The Fick family has been in the roofing business in Baltimore since 1915. Ninety-eight years and four generations later, Fick Bros. Roofing & Exterior Remodeling Company continues to build a reputation for integrity and top-quality workmanship. According to the company president, Patrick Fick, a lot has changed over the years, but the most important things have stayed the same. “I think the biggest thing that has helped us stand the test of time is our family’s commitment to excellence,” he said. “It is not ‘just a roof’ to us.”
The company’s pursuit of excellence, its high ethical standards, and its ability to adapt to changing times are just some of the reasons Fick Bros. was honored as Roofing Contractor’s 2013 Residential Contractor of the Year. Its recipe for success depends on empowering employees and exceeding the expectations of customers, but according to Fick, it all boils down to integrity. “I think our greatest strength is our commitment to doing the right thing,” he said. “We live by installing the roof right and running every aspect of the business the right way. On the first page of our proposals we say, ‘We Do It Right – We Do It By The Book – Or We Don’t Do It At All.’ That’s our motto. We hang our hat on that. We’re very proud of knowing that every installation we do is done the right way and the customer really got the right job.”
A Rich History
“The original company was called Edward G. Fick & Co., and it was founded by my great grandfather, John. P. Fick, and his brother, Edward G. Fick,” Fick recalled. “It was a startup company and as the city of Baltimore was being built, they were doing the hot asphalt on the brick row homes in the city and around the harbor. That company was active until the 1970s.”
The company that exists today was founded in 1949 by Patrick’s grandfather, Joseph A. Fick, when he returned from World War II. “His father died while he was in the war,” Fick remembered. “When he came back, his cousins were in the business, but he branched off and started his own business with his brother, John R. Fick.”
The early Fick companies focused on residential work, installing many of the slate, metal and flat roofs on Baltimore’s row homes and the mansions of Homeland, Guilford and Roland Park. From the 1960s to the 1980s, Fick Bros. excelled as a big commercial roofing contractor, focusing on hot asphalt flat roofing while still keeping a hand in the residential business.
Throughout the years, the company continued to adapt. “In the late 1980s and early 1990s, we began a return to our roots, and once again became a predominantly residential roofing company,” Fick said. “We have since evolved to a full-service exterior remodeling company.”
Today the company has 46 employees and primarily focuses on residential re-roofing and repairs. The company has also expanded to handle masonry, gutters, downspouts, windows, doors, siding and decks. About 5 percent of its business is institutional, including churches and schools — an area the company is looking to expand.
Fick Bros. is still very much a family business today. Fourth-generation family member Patrick Fick took over the helm of the company in 2010 from his father, Joseph A. Fick Jr., who now serves as chairman of board. They are joined in the office by family members Jeffrey P. Fick, vice president; James J. Fick, vice president; and Megan E. Fick, administration department manager.
“Like any family business, it is both challenging and rewarding,” said Patrick. “We take a tremendous amount of pride in the fact that we have been able to sustain our family tradition for almost 100 years.”
Doing Right by Employees
In roofing, it’s all about execution, and you don’t perform top-quality work without top-quality people. “From our newest apprentice, to our most seasoned craftsmen, to our office staff, to our sales team — our employees are the best,” Fick said. “They care as much as we do about the quality of their work. They are why we have been successful.”
The company maintains a variety of strategies to reward and encourage its people, beginning with an open management style that allows everyone to contribute. “We share the financial status of the company with all of our employees on a monthly basis,” Fick noted. “We set goals at the beginning of each year, and then monthly we measure against those goals. We believe in a bottom-up management system. Including everyone in the decision-making process creates a team atmosphere. Everyone is invested in the team’s success.”
It’s hard to find great employees, so once it does, the company does all it can to keep them happy. “We truly want our employees to have a long, successful career with us and ultimately retire as a Fick employee,” Fick said. “We are not looking for people that just want a job; we are looking for people that are career oriented. We’ve had people retire over the years, some with 30, 40 and even 50 years of service.”
The company offers a generous benefit package that includes health insurance, a 401(k) and profit-sharing plan, and other opportunities for bonuses. “We take pride in the fact that we offer our employees a benefit package that far exceeds the industry standards,” said Fick. “We use that not only to attract talent but to take care of our people. We want them to feel like they can stay here a long time, and that’s a big part of it.”
