After surviving a rough first year, company shows signs of progress
Sleepless nights, upset stomachs and paranoia were common woes for the owners of Quality Roofing Services throughout their first year in business.
"We worried about finances and thunderstorms," said co-owner Paul Crafton, 50, recalling the professional and personal strain. "We wondered if we would make our payroll or go under and lose our investment."
But they persevered, starting their days early-often at 5:30 a.m.-and working late. Eventually, their efforts paid off. Revenue reached $3 million last year, up from $450,000 in 2002 and $1.2 million in 2003.
There are other signs of progress, too. Quality Roofing moved into its 5,400-square-foot Georgetown Road offices in August; in the early days, Crafton and partner Greg Blatz, 39, met at a local McDonald's to save on rent.
The pair started Quality Roofing in mid-2002 after working together at another roofing company, launching it with less than $50,000 in personal savings. During the first month, they often had to write personal checks to pay the bills.
Their firm focuses on commercial roofing installations, repair and maintenance. About six months into the endeavor, Crafton and Blatz brought in fellow roofing veteran Roger Kyle, 44, as a third partner.
"When I came in, their accounting system was in a shoebox," Kyle said.
But they also had a few things going for them. Because all three had worked in the industry before, they were able to assemble a good staff by hiring people they knew.
"We were good at service," Crafton said, "and that sustained us. We had a small following of loyal customers."
To this day, there's no company voice mail, and the owners often answer the phone themselves. They feel the personal touch helps build confidence among their customers-which leads to referrals and ultimately more business.
"Their response is awesome," said Karen Jelks, property manager for The Linder Co., an Indianapolis commercial real estate firm. "They are prompt in getting an estimate and they do excellent work. I love them."
The partners credit their growth-from a handful of customers to about 325- to this personal attention. Their focus on privately owned properties instead of government institutions and schools is another plus.
"We build partnerships of trust with private businesses," Kyle said. "The private market wants someone to take care of the roof for the life of the roof."
They also prefer the private market because it isn't dependent on hiring the lowest bidder, as public construction often is. Vince Hill, asset manager with Chicagobased First Industrial Realty Trust, appreciates the company's emphasis on quality.
"They like to make the choice to give us the right solution," he said. "It may not be the cheapest, but it's the right solution."
"Many people could install a roof," Crafton explained. "It's more about what happens after that. We're a service contractor that does installation, not an installation company that also does service."
That's an important distinction for someone vying for business against hundreds of competitors. The Indianapolis phone book lists 14 pages of roofing contractors. Most of Quality Roofing's customers come through referrals.
"It's a tough market," Kyle said. "If someone gets us out of a phone book, that's not a relationship-based source."
Additional challenges include the natural fluctuations in business and controlling growth. Their service department is always busy, which helps maintain business in winter. But success can be costly.
"With an increase in revenue, you must purchase more vehicles and [Worker's Compensation insurance] goes up, as well as [other] insurance. This all takes more money," Crafton said.
But the partners aren't complaining.
"We're starting to realize the fruits of our labor," Crafton said, "and we now sleep at night."
Greg Blatz, Roger Kyle and Paul Crafton started Quality Roofing Services without a business plan, but revenue reached $3 million in just three years.