Young Guns: Meet the Roofing Contractors and Product Leaders Moving the Industry Forward
As part of our continued effort to provide comprehensive coverage of roofing contractors and their suppliers across the country, the editors at Roofing Contractor regularly profile roofing professionals in their 20s and 30s willing to share their career success stories.
Whether part of a family business with a strong tradition or navigating the industry on their own as a start-up, our Young Guns share a common drive to make themselves and their companies successful. They’re also looking to have an impact on roofing, whether it’s in their respective markets or industry-wide through innovation, critical thinking and improved customer satisfaction. We’re happy and proud to introduce a few of the up-and-coming professionals looking to make their mark in the years to come.
John Malizia: Taking the Family Business to the Next Level
It wasn’t always a given that John Malizia Jr. would follow in his father’s footsteps and lead the family-owned roofing-contractor business started more than three decades ago in arguably the busiest city in the world.
But as a business major in college, the second-oldest of five Malizia children realized the prime opportunity he had to build on the hard work and strong reputation his father created with A-1 Roofing & Siding of Long Island. And he hasn’t stopped working at it since.
“I always wanted to be in business, and as I grew older I realized my father built a great company,” said Malizia Jr., now 33. “I saw it as a great opportunity to do business in a strong industry with a company that already had a great reputation. But I needed to do the work first.”
So while still in school earning his degree in business management, Malizia spent three days a week on roofing jobsites — working his way from a shingler, to mechanic and then foremen upon graduation from St. Joseph’s College. He then hired a large and capable crew, which allowed him to rotate off the roof to handle the administrative/sales side of the business. His father did all the estimating, while he handled the paperwork and managed crew operations.
Now with his father retired and the eldest Malizia sibling, Nicole, a school teacher, the fate of the business rests on Malizia, his two brothers and a sister involved in driving the company forward. With a knack for implementing efficiencies and long-term vision for growth, Malizia Jr. has helped set a path for success that he believes should keep the family in roofing potentially for decades to come.
In the two years since the company essentially moved from the Malizia family home to its own offices, A-1 has experienced 20 percent year-over-year growth and enhanced its image as a local roofing solution in a competitive market. Further success is expected in 2016 as the company obtained a New York City home-improvement license, which allows it job opportunities throughout the five boroughs.
Though the growth exceeded even his own expectations, Malizia said he realizes it didn’t happen overnight or accidentally.
While others in the construction trades suffered during the economic downturn starting in 2008, Malizia said A-1 actually started to thrive. By sticking to what they knew best — roofs on existing facilities — the virtual halt in new construction didn’t impact Malizia’s roofing business, and they gained clients with diversified workload. It also didn’t hurt that historically significant storms like hurricanes Irene (2011) and Sandy (2012) rolled through his territory, creating a need for A-1’s niche in residential re-roofing and roof repair.
“They created a lot of work us, no question about it,” he said of the storms. “When we first had Irene, we learned a lot, and when Sandy came, we looked at it like ‘this is our time and our opportunity to really grow.’ Now the challenge has been about maintaining it without those major events, and we have.”
Malizia said there are many reasons for sustaining that success, but he emphasized recent improvements both internally and externally.
For example, A-1— for the first time — recently implemented a company processes and procedures manual based on the years-worth of notes compiled by Malizia and his younger brother, Vincent, now company COO. The older Malizia said it helped streamline efficiencies and set goals and expectations for each position. During peak season, the company has about 50 employees and is large enough that it stopped using subcontractors on roofing jobs entirely.
The company also finished a complete rebranding from its website design down to its truck fleet, putting a fresh face on an old, trusted name in the community.
Malizia lives in Long Island with son, Johnny, 8; daughter, Natalie, 5; and wife, Erin, who is expecting their third child early next year.
He said he undoubtedly feels pressure to succeed, but is looking forward to bringing the company to the next level of success. Part of that is shifting focus from their residential niche — which accounts currently for about 80 percent of A-1’s business — to commercial jobs. He said he projects closing that gap to 60 percent residential and 40 percent commercial within five years.
“We were a good company with good values and a very good reputation, but we were not progressing,” Malizia explained. “We’ve really grown in the residential market, and now are looking to get into commercial for the amount of work and lucrative jobs available. There’s such a huge market for roofing that we’re really excited about the direction we’re going.”
Wherever A-1 is headed, Malizia said he, Vincent, younger brother Dennis (a crew foreman), and sister Maria (office manager), are all committed to maintaining their father’s core business values of honesty, integrity and treating customers the right way, whatever the cost.
“I love what I do. I love speaking to homeowners and being able to do something important for them,” he said. “And I’m really proud that the whole family is involved in it because we’ve all paid our dues and worked really hard to continue my father’s legacy.”
Randy Brothers and Cody Hayes: Elite Roofing’s DNA is Thicker Than Water
Randy Brothers and Cody Hayes are not blood relatives, but they’re the first to admit they’re closer than most siblings.
Friends since the seventh grade, these Colorado natives have been side-by-side — first as locker mates in high school, then roommates at University of Northern Colorado (UNC), and now business co-owners — for virtually every personal and professional milestone. Including when Brothers found himself in need of a business partner to rescue his dream of owning a construction-contracting company.
Still in the throes of the recession and reeling from a former business partner’s decision to walk away, Brothers reached out at just the right time in 2010. Hayes, too, was at a crossroads.
