Jim Ziminski, the consummate industry insider, refuses to be labeled “corporate” despite his success within its realm. He is the chairman of Omnia Exterior Solutions, a new private equity-backed portfolio company launched in June 2023.
Amidst a meadow-filled backdrop, Jim Ziminski rattles off facts and figures, red-letter dates and historical comparisons that only an insider could enumerate, which seems about right if you are in any way familiar with the level of accomplishment he has attained.
For readers who may not recognize his name, it’s OK since another attribute Ziminski is notorious for is being unassuming. He would rather his accomplishments speak for themselves, and, to that end, they do; lest you think it’s hyperbole, perhaps you’re familiar with Mr. Roof or its sister brand, Able Roofing.
Today, the gentleman whose prescient insight into brand evolution and where trends lead returns to the roofing industry in a new capacity: heading a private equity-created portfolio company called Omnia Exterior Solutions.
Mike Blumenfeld, Ziminski’s partner in the quest to create a new paradigm within the residential roofing contractor space, successfully bundled disparate flooring companies under a private equity portfolio company.
Building a ‘Less Traveled’ Road
To appreciate the accolades, you should know how much Ziminski has accomplished during his 30-year career in the building envelope space. It neither came suddenly nor quickly, and it started not with roofing but with window sales. The year was 1985.
“I was selling windows for a manufacturer [and] a couple to dealers in upstate New York and New England and did pretty well, and then a couple of years later joined a startup burgeoning high-end vinyl company called Great Lakes Window out of Toledo,” Ziminski recalled. “It was a phenomenal experience for me … I had to learn how to speak their language and learn the game to get legitimacy.”
Among the many other things he says he learned was that his job was not really about selling windows or really “selling” anything, but how to speak with entrepreneurs and businessmen about how to help them run their businesses better and make more profits.
He says he spent a lot of time learning the retail side of the business, how to generate leads, how to sell in the home and the like, and considers those first years pivotal insofar as he honed his chops learning how to listen to his customers and, more importantly, what he did — and didn’t — want to do.
“What I learned was I didn't want to do that for a living because, as those guys would say, you wake up broke every day,” he explained. “And windows … [is] a lot different than roofing; roofing is a need-based sale; you call someone generally because you need a roof, so I don’t have to establish with [a customer] you need a roof, I have to establish that I'm the best company to do your roof.”
After his successful stint in window sales, gaining credibility in what was once referred to as “building product supplies,” Ziminski accepted a position with CertainTeed heading up the company’s Wolverine vinyl siding division. A few years of success with CertainTeed was his gateway to a transformative experience with a family-run concern called Difco.
It was in the early aughts when he joined Difco, but Ziminski knew vinyl siding had already seen its heyday.
“Consumers really didn’t like vinyl siding; it was something they ended up with,” he said. “I used to joke with my dealers … ‘It’s like Denny’s; no one goes to Denny’s, you just end up there.”
In short, Ziminski gained the trust of the Crane family, which owned Difco, and convinced them that a wholesale rebrand was the best way to conquer the market. Through market research, consumer focus groups and careful study of industry trends, Ziminski rechristened the concern’s vinyl siding division Crane Performance Siding and began competing with the big players of the day, already selling a superior product for exterior finishes known generally as fiber cement board. Competitor brands included established names like James Hardy. Ziminski offered his version, Crane Performance Siding and his rebranding was an unabashed success for the Crane family.
Of course, nobody thought the gravy train would end — until it did. In fact, the train stopped running and derailed to such an extent that the disruption would soon be known by history as the aptly named “Great Recession.”
“The Cranes realized they needed to diversify out of building materials, and [together] we decided we should sell the business,” he said.
The sale of Crane Performance Siding, with its good reputation as a solid product produced by a well-run organization, was consummated in 2011 when the division was acquired by Georgia Gulf, which owned Royal Building Products. As part of the deal, Gulf insisted that Ziminski be included in the transaction.
“And we became part of Royal Building Products,” Ziminski ruefully recalled. “And our sales led the whole thing for the whole company, and again, I'm in corporate America; and again, [after] about three years, I'm like, ‘Okay, it's time for me to move on, this is not for me.’”
