In my last post, I discussed my first year as Sales Manager and my challenges with becoming an effective leader. Even though I lacked leadership ability and many other business management skills, I had the drive to succeed and that alone can take you a long way in the roofing business and any business.
When I first started at the company, the owner was heavily involved in the day to day operations. In my opinion, great roofing company’s have an owner that is heavily involved. I’ve seen very good roofing company’s who don’t have that, but they do have amazing business systems, people, and a culture that builds upon itself. These systems are extremely challenging to build and it takes a lot of time and commitment to details. If the people and systems are not in place, and the company owner chooses to step away and work part time, the business will have serious issues.
My owner wanted to step away and we did not create effective systems. The people involved were basically myself, an in-house supplementer, and a part time receptionist. I continued to recruit sales people and I ended up recruiting two amazing guys named Nick and Chris. I had some history with Nick and I actually taught him how to knock on doors and generate leads prior to him getting into the business. He and Chris starting working together at the same company where I got my start in the roofing business.
Nick was about four months into the business when I met him and he had numerous problems with his company. It’s fairly easy to recruit a sales person from a company that has a lot of internal system and culture based problems. We had problems too, but we did have myself who was committed to being successful and willing to put the blood, sweat, and tears into being successful and we had a competent owner. We also had one good employee who knew insurance billing. We had a basic model and system to bring in at least two million in sales.
Chris was a heavy hitter sales person who had numerous contacts with insurance agents who trusted him to do a good job. When I met Chris I was impressed. He had only been in the business for about two years and he was doing well. His insurance agent contacts sent him customers and he signed them up personally and managed the job personally.
When I met Chris and Nick I was still knocking on doors personally and was working with canvassers who knocked on doors and generated leads for me. I also ran inbound company leads and signed people up myself and handled the project management from beginning to end myself. Nick and Chris introduced me to the idea of knocking on insurance agent doors rather than directly on homeowners doors. Brian, the owner of the company had told me to do go after insurance agents when I first started working with him but I didn’t listen to him because I wanted immediate gratification and I was focussed on the short term rather than the long term. I didn’t believe that insurance agents would introduce me to their clients until I met Nick and Chris. Chris had already personally generated over a million dollars in revenue through insurance agent marketing. He told me how challenging it is and he told me that it takes time but he also had a track record and proof that it worked so I trusted him and went for it.
Nick and I went out to numerous insurance agents, handing out business cards and doing business development. There was one agent in particular named Alex who I had visited several times before I met Nick and Chris and we visited him again together. This agent was working with a roofer already but we got along well and simply asked him to give us a chance.
The three of us aggressively marketed to local insurance agents and it was very challenging especially when we got nothing in return. The key to marketing to insurance agents is to start about six months prior to a wind or hail storm. If your storm season starts in May then you have to pound the pavement November. We got to a late start and started pounding the pavement in April and May. In between, Nick and I were also knocking on doors and generating business that way. Chris refused to knock on doors. He wanted to wait for a storm and work referral leads.
Those few months in 2014 were very challenging. It took a lot of effort to market and generate business when there was not much business out there but we had the drive and we made it work. Our lucky break came in June with a damaging hail storm.
The one agent who I had visited for years had a bad experience with the roofer he was working with. A customer had a roof leak due to a bad swamp cooler flashing. The roofer said that the swamp cooler duct needed to be replaced and that he was not responsible for that. He said that he did his job of flashing it correctly and the duct is a separate problem. The customer kept calling him to fix it and he ended up not returning their calls or attending to them and calling the insurance agent instead who recommended that roofer instead.
The agent spoke to the roofer and the roofer explained the situation, but the agent just needed the problem solved and was expecting the roofer to fix it. They had a breakdown in communication and the agent called me instead. I got the customer’s information, reached out to him, and was at the house inspecting the roof that same day. There was no hail or wind damage and the swamp cooler duct did need to be replaced, re-flashed, and sealed up. I did all of that work free of charge.
Soon after that repair the June storm hit and that one insurance agent flooded me with referrals. That year and that one agent changed everything for me.
We got very busy that year with a lot of roofing jobs but we also had a lot of problems.