It all started with an idea. A notion that people in need of a good roof over their homes or businesses should get only the services they need at an affordable, competitive price with high-quality customer care.
It was 2008, and though the housing bubble was about to burst and spur the Great Recession, Louis Zaina and business partners, Tony Bunnell and Milt Freer, recognized there was an opportunity looming for anyone brave enough to venture out on their own in the greater Albuquerque market and stick out the economic downturn.
Conventional wisdom aside, the timing couldn’t have been better for the trio to launch RoofCARE. While the recession brought the new construction market to a grinding halt, property owners and facility managers were willing to make investments in roof repairs and maintenance projects to get them through the lean times. And the RoofCARE business model — hinged on finding ways to extend the lifespan of a particular roofing system — was born.
Location: Headquartered in Albuquerque, N.M.
Founded: April 2008
Current Principal Owners: CEO Louis Zaina and COO Alberto Garza
Scope of Work: 70% Commercial; 30% Residential
Company Specialty: Commercial reroofing and maintenance, primarily in public sector
Number of Employees: 75, non-union
Did You Know?: Zaina, one of three original company co-founders, worked in operations and management with the United Parcel Service.
“We knew that consumers had a general frustration, fear and mistrust of the traditional roofing contractor,” said Zaina, current owner and CEO. “And we strongly believed the market would respond positively to a service-based roofing contractor with an emphasis on maintaining and extending the life of the roofing asset.”
Coming from Tremco Roofing, where he was recruited after spending a dozen years in logistics for the United Parcel Service — Zaina recalls humble beginnings in roofing that kept he and his partners focused and hungry to succeed.
The trio had a combined 38 years of experience in the roofing industry and nearly double that in years of practical business know-how. But building a client list took time. They operated out of a hotel lobby and storage unit in the early days and served Albuquerque’s mid to high-end residential and property management market. Within a year the company added commercial and public projects to its service offerings, and seemed ready for a big opportunity.
By the summer of 2009, RoofCARE was generating enough revenue and momentum to gain the attention of local officials that were trying to incentivize small business growth to soften the recession’s sting. The company was accepted to participate in the WESST Enterprise Center, New Mexico’s most prominent startup/small business incubator. The center assists with operational support and other resources that help accelerate growth during a company’s start-up.
The five-year process helped establish the company’s roots in Albuquerque and allowed ample opportunity to test their unique business model in a post-housing bubble world. Membership included a line of credit, and helped Zaina’s team setup actual office space and a warehouse. Employees also benefitted from training and consulting services offered by the center.
“That allowed us to gain credibility and a more substantial infrastructure,” he said.
It also stoked their entrepreneurial fire. By the fall of 2010, RoofCARE expanded south to Las Cruces, and when the company officially completed the incubation program in 2014, Zaina’s team was ready for a new home. RoofCARE relocated to its current location — which is about three times larger — at the start of 2015. By the end of that year, the business went from an incubated startup to making the Inc. 5000 list as one of the country’s fastest growing companies.
Zaina’s team marked another milestone by adding a residential division in 2016, and last year opened branches in Santa Fe and Carlsbad, while also relocating the Las Cruces team to a larger facility. The company ventured into Texas earlier this year, opening branches in Houston in May and El Paso in July.
RoofCARE operates in regional teams that focus on business development and project management. The teams are supported with corporate services and long-term strategy from headquarters.
“We strongly believe in the value of decentralizing the activities that directly serve the client, and centralizing activities that support the staff that directly serve the client,” said Marketing Manager Jonathan Small. Executive management is primarily focused on ensuring that department managers and staff remain aligned with corporate objectives and meet or exceed key performance indicators.
In lieu of creating a separate maintenance division, the company developed SmartCARE, a customizable, tiered roof-management program that proactively maintains the existing roof’s lifespan. The method works, as does the RoofCARE’s emphasis on building relationships with customers for the long haul.
“To put it simply, we pursue clients, not projects,” Zaina said. “The majority of our transactions are done with clients with which we have developed credibility and trust. These relationships demand an emphasis on providing good information, technically-sound recommendations and timely, quality work with little or no surprises.”
That strong reputation helps attract word-of-mouth clients, but Small said RoofCARE also has a comprehensive marketing plan focused on clear market differentiation for each of its locations. That includes consistent branding, targeted digital advertising and maintaining a robust online footprint with a mobile-friendly website and engaging social media channels.
“Our goal is to serve clients in a comprehensive, organized and efficient manner, to ensure the process remains straightforward and stress-free for both parties,” Zaina said.
Much too humble to consider themselves roof saviors, Zaina said he and his team never tire of hearing an audible “Wow!” when customers see the finished product for the first time. They also know that the company’s core business model is designed to save customers heartache and money. The sustainable approach they’ve carved into a niche in the southwest spares them the ugliness of unpredictable costs and the stress of continually having to react to problems.
“Customers recognize the value of services designed to make roof last longer, as opposed to the ‘replacement as a default’ approach to roofing,” Zaina explained. “Our clients have embraced our proven, long-term and cost-efficient alternatives to premature replacement.”
It’s what allowed co-founders Bunnell and Freer to retire, and for the entire 75-member team celebrate a decade in business earlier this year. Zaina marked it among the top two business milestones achieved so far. The other is conducting the annual Roof Angel Project. The event highlights a nonprofit organization in the communities RoofCARE serves in need of a new roof. The company has donated roof repairs since 2012 and aims to continue well into the future. Zaina said they’re potentially targeting a Houston nonprofit this year in the wake of last year’s devastating hurricane season.
“It’s an honor to be able to give back to those in-need, especially those that don’t receive a significant amount of government funding, and raise awareness for the organizations in the process,” Zaina said. “We feel the best way we can give back is by doing what we do best, providing quality roofing.”