The “un-corporate” corporate man left Royal Building Products and rejoined the Cranes, this time to run the family’s roofing division, Able Roofing. With a laser-like focus and pedagogic understanding of branding, Ziminski combined Crane’s roofing and general contracting divisions into Crane Renovation Group.
“[We] started to grow that business and had a pretty nice seven-year run,” Ziminski said. “And then, ultimately, [I] decided, you know what, it’s time to move on; and they were looking more for operational excellence, which isn’t my forte; I’m more of a visionary in sales and marketing.”
The Iron is Hot
Ziminski stayed on with the Cranes, looking for potential acquisitions to bring into the family fold. Still, ultimately he recognized the family seemed content managing the roofing and exterior building empire their prodigal creationist developed. As 2022 came to a close, so did that chapter in Ziminski’s career.
Fortuitously, his departure coincided with a previously scheduled speaking engagement at 2022’s Best of Success conference. During the two-day event in Scottsdale, Ariz., he met someone whose ambition and ethics mirrored his own and who had already achieved within the commercial flooring space what Ziminiski saw coalescing within roofing contracting’s residential sector.
“That’s where I met my partner on the acquisition side,” Ziminski said.
He refers to Mike Blumenfeld, managing partner at BZR Advisors, who had worked with private equity firms to consolidate nearly two dozen flooring concerns under a portfolio company called Artisan Design Group. Ziminski says the umbrella concern, with 22 different brands, generates more than $1.7 billion in annual sales.
After Ziminski’s address at BOS 2022, he says Blumenfeld approached him, unabashedly noting the depth of insider’s knowledge within the roof contracting space Ziminski possessed. Blumenfeld said the residential roofing contractor industry was primed for a similar consolidation that finished flooring had undergone.
It seems unlikely that someone with Blumenfeld’s ability to fashion a billion-dollar concern went into Ziminski’s address unaware of the speaker’s professional successes. By the start of this year, the two men set out to replicate what Artisan Design Group has become to flooring products in residential roofing. The founding of Omnia Exterior Solutions gestated for about six months while Ziminiski and Blumenfeld, through an advisory partnership they formed called BZR Advisors, sought out the right private equity firm to execute the launch.
That firm turned out to be a young private equity called CCMP Growth Advisors. Established only in 2022, the new partners’ financier has an impressive lineage: a spinoff concern from a private equity outfit with an impressive financial pedigree called CCMP Capital, formerly JP Morgan Partners, a one-time appendage of JP Morgan Chase.
Mark McFadden, co-managing partner at CCMP Growth Advisors, the private equity firm that Ziminski and partner Mike Blumenfeld chose to partner with when planning the launch of Omnia Exterior Solutions.
Ziminski and Mark McFadden, CCMP Growth Advisor’s co-managing partner, weren’t strangers. Ziminski says he first met McFadden some 13 years earlier, and the two had stayed in touch.
“We'd talk about deals, we'd have a beer, we'd, you know, talk about the industry,” Ziminski says. “I was doing some consulting work for them on another roofing deal, and I told him what my partner and I were going to do, and he said, ‘Jim, we've been trying to partner with you forever.’”
Ziminski says McFadden was eager to make something happen. He told McFadden that he and Blumenfeld wanted more than just an outfit that bankrolled. They wanted to be partners in the new venture, and Ziminski also wanted a seat at the table; in this case, on the new venture’s board.
“I have a vision for what this thing can be,” Ziminski says, recalling that conversation with McFadden. “He's like, ‘Well, Jim, I'd like you at one point to be CEO,’ and I said, ‘I don't want to do that anymore; I would be on the board,’ and he said, ‘How about if you're the chair of the board?’ and I said, ‘That's perfect.’”
On June 1, 2023, Omnia, with Ziminski as chairman announced through a press release it had arrived and, as its first acquisition, welcomed a well-established brand, Hoffman Weber Construction, based in Minneapolis, Minn., as an Omnia-owned concern.