Young Guns: These Young Roofing Contractors Carve the Path to Success Their Own Way
Four years ago, Roofing Contractor launched the Young Guns series to help shine the light on the next generation of roofing contractors and industry professionals that, despite their age, are groomed for success and are already making an impact in their roofing companies, respective markets and the industry as a whole.
This latest installment is no different — highlighting roofing contractors under the age of 40 who are making names for themselves in different regions of the United States.
The contractors who shared their stories for this article come from very different backgrounds, but all have a love of roofing in common and show a similar drive to lead by example within their own roofing companies.
Dustin Guess And Chris Perry: Roofing Contractors … Absolutely
There are easier industries to break into than roofing, particularly in a booming, yet saturated market like central and northern Texas.
But when you’re interested in making more than minimum wage in high school and aren’t afraid to do hard, dirty work outdoors, then being employed by a roofing company was a pretty good way to go for Dustin Guess and Chris Perry.
It didn’t hurt that the company was owned by a friend’s father who kept spots for them on crews on-and-off throughout their high school and college careers.
“We did demo work, project managing and would occasionally sell a roof or two to a family or friend at that time,” Guess recalled.
After attending Texas Tech University and the University of North Texas, respectively, Guess and Perry went their own ways on different career paths. Until fate intervened in the form of inclement weather. Hurricane Ike was a powerful tropical storm that wreaked havoc on Texas’ eastern shore in 2008, killing nearly 200 people — more than half of whom were Americans living in the most affected area between Corpus Chrisi and Galveston. The estimated total damage approached $30 billion, making it the third costliest storm in history behind hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Sandy (2012).
For young, eager roofers the physical devastation left in Ike’s wake meant opportunity.
Guess and Perry started a small roofing company focused on the insurance-adjusting side of the storm restoration market that took them across a wide swath of the country, including Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Virginia. Though they achieved some success and proved they could work well in pressure situations, the travel was difficult.
They established Absolute Roofing & Waterproofing in 2010 in the Dallas/Forth Worth area with a sole focus on residential roofs.
In just six years, the company relocated to Frisco, Texas, and expanded to Waco, where it serves customers in Austin, College Station and surrounding communities. To do so, Guess and Perry began incorporating commercial and industrial roofing work into the business model. They also diversified into metal roofing, opening their own sheet metal shop where they fabricate their own products as well as roofing materials for other contractors in the roofing and waterproofing business.
Guess said they’ve doubled sales each year since opening, and currently have at least $7 million worth of work in the pipeline. Not bad for what started as a two-man crew that relied on their parents’ neighbors 30-square, three-tab reroof projects for their first jobs as independent roofing contractors.
The growth started slowly, but success bred more success. The first ‘big’ job Guess said they tried to land involved the reroof of an apartment complex that experienced hail damage. They didn’t get it. However, the property company awarded them a 200-square metal roof job they completed with the help of a subcontractor they knew well.
The same client hired them again for another apartment job that didn’t go as smoothly.
“We made some mistakes but the client was thrilled with our workmanship, communication and how we handled the adversity,” Guess recalled.
Another job followed, and then they were introduced to another property owner that chose Absolute for its first commercial job. Perry’s father, a veteran salesman with no prior experience in construction, joined the company in its second year, and business really started to pick up.
A vital component was Baylor University, the elder Perry’s alma mater, which hired Absolute to inspect more than 150 buildings on its campus and affiliated buildings in Waco, Texas. Projects at Texas A&M University, Texas Cans Academy, and HEB grocery stores soon followed.
The company now has 15 full-time employees and uses subs to help maintain a 70/30 commercial and residential split. That in itself is a challenge, given the rapid construction growth and competitive roofing market in several parts of Texas.
“The saturation of roofing companies in Texas is very challenging,” Perry said. “With Texas not requiring licenses to roof and everyone becoming a roofer when storms hit, it makes it harder for a company like Absolute to gain market share. We use our story of our company and sell an added value service to our clients.”
