After graduating from high school in 1999, Michael Dier needed to make a living. By chance, he spoke with long-time friend Steven Watkins who told him about working on the roof of an apartment complex in North Jackson, Miss.
As it turned out, Steven’s dad, Bud Watkins, owned the company working on the roof. In 2000, Dier followed in the footsteps of his own father and joined the roofing industry, making $10 an hour as a laborer working on that apartment complex. It took roughly one-and-a-half years to complete, removing cedar shakes and installing 24-gauge R panel. With the job finished, the company took out an ad in the Yellow Pages, officially forming Watkins Construction & Roofing in 2002.
Unfortunately, Bud became sick, resulting in Steven taking over the company. Dier helped expand it into residential applications and focused on roofing. Dier, then 19, personally inspected, repaired and installed most of the roofs along with Steven.
“It was during this time I developed a driving passion for utilizing the best materials and components available for the industry. I felt our customers deserved it,” said Dier.
The small company leaned into completing jobs the right way the first time, which not only satisfied customers, but reduced making extra trips. In 2016, Dier became an official owner in the company. Three years later, he took the opportunity to buy out his partner.
“Customer service, value, quality, materials — if a company doesn’t have these figured out, they won’t be around very long,” Dier said. “If this is a given to them, the company has a chance at succeeding. That said, these are only the basic core attributes of any successful company. True success requires more.”
On the verge of its 20th anniversary, the award-winning Watkins Construction & Roofing is proving to be one of those successful contractors, becoming one of the fastest growing companies in the country by providing excellent residential, multi-family and commercial roofing services in Mississippi and Alabama.
Quality Work Backed by Marketing
Marketing is one of the top priorities for Watkins Construction. This is apparent when viewing their polished website or their social media channels. Everything from high-quality photos and commercials to client testimonials speak to a concerted effort to put their best foot forward. The company even has a mascot, so to speak – Lurk the Leak. The strange blue creature shows up in entertaining ads and represents what Watkins Construction aims to prevent: leaks that result in costly damage.
“We use the same marketing tools most successful companies do; traditional methods such as billboards, print, radio and TV. And we also use digital marketing tools including social media, geo-targeting, etc.,” Dier said. “Every company has the same access to the same mediums. What works for us is our core messaging. Many times, the simpler the message, the better.”
Of course, slick advertising won’t help unless the company can back it up. Dier said quality workmanship starts with setting a high standard and adhering to it at all times. In this case, that standard is inspired by the lessons Dier learned from his father when helping him as a teenager: doing jobs right the first time with top-notch materials.
Watkins Construction works with a multitude of companies, including GAF, CertainTeed, Atlas and Lomanco. It has enjoyed long-standing relationships with Beacon and Owens Corning, the latter granting the company its Platinum Preferred status. Owens Corning also recognized the company for its commitment to environmental stewardship with its 2022 Sustainability Award.
“Those are the types of relationships that make what we do more than just a job,” Dier said. “They move mountains to support us in any way possible. We could not grow at the rate we are without these strategic partnerships.”
These partnerships became critical during the pandemic and the ensuing supply shortages. Dier said his company has withstood the shortages by managing customers’ expectations and planning ahead. This includes keeping major shingle styles and colors in its warehouse to meet repair needs.
Continual training and education are an important part of “The Watkins Way” culture. Every employee receives customer service training and commercial project managers are 10-hour OSHA and first aid certified. The company is divided into office, sales, audit/supplement and production, with the production team consisting of steep-slope, low-slope, metal and service.
Dier said a unique aspect to Watkins Construction is that everybody holds one another accountable, including leadership. To give customers an added layer of trust, the company has a 50-year workmanship warranty for full roof replacements.
“On the rare occasion we miss something, our system is set up to notify everyone involved with the project so that we can remedy the issue immediately,” he said. “From the smallest repair to the largest and tallest roof, every project is treated with care because every service we provide is extremely important to somebody.”
This dedication to customers is emblazoned on a wall in the office: “No Customer Left Behind.” Dier says this means serving customers, not selling to them, and to take pride in their work when a customer is happy.
“No one wakes up in the morning thinking, ‘I think I’ll get a new roof today.’ We know it’s one of the most expensive elements of a home, yet the most important,” Dier said. “We know when they call our office, they are usually fearful of what the outcome might be. Every person at Watkins takes an empathetic approach to customer service. Our office staff is usually the first point of contact for them. They know the concern the customer has, and they immediately begin to put them at ease.”
The COVID-19 pandemic saw an increased need for customer empathy. Clients who had become friends over the years could no longer meet face to face, so Watkins Construction adapted to ensure they would remain safe while still serving their needs. As a result, the pandemic did little to slow down the company – it earned a spot on Inc. magazine’s Inc. 5000 list in both 2020 and 2021, growing by 107.9% and 248% in revenue, respectively. The list tracks the fastest-growing private companies in the country.
In return for their dedication to customers, employees are provided health benefits and retirement programs. Watkins Construction goes above and beyond just pats on the back, offering credits that accrue over the year. A huge Christmas bash is thrown at the end of the year to celebrate accomplishments and award employees.
Investing in Communities
Watkins Construction belongs to multiple industry associations, from the National Roofing Contractors Association to the Tile Roofing Institute, Metal Roofing Alliance, Better Business Bureau and Residential Roofing Contractors of Mississippi. Dier said this not only gives credibility to the company, but access to a wealth of knowledge and resources.
The company also gives back to the communities it serves through nationwide programs and local giveaways. It takes part in the Owens Corning Roof Deployment, which donates roofs for free to deserving military veterans around the country, and No Roof Left Behind, which provides roofing contractors with a framework to install a new roof at no cost to a homeowner chosen by the local community.
In one instance, they donated a roof through No Roof Left Behind to a woman who, after speaking with her, was living with an autistic child in a home with no central heat or air conditioning for eight years. Watkins Construction contacted its HVAC partners and were able to install a new heating and cooling system.
Most recently, the company gave away a new Hustler Raptor riding lawn mower, and plans on holding a fall giveaway to those who follow them on social media.
“Ultimately, we all make sure every customer knows how important they are to us,” Dier said. “When we leave a job, our desire is for the next time we hear from them, it’s to be invited to a BBQ or a crawfish boil. We don’t want that next call to be about their roof because that would mean we let them down somehow. Simply put, that’s unacceptable for all of us.”