If the company exceeds its profit goals for the year, the excess profit is shared with employees. “We use a per-job bonus plan,” said Fick. “If the crew beats the budget on the job, then they get to share in the excess profits on that job — and not only the crew, but the whole company participates in that. The office staff, the warehouse, and the salesmen all share in the excess profit.”
The company also offers a Christmas bonus. “We take 10 percent of our profit at Christmastime and divide it up evenly among all of our employees. As the months go on, they can see it grow, and we’ve had it in the thousands of dollars in multiple years.”
Employees can also earn additional paid vacation time with excellent attendance. “Our average employee only misses 1.2 days a year,” said Fick.
The company also holds outings at Baltimore Ravens games every season, but the highlight of the year is the company’s awards dinner, where employees and their families celebrate the company’s achievements. “We attend a wonderful dinner ceremony with our families to review the goals of the company, to measure our progress and reward successes, and to recognize our milestones,” said Fick.
Awards are given to the company’s top performers. In a takeoff on ESPN’s ESPY awards, winners receive a gold trophy in the shape of the company’s initials called an “FB.” “We probably have 25 different statistical awards, and that creates a lot of good feeling,” said Fick.
When it comes to employees, there is one concern that tops them all: safety. “Ours is a dangerous industry. We are very committed to working safely,” said Fick. “We’ve won a lot of safety awards over the years. The biggest thing is we’ve made a commitment to it, and a lot of companies in our industry have not.”
The company conducts ongoing safety training, weekly toolbox talks, and the production manager surveys all jobsites to makes sure they are properly set up. Fick Bros. also contracts with an outside safety consultant who visits jobsites unannounced, takes photos and issues a report. “We also reward our guys at our monthly company meeting if the job is perfectly set up, so there’s a benefit as well — we make it a positive instead of a negative.”
Ensuring Quality Workmanship
Employees are kept at the top of their game through ongoing education. “We are training every day,” said Fick. “In addition to manufacturers’ training, our in-house employee training center is an important component to our ability to develop highly skilled, professional installers.”
In addition to application training, all foremen regularly participate in role-playing exercises to improve communication with customers. “We also do a lot of management training with our people as a member of Certified Contractors Network, and we do it in house now. We role-play actual situations where the customer needs extra work or there is a problem or dispute.”
Foremen have a lot of responsibility at the company, Fick noted, so training is crucial. “They not only manage the crew and the job and the installation, but they also manage the customer and all customer relations after the job is scheduled and sold and started,” he said. “They also sell additional work that makes sense to do now along with the originally contracted work. This leads to a better job overall and ultimately to a much more satisfied customer. And the economic impact to the company is huge; last year our project foremen sold over $1.3 million in change orders.”
The company’s commitment to quality work and continued education come together in its Total Quality Management (TQM) meetings, which are mandatory for all foremen, salesmen and management personnel. Every job is reviewed, complete with photos taken before, during and after the project. “Because we are constantly pointing out to each other our mistakes, these meetings are challenging and sometimes painful. But they are the key to ensuring our high quality,” Fick said. “Not only do we go through each project and rate it, but we figure out if we could do things better as a group. That’s really been the key for us — bringing the sales and production guys together and having one focus — getting better.”
Individual Goals, Team Spirit
Getting better is what it’s all about, said Fick. “We have a motto here about the relentless pursuit of perfection. We’re constantly chasing that,” he said. “The peers are pushing each other. We created an environment where people want to be the best, where they want to have the best numbers.”
Statistics from TQM meetings are tracked and prominently displayed at the company. “It’s no different than a baseball team or a football team,” said Fick. “You win and lose together, but there are individual stats and there are also team stats. A lot of people preach that, but we really live it. And I think that’s truly been the difference for us — doing all those little things. It definitely takes effort. It’s harder to work here probably than it is to work at another company that’s similar to us, but I think it’s more rewarding in the end. When you can say you are a complete roofer or a complete salesperson or a complete employee, it’s much more rewarding.”
“People buy in to that philosophy of life and business,”Fick concluded. “There’s nothing you can’t do when you get like-minded people who are interested in one goal. That’s been our success.”