Marty Robbins and his roofing business have endured a lot since its formation in 1975 — from economic downturns and employee shortages to battles with cancer.
But the company has survived and thrived, growing in that short span of time from a small residential reroofing business to a commercial roofing contractor that has taken on some of the most prestigious projects in the Dothan, Ala., area.
Marty and his father, C.D. Robbins, formed the company when Marty graduated from high school. Just three years later, C.D. succumbed to cancer, leaving Marty in charge of the business alongside caring for his younger brothers, Mark and Mike. But business was picking up thanks to tackling difficult jobs, and the brothers eventually joined Marty in the roofing business. They helped expand it beyond residential jobs and into the commercial roofing space, where 90% of the company’s current projects are commercial reroofs.
“When do you the same thing day after day, even though the jobs are different, you get very proficient at it, and the more proficient at it, the more competitive you are,” Marty said.
Unfortunately, the family’s bout with cancer didn’t end with their father. Marty was diagnosed in 2010 with leukemia, and the family worried he wouldn’t make it more than a few months. But he persevered, receiving treatments at a facility in Texas for six months. He said he’s thankful not only for the prayers and support he received, but for the family business continuing to prosper in his absence.
“From talking to customers and general contractors we do work for, [we] didn’t miss a beat,” Marty said. “Employees and family just stepped up.”
Today, the family oversees the different departments within the company. Vice President DJ Robbins (Marty’s son) handles the low sloped roofing division; Mark manages metal and shingle roofing; the sheet metal shop is run by Mike; and Marty handles the finances and insurance. Meanwhile, the maintenance and services department is run by long-time employee Blair Harvill.
“Our key attributes are our employees,” said DJ. “Our employees do the best job for our customers and take care of them.”
Taking Care of the Family
A lot of family-owned companies like to say they look out for their workers as if they were family, but Marty Robbins Roofing definitely walks the walk. The contractor provides health insurance that is 90% employer paid as well as a simple IRA fund that is employer matched. In a video, Marty explained the reasoning behind caring for employees as a business owner.
“Most employees go to work thinking they got to make a living and put food on the table for their family,” Marty said. “I’ve always took that a little further, and if I’ve got 40 employees, I’ve got to go to work to make a living for 41 families, them including us.”
Marty said his goal has been to change people’s perspectives about roofers as well. When he entered the industry, he said contractors were stereotyped as drunkards and low-character people. He said taking care of employees, who in turn take care of their customers, has been a meaningful experience that’s changing perspectives about the industry.
“I couldn’t say back then that I was proud to say I was a roofer,” Marty explained. “Now I can, and my people can. We’re professionals.”
That professionalism extends to being safe on the job. Monthly company-wide safety meetings and weekly toolbox talks keeps safety top of mind. Most of the employees have taken the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10-hour course, while others have taken the 30-hour course.
When it comes to dealing with customers, the contractor’s goal is to be transparent. Despite having a foreman, supervisor and manufacturer inspection completed on each job, problems are bound to crop up. What it boils down to, DJ said, is how the employees approach the issues.
“One of our sayings around the office is, ‘It’s not if you have problems, but when you have problems, how are you going to handle those problems?’” DJ said. “We say this to remind everyone to handle each problem just like you would want it handled if you were the customer.”
It’s a philosophy that’s served the contractor well. Given that the company’s main marketing efforts are its lettered trucks and an online presence, word gets around about its exceptional work. As of publication, Marty Robbins Roofing holds a 4.2 review rating on Google and a 5.0 on Facebook, and customers are all-too-happy to share their positive experiences with others.
“Our best marketing is our customers. Word of mouth is our top marketing return on investment,” DJ said.
The company doesn’t mind getting a little cheeky either, with its marketing stating it’s been “covering your assets since 1975.”
Among the important assets the company has covered include the recent completion of two office towers for Health Center South. The contractor also just completed a 90,000 square-foot freezer facility that’s starting a new expansion this year, and thanks to the work it already completed, the company will continue to use Marty Robbins Roofing.
“We are currently working on system-wide roofing and maintenance upgrades to many schools in the Dothan City School system,” DJ said.
Like others in the industry, Marty Robbins Roofing is feeling the squeeze of a small workforce. According to RC’s 2019 Commercial Roofing Trends report, 72% of commercial contractor respondents are struggling with the lack of qualified workers (compared to 62% of residential contractors). As members of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), the Marty Robbins Roofing team is aware of the NRCA’s estimate that roofing contractors missed out on 10% to 20% more work in 2018 due to a lack of employees. That lost work is calculated to be $3.6 to $7.2 billion.
“There is plenty of work right now in the construction industry and not enough skilled workers to do the work,” DJ said. “We just kept doing what has worked for us.”
DJ said despite this pain point, the company has sustained its growth by not taking jobs that are outside of a 100-mile radius of Dothan. By staying close to home, Marty Robbins Roofing is able to address calls and complaints quickly.
The roofing contractor also credits its partnerships with manufacturers and suppliers as a key component to its success. Specifically, company officials said working with Duro-Last for more than 15 years and becoming a Duro-Last Certified Platinum Contractor is a significant reason for its growth alongside its state-of-the-art sheet metal shop and stable workforce.
“Every company has its ups and downs. We have a lot of really good opportunities as a company and have been blessed beyond measure,” DJ said. “We have run into some problems over the years but we turn our problems into opportunities and make the best of each one.
“Just do a good and honest job and take care of your customer. Stand behind the work you do.”