Marcus Eytcheson has been in roofing for most of his life. His father and brothers worked in carpentry and roofing, and he ripped off shingles and pulled tarps for a crew when he was in high school. It was only natural that he would venture out on his own, and in January 2015 formed Local Roofing in Fairmont, Minn.
At first, Eytcheson mostly did independent sales, but in 2018 formed his own roofing company, Fairmont Roofing. But his dream of running a roofing company almost came crashing down before his first year after an entanglement with the wrong contractor.
As a roofing company that specializes in stone-coated steel shingles, a manufacturer’s rep asked Eytcheson’s company to help a contractor who sold multiple roofs using the product. Fairmont Roofing came in and got production rolling, and the contractor ran up a balance of over $100,000 with Fairmont. Unfortunately, the contractor’s check bounced.
“They didn’t make payments after we worked out a payment agreement,” Eytcheson said. “Eventually they filed bankruptcy and left us holding the bag and we didn’t even get so much as a sorry. That was hands downs the worst, as it happened in the very beginning of going on my own, and all but broke me.
“I wasn’t fully prepared to absorb that type of loss in my first year in business.”
But not only did Eytcheson weather the storm, he built a successful roofing company with multiple locations, including one in neighboring Wisconsin, and used his passion for roofing to pen a children's book about the industry.
From the Ground Up
Eytcheson, whose official title with Local Roofing is “visionary,” started with him doing a little bit of everything. A project manager came in to help establish his business as well as a salesperson and a business manager. The project manager has since moved on, but the other two are still vital parts of the company.
“I have been in the industry most of my life doing installations, training installers, selling projects, helping with marketing, etc. It was just time to pull together those years of experience and knowledge to get out there and do it myself," Eytcheson said.
In addition to the difficulties he had working for the wrong contractor, Local Roofing has to overcome a challenge other contractors in the Midwest face: shortened seasons. Due to cold temperatures, the company has to contend with installing asphalt shingle roof systems with enough time for them to seal properly before winter arrives. This also means having to schedule emergency repairs and inspections around extreme cold events to keep workers safe.
In spite of all of that, Local Roofing is thriving, consisting of four locations: Fairmont Roofing in Fairmont, Minn.; Becker Roofing in Becker, Minn.; Folie Roofing in Waseca, Minn., and Hayward Roofing in Hayward, Wis. The company has even received multiple nominations for awards from the Fairmont Chamber of Commerce.
“We are not a big company compared to many of the larger players in the industry, but our best year of installations was over 2,500 squares of multiple brands and styles of stone coated steel,” he said. “We take pride in our stone coated steel roofing installations as they are beautiful and extremely durable for our customers in the years to come.”
Eytcheson credits working with multiple professionals and suppliers over the years, including Tilcor Roof Products and IKO. He lauded Oliver Kollofski with Sweet Financial, the company’s outsourced CFO, for guiding Local Roofing through tough financial decisions, and ABC Supply Co. Inc.’s Brandon Gross, an outside sales representative. He said his suppliers played a big role in helping him weather his first year.
“We have had so much support by our industry partners we could never have done this on our own,” he said.
That support network includes dependable Local Roofing employees. To retain its staff, Local Roofing offers a standard company vehicle, cell phone and clothing, and has health insurance available to staff as well as a 3% match on retirement plans. It also holds fun teambuilding events and brings in outside trainers in addition to local distributor training.
The Right Reputation
With foundations as solid as stone-coated steel roofing shingles, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t affect business for Local Roofing aside from taking the necessary safety precautions. Eytcheson said his company doubled its year-over-year revenue, attributing it to people being home more and noticing the need for roof repairs and replacements. However, he did note that supply shortages due to production and shipping delays made things difficult.
“We added more stocking capacity to smooth out the delays in production and shipping,” he said. “We took on more inventory and pre-ordered more than we typically would to be safe. We are working hard to place orders the same day as our sales moving forward to stay in front of our needs.”
COVID-19 also put a damper on the company’s preferred method of building relationships with customers by holding in-person events. Instead, they’ve had to rely on other ways of maintaining relationships, such as exceling at customer service.
By working with Chuck Thokey, a sales and marketing coach, Local Roofing is going through a ground-up transformation to make its system and process for interacting with customers better than ever. It’s why the company goes by the slogan “Licensed, Insured and Awesome!”
This includes actively working to improve the reputation of roofing companies as a whole. As part of that effort, Eytcheson took it upon himself to write a children’s book about roofing called “Up on the Rooftop.” The idea came about when his daughter’s elementary school asked him to read a book to her class, and he was let down by the lack of books related to the trades.
A friend he knew from church helped translate the book so it could be presented in both English and Spanish, while a customer’s son who is a cartoonist agreed to illustrate the book for him. Originally, “Up on the Rooftop” would only be given as a gift to workers and customers, but when people asked for copies, Eytcheson reached out to the company that handles Local Roofing's yard signs to print the book.
“I feel like we’re doing the right thing, and we’re heading in the right direction,” Eytcheson said. “It’s an uphill battle recruiting as a roofing company because nobody looks at roofing as a legitimate business. I don’t think people realize the money that can be made in the roofing industry and that it can be a real business, it’s not just guys roofing on the weekend for beer.”
Eytcheson said no matter what goal someone has — whether it’s continuing a family legacy or building a profitable company — the roofing industry can help them achieve it if they’re willing to lend a hand and make friends within the industry.
“Many people in this industry like to help others out, as hard as that is to believe at times,” he said. “It might not be your top competitor, but someone out there is willing to talk if you reach out.”