Asked what makes his business successful, Andy Royalty is quick and to the point: “Our people. Our people and the products we use.”

Royalty is the president of Royalty Companies Inc, headquartered in Seymour, Ind. His two-pronged approach of building strong relationships with his employees and his manufacturer partners results in the type of quality workmanship and excellent customer service that garners repeat business and great word of mouth.

“There are several things that set our company apart from our competitors, but the number one thing is our people,” Royalty told Roofing Contractor. “I have been blessed with some of the very best people to work with every day. They are more like family than employees. We have very little turnover, and most of the staff in both the office and the field have been with the company for over 12 years. I am fortunate to be surrounded with smart and talented people, which makes my job and life much easier.”

Royalty started his business right out of high school in 1986. He had two crews working for the company as he continued his education at Indiana State University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Manufacturing Technology. He believes that the secret to success is to treat people not as employees, but rather as co-owners of the business. “It’s my name on the door, but I want them to feel it is their business, too — not just my business,” he said.

But in order to ensure customers are well taken care of, the contractor has to install top-quality products the right way. That’s where manufacturers come in. “The second thing that I know sets us apart is the products we install,” Royalty said. “I do not believe in installing every product on the market. I believe in partnering with the best quality manufacturers that offer the best quality, service and warranties. We have been installing Duro-Last on our low-slope work for 17 years and GAF on our steep-slope work for 12 years. We believe that in order to offer the customer the very best service, you need to find the best products and be proficient at installing those products to ensure the highest quality.”

Ongoing training is another important element in the mix, and manufacturers can help. “We bring manufacturers in for in-house training,” said Royalty. “Duro-Last is often in here providing training for all of our sales and field employees. We have mock-ups in our facility for flat roofs and steep roofs.”

The company’s strategy was put to the test in the recent economic downturn, but Royalty and his management team rose to the challenge. 2011 is shaping up to be one of the company’s greatest years ever. Royalty chalks it up to a combination of pent-up demand, his company’s continued marketing efforts, and of course his talented staff. It also helps if you avoid the crucial mistakes contractors often make during a recession. “When things start getting tight, the first two things most construction trades do is get rid of skilled and seasoned staff and cut the marketing budget,” he said. “In my opinion, those are the two worst things you can do because they are two of the most important parts of a successful business.”

Royalty made sure he was in position to capitalize on business opportunities when they came around by keeping the marketing budget flowing and maintaining his seasoned workforce. “A lot of people in the last two years stopped marketing and cut back on staff,” he said. “We stayed focused on marketing and kept our relationships with people. We did not lay anyone off during the economic downturn. We kept everyone on board. When the projects came though, they knew how to find us and we had the manpower to handle it. We didn’t have to hire and train new employees.”

Royalty believes his manufacturer partners and his motivated, empowered, and well-trained “co-owners” are the key to surpassing customers’ expectations.

“Your people are the key to success,” he said. “You need good people around you. You’re only as strong as your weakest employee.”