPI, previously known as CAHI, to create a standard for all home inspectors across Canada. He prides himself on contributing to the industry and to helping people along the way. Being a director on the boards of Habitat for Humanity - Alberta, Habitat for Humanity Canada, the Canadian Franchise Association, and CFA Regional chairman is only part of what he has done. To me he is a visionary, he sees something and he goes for it.

As for my inspiration, that would be Vern Lessoway from Lessoway Moir Partners an engineering firm. He taught me that no matter how much you have going on in your life you have to have fun and enjoy it. In the 2 years that I worked with him I can count on one hand the numbers of days that I didn’t laugh.


BTB: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?

TL: First step would be to look for a system that is a member of the Canadian Franchise Association (CFA). Find out how many years the company has been in business. Look for a company with honesty ie: be leery of companies that claim to have no complaints. Make sure you find a company that promotes communication and provides the type of support that you as an individual will require. Be sure that all documentation you receive complies with provincial franchise laws. Does the Franchisor actually have good experience in the field. Be yourself and don’t be afraid to ask questions, as there are no stupid questions when planning your future.


BTB: In your opinion, why do you think Home-Alyze would be a great opportunity for someone?

TL: It’s simple, we are 100% Canadian Grown since 1978 and have the top of the line reporting system. Solid background of the franchisor in the Home Inspection industry, current and valid guidance on industry matters, good support system for operating your franchise, a reasonable investment and we have a fantastic staff to help you on your way.