Editor’s Note: It doesn’t take long to recognize the prevalence and importance of family succession stories in roofing. Regardless of being in the commercial or residential sector, or whether involved in the installation, distribution or manufacturing of roofing products and services, roofing professionals from around the country have very rich, educational and inspirational stories to tell about working with family in order to reach their goals. Welcome to our continued Fathers & Sons (or Daughters) series that focuses on some of the most dynamic relationships in roofing. If you have a multi-generational family with a good story to tell, you could be next. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The thought of ringing in a New Year, and putting the past one — or at least the final 10 months of it — behind puts a smile on Pat Overson’s face. Like many roofing contractors across the country, his business in Mesa, Ariz., was impacted by the COVID-19 shutdowns and ensuing economic crisis. But you wouldn’t know if you asked his employees, or certainly his customers.
“We did have to cope with (something like this) before back in 2008 to 2012,” Overson said, comparing recent months to leaner times following the Great Recession. “We had to tighten our belt in every aspect of our business and make sure every job is profitable.”
That sometimes requires tough decisions, including the lowering of salaries for himself and son/business partner Brett.
“The first people that should suffer in a business is the owners,” Overson explained. “We lived on our savings for a long time.”
That attitude speaks directly to Overson’s success over the years to become one of the more popular and reliable roofing contractors serving metropolitan Phoenix. The company has 30 non-union roofers installing several different single-ply roofing systems, but with a specialty in tile and shingles. About 90% of all jobs are residential, but the company is expanding its use of spray foam applications and metal work to stay competitive in a robust, year-round market.
Ethics and Hard Work
Staying true to fundamental business values like hard work and stellar customer service help keep the company going during difficult times. They’ve also learned staying versatile and being able to offer a wide range of services to clients has strengthened long-term relationships over the years.
Even before the pandemic, the Oversons were adept at adopting technology. They are keenly focused on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and work hard to keep the company website and blog updated. They’ve focused marketing efforts at online advertising as well as local radio shows and podcasts.
Customers are also getting a glimpse of Overson’s ethics. Among company milestones, earning the 2016 Blue Torch Award from the Better Business Bureau takes special significance. The honor celebrates businesses that go above and beyond to demonstrate ethical behavior and help create a trusted marketplace in any field. It’s something virtually all in the industry agree roofing could use more of.
“That was a really big step for us,” Pat Overson said. “It was an outward sign that we do our best to be ethical in our business practices and treat people the way we want to be treated. It shows we follow the Golden Rule and have contributed to our community.”
The other pillars of Overson’s success that have lasted more than a decade are safety and fine craftsmanship. The emphasis on safety starts first thing every Monday morning with a 6 a.m. safety meeting, where topics range from fall protection and ladders to heatstroke. In 2017, it earned a safety award from CopperPoint Insurance, and boasts a record of no work-related accidents since 2012.
The Oversons also believe in personal touches. They order in lunch, and prior to the pandemic, hosted multiple work events every year. Each quarter they commit to team-building exercises that allow everyone on staff to interact. One memorable event included building sling shots to see who could shoot the longest distance.
On the practical side, benefits include health insurance, dental and 401(k) matches. Overson also offers paid holidays, paid time-off, paid sick leave and maternity leave.
Though they don’t always have a choice, the Oversons believe strongly in on-the-job training.
“We go over the jobs that we have completed and we go over how we did on those jobs and what we did right and what we did wrong,” Overson said.
Employees also participate in manufacturer training regularly, and have to show what they’ve learned when two superintendents visit jobsites daily. They hold crews accountable for jobsite progress and have a thorough final walkthrough, where they inspect for quality and compare the finished work with photos taken before the job started.
All the information is debriefed in weekly production meetings, and bi-weekly sales meetings are held to go over strategy and client needs.
Constant communication with customers, and ensuring their happiness, is the norm.
“We let them know it means a lot to us that they are our customer,” Brett Overson said. “We call them after the job and make sure they are happy and if they’re not, we call the supervisor back out.”
When jobs are complete, the Oversons send a thank you card — a small touch that they strongly believe helps their 40% successful referral rate.
Passing the Torch
Taking care of customers is second-nature, but is also a learned trait passed on by Overson’s father, who worked for decades as a general contractor.
“I’ve been on roofs since I was a kid,” Overson recalled. “I started roofing as a professional in 1977 when I was 22. A friend of mine was a shingler and he taught me how and after that I just started working all over the valley.”
Hard work and doing the job right are fundamental traits he’s helped pass on to Brett. Since his son entered the business at the same age he did, Overson said he knows his days on the rooftop are numbered, but that he’s confident his business tradition will live on.
“My son was 22 and he wanted to come in and partner with me. I thought it was a good idea to teach him the trade so he could take it over when I retire,” Pat said. “I’m 65 right now, so my son could be taking over soon.
“Experience matters. I have been doing this for over 40 years, and I passed the knowledge down to my son, as he will do with his son.”
Helping them along the way will be a loyal, core group of employees that will carry on their mission statement: Customer satisfaction through excellence, service and integrity.
“We hire roofers in their 30s and 40s who have already made their mistakes on someone else’s job,” Overson said. “Hire people with good character over good skills. We can train people to have good skills, but we want people who are honest and want to make the customer happy.”