Mark and Christie Mortimer began their roofing careers not on the roof, but on the stage and silver screen in New York and Los Angeles.
Mark worked as a model and actor while Christie danced in off-Broadway shows, TV shows and movies. When not performing in Los Angeles in 2000, they made extra cash working for a handyman business and fell in love with the work. They decided to ditch the performing arts and L.A. and called their friend, David Lockhart, to see if he wanted to expand his Illinois-based painting business into construction.
“Mark has been working with tools his whole life and I actually grew up with two brothers and a father who built everything on their own, so I had been around it as well,” Christie said.
The trio started Inside Out Construction in 2003, and in 2016 formed Inside Out Roofing — a reroofing company that now services the bustling Greater Chicago area. The bulk of the roofing company’s work is multi-family commercial with about 10% being residential, the majority of its jobs being steep slope roofs.
Christie serves as the chief financial officer and Mark is president of the construction division. Christie said they have no regrets about their career switch, and have even incorporated aspects such as being comfortable on camera into their business. But they also apply that latent creative energy into constantly seeking improvement.
“We’re really big into innovating and creating and keeping relevant,” she said. “I learn something new every day, whether it be from an employee or seminar or even my daughter. Never close yourself off to that.”
A Stellar Cast and Crew
Of course, all the innovation in the world doesn’t help unless it’s backed by people to execute it, and that’s where Inside Out Roofing shines, Christie said. Employees consistently come up with new ways to deliver products to the company, or have new ideas on how to complete a job.
“I truly 100% believe it’s the people you surround yourself with,” she said. “I think that open lines of communication and trust lead to an environment where things don’t get covered up or hidden.”
To keep their people safe, everyone on a job must be OSHA trained and certified. If a worker lets their certification lapse, they’re not welcomed on a jobsite. Project managers provide toolbox talks with crews on site, and toward the beginning of every year, the company holds a kick-off meeting where employees and subcontractors alike take two days to walk through procedures and processes.
As for taking care of employees, the company offers health insurance, 401ks and life insurance. This, combined with its open-door policy and stress on safety, has helped Inside Out weather the workforce shortage with very little turnover.
“We’re really an open book of sorts in our company, so if one of our roofers has an idea to make a jobsite better it’s welcomed,” she said. “I think by giving everybody who works for our company ownership in the project, they have a love for coming to work, which is really cool to see.”
The company’s annual kick-off event gives Inside Out the opportunity to invite its partner companies like Beacon and GAF out to explain new products, warranties and best practices. This includes being a GAF Master Elite certified company.
“We rely heavily on our relationships with companies like Beacon and GAF, to come in and go over product details and installation,” Christie said. “Every time a new product is out, there are always little nuances that change, so making sure we’re always on top of that is super-important.”
In particular, she said Allied Building Products Corp. was key to helping launch the roofing business of Inside Out. With Beacon acquiring the company in 2018, it’s been “instrumental” in helping Inside Out Roofing thrive.
“It’s just such a unique and really cool partnership,” she said. “In all of my business practices I have never felt so much support and want for our success.”
Shingles, Clients, Action!
The company is divided into a management team for capital projects and a management team for roofing maintenance. Maintenance services are also offered to clients once a job is completed.
“We find a lot of other companies come in from other states and if something goes awry after the fact, they’re not there to be reached,” Christie said. “The client doesn’t have to worry about us high-tailing it out on them and not servicing warranties.”
In a recent marketing video, Mark said what sets Inside Out Roofing apart from other contractors is its ability to handle large-scale projects that others shy away from. In one instance, the company worked on a project involving 28 buildings and completed it in two weeks.
“Very few contractors can pull that off in a timely manner, and the people really appreciate the fact that we’re in and out,” Mark said.
When it comes to ensuring these speedy jobs are also quality jobs, the company partners with engineering and architect firms to have third-party oversight on all capital projects.
For each job, the work begins by installing safety harness stations, and prior to tearing any shingles, the crews install plywood along the buildings to protect windows and entranceways. The crew even tapes off the area and knocks on doors to let people know what is taking place. Debris is cleaned up immediately with the use of tarps, metal detectors and magnets.
While employee retention might not be as big of an issue for Inside Out, Christie said she and Mark are constantly aware of losing or disappointing clients. To mitigate this, Inside Out relies on its workers to deliver quality jobs and for clients to give word-of-mouth recommendations.
“If you lose one client, it is a huge deal,” Christie said. “As with anybody, we make mistakes, and when they do happen you own them and you fix them.”
Inside Out also offers continuing education programs about three times a year to help build and maintain relationships. The contractor bolsters its reputation even further through memberships in organizations like the National Roofing Contractors Association and Community Associations Institute, and even hosts social events for clients like “paint and sip” events with wine.
Retaining clients is one thing, but gaining new ones is another. Christie said the company is looking to expand into low slope roofs in the near future, and is even hoping to step into the solar side of roofing. Specifically, the company is eyeing Tesla’s Solar Roof product.
“They’re really slowly rolling out, but I’m really excited to become a part of that,” she said. “Anytime that we can do anything to innovate ourselves and value add to our company, it excites me, so it’s an exciting opportunity.
“This summer who knows what’ll happen. We have quite a few projects on the horizon, and if we land many more we might have to look for some new people, but we’re confident in the team we have to hit the ground running.”