Like many up-and-coming roofing contractors across the country, Danny Kirkpatrick got his start hauling trash and doing menial labor for his father’s commercial roofing company in his teens. Running crews by his early 20’s, Kirkpatrick switched gears after his father’s death and excelled at sales for a roof coating manufacturer. But the lure of the rooftop and the opportunity to join a reputable roofing contractor that he always admired from afar proved to good to pass up. That was five years ago, and he hasn’t looked back since.
RC: You began working in the industry as a teen and found your way back to being a roofing contractor. How and why?
D.K.: I wanted to get back into the contracting side and through my time as a manufacturer I had come to know J.R. Jones Roofing. They always stood out to me in the marketplace because of the people. I liked being around them, they had morals and ethics that mirrored my own. I won’t say I didn’t see it in other people or companies exactly but it was more pronounced with these guys. They wore their morals as a badge of honor, even when it wasn’t beneficial financially.
I thought about starting my own company but the manufacturers weren’t eager to sign me up after I’d spent the last several years taking work away from them. After some thought, it basically came down to this; if I want to get back into contracting then these guys are the only guys I would trust to do it with. So in 2014 I made the move.
RC: The company you work for had quite humble beginnings. What’s the story?
D.K.: J.R. Jones Roofing was started in 1980/1981 by James Ronald Jones. He started by going house to house and knocking on people’s doors asking if he could fix their roof. Somewhere within that first year he realized that homeowners were extremely difficult to get payment from, so he took the knowledge and capital he had gained and switched to a strictly commercial company, at first, using the same sales strategy, knocking on doors. In 1984, Mr. Jones incorporated the name J.R. Jones Roofing. In the late 80s, Mr. Jones started doing work in Houston for a famous hotel chain. The hotel chain loved his work and asked him to do projects outside of Houston, because they were having difficulty finding reliable roofers.
J.R. Jones Roofing has grown exponentially since then, going from one person in the office and 8-10 men in the field to today, where we have 25 people in the office and 125-130 in the field performing not just roofing, but waterproofing now, for the entire building envelope.
RC. Your move and the timing seemed just right to translate into success. How?
D.K.: Within the first year I became vice president of sales and estimating. In my first year the company increased in gross sales. In my second year, we increased to the point of having our most successful year ever in the history of the company. We’ve then beat that record every year since. I was soon promoted to vice president, sales and operations and I have ownership interest in the company.
RC: What are the big challenges in your market?
D.K.: The biggest challenge is labor shortages and figuring out where the next generation of roofers is coming from. We have a big book of business and a nice backlog, but finding the manpower to do it is challenging. When we project ahead, 5 or 10 years down the road we are running into a major issue of who will do this work?
We attempt to tackle this issue by marketing the job of roofer as a career path for students or young people that are interested in a company that will give them training, opportunities, and is willing to invest in them and that their potential is very high if they stick with it as a career.
RC: How has your company changed in recent years?
D.K.: J.R. Jones has evolved in the last six-eight years to cover the entire building envelope, roofing and waterproofing. We have also added a full-fledged service department in the Houston market only. In addition to that, the biggest changes in the last five years have come from technology. We have added five different software platforms that we use to manage different functions of the company. The switch from paper to automated has been a struggle but the rewards are innumerable. It has made the guys in the field more productive and accountable. It made communicating what was going on in the field to the office staff infinitely easier. It has streamlined the work completion to invoicing stages.
RC: What area of your roofing business are you the most passionate about? Why?
D.K.: I am most passionate about sales and production. I love sales. I love talking to people about how we can provide something that can truly help them. I love connecting with people, having honest conversations, and creating a true partnership with our customers. It’s what drives me. Most recently I’ve taken over the operations department because we felt like it made practical sense to have one person overseeing the sales/estimating to production process. This has been significant because I’ve discovered I am a detail guy. I love getting out my “microscope” and looking for the little holes in the process and then coming up with a solution to repair them. It’s very rewarding when you find something that can improve the company or benefit a customer. That’s what I am most passionate about, digging into the process, ensuring the work is streamlined and efficient from the moment a proposal is created until the job is closed out.