FRASER, Mich. — Finding quality roofing contractors in metro Detroit was always a bit tricky for William R. Martin & Sons Inc. — so much so that the homebuilding company eventually took to doing it themselves.

Those roofing duties fell to William Martin’s son, Todd — who, over the last 22 years parlayed the experience gained with his father’s homebuilding company into a company known as Select Renovations.

Today, the Fraser, Mich.-based company serves commercial and industrial customers and continues growing due to consistent, quality work that leads to new business, among other reasons, says Todd Martin.

In 2018, revenue grew about 25 percent compared with the previous year. That pushed Select Renovations toward a significant milestone: cracking the $1 million mark in annual revenue.

“I would tell anyone looking to grow the same thing my dad told me — if you’re not going to do it right, don’t do it,” Martin said. “If you cut corners it doesn’t get you anywhere because a lot of your business comes from happy customers.”

Taking Care of Customers

Martin said the company his father owned and operated built “hundreds and hundreds” of houses in Michigan’s Macomb and Oakland counties, a wide swath of territory that essentially covers metro Detroit’s northern suburbs.

“I’ve been in construction my whole life,” Martin said. “Since I was 8 years old I was sweeping out units and whatnot.”

However, there seemed to always be a thorn in the side of William Martin and his homebuilding company.

“He got tired of roofers on our houses doing a bad job,” Todd Martin said of his father, now retired. “So I started roofing the houses and away I went.”

That was more than two decades ago.

Martin, 43, said he ran with the opportunity and improved his skills through on-the-job learning and subsequently taking courses and seminars in construction management and building.

“Every house we built, I did the roof, siding, flashing,” Martin said. 

As his father’s career wound down, Martin said he stuck with roofing as it provided the most opportunity in the market and required the least amount of capital investment — a decision he said he still feels good about.

“Roofing can be profitable and I enjoy being outside,” Martin said.

In the last three years, Martin said Select Renovations shifted focus to be almost entirely on commercial and industrial projects. The 25 percent growth in 2018 reflects the quality work being done by the company and satisfied customers.

“It’s like anything really,” he explained. “When you do residential, you have residential people talking when you do a good job for them and it’s the same thing with commercial.

“It’s just going to continue to get better and better.”

Select Renovations has five employees.

By being present and actively involved in every job, Martin said he’s able to emphasize the importance of safety while also helping others learn and “making sure everything goes smoothly.”

It’s the kind of thing Martin said he believes sets Select Renovations apart from competitors.

“It’s that knowledge and level of detail,” he said. “I know how I would want to be treated if I were a customer and I just try to use that on every single job and in every single situation. You just have to pay attention and care about what you’re doing, for sure.

“If you take care of your customers, the rest will fall in line.”

Master Contractor

In addition to word-of-mouth, Martin said Select Renovations uses a Google AdWords campaign and has an office staff member who works to create, protect, and promote the company’s online presence. In addition to positive reviews, the company’s website includes an active blog with recent articles such as “Winterize Your Roof and Roof Maintenance Tips,” “Roofing Estimate Process,” and “Cost of Roof Repair and New Roof Costs.

About 80 percent of the company’s work is commercial. Select Renovations primarily installs single-ply flat roof systems produced by Duro-Last Roofing Inc., Martin said. Projects done by Select Renovations range from condominium developments to structures like the 65,000-square-foot industrial building housing a plastics company that the company was working on in early January.

Martin said his association with Duro-Last evolved from an informal conversation he had with a childhood friend. That friend suggested working with Duro-Last as a way to get into the kind of commercial opportunities Martin said he knew existed throughout metro Detroit.

He reached out to Duro-Last, and the relationship formed.

Since then, Select Renovations has earned Master Contractor status from Duro-Last and also earned a 100 percent rating from a Duro-Last inspector.

But, Martin said, Select Renovations does face its share of challenges.

Like other roofing contractors throughout the U.S., he identified labor as a top issue.

“The number one goal is to find someone who cares about your company as much as you do and when you’re small or medium-sized, it’s definitely hard to find an employee who feels like (the company) is their own,” Martin said.

Another challenge the company can face, he said, is the unpredictable weather in Michigan.

“That’s a challenge — opening things up and worrying about the weather,” he said. “Especially when it seems like it rains every single day. You can get huge amounts of rain in a very short period of time.

“There’s a lot of money absorbed into dealing with the weather, for sure.”

With such challenges in place, Martin said it’s that much more important to stay tried-and-true to what he learned growing up in construction.

 “My father was always quality first (and) do it right the first time,” Martin said.

He suggests other roofing contractors seeking steady growth follow a similar course.

“A lot of roofers don’t have the experience to be doing what they’re doing or what they promise to do,” Martin said, noting he has seen work done by other contractors that “would blow your mind.”

“Make sure you know what you’re doing before you sell a job because you can get yourself in lots of trouble,” Martin said.

He also cautioned contractors about trying to win as many jobs as possible by charging lower rates.

“If you can’t do it right for the amount of money that you charge somebody then walk away from the job — you definitely need to charge for what you’re doing to do it the right way,” Martin said. “It only takes one bad customer experience to ruin a lot of things.”