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    From Drunk Roofer to Successful Sober Roofing Business Owner: Interview With Austin Nelson

    Unpacking this week’s interview with Austin Nelson was exciting to say the least.

    In 2020, Roofing Insights was made aware of a lawsuit in Iowa involving State Farm and 33 Carpenters, a local roofing company out of the Quad Cities.

    The lawsuit, which has since concluded, included State Farm claiming that 33 Carpenters could not properly assess storm damage for homeowners because they were not a licensed public adjusting company.

    The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court in Iowa and generated a lot of publicity in the Quad Cities area.

    Ultimately, 33 Carpenters lost their case against State Farm, as well as millions of dollars in business due to having their once-solid reputation sullied.

    As a result, Austin Nelson, the vice president of 33 Carpenters, approached Roofing Insights in order to share his account of what happened and hopefully give viewers a new perspective on the legal battle his company held with State Farm.

    But first, it is important to understand just how monumental this case was for Austin Nelson, a man who has triumphed over extreme adversity to become a key figure at 33 Carpenters.

    Founded in 2007, 33 Carpenters has since been a staple of the Quad Cities, a region that borders the state of Illinois and is a three-hour drive from Chicago.

    Nelson says his company does a lot of insurance restoration work, which is one reason why he eventually found himself entangled in a dispute with State Farm.

    “99% of what we do is storm damage,”

    says Nelson.

    “We work with customers who have claims that are being paid by their insurance company to repair the damages after hail and windstorms.”

    But Nelson wasn’t always involved with insurance restoration projects. In fact, he initially got into the roofing industry as an installer.

    “I learned how to roof houses in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, after Hurricane Katrina,”

    he shares.

    It was there that Nelson became indoctrinated into the roofing industry through a crash course on shingle installation, how to run a job site, and also how to generate more leads.

    “I learned how to roof from a man that was from Traverse City, Michigan. He came into the mission environment that I was in and we started a roofing division,”

    Nelson says.

    After his stint in Mississippi, Nelson headed back home to the Quad Cities in Iowa to continue roofing and support his family. This ultimately led him to start 33 Carpenters, a name that pays homage to Nelson’s religious beliefs and also an industry that rescued Nelson from the depths of despair.

    “Like many people in our industry, I came up with that name because I have a colorful past,”

    Nelson says.

    “I went to Mississippi a pretty broken guy. I had some vices that owned me, but I went down there and got complete healing and deliverance through a church.”

    “33 Carpenters stems from the fact that most people believe that Jesus was 33 when he died. I wanted to have the opportunity to tell my story if people asked. I didn’t want to advertise who I used to be, but I certainly wanted to be able to give credit where credit was due.”

    Nelson’s unrelenting devotion to his faith and his roofing company had a profound impact on him, so much so that it spurred a personal renaissance that allowed Nelson to develop 33 Carpenters into one of the most successful roofing companies in the Quad Cities.

    This is a blessing that Nelson feels forever grateful to have received.

    “The timing was right to do powerful work in my life and He did that,”

    Nelson says.

    Nelson understands that there are many current and past roofers who have battled substance abuse issues, which is why he wants to share his story and hopefully inspire others who are down on their luck to work hard so that they can persevere and reverse their misfortunes.

    Explains Nelson:

    “I’m not perfect. The Bible says that a pig returns to his slop and a dog returns to his vomit. I’m currently doing very well but it’s important to remember that nobody is happy when they are miserable. When things get the toughest, you typically resort back to the things that brought you comfort.”

    This is also why Nelson stresses the importance of roofers having a good support system in place so that they don’t go down the wrong path during difficult stretches.

    “Hopefully you can fall back on those things or make them a regular practice, but most people fall into the negative things that they have done when they come across super hard times,”

    Nelson says, adding that unlike some people might think, it’s actually the most successful roofers who endure the most agony.

    “What a lot of people don’t realize is that success is hard. You can be living on cloud nine but still be getting sick from winning so much. You can get ill with all of the victory that you have,”

    he says.

    To avoid the pitfalls that have led many successful entrepreneurs astray, Nelson emphasizes how crucial it is to be mindful of the future and not lose sight of what is truly important.

    “Being humble and remembering to show humility is key,”

    Nelson says.

    “You have to be aware and often we don’t become aware of things until we are in the midst of a problem.”

    As mentioned, many roofers struggle with substance abuse, and a lot of times the struggle is unknowingly perpetuated when their roofing company completes a big job or signs a lucrative commercial roofing contract.

    In these instances, some roofers will go out and party to celebrate their accomplishment, not realizing that their behavior is just as much a result of habit as it is celebrating a crowning achievement.

    “We can’t all go out and have a drink or two. A lot of us need to have 15 or 20. Maybe it’s only a drink or two today, and it doesn’t happen again for a week, but ultimately with vices you don’t stay focused on all of the things that you have to do, and before you know it you are a mess and in a tailspin,”

    Nelson says, who then urges roofers to be cautious of their emotional state.

    That being said, Nelson acknowledges that overcoming addiction is a difficult endeavor that not even he has been able to master, but he also says that despite the challenges that await, getting clean and finding help is a pursuit worth undertaking.

    Stay tuned for more Roofing Insights content, including the rest of the story that features Austin Nelson and 33 Carpenters taking State Farm all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court!

    Quentin Super
    Senior Copywriter at Roofing Insights, author of the internationally-selling book The Long Road North, founder of quentinsuper.com

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