Both Guess, 33, and Perry, now 31, say they’re clearly in the business for the long haul, and have never viewed their age as a detriment to winning jobs.
“I believe it’s an advantage,” Guess said. “We will outwork, out-hustle and outperform at the age we are at. We’re knowledgeable and professional in every aspect of our business.”
The success has carried over to their personal lives as well — as fathers. Guess has a 7-year-old son, Kyan, and Perry and his wife, Julia, hav a 7-month-old daughter, Landry.
“All this in six years, started by two guys and a vision,” Perry said. “A vision to do things the right way and give the best client experience to each and every client.”
Caleb Strickler: This Spraymaster Takes Great Satisfaction Helping Customers Solve Their Roofing Issues
Caleb Strickler started working on roofs with his father, a project manager, during summer breaks from school at age 16. It didn’t take long for him to realize that the best way to make more money — and move up the ladder, before eventually getting off it — was to stay productive and strive to be on the cutting edge as the industry evolved.
He turned his attention to spray foam and coatings, and now, nearly 20 years later, he couldn’t think of making a better move. Just a short time after learning the basics, Strickler elevated to head sprayer, then crew leader, to his current position as field supervisor with Puff Inc.
Puff Inc. started in 1970 and is based in Charolottesville, Va. It began primarily as a provider of cold-storage and controlled-atmosphere storage in the apple industry, but evolved into roofing, he said. It now has about 15 full-time, non-union employees during peak season, including several sprayers.
“Moving into the supervisory roles has been a real accomplishment,” said Strickler, 34. “I’ve been more involved in the bidding process, pre-construction, post construction, inspections and permitting process, and in the forensics of existing roofs and insulation/air barrier projects. It’s expanded my knowledge and skills greatly.”
Strickler is currently SPFA-PCP Certified as a roofing master installer and insulation master installer.
He’s also working toward a roofing and insulation project manager certification.
He said he’s always viewed his age as an advantage in the field, but at the same time recognized the wisdom and experience of roofing veterans in the company.
“Being young for sure helps in the field as far as actually doing the work,” he explained. “Being younger allows for longer days and therefore more production, and more production is a win-win for everyone. Jobs get completed quicker so less disturbance to the customer, we can move on to other projects sooner as well.”
Puff Inc.’s staff ranges in age from 22 to 66, which Strickler indicated tells a lot about the company.
“I think most customers like to see young enthusiastic employees on their jobs,” he said. “But most of our employees have been with us for some time. I think having a mix of age and experiences makes us a stronger team. Proven ways and means with a mix of new and fresh ideas.”
Among those fresh ideas is incorporating a mindset to embrace technology for both jobsite efficiency and higher-quality service to customers.
Puff Inc. recently restructured crews to improve productivity and relies more on smartphones than ever before for real-time communication, sharing photos and greater interaction with clients. Being able to search tools on Google and other websites, nearby lodging, gas and food also makes a huge difference when they hit the road for an out-of-town job.
Crews can also better stay ahead of the weather, which can obviously impact project schedules.
“I check the weather app at least 10 times a day, sometimes 15-20, depending on the risk involved at the time,” he said.
After storms and substantial rainfall, Strickler said using infrared cameras to spot moisture detection has taken a lot of the guesswork out of the equation.
In the future, Strickler said he sees himself moving into management and getting more directly involved in estimating and sales.
One thing he knows for certain; spray foam is here to stay.
“Spray foam will always be our stronghold. That is what we do!” he said. “The new coating-only systems have proven to be a great opportunity and helped to expand our market.
He said he also appreciates working for a versatile company that fits his customer-focused personality.
“I take great satisfaction helping our customers solve their roofing issues and every one of them is a unique opportunity,” Strickler explained. “I think it says it all. We really do strive to give the best possible service and products. Our quality and service is what sets us apart from the others.”
Though it happens rarely, when he’s not thinking about roofing, Strickler said he enjoys hunting, fishing, and spending quality family time at home with his three children.