With more homeowners recognizing the benefits of metal roofs, Joel Kenty and Jim Parish were primed for success when they purchased a metal roofing company in 2017.
At the time, they knew the Texas metal market was growing, but didn’t know just how fast they would grow alongside it. This year, Green Knight Metal Roofing earned the 2,268th spot on Inc. magazine’s Inc. 5000 list, which tracks the fastest-growing companies in the country. The company earned this honor by experiencing a 118% growth in revenue from 2017 to 2020.
“This provided validation that we are doing things right,” Kenty said of making the prestigious list.
From Bouncy Castles to Green Knights
Being first cousins, Kenty and Parish have known each other for a long time. They always discussed going into business together, but Kenty’s background in financial planning and Parish’s in technology didn’t work well together. However, when Kenty sold his practice in 2016, the timing was perfect for the two of them to turn their aspirations into action.
“We found a lot of different things from bakeries, to kids’ bouncy houses, to a windows and siding company,” Kenty said. “But, when we saw the metal roofing company become available it piqued our interest.”
Despite neither Kenty nor Parish having roofing backgrounds, they knew that construction in their area was booming, as was the demand for metal roofing, so in 2017 they bought Advantage Metal Roofs. The previous owner stayed on for three months to aid in the transition and teach the inexperienced owners the ropes. Kenty compared learning everything about metal roofing at once to drinking from a fire hose.
“Jim and I are very eco-conscious people and we really liked the product from a sustainability stand point,” Kenty said.
That eco-friendly aspect played a role as the new owners focused on rebranding. They wanted a name that could better encapsulate the product while embodying the company’s values of honesty, integrity and freedom. The eco-benefits of metal roofing inspired “green,” and the sturdy, protective nature of a metal roof reminded them of valorous knights wearing armor. Thus, Green Knight Metal Roofing was born, with a logo that depicts both a knight and roof-line.
Building a Business
With branding in place, next was focusing on SEO improvements, marketing and sales. They hired SEO company 1SEO, a sales manager and looked into every avenue of marketing. Kenty said the majority of its leads come from its website, but it also invests in Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, Houzz advertising and more traditional marketing like referral rewards and door hangers. The company even advertises on a news talk show station and hosts “Knightly Advice Home Improvement Show,” a Saturday morning radio show hosted by Shane Campbell, Green Knight’s sales and marketing leader.
All this marketing is supported by a no-pressure approach to sales and customer relations. Kenty said this does cause clients to take longer to close a deal, but has resulted in a closing ratio at over 40%.
“This is an area where we still need to improve but, in general, if you inform the customer of what’s going on, when it’s going to happen and, to some degree, how it’s supposed to happen, we find that installations go much more smoothly and our customers are much more satisfied,” he said.
Kenty claims Green Knight has the “best metal guys in our area,” including a quality assurance manager who examines all jobs to ensure they meet the company’s standards. The manager even serves as a consultant to field supervisors for guidance on unusual or complex issues.
“When Jim and I bought the company we didn’t know a rake from a ridge,” Kenty said. “The employees that were in place when we took over were incredibly patient with us as we came up to speed. We still have all of the original team working for us and they are the cornerstone of our company.”
This core team not only brought Kenty and Parish up to speed, but new employees as well. The pandemic has only worsened the challenge of finding good labor, and to compensate, Green Knight has been hiring workers with little to no experience and training them in-house. To entice top talent, Green Knight provides a health insurance plan with a company contribution, PTO and paid holidays and employee discounts. Plans for a 401(k) program are also in the works.
“If it were not for their knowledge and their dedication to the success of the company, and to client satisfaction, we would not be where we are today,” Kenty said of his employees.
COVID has not only affected labor, but material prices as well. Green Knight saw five price increases in 2021 alone, with the smallest being 8%. Its saving grace is that it’s one of the largest purchasers of metal in Central Texas, so its suppliers, like Isaiah Industries and Sheffield Metals, ensure they’re stocked.
These strategies have paid dividends in the long run. Austin-based architect Bercy Chen Studio leaned on Green Knight’s expertise for a challenging, environmentally-friendly residential project that featured an ultra-modern design. The “Hyperbolic Parabolic” project consisted of four separate residential buildings, each with their own unique roof design. The curved standing seam roof of the newly-constructed home is awe-inspiring, showcasing the potential of metal roofing.
The project not only won the Metal Roofing Alliance’s Best Residential Metal Roofing competition in 2020, it also earned the Metal Construction Association’s Chairman’s Award for Metal Roof of the Year.
This was only the start of Green Knight’s accolades. The roofing contractor made multiple lists for its rapid growth, including the ninth spot on Austin Business Journal’s list, number 77 on Inc. magazine’s Inc. 5000 list for Texas, and number 2,268 on the national Inc. 5000 list for 2021.
Kenty’s advice for contractors looking to achieve similar success is to not try to do it all. He said Green Knight turns away business that isn’t metal roofing, which is risky in today’s climate, but is proving to be a key component to its growth.
“You will be much more successful and much more in demand if you are the best at a few things, as opposed to good at many things,” Kenty said. “Advice I received early on in my career that made a lot of sense said, ‘If you tell the world you train elephants, eventually, everyone with an elephant starts showing up at your door.’”
As for contractors looking into the metal industry, Kenty said his best approach is to remind customers of metal roofing’s eco-friendly nature.
“A metal roof, while more expensive, will last two to five times longer, is more energy-efficient, better protection for your home, family and belongings, will increase your curb appeal and it is completely recyclable at the end of its useful life,” Kenty said.