The Morris family has spent the last 40 years roofing much of northeast Kansas, delivering good old-fashioned Midwestern values to each and every job.
Perhaps that’s why the name of their roofing business seems so fitting: Midwest Coating Inc.
Started by Don and Molly Morris in 1979, the company has grown to have 45 employees today. Midwest Coating services an area that encompasses about 200 miles from its Topeka headquarters.
Don recently retired, but his son, Randy, 58, and two grandsons, Madison and Garison, plan to keep the business on track — applying many of the same lessons, values and methods that helped build the company to become what it is today.
“If you run your business right, you can make a real good living,” Randy said. “It’s definitely worked for our family.”
For its first six years, Midwest Coating was run out of the family farm about 30 minutes north of Topeka. It began when Don answered an ad to be a rep for Duro-Last.
By 1985, the company had moved to Topeka.
Today, Midwest Coating annually targets between $7 million and $8 million in revenue.
Randy Morris said much of the growth in the earlier years of Midwest Coating can be attributed to his father working so close with Duro-Last’s late founder John Burt.
“My dad and John Burt were real good friends,” Randy said. “Basically, we’ve patterned our business after Duro-Last. We kind of copy them, in a sense, as a roofing contractor.”
Don took many of the lessons he learned from Burt to heart, according to Randy — and those lessons have been passed down to the latest generation that operates the family business.
“That’s why we still prospect and cold call,” Randy said. “John Burt would tell my dad, when they would have rep meetings years ago, ‘You gotta get your ass out of the truck. It’s simple.’
“Everyone’s looking for a silver bullet and there is no silver bullet,” he said. “You’ve got to work hard.”
When Don retired in September 2017, Duro-Last issued a press release.
“As one of Duro-Last’s original independent sales representatives, Don was instrumental in helping John R. Burt develop the foundation for what the company is today,” the company said. “Don’s enthusiasm and professionalism helped to build Duro-Last’s strong network of authorized contractors throughout the central United States region.”
“Don has been a vital part of the Duro-Last family for many years,” said Kathy Burt Allen, John’s daughter. “He has always inspired the best in people with his honesty, character, and work ethic — it’s been an honor to work with him.”
Duro-Last noted that during his time as an independent sales representative for the Michigan-based manufacturer, Don worked with authorized contractors and industry professionals in the Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma regions.
“Don was one of our first independent sales representatives who John R. Burt and all of Duro-Last respected as a successful and professional sales person,” said Tom Lawler, longtime friend and business associate of John. “But more importantly Don Morris is a kind and wonderful man. He will always be a loved member of the Duro-Last family.”
Randy works hard to carry the mantle he picked up from his father.
Midwest Coating has 45 employees and several divisions: management; production; sales; warehousing; administrative/accounting; and service.
Almost all of the company’s business is commercial. Of that, about 10 percent is new construction.
Building and maintaining relationships with customers has always been important to Midwest Coating, according to Randy. The company’s mission statement is “If you don’t service your customer, someone else will!”
“We have a small community attitude,” Randy said. “We know our customers, we know our employees, and we are empathetic.”
Randy said personal visits are a big part of customer service at Midwest Coating — starting with free inspections that include a lot of pictures to a final inspection that must be approved by the company’s material manufacturers.
Garison said there are several other ways the company aims to set itself apart from others.
“We try to be very fast with our service — if someone calls, we try to be there for them,” he said. “We also try to give them the fairest price that we can.”
Randy said the company takes care of its own employees as it does the community. That includes financial incentives for hitting certain goals, but also offering retirement options, health insurance, life insurance and a matching savings plan.
“We are a family-oriented business and are sensitive to our employee’s needs,” he said.
Those needs also include safety, which is handled by Randy’s son, Garison, 26, who oversees marketing and safety. Randy’s other son, Madison, 30, is a superintendent for the company.
Safety training includes coordination with outside resources through the company’s insurance carrier, regular inspection of all safety supplies and equipment, and weekly job safety inspections.
“We have safety training every week, and provide specific job functionality training as needed through offsite classes, webinars, internet classes, and seminars,” he said.
For all it does for customers and employees, Midwest Coating also is engaged with the Topeka area community in general.
The Midwest Coating Facebook page contains many posts of the company and its employees engaged in various community-related activities, such as sponsoring the local Boys & Girls Club, or Don building a float for a local parade. The company has also hosted “business after hours”-type networking events for the local business community.
In 2013, the company received the 2013 Capital City Business of Distinction award from the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce during a Small Business Awards event.
Randy Morris told The Topeka Capital-Journal that the company always tried to operate “with an eye toward the greater good.”
“Everything we had was entrusted to us by God to use for good and to give back to the community,” he said.