Young Guns: Next-Generation Leaders are Pushing the Roofing Industry Forward
Continuing in its mission to shine a spotlight on the industry’s up-and-coming leaders, Roofing Contractors has asked more roofing professionals in their 20s and 30s to share their career success stories. While each one is unique — some fell into this line of work by chance while others followed family tradition — they all share a common passion for pushing their companies and the industry forward. Here’s what they had to say about everything from new technology and generational teamwork to quality workmanship and customer satisfaction.
Vice President and General Manager
Springer-Peterson Roofing & Sheet Metal Inc.
Daniel Boatwright: The First-Generation Roofer
Daniel Boatwright doesn’t come from a long line of roofers. His father was a welder, so when Boatwright was in high school and looking for a local job, it’s not surprising that he started working in the fabrication shop at Springer-Peterson. However, what is surprising is that almost 20 years later he’s still with the roofing company and now serving as its vice president and general manager.
“It’s kind of a long story,” Boatwright explained. “I was working in the fabrication shop for about a year when Don and Rob Springer asked me to attend an apprenticeship school on the fabrication side, so I went back to school in the evenings while working at Springer-Peterson. It was a four-year apprenticeship school for sheet metal and welding.”
Boatwright completed the program and got his certification. “I then basically advanced through the fabrication shop to shop manager,” he continued. “I was in that position for about a year before the hurricanes hit, and then was actually brought in to start estimating on the roofing side. I went through about a year of estimating and then became the senior estimator. I then advanced to now vice president, and I was in that role — senior estimator — all the way until about the end of last year. I’m now currently vice president and general manager.”
According to Boatwright, Springer-Peterson Roofing & Sheet Metal Inc. was founded in 1982 by Don Springer and Brooke Peterson. The two men were working together at Florida Sheet Metal when they decided to join forces and open a small satellite office in Lakeland, Fla. Six months later, they purchased a new, seven-acre property where the company is currently located. Peterson left the company in 1984, but the company name has remained untouched. “Because of the foundation of how it started, Don Springer left the company name as-is,” Boatwright said. “It’s symbolic for him of how it started.” At that time, Springer’s son, Rob Springer, came onboard and served as vice president of operations until 2006, when he took over as president upon his father’s retirement. Today, Springer-Peterson specializes in commercial and industrial re-roofing work and continues to serve Central Florida.
Boatwright has now been with the company for 19 years. When asked what his most significant achievement has been thus far, he said, “Probably where I’m at now as vice president and general manager. Honestly, throughout the company in any position, it has been a pleasure working for a family-owned company and having close-knit relationships. Rob and Don have been amazing. Working with those guys on a day-to-day basis, you can always count on them as much as possible.”
According to Boatwright, incorporating new technology into daily operations has recently become a major focus for him and the company. “I can remember close to two or three years ago, all that we did was handwritten timesheets, and today we’re trying to do everything electronically,” he explained. “We’ve implemented Dataforma software that allows us to capture pretty much any project. Anything you go to do with that project you can upload into the system, and it’s available to anybody at any time.”
He noted that the generations are working together to implement the new policies. “I think we’ve found a little niche. They’re teaching each other is what they’re doing,” he explained. “We don’t necessarily pull responsibilities from the foreman. We create new responsibilities for the younger guys. They’re teaching the foreman how to operate it, but they’re also being taught by the foreman on how to install roofing systems. That’s the only way we’ve really felt that it works for us. And hopefully we’re teaching the younger guys to be foreman in the future.”
When it comes to staying on top of changes in industry legislation and regulations, Boatwright insists it’s a natural part of providing top-quality service. “I guess it all stems back to quality,” he said. “If you choose quality as a focus point, it’s going to force you to do all of these things.” He also noted that being heavily involved in FRSA keeps him and the company current on any installation and code updates.
Boatwright is now involved with multiple legs of the company, but overall he is most passionate about pleasing its loyal customers. “Our biggest thing is caring,” he explained. “When you care about something, you can usually make things happen. For me, ultimately caring means customer satisfaction. Throughout the company, it’s customer satisfaction, hands down. They pay our paychecks. If they’re not satisfied, we don’t have a chance of doing the next job with them. In the future, we want to do their next job, too, not just the one we’re on.”
