In the construction industry, it is common for people to transition from one trade to another.
At Charleston Roofs & Windows, owners Garrett Schmelter and Blake Miller have an extensive history working in HVAC.
In fact, Miller still owns Charleston Heating and Air. That company grossed $5.5 million in revenue in 2020, which coincided nicely with the $6.2 million that Charleston Roofs & Windows earned.
Miller founded Charleston Heating and Air in 2012, but his indoctrination into the roofing industry was atypical.
“It started because a previous sales guy with the air conditioning company passed me about $35,000-$40,000 worth of work when he went to go work for a roofing company,” says Miller.
After consulting with the salesman, Miller learned that the roofing business had the potential to be very lucrative. The two even decided to go into business together, but then an unexpected roadblock arrived.
“We got a good start where we put a budget in place, got our logo, and got a marketing campaign. But the day we went live, my partner left the company,” Miller reveals.
“We [my team] were stuck with a roofing company. I didn’t know what a three-tab shingle was. We were then forced to learn the business and hire from within. Fortunately, we had the scaffolding from the air conditioning company to support that.”
Fortunately for Miller, roofing and HVAC companies operate similarly.
“You have a repair division and then you have an install division. Your gross numbers and a lot of the KPIs line up,” Miller says.
In both industries, tracking KPIs is crucial because that intel gives business owners the information that they need to best set their company up for success.
“I’m a numbers guy. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. That’s part of our core values,” Miller says.
“We are tracking revenue sales, but more importantly gross margins because that’s what we use to pay our overhead.”
Another thing to note is that the HVAC industry is very competitive, and just like the roofing industry, many of its challenges are giving business owners problems in 2021.
“The air conditioning company is much more seasonal. If you think we have a labor issue in roofing, welcome to HVAC,” Miller says, but adds that both industries have their respective challenges.
“At the end of the day, it’s apples to apples. They are both a service-based business. You’re going to have problematic customers and employee issues. It’s just a matter of how you deal with them.”
One challenge that exists in roofing is the increased liability companies have as they try to keep their employees safe on a jobsite.
“There is more liability in roofing. You have guys climbing on roofs and it’s a bit more dangerous,” Miller notes.
“Labor too,” adds Schmelter. “When you have someone on the payroll versus someone that’s your subcontractor, there is a dynamic there that is different.”
Miller seconds that notion.
“It’s harder to control your subcontractors than in-house labor. That’s in any business, and in roofing you see a lot more subcontracting.”
Another strategy that Miller and Schmelter have implemented in their roofing company is a carefully chosen name.
Back in 2012, Miller chose the aforementioned Charleston Heating and Air.
It should then come as no surprise that he and Schmelter decided on Charleston Roofs & Windows for their roofing company.
“Blake has a heating and air company called Charleston Heating and Air,” says Schmelter. “When he created that name, it had a dominant effect in marketing. We wanted to have that same level of impact with the roofing company.”
While Charleston Roofs & Windows performs well in Google searches, Miller and Schmelter admit that their company does not sell many windows.
“The window business is much harder than HVAC and roofing,” Miller says.
“The problem is we never got traction with keeping ourselves busy. In 2019, we took a big stab at trying to get that specialty trade off the ground, but what I learned is that it is important to do one thing well.”
Schmelter echoes that sentiment.
“Here is the thing: as soon as we start trying to get back into windows, that means that there is a larger problem within the roofing business that we are not addressing,” he says.
“We have all these [roofing] leads that roll in organically. We’ve built a great brand and we have a great team. That supports any kind of organic search that’s going to come in for windows. We don’t pay for any window leads, so anything that comes in is free.”
That being said, Charleston Roofs & Windows is looking to partner with a company who specializes in windows.
If you are a contractor who is looking to expand your window business, contact the team at Charleston Roofs & Windows today!
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