Little did Robert Andrews know that earning a history degree as an undergraduate and then going back to college to study urban regional planning would be a catalyst to becoming a successful roofing contractor.
“When I got out of college with a history degree and no job, a friend of mine’s dad offered me a job selling residential roofing,” Andrews said. “I did it for a year, but decided to go back to college for a master’s in urban regional planning.”
Running low on funds, Andrews abandoned his graduate degree plans to pursue a run at the roofing industry. “We did some hail damage shingle work from 1997 to 1998, and a little bit of single-ply work,” he said. “That really got me started.”
When his business partner was later forced to shut down his roofing business, that’s when Andrews made his move. “He closed down his business and I opened it up the next day,” Andrews recalled. “We worked together in the same truck and split the profits before that. But his company went default, and I was a subcontractor to him. In 1999 I opened my own business.”
“I had to make a living, and roofing was there for me,” Andrews said. “I was only 27 at the time. But we had done enough work and we were having a good time.”
Still, something happened to Andrews on his way to owning a roofing contracting business. “There’s something about it when it’s all yours,” he said. “I went to work every day and worked harder each day. And slowly the business grew every year to what it is now.”
“Hey, it’s not rocket science,” he continued. “And it’s not what I planned to do. But I’m glad I did it.”
Andrews’ roofing business, located in Portsmouth, Va., amassed $3.5 million in revenue in 2008. The company has 15 employees, and 55 percent of its business is commercial with the rest residential.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I see the industry as a continuation of 2008,” he said. “Overall, the amount of business will continue to decrease into 2009 and into 2010. However, as a responsible business owner, I plan to be more aggressive in sales and closely watch the numbers. You need to keep expenses down and be intelligent on how the company is doing.”
Andrews views the roofing industry as a “constantly changing animal.”
“Hopefully, we’ll all learn from this economic slowdown,” he said. “It’s easy in the boom times. But right now is when the weaker will go away and the strong will make it through. You may not make as much money for a couple years, but as long as you’re good at what you do, you’ll be fine.”
Andrews offered an important tip for getting a sale. “When you get a lead, go after it and follow procedures to the letter,” he said. “Commercial-wise, if they know you personally, they want to give you the business.”
“It’s pretty important to have a good relationship and mutual trust with your manufacturers,” he said. “They are giving you all the support and all the right pricing from distributors. The manufacturer knows what kind of work you do after the first five jobs. Then they will send you work.”
In the end, what makes Andrew Roofing unique is quite personal.
“We mean well,” Andrews concluded. “We do what we say. And we all make mistakes, but we go back every time immediately and correct any mistake. You want the stuff you can’t see to be right.”
Sponsored by Allied Building Products Corporation