Looking back on his unexpected yet successful career, Boatwright has no regrets. “I have no family that was ever in roofing, but I can honestly tell you that I wouldn’t change a thing about it because everything I’ve done has led to where I’m at now,” he said. “I sell myself to the best of my ability every single day. I don’t look at the past, I look at the future, and what we can do and change. I get up every single day with that type of attitude.”
Classic Roofing LLC
Brandon Richardson: Climbing the Ladder to Success
According to Brandon Richardson, his introduction into the roofing industry happened by complete accident. In 1993, at age 18, he accepted a job where he expected to be working with a forklift, but on his first day — a cold, snowy morning in Denver — he was handed an axe instead. “I was a little confused because I thought I would be working in a nice, warm warehouse moving palettes,” he explained. “Instead they had me chopping asphalt and loading a kettle.”
Richardson caught on quickly. Within about a year he was second man, and a year after that he became a foreman. In 1999 the owner decided to expand to Phoenix, so Richardson picked up and moved his family to Arizona, where he soon realized he wouldn’t be happy until he was a superintendent. It took him 10 years, but he got there — in 2010 he was named superintendent at new company, where he has since continued to move up. “I was recently promoted to service manager at Classic Roofing LLC, where I have been now for the past six-plus years, and I’m still looking up the ladder,” he said.
According to Richardson, Classic Roofing was founded 30 years ago as a mom-and-pop shop specializing in small residential work, and the company slowly built itself up and entered the commercial arena. In 2001 it was purchased by an investment company, which has allowed it to grow into one of the top commercial roofing companies in Arizona. Richardson has been heading up the development of the company’s service department for the past two years and counting.
“I was given the opportunity by my general manager, Andy Clarke, to grow a department of our company that was largely based on simple leak calls coming from a select few clients every now and then into a full-time operational service department, performing everything from the simplest of leak calls to the large-scale tenant improvement projects, and performing complete roof maintenance visits,” he said.
“I would have to say service is where my focus and passion are at now,” he continued. “I have been given an opportunity, and it seems as if this is a new market for building owners and managers. I believe there is a huge opportunity out there to expand this sector of the business, and I’m working very hard to help grow this department here at Classic.”
Richardson noted that the company has made several other advancements over the years, including introducing new technology and improved safety programs. “The implementation of these programs has proven to help companies and their employees stay on task, and ensure every man makes it home safe at the end of the day,” he said. “With a stable labor force at the helm, the company succeeds.”
He also credits Classic’s success in part to teamwork. “The old schoolers do it differently, but the benefit of experience they bring and the fresh, new ideas the younger generation brings makes for a unique mix of problem solving,” he said. “There’s nothing we can’t solve when we work together.”
As he continues to climb the ladder, Richardson is also helping to guide and encourage the industry’s future leaders. He recently began volunteering at Arizona Construction Career Day, an annual event that gives the state’s youth an opportunity to get hands-on experience with the construction trades.
“Classic Roofing has contributed to the event in years past, but 2013 was my first year attending,” he explained. “After being a part of the event, I can’t wait to go again next year. Being a father of two teenagers, I understand the importance of showing the next generation how a career in the construction industry could be beneficial to them. Most of the kids I interacted with were high-school students, and we were able to give them hands-on experience with equipment, materials and tools. Seeing the kids learning and enjoying themselves and being genuinely interested in construction guaranteed that I will happily volunteer and become more active in this event every year.”
For Richardson, it’s all about continuing to move forward, both on and off the job. “It all comes down to making a better life for my family, and my future plans have never changed since the day I started working,” he said. “I’m always looking to move up the ladder. I have met so many people in this industry — great men and women who are business owners and managers, team leaders and professionals. I learn from them each and every time I see them; I absorb what I can from them to try and better myself. I would like to think someday there would be an opportunity for me to own my own company, or even own this company for that matter, because once I take over for my general manager (only after he is ready to retire, of course), I don’t see how else I can move up unless I own it!”
MarkHwan J. Berning
Chief Financial Officer
Brian McPartlon Roofing, LLC
Santa Fe, New Mexico
MarkHwan J. Berning: Bringing a New Perspective to the Family Business
MarkHwan Berning followed tradition by working as a laborer during the summer for the family business, McPartlon Roofing, in Santa Fe, N.M. But he never really considered a career in the roofing industry. He studied international business and finance in college, and worked in China and New York as a consultant for large multinational corporations. But he always missed Santa Fe, and when his uncle offered him a job at McPartlon Roofing, Berning jumped at the challenge.
