If there’s one unwavering lesson that roofing contractors learn along their business journey it’s that roofing is an industry that’s permanent, meaning, once you’re in — you’re all in. Even before his career in roofing began, Paul LaNue was no stranger to this mindset, having gathered with friends for weekly poker games. Paul’s friends, all of whom were already employed in the roofing industry, played a hand in convincing him to take the plunge and join them in the trade. It was 1997, and their timing couldn’t have been better since Paul had recently closed his carpet cleaning company. That coincidence marked just the beginning of Paul’s prosperous two-decade career in roofing.
After working in the industry for 14 years, Paul was recruited by the owner of a company who believed he was the right man to help grow his business.
In just four years, Paul confirmed his choice and achieved the aforementioned goal by quadrupling the company’s revenue from $1 to $4 million. When the opportunity to buy the company arose in 2005, Paul and wife, Rhonda — who’d cemented a successful career in telecommunications and IT — didn’t hesitate.
“When Paul decided to purchase the company, of course I was all in,” Rhonda said. “At the time, I had been contracted as a software trainer. What a great combination of having the ‘office and business’ skills along with his roofing knowledge. We thought, ‘We can do this!’”
The company is headquartered in Phoenix, with a second location in Tucson, Ariz., and offers reroofing, service and maintenance for various roof types. The majority of work is residential (85 percent) throughout the respective territories, and crews specialize in custom and historic homes. Lyons reported $10.4 million in revenue for 2016, placing them 94th on Roofing Contractor’s Top 100 List for 2017 — an accomplishment that Rhonda referred to as a point of pride for the Lyons Roofing team.
Other substantial milestones achieved since taking over include winning the Better Business Bureau Business Ethics Award in 2009, as well as receiving the Arizona Roofing Contractors Association (ARCA) Contractor of the Year award in 2012.
Industry associations like ARCA, and the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) have provided priceless information and resources to the team at Lyons. “As with anything in life, you only get out what you put in and the more involved we became, the more we learned, and the more we made the contacts necessary to grow our business with the knowledge and expertise only our members can provide,” Rhonda said. As the current president of ARCA, LaNue said she believes such associations are important because they bring competitors together, which she said has far more advantages than drawbacks. “My belief is that befriending and sharing ideas with your competition helps raise us all,” she said.
LaNue explained that one key aspect has contributed above all else to the overall success of the company — attentiveness to the satisfaction of both customers as well as the employees.
Walk the Walk
As promised outright in their mission statement, Lyons Roofing is fully devoted to providing service that exceeds expectations, both within and outside of the office. For the LaNues, it was of the utmost importance to create a work atmosphere that was different. The pair implemented an internal tagline, ‘Creating employees for life,’ and set out to achieve this goal. They focused their efforts on several important aspects: delivering quality workmanship, providing continued educational opportunities for their employees, and creating a safe work environment.
“We like to feel like all of those we deal with, our customers, employees, and business affiliates know that we really care and it’s not just a platitude. We operate on the philosophy that if we take care of our employees, they will take care of our customers,” Rhonda said. “One of our company goals is to set the industry standard. We continue to work toward that in every aspect of our business.”
The LaNues have done just that, taking care of their team of 90 non-union employees by offering full medical and dental care, as well as a 401k match and paid time off. According to Rhonda, fun is taken very seriously at Lyons, and the activities they participate in reflect that mindset. Employees partake in regular team-building events to strengthen relationships as well as a slew of other activities such as tail-gate Tuesdays, bake sales and pumpkin carving contests. The company also throws an annual holiday party where family members are welcome to visit with Santa.
The team also contributes their time and resources regularly to Habitat for Humanity. “Every year we have more volunteers than needed. It speaks to the quality of our employees,” she said.
Safety is absolutely imperative at Lyons, which has a full-time safety manager on staff. Employees participate in mandatory monthly meetings, as well as weekly toolbox talks. In 2015, the company received ‘Best of the Best Safe Companies in Arizona’ award from the State Compensation Fund Work Comp Carrier for being among the top five percent of safe companies in Arizona.
Education and ongoing training are big subjects at Lyons, where employees are encouraged to pursue additional skills and training to further their industry knowledge and increase their overall value. The company offers access to an online training company that features various self-paced videos to aid in the learning process. Monthly ‘lunch and learns’ are open to employees seeking to learn more about the products and systems installed at Lyons. Recently, the company began working with ARCA and the NRCA to help develop a training and apprenticeship program that will assist in recruiting new, youthful talent to the roofing industry.
According to Rhonda, the team at Lyons Roofing is no stranger to blazing new trails and working toward better, more efficient business practices. “We do not shy away from new ways of doing things we have never tried, or shaking things up at times — in any area of our company,” she said.
Getting the Job Done
The business of building relationships is extremely important to the team at Lyons Roofing. Through its rock-solid culture and cultivation of hardworking employees, the company has maintained strong, long-lasting relationships with their customers. And it all starts with the very first phone call, where the wheels are already in motion before a customer even books an appointment.
“Building relationships from the start is crucial,” Rhonda said. “We always ‘live answer’ rather than use technology.” Open lines of communication are always in place, and customers receive various updates leading up to the start of a job. Once construction begins, project managers conduct daily ‘quality assurance’ site visits and give updates on production, which allows them to solve any pressing issues before they arise. Following a job’s completion, a final walkthrough is scheduled where customers see the end result.
“Our philosophy is to treat our customer’s home with the same level of care and concern you would your grandmother,” Rhonda said. Such philosophies have perhaps aided in the company being awarded several unique jobs since its inception. Including the reroofing of an unidentified Arizona governor’s home, as well as several high-profile commercial projects.
In all, the customer service the company provides is what the LaNues believe sets them apart the most from the competition, and gives them the upper hand in their market. Paul and Rhonda’s forward-focused mentality on how to run their business plays a large role in this advantage. “About a year after purchasing the company we had many people tell us how different we were by stating ‘We are a business running a roofing company vs. a roofer running a business,’” said Rhonda.
Over the past 12 years since taking over, Paul and Rhonda have had their share of hardships, most notably, the economic downturn of 2008 that caused the housing market to crash abruptly. According to Rhonda, the Arizona housing market took a much deeper hit than the rest of the country. “I think we can all agree that the Great Recession of 2008 was no picnic. That said, we learned a lot about how to function on a tight budget and how to prioritize our needs. Hard times — good lessons,” she explained. Company officials also said that finding qualified workers has created difficulties, in addition to veteran workers retiring.
Yet, despite such adversity, Lyons Roofing continues to adapt and press forward. Now nine years later, and stronger than ever, company officials foresee a better fiscal 2017, due largely to reorganization, better preparation, procedural changes and most importantly, a strong shift in overall company culture. The company has also revamped its marketing program which, in turn, has helped them gain a stronger digital presence. “We were pioneers in the digital and social media platforms and continually seek opportunities to embrace new technologies and partners to assure cutting edge delivery of the Lyons Roofing message,” Rhonda added.
Both she and her husband believe they’re indeed ‘all-in’ when it comes to the roofing industry and running their business. That includes developing new talent, refining procedures, and constantly seeking out ways to improve.
“We have built a culture that promotes lifelong learning, and if there isn’t change, there is danger … Let’s leave this industry in better shape than when we came in,” Rhonda said.