Roofing contractors find out early that the job doesn't end with installing the shingles. If there's a leak at the chimney, a skylight, or some other roof penetration -even if it's installed long after the roof system is completed - invariably the homeowner will be on the phone with the roofing company. One company that's earned an excellent reputation when it comes to customer service by providing a quality installation and handling callbacks promptly when they occur is the Jorve Corporation. Early on, its president and founder, Ted Jorve, decided that the only way to ensure a weatherproof installation was for his company to handle all the areas tied into the roof - including gutters, chimneys, dormers, siding, and skylights - and to provide a warranty for all of its workmanship for as long as the customer owns the home.
Founded in 1983, the Jorve Corporation now employs more than 200 workers. Based in Seattle, its area encompasses a swath of Washington from Olympia to Everett. The company does 90 percent of its roofing work in the residential market, with 10 percent of its jobs coming in the new construction arena. Last year, annual sales exceeded $20 million. The company now has separate divisions for roofing, siding, windows, masonry, gutters, and carpentry - and it can tackle other types of construction, including decks, remodels, dormers and additions.
If you think that adding such divisions is only an option for big companies, you might be right, but the current business model can be seen as an outgrowth of one small contracting firm's commitment to quality. In fact, Ted Jorve began his roofing career as a one-man operation. It is the company's rise from humble beginnings and its ongoing dedication to excellent work and top-notch service that make the Jorve Corporation something of a Horatio Alger success story and Roofing Contractor's Most Intriguing Contractor of 2006.
Company HistoryGrowing up, Jorve had a lot of exposure to the construction trades. His uncle was a builder, his cousin was a builder, and his father, a Seattle police officer, owned a lot of real estate. Jorve and his siblings helped his father refurbish the buildings for resale.
At 16, Jorve formed his own company, Headly's Hauling and Handyman Service. He hauled garbage and did all kinds of construction projects, including building and repairing fences and decks, as well as small remodeling jobs.
When he was about 20, his father needed a new roof, and Jorve, armed with a how-to book, completed the job. His father's police captain was impressed with the new roof and asked Jorve to install a new roof on his home. Several more referrals followed from his father's co-workers, friends and neighbors, and Jorve realized he was on to something.
At that point, Jorve was looking to specialize his business, and he decided to concentrate on roofing. He saw a lack of professionalism in the roofing industry, and, buoyed by a wave of referrals and a reputation for providing quality work, he felt his company could thrive in that market. He rechristened the company with the Jorve name.
"People kept calling us, and we'd take good care of them," recalls Jorve. "We handled all the problems and put the customer first. The emphasis was always on doing quality work."
He attended seminars and manufacturers' training programs to learn all he could about the industry. In the beginning, the company subbed out work on some elements that tied into the roof system, such as chimneys, gutters, and siding. Since such components are critical to the integrity of the structure, Jorve soon decided to add those pieces of the puzzle and take care of them through his own company, so that he could be sure the whole structure was weatherproof. It took some time, but as the company evolved, Jorve added three masonry crews and two gutter crews, as well as the window, siding, and carpentry divisions.
"In order to provide the best services for our customers and prevent problems, we knew we had to take care of all of these items ourselves," says Jorve, who estimates that 70 percent of the company's business still comes from roofing. "We are a roofing business that is proud to provide other services to our customers. Our estimators can handle quotes for different elements of the job besides the roof, such as skylights, decks, windows, siding, etc."
Jorve is quick to point out that his company's growth did not happen overnight. "You have to crawl before you can walk, and walk before you can run," he says. "You can only grow the company as fast as the people you have. From day one I tried to hire people who knew more about some of these things than I do."
Two of his earliest employees, Dale Burlingame and Scott Morrison, are now partners in the firm. Burlingame serves as vice president of sales and marketing, while Morrison is vice president in charge of operations and production. Burlingame sees each job on the front end, and works with a sales coordinators and estimators to make sure the bids are accurate and all technical questions have been answered before work begins. Morrison, working with seven in-house production mangers and five field superintendents, ensures the work is completed correctly and in a timely fashion. Together, the members of the Jorve management team strive to make sure each customer's experience is a rewarding one.
Marketing MethodsAbout 16 years ago, Dale Burlingame was working in the financial services sector when he decided he was tired of "just moving paper." He had worked as a roofer to put himself through college, and he returned to the industry when he was hired on by Jorve. "At that time, there were just five of us," he recalls.
"I liked Ted's vision of a true business approach to roofing in an era of poor customer service," says Burlingame. "We don't lie awake at night trying think of ways to cut costs, we lie awake at night trying to think of ways to make the customer's experience more rewarding. It costs more, but it's worth it."
The company's multifaceted marketing plan includes radio and newspaper ads, direct mail, the Internet, door hangers and a presence at local home shows. The 50 trucks in the company's fleet prominently display the Jorve logo, and yard signs are used at every jobsite.
"When it comes to marketing, trucks and job signs are the most important elements you can have," says Jorve. "You have to do all of the other things to keep the phone ringing, but when we ask people where they heard about us, they usually say, ‘Are you kidding? I see your trucks all over town.'"
"You don't have to overthink the demographics," states Burlingame. "Everyone needs a roof. We don't try too hard to pinpoint our sales pitches. We go after everyone to brand the construction experience as a good one with Jorve."
