Growing up in a multi-generational roofing company, Kathleen Maxwell said roofing was all she knew when it came to business. While studying English, creative writing and marketing at the University of Tennessee, she earned extra money while helping around the office during semester breaks. After graduation, she asked her father, John — who took over Maxwell Roofing & Sheet Metal, Inc. from his father in 1986 — for a marketing job that she never intended to become a stepping stone to a rewarding career.
RC: What type of work does your company do?
KM: Maxwell Roofing & Sheet Metal, Inc. is a commercial and industrial roofing and sheet metal company. We have three departments dedicated to their trade. Our construction department handles new construction and reroofing projects; our service department handles T&M work, small repair projects, preventive maintenance and account management; and lastly, our fabrication department handles in-house sheet metal fabrication and installation.
We’re a local, family-owned business that’s valued quality, teamwork, integrity, professionalism and service for over 60 years. We have about 75 employees total, including 60 in the field.
RC: How has your career progressed and how do you fit into the company’s success?
KM: Within a year, I became service coordinator for our service department. My passion to help others and form relationships with customers positioned me into a client account manager, and I quickly realized that I was in a position to create positive change with unlimited potential — and that the negative conception I related to roofing was just in my head, like so many others.
Fast forward nearly five years — and here I am, focusing on growing the business alongside an awesome team, and looking forward to continuing the third generation of Maxwell Roofing.
RC: Do you see a generational difference within your own company? If so, what are the biggest benefits and challenges?
KM: There’s definitely a generational gap within our company, which has many benefits and a multitude of challenges as well. To me, the benefits of having various generations within the company is different points of view and knowledge. The “old guys” can teach us “young ’uns” what to do and not to do and their technical expertise is bar-none. On the opposite end, the younger generation tends to bring a different skill-set when it comes to perspectives and problem solving.
RC: Do you believe your age gives you an advantage in the roofing business?
KM: I’d say there are advantages and disadvantages to every side. Being a young female in the industry can be difficult, but it’s what you make of it — how you present yourself.
I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about roofing, but I will find out what I don’t know; and luckily, I have experts in our company that I can rely on to teach me. I think as a non-expert in roofing, I have a fresh perspective, and focus more on the customer experience than the product we provide. Whether it’s roofing or a new pair of shoes — customer interaction is what sets us apart from competition.
RC: What are some specific challenges in your market, and how are you overcoming them?
KM: Roofing has such a negative connotation behind it, and I believe that’s a challenge in itself. It’s not something you can sell, because no one wants to buy a new roof. When people are positioned to purchase a new roof, it’s typically a negative experience — on their side. Our goal is to make it a positive interaction, with pro-activeness in mind, so that the customer gets what they want in a roof — not just what they need, and feel a sense of partnership in the decision process.
The other big challenge in the Nashville market right now is the growth. While the construction industry is very thankful for it, it’s been difficult to recruit, hire, and keep up with demand.
RC: What about roofing are you passionate about?
KM: Service! I believe it’s where we, as individuals and a company, can make the most impact. Lead with service. The day-to-day human interaction of creating and expanding relationships is what makes a “job” fun — I like to call it service-forward thinking. Relating and connecting to customers is what I enjoy doing — not to mention, being able to help an individual in need is fulfilling. In today’s world, it’s all about the customer experience, not the transaction — that’s what a partnership promotes. Every customer does not need a new roof, but every customer needs a professional service partner.
RC: What excites you about the future?
KM: Within the next 10 years, we’re looking to transition over to the third generation of the company. This adds new challenges, but also opportunities, and we’re excited to explore the possibilities together as a team. Our goal is to build partnerships to exceed expectations in the commercial roofing and construction services.