Living in New York City takes a certain no-quit attitude, intuition and drive just to keep pace with all the action in the city that never sleeps. Being a roofing contractor in New York takes all that and a certain grit to outwork your competitor and go above and beyond when it comes to customer service — so that the jobs keep coming.
Sean Levine, owner of Royal Renovators Inc., understands this all too well. Starting out with very little resources and experience on his own, Levine’s proven he can lead a company with staying power in a very cut-throat market. But it wasn’t until he refocused and reformulated his business model — including a comprehensive rebranding effort — in order to maximize today’s digital marketplace that his roofing business began to thrive.
With a workforce of about 25 employees, Royal Renovators serves residential roofing customers in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau County. It also now enjoys one of the city’s highest ratings in terms of customer care, which Levine said is no coincidence.
“Royal has completed projects for major hotels in Manhattan, churches in Queens, and even jobs for certain celebrities,” Levine explained. “Yet our greatest pride is not in any particular project, but rather in systematically giving mom-and-pop homeowners peace of mind every day with a job well done every time.”
He recently took some time to respond to the following questions from Roofing Contractor.
RC: What types of work do you do?
SL: We focus on residential roof replacement and are about 95 percent residential, 5 percent commercial. We do almost exclusively rereoofing renovation work, with little to no new construction work.
RC: How did you get your start in roofing?
SL: I was working for family-owned construction companies my entire life. The company then modernized to concentrate on roofing, specialized in high-quality work, and created a business model based on Google online reviews.
RC: How is your company structured?
SL: The company has dedicated individual staff specific to installations, sales, marketing, accounting, proposal generation, project management, and other areas. This is definitely not an owner-does-all roofing company where the owner gives the estimate, does the installation, and manages the day to day operations of the business. It’s a highly structured organization with growing staff, divisions, teams, and personnel.
A successful roofing company cannot be a one-stop-shop internally. A company like that also offers risky warranties to customers, as the company’s warranty is often only as good as the health and abilities of the owner him or herself.
RC: Are there any company milestones that stand out for you?
SL: Yes. In the past two years we’ve received the prestigious Angie’s List Super Service Award, given to the top 5 percent of contractors by ratings. We also received the Home Advisor Best Contractor of 2016 and 2017. Prime Buyer’s Report listed us among the Top 10 Best Roofing Companies in New York City. This year we also achieved Master Elite status with GAF, a designation we are very proud of.
RC: How do you educate/train your employees?
SL: Despite growing to nearly $5 million in annual gross revenue, we’ve managed to keep a “small company” feel to the management. Employees call one another and the owner throughout the day with installation, estimation, or sales-related questions. We are constantly updating with the newest software and technology, including equipping all estimators with remote control drones for aerial viewing of roofs.
RC: How do you keep your people safe?
SL: Each and every employee of the company carries a 10-hour OSHA card. On roof replacements, workers wear fall protection and safety harnesses. We have never made an insurance claim for an injury or loss in the company’s history. Estimators do not walk roofs, they rely on satellite measurement reports and drone photo images. We take the health and safety of our employees extremely seriously, and have a safety manual read and followed by all employees.
RC: How do you create a good working atmosphere for employees?
SL: Our employees feel at home at the company. First, they know that we do right by customers and are very highly rated and reviewed. That allows them to sleep at night and feel confident continuing to service our customers. Second, our employees are compensated above-market compared to employees in similar positions in this same geographic territory. That’s because we recruit the finest talent and compensate accordingly, which creates appreciation on behalf of employees.
RC: How do you ensure quality workmanship?
SL: We ensure quality workmanship first by ensuring clear communication every step of the way. From estimate to proposal, from proposal to contract, and from contract to installation. We constantly communicate to make sure we understand what the customer expects and what their overall goal is. We also expect a lot of all employees of the company, to adhere to our high internal standards. By pushing our employees, by communicating well with our customers, and by retaining the best talent and keeping them happy, the great workmanship naturally follows.
RC: How do you build relationships with customers?
SL: First, customers interact with incoming support staff during the intake call, then they meet with an estimator, and then a project manager goes over the project during a preinstall at-home visit or over the phone pre-install inspection. During the project, a non-working foreman is present to answer any questions and speaks to customers during the install. Finally, the project manager comes to check in on the project and collect progress payments.
By interacting with the customer so frequently and with so many levels of personnel, the result is a relationship built with customers. Our rave reviews attest to this fact that they feel very comfortable before, during, and after the installation. We also send handwritten thank you cards after each installation, and donate $50 for each completed project on behalf of the customer — by sending them a list of 10 charities we’ve pre-selected. We also send periodic email campaigns to customers notifying of discounts, awards we’ve received, as well as reminders to maintain their roof, siding, and gutters before each season begins.
RC: What are the key attributes that set your company apart from the competition?
SL: Our competitive advantage at Royal is having a culture of perfectionism. A surgeon must be perfect. We believe roofers should strive for perfect, because a 99 percent good enough roof can still leak. You need 100 percent flawlessness on a roof. That dedication to quality workmanship is our competitive advantage. We also do not cut corners on customer service and caring about our customers. Not many local companies achieve that level of care or quality, and our reviews attest to this reality.
RC: What advice do you have for other contractors out there?
SL: Choose your customers wisely. Educate your customers as to quality and don’t fall into the trap of the race to be the cheapest contractor. Keep your prices where they need to be to do quality work. Be willing to lose customers who are unwilling to pay for quality work. A good roof is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Eventually your reputation will precede itself and the business will come. Build it right, and they will come. Just be patient.