What’s your brand?

Creating a brand for your company builds a foundation for growth

Starting a roofing company is easy, right? All you need is a truck, a ladder, a license (in some states) and some workers. From there, it’s a numbers game—just knock on enough doors to get people to sign contracts and away you go.

Many roofing contractors start their companies with this mindset. But what ends up happening is they encounter unanticipated challenges and are so busy being busy, they have no time to actually work on their businesses.

Don’t let this happen to you. Instead, build a brand for your business and create a foundation of sustainable growth that sets you apart from the competition.

My background

When I started my roofing contracting company, I figured out things the hard way. I was wearing all the hats. I was so busy looking for work and estimating jobs, I didn’t have time to properly manage the jobs I had. And when I was busy managing my jobs, I didn’t have time to look for more work not to mention keep up with the accounting, billing and invoicing. I needed help, but I didn’t have the money to hire someone or the time to train a new employee. I created a bad situation for myself that made me feel more like a prisoner than a successful entrepreneur.

Most of us who start roofing companies come from backgrounds in labor or sales. We were either roofing workers who wanted to do it on our own or we were salespeople who decided to do it better. Regardless of the reason, we made the leap into entrepreneurship without any real business knowledge.

Based on my experience as an owner of a roofing company with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs, Colo., I’ve personally seen a number of roofing companies fail within the region. It’s not because of the industry, market or opportunity; it’s because of a lack of knowledge and business experience. We don’t know what we don’t know.

When I lost my first business and went bankrupt, I realized I hadn’t done things right from the beginning. I had an idea, an opportunity and a high tolerance for risk. I dove right in and tried to figure it out through grit and determination. After my epic failure, I decided to focus my efforts on working smarter, not harder.

I surrounded myself with people who could help me learn and grow. A mentor told me the key to success was to find people better than myself, and he was right. During the past 10 years, my company has grown to support more than 100 families and has made Inc. magazine’s 5000 List of fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. for 2018 and 2019. We build more than 1,000 roof systems every year while maintaining a 4.9-star Google Business rating. I share this information with you to illustrate what is possible when you apply successful strategies such as building a brand into your company.

The why

To build a world-class roofing brand, you have to think differently, act differently and find a differentiating factor that separates you from the rest.

To find your differentiating factor, find your “why.” Why does your company exist, and what is its purpose? When my company examined these questions, we figured out our “why” is to challenge our industry status quo and create good opportunities for good people. As a result of this exercise, we decided only to hire one or two people at a time and focus on training them extensively. We focused on building strategic relationships rather than knocking on a bunch of doors. We still knock on doors, but we’re knocking on doors of people with whom we can build long-term relationships rather than one-time transactions. For example, we target property managers, insurance agents and real estate companies.

Next, you want to establish core values, which are guiding principles you will use when making tough decisions, building marketing strategies and hiring new people. You need to focus on hiring people who fit within your core values and believe in the bigger purpose of your company.

While my company went through this process, we realized our company is a catalyst that allows us to give back to our community. We established this as our key differentiating factor that solidified our brand and set us apart from our competition. We decided to give a portion of the proceeds from every roof system installation to charity. We created a list of charities important to our staff, and we allowed homeowners to pick the charities we donated to on their behalf.

We now donate thousands of dollars each year to charities, and everyone gets to experience the benefits of giving. Donating to charities has proven to be our best brand-builder yet.

The how

Your company needs to have a good website, a logo, branded trucks and print materials that make your company look professional, but the real brand is built through the people representing your brand. The most important asset you will ever have in your business is your people.

Instead of hiring people already in the industry, my company created our own hiring and training program that focuses on hiring people who have great character and teaching them the skill sets they need to succeed. Most companies have a basic field training program or no training program at all. The idea is to hire 10 people and hope at least one of them catches on. If we understand the true value of people when building a great brand, we take the hiring and onboarding process more seriously.

Once our company established a proper system of interviewing, hiring, onboarding and training staff, the company grew. We established a series of questions to ask during interviews specific to key attributes we believe are important to fill specific roles. Hiring is done with proper employee agreements, and we established an orientation to get new employees acquainted with our company systems and processes.

Training is done with a checklist of duties and responsibilities, and we always try to have peer-to-peer training, as well. We always look for outside opportunities to continue the training and education of our team. Whether we are sending employees to seminars or purchasing online courses, it is important to invest in the educational growth of yourself and your team as much as possible.

Sales is an important process that is easily overlooked but vitally important to eliminate inconsistency and chaos in your company. There should be a step-by-step process in which each customer is contacted, inspected, scheduled, pitched and closed. Regardless of who in your company takes each lead, every customer should have a similar experience and be given the same consistent information about the company and what to expect during his or her interaction with your company.

The handoff

The next and probably most important process many companies struggle with is what I call the handoff. The process during which a salesperson hands off the project to the production department can make or break any company. We discovered there needs to be a strict set of guidelines that must be met by the salesperson before the job is approved to move into the build phase.

You can use a customer relationship management system or a checklist to set these guidelines and have a designated production person responsible for reviewing and approving each project. The checklist should include specifics about the project such as drawings, contracts, pictures, paperwork, material list, etc. As the business owner, you must draw a hard line here with no exceptions if you want to scale your production department effectively.

We are in business to be profitable and make money. Accurate job costing and efficient invoicing are the keys to sustained profitability. It’s important to have this process and the right people in place to execute it properly. Once a project is complete, make sure every cost for that project is accounted for before you close it out. Invoicing needs to be done consistently and needs to match all contracts, change orders and/or supplemental insurance paperwork. This process can be a determining factor regarding whether a homeowner recommends you to their peers or writes you a terrible review online.

We treat a final payment collection similar to closing a real estate transaction. We explain this process at the beginning of the transaction to avoid delays from our clients when it comes time to pay their bills. It’s a good idea to set up a closing meeting where your project manager walks through the job and gets final approval from the homeowner while also collecting the final payment in person. Always ask for reviews and referrals, as well.

Get our of your own way

I believe a majority of us start businesses with the right intentions. We genuinely want to help our customers and build quality projects. Many of us have the same vision and goals when we jump into the world of entrepreneurship. We want to make money, but we also want freedom. We want to build companies that can run on their own, pick and choose when we work and also spend quality time with our families.

But why do so many of us fail? In my case, I failed because I couldn’t get out of my own way. I was too prideful to lean on and invest in others to help me achieve my dreams. I was not aware of my strengths and weaknesses, and I definitely didn’t appreciate the value of people and process. I was too busy making excuses to learn what I needed to learn.

When I started focusing on my strengths, delegating my weaknesses, changing my priorities, learning my company’s “why” and creating a company brand with core values, I was able to realize what it really means to be a leader. We were able to build a brand by realizing and implementing all the things I have shared with you.

If you’re ready to build a brand, you must realize the value and importance of people and processes. It starts with yourself and continues with challenging the status quo while looking for opportunities to give back.

Randy Brothers is president of Elite Roofing, Denver.


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