McPartlon Roofing was founded by brothers Kevin McPartlon and Brian McPartlon in 1983. Brian McPartlon bought the company from his brother in 1993 and owns it today. The company has 32 employees and installs new and retrofit roofing for a variety of residential, commercial and industrial clients.
“International business was exciting, but I got my fill of it,” Berning said. “My uncle was kind enough to offer me a job if I was willing to go into sales, and once he started hearing about my experience, he said he was looking to restructure. He was looking forward to his retirement and his legacy plan, and that’s when we decided that we would move me up to a top-tier management position to help oversee and execute a lot of the new policies.”
McPartlon named Berning CFO in January, tapping his unique perspective to create new policies throughout the company. “When our sales team gets overwhelmed, like we are right now with monsoon season, I still go on the occasional sales call to help out,” he said. “Down here, we have the mentality that no matter where you are in the hierarchy, at some point everyone has to roll up their sleeves and pitch in.”
Berning found the transition was tougher than he expected. “A lot of my previous experience has been in dealing with big C and S Corporations, and I was coming into a pre-established company with a great reputation in town,” he said. “I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I had the mentality that if I can handle billion-dollar companies, I must be able to handle an LLC. I found out it was a completely different beast all on its own. ”
He had to go back and hit the books to review the tax implications, but he knew he could make a positive impact with the company. “In today’s economy and society, we take a lot of pride in being a family-owned business for so long, but at the same time we understand that we need to change,” he said. “What worked in the 90s doesn’t work anymore.”
One goal of the plan is to make the company less dependent on the owner by setting up clear lines of communication. “The owner-centered company doesn’t work anymore because he’s too busy working in the company to work on the company,” Berning said. “We’re going to define roles and responsibilities of each department and each position.”
Another key focus involves tapping into new software and technology. The company is in the process of revamping its website to make it more customer interactive, and it is taking advantage of consumer sites like Angie’s List. The company is staying in touch with customers via follow-up emails after each phase of the job. “We want them to know that our main focus is the customer,” Berning said. “We are looking to set a new standard of excellence in customer service.”
New finance software allows the company to track every penny, check margins and measure productivity. The goal is to bring those sorts of measurable to all aspects of the company, including the sources of leads, the percentage of booked appointments, closing ratios, etc. “It’s the old idea that we don’t want to be tripping over dollars to pick up dimes, but at the same time we understand how everything relates to everything else,” Berning said.
When Berning rejoined the company, the office staff was photocopying orders to create a job folder. They are now automating the system with new software. “The second we get a signed contract, our foremen, our supervisors, our sales team, our project managers, the office staff — we can all just open up our tablet or laptop, click on it, and we have all of the correspondence that has gone back and forth with the customer, we have the contract, we have all the pictures that the roof specialist took,” Berning said. “We’re going high-tech for the new age.”
The sales team is making the most of the new presentation tools. “We’re taking the approach that if we educate the consumer, not only will it help us close, but we’re educating the average person so they can’t be taken advantage of by the less-than-ethical roofers out there,” he said.
Owner Brian McPartlon is fully behind the changes. “Once he started to see the differences being made, and how quickly and easily responsibility could be delegated and tracked for accountability, it’s something he really believes in,” Berning said. “Now he’s pushing my brother and me to make a lot of changes.”
Berning’s brother, Matthew, is the company’s chief operating officer. McPartlon is looking ahead to the day he’ll pass the family business on to the next generation. “He’s looking to leave the company in such a great spot where he can say, ‘I grew the company to a point where I’m comfortable handing it off,’” said Berning. “It’s a trust and legacy type of mentality.”
Berning isn’t ruling anything out in the future. “We want to constantly set a new standard for excellence in our own industry, but also work with any company in any industry that wants to meet the same criteria,” he said. “Beyond profits and sales, we really want to promote giving an enriching and empowering feeling to our own employees.”
He describes his re-entry into the roofing industry as “very enlightening and very humbling all at the same time.”
“It’s been a fun ride so far, and I hope it continues,” he said.