Diversification Keeps a Louisville Roofing Company Thriving Through Hard Times

After the long winter of recession the construction industry appears to be showing signs of recovery both in Canada and in the US. On a recent trip to Kentucky with a stop over in Louisville it was hard to miss the numerous cranes working away throughout the city. A new University building, numerous new high rise office buildings and a major bridge construction project. The evidence was clear, construction everywhere.

This is a good sign as it means that all of the other trades and services affiliated to the construction industry will be experiencing some growth and recovery. Manufacturers, suppliers, financiers, insurers and personnel training will also enjoy the opportunities of recovery.

I spent some time with a group of local small business owners, all involved in some aspect of the construction industry. Brendan Foster from Louisville Roofing Contractors spoke about the turn around he and his company have experienced in the past twelve months. Things were pretty tough for Foster for a while and now he is taking on new staff and scaling up his operation.

In addition to offering roofing services Foster has branched out into both window and siding installation. He claims it was partly driven by necessity as a kind of survival technique during the recession. He simply had to find ways to diversify to bring in new trade. But now it is paying off as demand has increased. He spoke of rival companies who chose to downsize and become more specialist in their field to get through the recession, tragically some of those companies did not make it. He is glad he took the opposite approach and it has paid off.

Another skilful move on Foster’s part was to form joint venture partnerships with other companies offering services that he could not provide. Companies such as Electricians, HVAC technicians and plumbing contractors each with impeccable track records and financially secure clients. This was a way of passing both reliable tradesmen and customers between one another.

Another smart move was to position their company in the search engines as “emergency roofers” and the local “storm damage experts“. Their website quickly climbed above their competition in the Google search rankings and calls from desperate customers started rolling in.

The mid west has been hit with some severe weather in recent years and the construction industry has benefited greatly from this. After a sequence of sever storms across the region there was a glut of roofing projects. He said it was a bit like “shooting fish in a barrel”, but also talked about the challenge of working with insurance companies on home insurance claims.

In July 2012 he came to a point of cash flow crisis because he had so much money tied up in insurance claims, that he hardly had enough money in the company to purchase materials for each new job. The insurance companies appeared to be slower than usual because of the volume of claims in settling on final payouts. That was indeed a challenging time.

However, Foster feels like he is sailing on calmer seas these days and he is grateful for the opportunities. New markets are opening up in Eco-Build projects, where new roofing customers are more willing to spend on the front end of a project to reap the benefits of greater savings on their energy bills over the longer term. Foster has put a lot of effort into aligning his company with greener/sustainable values. His customers appreciate it and many of them feel good that their old asphalt roof shingles are being recycled into the road building industry.

It was an inspiring trip to Louisville the city of opportunity. I’m looking forward to my next trip to California to catch up with where the opportunities lie in the construction industry in that part of the world



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