After two decades in the fitness industry, Kirt Linington used his brawn and brain to build Linear Roofing & General Contractors into one of the fastest-growing roofing companies in North Texas. The South African native said he came to the United States in 1999 with less than $1,000 and big ambitions that revolved around physical fitness – a personal passion.
He started out as a personal trainer at LA Fitness and stair-climbed his way up the corporate structure to vice president of sales – where he played a pivotal role in expanding the chain from a few dozen locations to more than 800 nationwide. Driven by new challenges, he partnered up with his friend, Neil Palmer, and launched a roofing company in the Dallas-area’s robust marketplace in 2015.
Though he started out in ancillary roles while Palmer ran the day-to-day operations, Linington left his career in the fitness industry after two decades and joined Linear full-time. As complicated as roofing can become, he said he and Palmer kept the process and business plan simple, and based on a few principles.
“The company was founded on the concept of ‘Do what you say, when you say you will do it.’ Sounds simple, but oftentimes not done in our industry,” he said. “We focus on how we can be better, how can we help our people, so they can help our customers.”
Linington adhered to a similar philosophy when it came to working with people, and he developed a passion to help others reach their full personal and professional potential. Parallel to his career path, this became a mission, a pursuit that he found fulfilling. It also helped his business. Linear’s sales, referrals and network grew, as did their geographic footprint – expanding from the Metroplex to other places in Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa.
It helped that he and Palmer also surrounded themselves with an experienced team that knows how to execute. Bob Vandercook joined as COO with four decades of experience in sales and operations in six different industries, from big-box retail to restaurants. Tony Taveras, Linear’s executive vice president of sales, followed Linington from the fitness world and built a strong sales culture that puts the customer experience first.
Tom Daman joined in 2016 and quickly showcased his knowledge from both the construction and insurance industries to enhance Linear’s growth. As vice president of operations, he oversees all aspects of the company’s field operations, and works closely with crews to ensure projects are completed on time, on budget and are high-quality installations.
David Soto rounds out the executive team as regional vice president of sales, a title he said he earned after three years selling in the field. He’s powered by a positive attitude and mindset of turning “have-to’s into ‘get-to’s.”
Team members are encouraged to view their job as being part of something bigger and receive required training for their roles. As the company updates systems, it provides ongoing training as systems or operations change to support new growth initiatives. Linear also provides initial standards training for contracted independent sellers.
Space also matters. Linear employees operate in a business casual environment with dedicated workspaces, but are also encouraged to collaborate in open community spaces. Standard health benefits, personal time off and paid holidays are viewed as developing long-term investment opportunities.
While Linington said he believes in the concept and purpose of a company mission statement, he and his staff strive to make theirs an experience.
“We work hard to bring ours to life, knowing we are not perfect and have opportunities to grow,” he explained. “We also strive to make sure people know that ‘Your Roof, Our Passion’ and ‘We Are Not The Same.’ We truly care and invest our time and efforts into each roof and we stand out.”
Standing out wasn’t a problem for either Linington or the company. Linear’s rapid rise in one of roofing’s most volatile markets didn’t go unnoticed by representatives of private equity investors that want in on the roofing industry. While quality installations and improved growth are priorities, officials said one of their key challenges as a company is to diversify geographically so that they can balance out the differences in market-specific storm regions. Even though there’s no guarantee in storm work in any given year, investors typically play the percentages, and in roofing, that means storms will come.
By late last year, Linear’s owners had an agreement to join Stronghouse Solutions, a collection of premier roofing companies across the country. In addition to Linear, Stronghouse’s current portfolio of brands includes multiple members of RC’s Top 100 List over the years. In January, Houston-based Infinity Roofing & Siding joined the group, becoming its sixth roofing contractor alongside Capital Construction, Irish Roofing & Exteriors, Options Exteriors, and Marshall Building & Remodeling.
“Change is coming to our industry,” Linington said about partnership. “Just as we have grown and are now part of a larger roofing platform with our partners … we have to continue to be better. We have to continue to work together — insurance companies, suppliers, manufacturers, subcontractors, local authorities, and contractors. In some cases, we share customers. Let’s continue to work together to provide the most cost-effective, customer-centric experience.”
Though he likes to approach his life now with balance and consistency — like physical fitness and bodybuilding — those with a real fire for their craft never stop chasing perfection.
“The worst experience is having a customer dissatisfied with our work and realizing we didn’t do our best in that situation,” he said. “We will work hard to make it right, but should’ve gotten it right the first time.
“The best has been watching people join the team in many different capacities and seeing them change the course of their lives by working hard in the business.”
He’s now sharing that philosophy with the roofing industry at large, and anywhere else where there are willing ears, with this new platform.
Last fall, Linington was accepted into the Forbes Business Council, a worldwide growth and networking organization for successful business owners and leaders. Members are selected and vetted by a review committee that looks for depth of experience, success in impacting business-growth, and personal achievements and honors. Members of the council collaborate with each other and share insights in several ways, including regular blogs that Linington uses to inspire other entrepreneurs.
True to form, Linington’s advice to other roofers and entrepreneurs out there remains straightforward.
“Keep your plan simple, define your lane, treat people right — all people — and do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it,” he said.