Shortly after graduating from UNC, he hired into a commercial property-management company and worked his way up to regional manager, where he was responsible for more than 20 properties in five western states. By late 2010, an offer to become a regional manager at the company’s east-coast operations in Baltimore materialized. Though appreciative of the opportunity, Hayes said he wasn’t thrilled with the idea of leaving his friends and family behind for the Chesapeake Bay. He had a month to decide whether to forgo a promotion and secure salary for the unknown, and Brothers put him to work, literally.
“He’s my go-to guy,” Brothers said of Hayes. “Back in school, we joked about being in business together some day, and little did we know that we’d be here, right where we are. To some degree, we feel like we’re where we’re supposed to be.”
Hayes stayed, and neither could argue with the results. In just four years, Elite grew from a company with $500,000 annual revenue and four full-time employees to a $6 million enterprise with nearly 70 employees at peak season. And it all happened before Hayes and Brothers turned 33.
They currently have a mix of residential (70 percent) and commercial (30 percent) clients, but the pair said the best decision they made was to specialize in a certain segment of roofing. One that has a formidable adversary virtually guaranteed to generate business ever year — Mother Nature.
The demand for Elite’s services is driven by the weather, and reliable insurance companies pay the bills for the work. The key for Elite is being able to differentiate themselves from others at the kitchen table.
“We offer a great service, and homeowners with insurance will pay any quality contractor the same amount regardless,” Hayes explained. “What they’re buying is you, what you stand behind. And if you have great communication, you really can’t lose.”
Another component to Elite’s winning strategy is taking a different attitude toward unforeseen errors and failures.
“Our goal is to always do a good job, but some of our best referrals are from when bad things happen,” Hayes said. “It’s because we took care of it and owned it.”
Hayes lives in Denver with wife, Devon, who is expecting their first child in March. Brothers lives in Denver with wife, Christina, and their 8-month-old son, Ryder.
Though the seductive allure of Colorado’s climate and snowcapped mountains drew the two avid snowboarders together as teens, the pair also developed a strong bond during church activities growing up. Both still say they believe faith plays a big part of their success, and it’s one of the main reason they’re focused on giving back.
In addition to sponsorships and in-kind donations, Elite contributes $100 from each roof sold to a non-profit of the homeowner’s choice, on their behalf. Through this program, Brothers said they’ve helped support several worthwhile causes, including a women’s shelter and programs designed to help residents in Denver’s inner city.
“We’re living (our dream). We wake up every day knowing that there’s a lot of people whose lives are better than they were because of the company we created. That’s an awesome feeling,” Brothers said.
Kayla Kratz: plotting the future of sustainable products for roofers
Roofing wasn’t the family business Kayla Kratz was born into — in the traditional sense. But as the daughter of American missionaries that built churches in Brazil, she sure knew the importance of roofs and made herself useful around construction sites, even as a young girl.
“One of the things I’d love to do was shovel gravel into the concrete mixer and then watch it come out as a useable product,” she fondly recalled in a recent conversation from her sun-soaked office in California.
Looking back now, Kratz, 31, said there’s part of her that believes she was always destined to do the type of work she’s doing now with Boral Roofing, a leading manufacturer of sustainable concrete and clay tile systems.
After nearly three years in sales and marketing for Boral, Kratz was promoted to product manager in 2011. It’s a hybrid position with multiple responsibilities designed for her myriad of talents. But to put it simply, Kratz has had a hand in virtually all facets of product development in an ever-growing segment of the industry: sustainability.
“I get to have my fingerprints across all aspects of the organization,” she said of the pivotal role that includes the development, launch, marketing and sales of any Boral product. “I coordinate that symphony of people from different divisions with different roles together to bring the product to life.”
Homeschooled growing up in Curitibia, known as a cultural center in southern Brazil, Kratz developed many interests and learned to speak English and Portuguese fluently — while gleaning just enough Spanish to be “dangerous.” But she also had a fascination with corporate America, and knew at a young age she’d return to the United States to get involved in business. She graduated with honors from Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma City, and worked in the insurance industry and academics before finding her path in construction trades.
She said she loves being challenged and taking on different roles while still operating in a creative space. Despite the negative perceptions many of her generation use to define the modern corporate structure, Kratz said she’s grateful to work in an established company with leadership that embraces change.
“I’m fortunate because I was able to learn a lot from the company’s established legacy while also having the freedom, the opportunity to define my path and explore opportunities I want to explore professionally,” she said. “This is a company looking for that new edge, open to suggestions, and it’s exciting to be part of that.”
Among her biggest challenges is building brand awareness and educating the marketplace about tile. And that process starts with asking the right questions about what consumers want to know, such as roof life, affordability, performance and energy savings. She said she’s particularly proud of cutting-edge products such as the The BoralPure™ SMOG-EATING Tile, the first concrete-roofing tile on the market that reduces smog formation.
Boral earned an Edison Award for its innovation in 2012, which Kratz graciously accepted as the company’s expert spokesperson — one of her many titles she’s earned within the company.
Currently, Kratz said she’s conducting market research to develop products that meet the demand and marketplace trends. She wisely won’t talk specifics, but insists the company is very focused on roofing and providing a complete solution for contractors working with sustainable products. That includes tile color and developing the right paint palette to meet the growing trend toward more subtle, neutral hues in California and large portions of the Southwest.
It’s a process that requires constant communication and coordination with Boral’s twelve manufacturing plants across the country. And the part of the job she said she loves most because it delivers the highest return.
“Being able to see a vision materialize is a great feeling,” she explained. “We’re entering into an age of knowledge-based work, where seeing a finished product that you can actually hold on to is less common. Seeing the color, make and production of a product, and working with a team to pull it off, is so rewarding. It’s out finest hour.”