NAPERVILLE, Ill. — Most roofing contractors set out to do one type of roofing work very well. Fewer try to master multiple systems in their careers. Even less excel at it … and can say they make a profit.
The team at Showalter Roofing Service, Inc. may be a rarity in modern-day roofing, but to them staying versatile, focused and humble is just a way of life. Founded by Dale Showalter in February 1979, the company has served both residential and commercial markets in the greater Chicago area, and continues to grow.
Starting out in his own driveway, Showalter took the experience he gained in the five years working for a roofing contractor after graduating from Wheaton College to complete his own entrepreneurial vision. With one helper and a 1968 GMC stake truck, he slowly built a client list. Believing that there had to be a better way to deliver a high-quality product and focus on customer service by truly caring for their needs, Showalter said he launched his business driven by the philosophy and motto, “Rising to Great Heights to Serve You.”
From its humble beginnings on the east side of Naperville, Ill., Showalter Roofing Service, Inc. has since expanded its services to include residential roofing, commercial roofing, repair and maintenance, custom sheet metal and, recently, an insulation department. Crews serviced tens of thousands of Naperville homes and Chicago area businesses over four decades with a unique business model.
An Extended Menu
Among the keys to Showalter Roofing’s business success is the ability to stay nimble.
Roughly all of the company’s focus is on reroofing projects, but crews service a wide variety of roofing styles and systems. Martin estimates a slim majority of company work (41 percent) is in the residential sector, followed by commercial (34 percent). The remaining 25 percent of jobs are repair/maintenance and sheet metal work.
Showalter’s crews can handcraft various types of metal, including aluminum, steel and copper onsite in their Illinois headquarters.
“The reason that we have four different departments is to be able to provide answers to our customers that have a wide array of roofing so that they don’t have to call three different companies when they need work done,” President and CEO CJ Martin said. “Showalter Roofing can handle virtually all of a customer’s needs.”
That versatility requires having the right type of people working for you, and a broad knowledge base of diverse products and roofing systems to maintain. Education and training begins on day one. Showalter Roofing offers classroom training, hands-on training in its warehouse and at jobsites, and a company history review included in the standard on-boarding program. Training remains continuous, as workers regularly review techniques, learn new technologies, evaluate new products and more.
“Our entire team can only be the best if we share new knowledge, tap into our experience, and utilize outside talent,” said Martin. Showalter was among those roofing contractors from across the country to send a project manager to get involved with the National Roofing Contractors Association’s ProCertification program. They became certified as a trainer and will begin covering curriculum with team members in order to get them on the path to certification.
By being leaders in the industry, company officials said they believe they’re building leaders of tomorrow within the company. A leadership program for managers is underway that includes one-on-one meetings, book clubs, and videos created in-house that are used to teach about leadership.
“We believe that if our leaders get better at leading, the entire company will get better,” said the elder Showalter, now semi-retired. His son, Paul, is currently chief financial officer after working his way up over several years from apprentice, to journeyman, foreman, and project manager.
In addition to managing the finances, that experience on the roof helped refine Showalter’s recent improvements to an already-successful safety program. Last year, the company implemented daily ‘huddles’ every morning for every department. The meetings start the day and cover specifics for that day’s priority projects. Facilitators will outline safety measures that need to be practiced on the job, and those are reiterated during safety toolbox training with teams on the jobsite.
Martin said crews are becoming inventive, creating short YouTube vlogs that are also focused on safety and leadership. Those and other social media platforms have become integral methods of communication both internally and externally. Showalter recently started using Google Ads, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube to increase its digital footprint and promote projects that can become lead generators.
On the Move
Embracing social media is just one example of the company’s evolution.
“Although Showalter Roofing is a 40-year-old company, within the past seven years we’ve changed nearly everything in order to stabilize our business while providing for growth opportunities,” Martin explained. “We’ve implemented new technology for our sales team, we’ve restructured our administrative team, we’ve changed our presentations, streamlined processes and paid off all debt.”
Perhaps the biggest change was getting out of its comfort zone. Naperville has always been the home of Showalter Roofing and still serves as company headquarters. But in 2018, Showalter branched off for the first time and opened a location in Knoxville, Tenn., with plans to expand soon into the Nashville market.
“Our main focus in Knoxville currently is the low slope market with additional work coming from the steep slope and repair areas,” Martin said of the recent expansion.
At the close of 2018, Showalter had 47 full-time employees but is anticipating needing at least 30 more before the start of the next peak roofing season in order to keep up with demand. Given the workforce challenges all roofing contractors are dealing with across the county that may seem like a tall order, but company officials said that number includes more administrative help, sales consultants, project managers and supervisors in addition to crew members.
“The commitment to training dollars is extremely high, however, we believe that the payoff will outweigh the time, money, and energy put forth in this effort by providing a previously untapped workforce,” Martin said.
In addition to focusing on safety and developing workers, the company offers several perks to employees. Standard benefits include health insurance, long-and short-term disability, and 401(k)s. Martin also said all of the revenue generated by metal work is distributed to employees annually as a holiday bonus. Reward trips for the entire company upon hitting goals are planned for the next 10 years.
“We believe that people want to work at Showalter Roofing because we not only value them for what they do, but we value them as human beings,” Martin said. “We actually do care for our team members and show it several different ways.”