Mark Franzoso didn’t always see himself in the roofing business; it just happened that way when he took a job as a teenager installing siding and windows.
“I really liked it and decided not to go to college. I wanted to make my career in home improvement,” said Franzoso, 50, president of Franzoso Contracting Inc. of Croton on Hudson, N.Y. “I stayed on with the firm for four years and started my company in the summer of 1980.”
Today Franzoso Contracting has 80 employees, and the company did $12 million in residential sales last year. “The major part of my business is roofing. We installed over 9,000 squares of shingle last year.”
Franzoso recalled how he promoted his budding business back in the 80s. “I approached a local store owner about putting my flyers in the newspapers,” he said. “I went out one summer morning and put 300 flyers in all the newspapers and got my first lead. With the profit from that first job, I took out an ad in the local Pennysaver, and it’s been going strong since.”
The reason for Franzoso’s success can be traced to his roots as a residential contractor. “It’s all residential work. Once in a blue moon we’ll get something commercial, but 99 percent is residential. That’s where I’ve always kept my focus.”
Franzoso, a die-hard Yankees and Knicks fan, said he does something that is rare. “I have never asked for money upfront from a customer. We’ll go in and do the job 100 percent, and then ask for payment. I always thought it was an edge over my competitors.”
He called his business formula an “exception to the rule.” “I would say 65 percent of the time - year after year - my business comes from referrals or repeat customers. That’s unheard of in our industry. The other 35 percent is getting new customers through advertising.”
Franzoso, a rock n’ roller and golfer in his spare time, said a solid past history and a unique advertising campaign will help him evolve into the future. “My new campaign kicks off on cable,” he said. “The ads are going to pepper my area for five weeks with close to 2,000 spots.”
At the end of the 30-second commercial, Franzoso says, “Here is my stimulus plan. Find a contractor with better credentials and I will do the job for free.”
Along with an economic downturn, there are challenges in the roofing industry, and Franzoso points to insurance as one problem area for contractors. “You need insurance to operate,” he said. “A lot of guys don’t have it. After 9/11 my insurance bills have quadrupled.”
Still, Franzoso said he is ultimately blessed to have a great workforce. “We promote our team from within,” he said. “We do not hire from outside. Having good labor is not a problem for me. If quality is what you want, then my company is the one for you.”
Still, being unique is an advantage for Franzoso. “There’s no question I have a unique business,” he said. “I have shared my business practice with others throughout the years. That’s one of the reasons I’m here: people sign up with us because they want that assured quality. There’s plenty of work out there, and we get our good share of it.
“The most important thing is to always treat the customer as the most important part,” he concluded. “Without the customer you have nothing. I want them to be so tickled pink about the job we just completed, that they grin from ear to ear. If you don’t take care of the customer, someone else will.”