When a company has been in business for 40 years, it speaks volumes to the kind of work that they complete, and the considerable effort put into it. Surviving multiple economic downturns, including the Great Recession in 2008 — which many economists have labeled as the worst recession since the Great Depression in the 1920s — is an achievement that not many can say they’ve reached. Gary Schaefer, however, is one of the few business owners who’ve done just that.
After his father purchased Schaefer’s first pick-up truck for him to aid in his work installing siding, the wheels began to turn. Determined to repay his father back in a timely fashion and to showcase his high-quality work ethic, Schaefer decided to start his own business. Knowing beforehand that he enjoyed the combination of being outdoors and learning new skills, Schaefer determined siding was the route he would take.
In 1977, Schaefer Siding and Exteriors was born, and now 40 years later, the company is rising to new levels and tackling a wider scope of work than was first envisioned. Today, the company offers siding, roofing, replacement windows, gutters and a broad range of residential restoration work, servicing Maryland, Pennsylvania, northern Virginia, Delaware and eastern West Virginia.
Located in Sykesville, Md., Schaefer Siding is home to nine full-time employees who boast an average of 15-20 years of service. Over the last four decades, Schaefer has seen his workforce change significantly, but he’s adamant that his current staff tops any he’s ever worked with. “Several employees have come and gone throughout the last 40 years, but I truly believe that I have the best, most devoted employees working for Schaefer Siding right now,” he said.
Striving to be the Best
Though Schaefer as an owner is eternally grateful for his employees and their hard work, the feeling is reciprocated amongst them. Wanda Bolner, whose job role spans from office manager, to purchasing manager and production manager, has been with the company for nearly 20 years. She explained that Schaefer is the lifeblood of the business, and he’s spent nearly a lifetime building a company that cares deeply about its employees. “Gary is a good guy, I don’t know how else to say it,” she said. “Schaefer is the type of company where you feel like Gary has your back. Family is very important to him, and he’s always treated all of us like family.”
Bolner has worked her way up the ladder throughout the years and has been involved in nearly every aspect of the business, aside from sales and bookkeeping. Her most rewarding accomplishment, however, has been being a part of a successful, flourishing company for the last two decades. She explained that she’s always been the type of employee who sticks around, and seeks to play an integral role in the business.
Eager to make Schaefer Siding the best it can be, and to be remembered for her years of dedicated service, Bolner expressed her appreciation for the time she’s spent at Schaefer. “Twenty years of service, to me, it says a lot for a small company like ours. We’re out there, we have good employees and good customers. We’ve made good friends and relationships throughout the years,” she said.
In addition to great relationships, the company boasts a wide range of certifications which highlight their expertise in the residential remodeling business. Schaefer is Vinyl Siding Institute certified, a Hardie Preferred Remodeler and a CertainTeed Shingle Master, all of which validate the company’s superior workmanship and professional service.
Every week, employees gather for production meetings and discuss all jobs in progress, as well as what’s upcoming. “We feel communication is one important key for our success,” said Schaefer.
40 Years of Growth
The company has grown and expanded exponentially over the years, both internally and externally.
Schaefer Siding’s newly remodeled office, for example, upholds a light, friendly atmosphere, where employees are encouraged to interact with one another. Employees were even asked to choose paint colors and furnishings to complete the new office, something that Schaefer explained was instrumental in creating the ideal working environment. “They are the ones who are there eight to nine hours a day, five days a week,” he said.
According to Schaefer, it’s also important for everyone to get along and work together as a team.
Recently, the employees organized a surprise party at Ruth’s Chris Steak House to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary. Schaefer described the night as both amazing and wonderful.
Externally, the company has expanded its service offerings considerably over time, and has continued to strengthen and adapt its business model. “We learned to grow with the other businesses out there,” Bolner said. “Homeowners want to hire you to do the roofing and siding, that way, you don’t have to use two contractors.”
Customer service, an extremely important aspect of the company’s business, is something that Bolner said is always top of mind. There’s no automated phone system to ensure that customers are consistently speaking directly with an employee, which subsequently helps build stronger relationships.
With Schaefer leading them, the production, sales and customer service teams have all learned how to work together successfully, and put forth the best work possible — for 40 years and counting. “Everybody has their own little niche and between all of that, it makes us stand out with other companies,” said Bolner. “We’ve been here 40 years, and it’s all because of Gary sticking it out and going through all of the hardships. Forty years says a lot.”