C. Mark Reed has been in the roofing industry more than 36 years, and he knows what it takes to succeed in a tough business. “You don’t stay in one area for a couple of decades without integrity and a good reputation,” said Reed, the general manager of J.L. Ray Company, San Clemente, Calif. “It sounds cliché, but we provide quality workmanship and install the best materials at a fair price. That’s all there is to it. There are no shortcuts.”

The company is owned by Jeffrey L. Ray and does all types of residential and commercial roofing work. Reed knows the formula might be simple, but the execution is hard. That’s why his company preaches the fundamentals.

“We always stress to our salespeople: Do what you say you’re going to do, in the time span you said you’d do it in, for the price you quoted,” he said. “Customers don’t deserve surprises. Sometimes the weather comes into play, but you have to have integrity and do the job right if you’re going to get referrals.”

Quality work is ensured by top-notch training — and accountability. “Every salesman runs their own jobs,” he said. “There’s no superintendant. It’s a bit of a different format from most other companies. But we’ve found cameo appearances on the jobsite just won’t do it. When you take the leads, measure the roof, schedule the job, schedule the crew, order the materials — there are no excuses. It’s your job to make sure it all happens.”

Reed grew up in a family of carpenters and worked in a carpenters apprentice program. He was studying to be a radiologist when his career path took a sudden detour. In 1975, a friend who loaded tile roofs hired him as an installer in Upland, Calif. “I’d always been in construction, so it was an easy transition,” he said. “I quit college and ended up in roofing.”

He worked as an installer, a manufacturer’s rep for roofing tile company, and managed another roofing company before coming over to run J.L. Ray in 2005. The recent recession posed a tough test, and it forced the company to put every expense under the microscope. “A few years ago, when the recession hit, we went into survival mode,” he said. “As a businessman you have to take a hard look at things and make tough decisions. We had to be frugal to stay in business.”

The company diversified, taking on jobs such as decking, siding, stucco and concrete work. “We have a general contractor’s license. We used to turn down all kinds of work. Now, when we talk to homeowners, we let them know we can do a lot more for them besides roofing. It’s been helpful in the downturn.”

The recession has been tough, and contractors who don’t know their pricing can make it tougher, according to Reed. “Desperate people do desperate things,” he said. “There are desperate contractors out there, and they are dangerous because they don’t know what their bottom line is. You have to know how to price the job. We do job costing on every job. ”

Customers have also gotten finicky, said Reed, but doing a job for little or no money just doesn’t make sense. “Don’t roll over,” he advised. “Sell on value. We know how to install roofs. We don’t need practice — we need profit. There is a high amount of risk in this business. We have to get a fair price.”

 So far the strategy has paid off. The company had record-breaking profits in the second and third quarters this year and is surging halfway through the fourth quarter. Reed knows success comes from executing the fundamentals but says it never hurts to appeal to a higher power. “We’re not perfect,” he said “We do the best we can, and He does the rest.”