Referrals from satisfied customers are the best sources of new customers, says Burlingame, who notes that year-to-date the company has handled more than 23,000 referrals. "They create momentum and mass. The rest of the marketing plan just keeps things moving."
Jorve supports the community, sponsoring leagues in youth baseball and youth hockey. The company also sponsors an annual charity golf tournament, and Jorve matches the donations. This year, the event raised $62,000 for Dr. Stanley Stamm's Summer Camp, which hosts patients of Children's Hospital who have medical needs that prevent them from attending similar camps.
The Sales ProcessJorve asserts that to explain the values and benefits of roofing systems to home-owners, you have to meet prospective customers and talk to them directly.
Burlingame agrees. "It's all about relationships," he says. "Relationships can't be built on e-mail or bids sent in the mail. People need to get belly to belly to understand each other. People are busy, but their home is their No. 1 investment, and we want to make sure they get what they want and need."
When homeowners don't understand the process, Burlingame explains, roofing can become a commodity, where the only issue is the price. "It's our ability to meet with these people and educate them on the parameters of the job that allows us to better meet their needs."
"When we get the job, we don't fill out a production report, we fill out an ‘exceeding expectations' report," says Burlingame. "We don't just want a satisfied customer; we want an extremely satisfied customer. We want to create ambassadors for the company, and you create ambassadors for the company by going above and beyond what's expected."
Operations, Production"Once the jobs are in, it's my job to make sure the work is performed to exceed the customers' expectations," says Morrison, a friend of Jorve's since high school who worked with him on his second roof project and joined him full time a few years later. He now oversees hiring, scheduling, projects under construction, purchasing, accounts receivable, accounts payable, and payroll. He also heads up the safety department.
The company holds biweekly meetings on safety training. Some of the sessions feature representatives from manufacturers and safety companies, while others are led by Morrison himself. Topics include first aid, CPR and fall protection.
There are also daily safety meetings to review the hazards at each project. "Every jobsite is a little different, and every day is a little different, so we analyze all the potential hazards every day," states Morrison.
He adds that all employees undergo drug testing and the company has a strict disciplinary policy when it comes to safety. There is a "three strikes, you're out" system covering noncompliance to the safety policy. The first violation results in a one-day suspension without pay. The second violation results in a one-week suspension without pay, and the third results in termination. Employees are aware of the policy, and they support it, according to Morrison. "Safety isn't a hard issue for us, as far as enforcement goes, because each employee believes in it, and each guy wants to go home safely to his family at night," he says.
Morrison meets daily with the company's five field superintendents to check schedules and discuss ongoing jobs. "The field superintendents visit the sites every day to ensure that the customer is informed of progress and check with the crews to make sure they are following the safety regulations. They check on the technical details of each job and any problems that might have arisen or any additional work that might be needed."
The progress of the work is documented with photographs, which can be e-mailed to the customer at work so they can understand the scope of what's taking place on the project. At the conclusion of the job, the field superintendent and the foreman inspect the installation along with the customer to make sure everything is perfect. "Our policy is, if it's not right, it's wrong, and if it's wrong, we'll make it right," explains Morrison.
If a complaint comes in after a project has been completed, Morrison will do all he can to address the problem himself. "If I can, I'll take the phone call and I will visit the jobsite myself, or else I'll send a field superintendent to meet with them to see what the challenge might be."
He notes the goal is to take care of their problem immediately. "We jump right in there and take care of it," he says. "Our customers know they're in good hands."
Faith in WorkmanshipThe cornerstone of the company's approach is its warranty program. "The Jorve lifetime warranty means that as long as you own your home, we'll take care of all problems with workmanship, above and beyond the manufacturer's warranty," states Jorve.
He adds, "If there's a problem, they're going to call us anyway. We want to let people know in advance that if there's a problem, we'll do our best to fix it, and the process will go smoothly."
"Any company can offer a warranty," says Burlingame. "The key is you have to stand behind it. Some companies say they have lifetime warranties, but have they demonstrated their commitment by the last 20 years of company history? People want you to be there to handle the challenges. Customers know we'll be around. Some of our best referrals are from people who've had problems with a job. When it goes off without a hitch, they might tell a handful of people about a project, but if we do encounter a problem and immediately descend on that house with the crews to handle it, they'll tell 100 people."
"We try to instill in our workers the belief that every customer of ours should be treated like friends and family," notes Morrison. "We hold people accountable, but we also make it fun. It's a great place to work."
Team EffortJorve may have begun his company as a one-man operation, but he is quick to credit every member of the company for its growth and success. "After all," he states, "A warranty is only as good as the guy who put the roof on."
He also points out that top-quality products, service and support from the company's business partners are essential to meeting his customers' needs. "We're always reaching out for new information and ways to expand our company," says Jorve, who cites the late Richard Kaller, founder of Certified Contractors Network, as one of his early mentors. Ongoing training with several manufacturers keeps the company on top of new innovations.
"We've been very fortunate to have aligned ourselves with some good people, and we've made some good decisions," he states.
Burlingame sums up the company's decision-making process this way: "When you do the right thing, when you always take the high road, the decisions are easy. If you want to ensure a no-risk, quality experience during construction, at every fork in the road, the right decision is clear. If you make the commitment to taking the high road, in the long run you'll always be rewarded. That's because in the long run, a high-quality, risk-free experience is the greatest value. And that's what customers get with Jorve."