Starting over from the beginning toward a new career is a challenging path to take. But if you’ve got a family to provide for and bills to pay, then the choice is obvious — take the opportunity and run with it.
This scenario was all too familiar for Joe Fritts, who after 17 years, quit his job working in oil fields and decided to take his career in a new direction. Armed with prior experience in construction and building homes, he realized that roofing made the most sense, so he applied for his contractor’s license in California.
With limited funds but a strong desire to excel in the roofing industry, he started Fritts Roofing & Repair Co. on March 3, 1997. The company, located in Ventura, Calif., services the surrounding Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties — a robust roofing area for both the commercial and residential markets. Known as the ‘Entertainment Capital of the World,’ Los Angeles is the second-most populous city in the United States, and with the recent additions like the new L.A. Rams football stadium and the Wilshire Grand Center (the tallest building in the western U.S.), it’s safe to say the construction market isn’t slowing down any time soon.
Specializing in PVC, TPO and SBS modified bitumen applications, Fritts Roofing & Repair Co. boasts a 60-40 blend of commercial and residential roofing, respectively. Eighty percent of work completed is reroofing projects, with 20 percent new construction.
“Each day I get calls for jobs that I never thought I would ever have the chance to bid on … We are fully capable of larger projects as well as the smaller ones,” said Fritts.
Though Fritts had some experience in the construction industry, there were still a lot of unknowns in the beginning of his career. Having spent his last dime on workers compensation insurance, Fritts feared he would never live up to his contractor’s title. However, as time went on, he learned a great deal from others in the business on everything from managing material costs to bidding jobs.
He surrounded himself with veteran contractors who knew the ropes and could lead him towards success within his own business. “I talked to other contractors and suppliers to learn as much as I could as fast as I could,” Fritts said. The knowledge that he’s gathered along the way has proved successful as his company celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
“I was a technical man diving into a businessman’s world, so many mistakes were made early on in my contracting career. But perseverance and drive kept me going,” he explained.
One of the aforementioned mistakes included a loss of $40,000 during his first year in business. A loss that would have caused many to quit outright, Fritts trailed onward, slowly paying back the debt over a few months’ time. His patience, hard work and determination during that time paid off, as the company has experienced growth in profit every year since the experience.
Overcoming such obstacles is all part of the journey. “I live in a constant state of gratitude due to my way of thinking. I get paid for doing what I love to do. You can’t go wrong in my book,” he said.
Bidding against unlicensed contractors is a big challenge for Fritts and his team in the competitive southern California market. He explained that many times, customers are simply uniformed and will seek out the lower bid to save a few dollars. He said that being honest with the customers goes a long way, and if you know exactly what products you’re selling, it says a lot about both the knowledge and integrity of your company.
Fritts says his team is more than willing to work with customers who may not be able to afford a new roof outright. “Always be open and honest with them … If they need a new roof and can’t afford it then I always sell them maintenance until their budget can afford the new roof.”
A large part of Fritts’ overall vision for his business is the company’s emphasis on commitment, both to the customers as well as the communities they serve. That means worrying less about money earned, and more about delivering quality service to every customer.
“My mindset is to always go out and give them a dime for their nickel, every day,” he said. “Don’t worry about the money. Focus on the service, and if you do that, the money will always be there.”
Service is what sets his team apart from their competitors, Fritts explained. Each morning, he meets with his employees to discuss yesterday’s accomplishments and goals to achieve today. While talking, he learns exactly where each job is at in the production schedule, and assures that each individual employee is working on the project that best utilizes their skillset.
Concentrating on the details of each contract, and abiding by the services declared within, allows the company to assure quality workmanship, as well as sustain trust with their customers.
Having completed a variety of projects in their respective territories including the Sierra Army Depot and the Ventura Toyota dealership, the team possesses a wide range of skills to conquer any job. A more notable segment of their work includes restoring old homes to be used as rehab facilities in Malibu, a popular destination due to its stunning views of the surrounding Pacific Ocean.
During all of the ups and downs throughout his career, Fritts said he’s never lost sight of what’s most important.
“Never give up. Seek to do the right thing in each and every circumstance and you will succeed,” he said.