Texas Fifth Wall Roofing Systems defines its mission as follows: “We are committed to employing innovative roofing technology and are dedicated to building watertight relationships with each of our clients, suppliers and employees.”
Todd Hewitt, the president of Fifth Wall, believes this approach is the key to the company’s success. He credits a continual quest for improvement in materials and methods and a commitment to delivering on promises as the keys to both watertight structures and solid relationships with customers.
Founded in 1973, Fifth Wall has more than 100 employees in its two Texas locations — Austin and San Antonio. They work exclusively for commercial clients, focusing on new construction, re-roofing, and service and maintenance of roof systems, as well as metal and composite wall systems. Fifth Wall maintains memberships in national organizations such as Associated Builders and Contractors and the National Roofing Contractors Association, and its employees actively participate in many real estate and construction organizations, including the Building Owners and Managers Association, the Central Texas Subcontractors Association, and the Roofing Contractors Association of Texas, to name a few.
“Our founder, Rick Fleming, was a roofer,” said Hewitt. “He saw a market opportunity to offer a higher level of service than his employer, leverage relationships he had in the real estate market, and provide higher quality roof installation in the Central Texas market.”
Hewitt joined the company in 1985. At the time, he was working in the alternative energy field, but when he moved to Austin he decided to pursue a career in construction. “I crossed paths with my predecessor here and talked myself into an estimating job,” he said. “In 1985 I started as an estimator and just outlasted everyone else. I’ve been here 27 years, and president approximately 12 years.”
He notes the company was founded on the idea that, “We can do this better,” and that slogan has been a guiding principle at the company ever since. “We had to use better methods, at competitive prices, with the best materials available,” said Hewitt. “Fifth Wall has held true to that foundation for almost 40 years.”
The company strives to stay on the cutting edge when it comes to improved materials, methods and new technology. Hewitt points to a history of successful innovations covering everything from single ply to iPhone apps. “Our quest to offer the best helped us recognize the benefits of single-ply roofing systems, so we became an early adopter of these innovative systems, which led to foundational relationships with suppliers that continue today,” he said. “The continuous need for increasing efficiency meant we developed better ways to execute the job with superior, higher-efficiency tools. We listened to our employees and invested in cutting-edge tools that developed into a sense of innovation that makes a difference today.”
In Austin, the company has worked on landmarks such as The W Hotel, The Frost Bank Tower, Zach Scott Theatre, Oasis Texas and the new Circuit of the Americas Formula One track. In San Antonio, high-profile projects include the San Antonio International Airport and McNay Art Museum. At Texas A&M in College Station, highlights include Olsen Field (the college’s baseball stadium) and Reed Arena (the basketball venue).
Hewitt pointed to the Oasis project as a testament to his company’s ability to tackle tough jobsites and provide wide range of offerings. “Overlooking Lake Travis, Oasis is a key destination spot,” he said. “The project was challenging because of the cliffside location and the wide variety of roofing and siding elements installed. We installed everything from standing seam to corrugated metal, awning areas, tile roofing, and four types of wall cladding and siding — ranging from standing seam to corrugated and curved corrugated — with galvanized finishes and some pre-rusted finishes. We also installed single-ply on concrete decks. Some were slope and some needed tapered insulation. It really gave us a chance to show the range of things we could do.”
The Frost Bank Tower was another tough, high-profile project. “At the time it was built, it was the tallest building in Austin, but it’s since been eclipsed,” Hewitt said. “Because it was a high-rise, tower crane was the principal means of access, and the schedule was very tight. Ornamental glass elements at the top of the structure were installed at the same time as the roof, so it was tough to stockpile and stage both the roofing materials and the glass.”
The concrete deck posed drainage challenges, made tougher by the columns used to support the glass. “It was quite a jigsaw puzzle for design and installation of tapered insulation.”
The result is stunning, stated Hewitt, and he is proud of Fifth Wall’s role in the project. “It’s really a showpiece building in Austin, and we were really happy to have a role in that.”
As Fifth Wall’s business grew, so did the service department, which is one of the largest in the region, according to Hewitt. The investment in people and equipment was coupled with a proactive service and maintenance program named ProVigil™, which is designed to promote peace of mind for building owners.
The focus on service is just another way of making sure the relationships with customers stay watertight. “We are focused on the life cycle of the roof, and therefore new construction, re-roofing and maintenance have a common thread of relationships and ongoing superior service,” Hewitt said.
“At our core is the customer relationship,” he continued. “Our mission is to recognize the needs of our customer, create solutions and nurture the relationship with them throughout the entire lifecyle of the roof. We do this through sustainable innovations, technology, efficiencies, research and company culture, which are all ultimately focused around providing the customer the support they need.”
Everyone at the company shares the goal of building relationships with customers, noted Hewitt. “In our company, we expect that our project managers represent the company and themselves at all times. Project managers are the primary point of contact with our customers. I’ll see our customers too, but I focus on our vendors as well. Our project managers take the lead with customers. Also, on the operations side, supervisors and foremen develop relationships with customers. We want those relationships developed and nurtured at all levels of the company.”
Excellent communication is essential, noted Hewitt. “The main element of building relationships is as simple as shared experiences,” he said. “You can share experiences a lot of ways — projects, social settings, community projects — but shared experience is key. E-mail is easy and tempting, but direct conversations are so much more effective, so we encourage telephone conversations or better yet face-to-face communication. It’s more time-consuming, but the benefits of face-to-face communication are worth the time that it takes.”
That time and effort are paying dividends. Business was up 15 percent in 2011 despite a severe drought. “In our part of the country, people were able to hold their breath for a while, but now the typical rainfall pattern has returned,” said Hewitt. “As one of our salesmen says, ‘It’s more challenging to sell shade than watertightness.’”
Asked what makes his company unique, Hewitt replied: “The short answer is we deliver on our promises. We’re not afraid to make promises, and we’re dedicated to delivering on them. That’s one of the most fundamental elements of our success.”