Today, ABC Supply Co., with headquarters in Beloit, Wis., has more than 215 locations in 43 states, and sales of over $1 billion.

In 1982, Ken and Diane Hendricks, then the owners of International Roofing and Hendricks Real Estate Properties, were presented with the opportunity to acquire three supply centers from Bird & Sons Inc. Recognizing the need for a dependable national distribution network, the Hendricks liquidated their successful roofing business and took the challenge. The centers were reopened under the name American Builders and Contractors.

Today, ABC Supply Co., with headquarters in Beloit, Wis., has more than 215 locations in 43 states, and sales of over $1 billion. Other businesses owned by the Hendricks include Corporate Contractors Inc., American Patriot Insurance Co., and Amfinity Business Solutions Inc. In addition, Amcraft Building Products Co. Inc., Mule-Hide Products Co. Inc., and Vande Hey-Raleigh are subsidiary corporations wholly owned by ABC. And finally, Stone Metal and The Solution Center are divisions of ABC.

What is the driving force behind this virtual empire? In a yearbook published by ABC to commemorate its 20th anniversary, the Hendricks identify a clear vision – what they refer to as their dream – “to treat roofers and contractors like the professionals they are, to give them the tools they deserve, and to update their image along the way.”

Having run his own roofing business for 15 years prior to starting ABC, Ken earned the right to say, “I understand contractors and have respect for them.” He continues, “I ran a felt machine … I can do 24 squares of roofing in eight hours – I’ve done all the jobs.” It was also Ken who, early on in the ABC story, predicted that ABC would be a billion-dollar company. “There was no reason why we couldn’t be a national company,” he says. “We went step by step, buying up struggling businesses. We took advantage of the situation.”

While marching toward empire, the Hendricks did not lose sight of their goal of helping contractors be successful. In order to help the smaller customers compete with bigger contractors who used materials ABC wasn’t able to sell, the Hendricks started Mule-Hide Products in 1984 and Amcraft Building Products in 1991. Mule-hide is a private-label manufacturer of single-ply, and Amcraft supplies siding as well as a full line of exterior building products, including exterior trim, vinyl windows, roof windows and skylights. These enterprises gave customers access to a variety of products at competitive prices.

There is a similar theory behind ABC’s Catalog Division, which was started in 1990. On the one hand, the division was created to streamline the company’s buying process by saving time for the managers and saving money by qualifying for volume discounts. On the other hand, the catalog serves a simpler, more direct purpose: “On a rainy day, a contractor can take time to look through the catalog to see what he can buy,” explains Ken. “It allows contractors to be aware of what’s out there. There’s a lot of products that the smaller guys may not be familiar with.” The catalog that started with 995 items today offers 6,000 items from 300 suppliers.

It seems elementary, really, the philosophy underlying the Hendricks’ success. According to Ken, the reason ABC will continue to grow, is that it is providing opportunity to its customers, as outlined above, and just as importantly, its employees. “Employees have to have somewhere to go,” Ken explains, “and I enjoy seeing someone who might have started as a roof loader being given the opportunity to become a regional manager.” Opportunity for career growth not only provides the incentive to work hard, but it also helps attract good people. Ken insists that the bottom line is: It’s not about the bottom line. “It’s not about money,” he says. “When my employees and customers are successful, I’m successful.”

And of course, the opposite is true. But there are no worries at ABC about a lack of success. In fact, the company’s five-year plan is to reach $3 billion in sales. “Our goal is to sell 33 percent of all roofing products in America,” says Ken, “and at $3 billion, we’ll be exactly there.”