The owners of Euro-Tech, Inc. essentially got into residential roofing kicking and screaming.
Fred Finn, Anthony Navigato and Stanley Statkiewicz Jr. were all well-seasoned salesmen for a replacement window company when in April 1992 they decided to join forces and be their own bosses as exterior remodeling contractors. Reasonably successful building a client base in competitive residential markets that included greater Chicago, northern Illinois and metropolitan Milwaukee (known under the Remodel America brand), they were content with their growth for well over a decade. However, they kept hearing similar requests for roofing from more and more customers, roughly 95 percent of which were single-family homeowners.
“Previously, we were just helping our windows and siding customers who asked about roofs and we’d say ‘okay,’ while kicking and screaming,” said Finn, recalling the decision with a slight chuckle during a recent telephone interview.
As three sales reps in the vinyl window industry, Finn and his partners had been around their share of roofing contractors, and didn’t always like what they saw and heard. Cautious and deterred by fear, they moved slowly into roofing — purposely deciding not to even market their service. Still, the average of three or four clients a year in 2009 doubled by the following year, and then again until Finn said they realized they were completing dozens of roofing jobs without a real dedicated production system or sustainable business model.
It wasn’t until roughly five years ago that they saw the benefit of also becoming full-service roofing contractors.
“There was absolutely some (fear) getting into the roofing industry, but it was an unrealistic fear,” Finn explained. “We could install windows upside down or backwards, and still be okay with a customer. But if we did a bad roof and it leaked … we knew the damage to people’s homes could be much worse.
“In hindsight it was an unrealistic fear,” he continued. “Because if you do the job the right way from the start, you shouldn’t have any leaks anywhere.”
That became the foundation of Euro-Tech’s mission in roofing. Finn said he and his partners didn’t set out to become a large player in a very competitive roofing and home remodeling market. They just knew that they could sell, connect with homeowners and generate revenue.
The conversion from “glass guys” into roofers wasn’t necessarily without its challenges, but the trio set out to design a business model that they believed made the experience and the roof better for a customer. Part of their philosophy is to find solutions that help cultivate long-term relationships with customers. For example, Euro-Tech crews will go beyond code requirements to preemptively mitigate ice dams, which is a major issue for homeowners in their primary markets.
“We know ice damming is the worst thing for people out here as far how leaks develop in their house,” Finn explained. “We do things that are standard on our installs that other companies don’t do, and do things standard on our installs that other companies would charge for. We make it standard because we think it’s a better roof.”
The other philosophical pillar for Euro-Tech’s 48 non-union employees focuses on attitude. Whether on the rooftop or in the office, employees must never quit, always smile and do what they can to make the customer happy, Finn said. The positive atmosphere promotes a family-like culture that reinforces bonds and commitment to one another and the company.
Finn said it’s difficult to describe it in words, but happily boasts how nearly a dozen different employees have had the Euro-Tech logo tattooed on their bodies over the past seven years.
When it comes to installations, there’s no substitute for hard work and consistency in training and measuring performance.
“Our crews know it should be done right the first time. There is no other option,” Finn said. “With repetition comes perfection, and if you give that roofing crew the same shingle and underlayment every single day … over time you’ve created a good system, because the crews don’t deviate from it. It’s done the same way every single time and it’s a better job in the long run.”
Now committed to doing it the “right way,” Euro-Tech markets, packages and sells roofing in high volume.
Though still offering windows, siding, gutters, doors and attic insulation, roofing is now more than a third of the company’s overall revenue, and it continues to grow — exceeding more than $3 million in just roof-related revenue last year, officials said.
Their specialty is an exclusive roofing system called Protect the DeckTM, a combination of a heavy-duty waterproof underlayment and durable asphalt shingles produced by TAMKO Building Products, Inc. The company also uses its propriety Desert DeckTM underlayment to further waterproof their projects. Both are clear difference makers when it comes to comparing their services to the competition, Finn said.
On average, Finn said crews complete about 300 roofs a year via a strong referral program and other traditional marketing efforts. They remain busy enough to avoid storm work completely, which Finn said he prefers.
“We’ll help homeowners that need it fill out the paperwork and get through the process, but we’re not actively going out there trying to generate storm business. “It’s a different model and we won’t get involved with it.”
Working in mature roofing markets with savvy clients, Euro-Tech is consistently trying to re-invent itself with local marketing efforts that include maximizing digital footprints, neighborhood canvassing and strong customer referrals.
“If you believe just because you can install good work you can run a business, think again,” Finn said. “Some of the best installers fail miserably in business. Marketing and sales always come before installations. It’s what most companies take for granted, yet we think it is most important. Then comes the flawless installation.”
While certain jobs present some physical or logistical demands that can be unexpected or difficult to plan for, Finn said it’s knowing your client that becomes the real obstacle to finding success in business.
“Job situations are not challenging. Difficult people are the only real challenge in life,” Finn explained. “We strive to satisfy all of our customers, but sometimes we fall short of expectations. This is the biggest challenge of being a business owner. Then next is following up on social media.”
While they can’t exercise control over a prospect’s decision making process, Euro-Tech employees always maintain their hustle and drive to win the next job. Other firms may wait for the rainstorm to force the phone to ring, but Finn’s sales team is out creating customers, especially now — in good economic times for the industry — in order to help gain market share when the demand and backlog of work slows.
“Roofing has been good to us and we’ve only really been going gangbusters on it in the last four years,” he said. “We weren’t too ecstatic about it, but now I wish we’d jumped into it about 15 years earlier.”