Roofing’s Next Generation: 2018 Edition

They’re Young, Ambitious And Have Their Futures Nailed Down!

Amy R. Connolly, Writer
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In this multi-part series, Asphalt Life presents 11 roofers, age 30 and under, who are taking the roofing world by storm. Between their successful roofing businesses and aspirations for the future, they’ve accomplished more in just a few short years than many people do in a lifetime. Their success is more than hammers and nails. It’s guts, sweat and a little luck.

James Halford Turned Sour Beginnings Into The Sweet Life

James Halford Headshot

James Halford has the ultimate “lemons into lemonade” story.

After graduating from college, Halford struggled to find a job, so he jumped at his first opportunity – as a salesman for a residential roofing company that focused on insurance claims. He had no idea that a simple move would turn into a lifestyle.

Fast forward one year later and Halford, now 24, is the proud owner of CAT 1 roofing in Lafayette, LA. His can-do attitude and optimism – or his proverbial “lemons into lemonade” approach to life – has driven the company’s positive reputation and success. He has achieved the Silver level in the Atlas Pro™ Plus program.

“I've always regarded the fact that homeowners entrust me with potentially the single largest investment they may make in their lives,” he said. “I also acknowledge the growth of our referral business due to that approach.”

Right now, CAT 1 focuses on all types of projects, from residential to commercial. In the near future, the plan is to continue expanding further into the commercial sector.

For Halford, the advantage of being a successful businessman is the chance to mingle with the community to know a wide range of residents.

“Almost every customer has had a positive impact on the company,” Halford said. “It’s those customers that make us. We work mainly by word of mouth.”

Halford is not one for idle time, so when he’s not on a roof or doing tasks for CAT 1, he likes to cook.

“After all, food is the way to everybody's heart,” he quipped.

Chris Harkins Brings Collaboration To Roofing

Chris Harkins Headshot

Chris Harkins has a very simple business philosophy: Collaboration not competition.

In establishing his roofing business, Harkins, owner of Direct Home Quote in Memphis, TN became friendly with other roofing contractors in the area. Instead of viewing each other as competition, the contractors came together to share ideas and collaborate. The cooperative relationships allowed Direct Home Quote to earn a positive reputation throughout Memphis.

“This business is all about relationships, whether it's with your customer or competition. Always do what's right, even if it's not convenient, and good things will happen for you,” the 29-year-old said.

Harkins started in the roofing business by happenstance. When he and a business partner purchased homes to flip in Nashville and Memphis, they did most of the repairs, including roofing. While doing that work, the surrounding homeowners asked them to do odd jobs. Soon Harkins moved into general contracting to focus on large repairs.

One of his memorable projects happened when a massive tree toppled onto a local house in early August, destroying the chimney, exterior wall and several roof rafters. The homeowners were quick to hire Direct Home Quote.

“While the homeowner had several other roofing contractors out to look at the job, we were able to bid the job, get her approved for financing, and got her all fixed up before the other guys could even get the framing bid back to her,” Harkins said.

Harkins, who is recently married and has five dogs, said he plans to continue building his Memphis sales team while expanding to other large cities. Though busy, he remains concentrated on helping the customers.

“If you truly are helping someone, it’s incredibly easy to take pride in your work and enjoy what you are doing,” he said.

When Student Loans Called, Nick Skatell Answered With Shingles And Nails

Nick Skatell Headshot

You could say college, in a roundabout way, pushed Nick Skatell into starting his own business.

When Skatell, 30, graduated from Campbell University in North Carolina about a decade ago, he couldn’t find a job. As the weeks dragged on and his student loan lender started knocking, Skatell knew he had to do something.

“I just needed to find something. I needed to make money fast because the student loans were starting to come due,” said Skatell, owner of NKS Contracting in Benson, NC. He has achieved the Gold level in the Atlas Pro™ Plus program.

Skatell started working with a friend in construction and roofing as a means to make ends meet. Today he owns a thriving business and has eyes on $15 million to $20 million in revenues in the coming five years.

Skatell credits his success, in part, to his business administration degree, but mostly to being honest and forthright in the roofing industry.

He says he gets most of his business through referrals and enjoys focusing on helping the community. The downside of roofing?

“Sometimes people are a challenge, but it helps with personal growth in the long run,” he said.

When he isn’t scaling a roof or cultivating his business, Skatell enjoys spending time with his wife Kayla and their two dogs. He is also a voracious reader, focusing on books about financial planning. Among his favorite authors is Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

If he wasn’t a roofer, Skatell said he’d love to be a preacher.

“I see a world full of people in need,” he said.

Kenny Conrad’s Secret For Roofing Success: Handshakes And Honesty

Kenny Conrad  Headshot

Kenny Conrad has a very simple philosophy for the success of his roofing business: Install high-quality roofing systems, throw in a handshake and do what you say.

“Everything else takes care of itself,” the 28-year-old owner of Conrad’s Roofing in Tulsa, OK, said. Conrad has achieved the Silver level in the Atlas Pro™ Plus program.

Conrad started his business with a heart for service and an eye on quality. He’s always been driven to success, but has been particularly motivated when he’s rescuing a homeowner from installing an inferior roofing system.

“Installing a high-quality product like Atlas goes a long way,” he said. “In an industry full of builder-grade roofing systems, Atlas creates a very great value.”

Conrad can remember one job in particular where he spent eight hours scrutinizing a roof to find leaks that three larger companies missed. The homeowner was so grateful she took to the internet.

“She wrote so many reviews online it got us a ton of recognition in Tulsa. She still honks at me when we pass each other on the road,” he said.

When he’s not climbing onto roofs in Tulsa, Conrad enjoys spending time with his son and daughter. He also likes working in an industry that has the potential to change lives.

“It feels good to know you're making a living by helping friends and neighbors,” he said.

Conrad’s main goal in life is to help people in need. In the coming months, he is starting a charitable organization that will provide donated vehicles to single parents.

“A new smile and new roof are two of the best things in my day. If I had one wish it would be that more roofers would try delighting their customers instead of delighting themselves,” he said.

Michael Morrison Flips Switch Into Roofing Business

Michael Morrison  Headshot

Michael Morrison might have officially started his roofing company in 2012, but, in reality, the business probably started years earlier.

Morrison stepped on his first roof at age 12, scaling the steep slope of his parent’s two-story home. Now, at age 29, Morrison works to make sure Morrison Roofing & Construction, located in Wichita, KS, lives up to quality standards.

After spending years re-roofing the properties he owned and flipped, he decided to jump into the roofing business wholeheartedly. It’s a far cry from his previous work as an aircraft mechanic.

“I treat every house as if it was my own,” he said. “To us, it is a roof, but to the owner, it is their home. We make them our number one priority and always make sure they are happy.”

Morrison personally scrutinizes every job for quality assurance. He still flips homes and loves to see the transformation that happens when a new roof is installed. He is sick of slipshod contractors who give the industry a bad name and strives to give his customers the quality they deserve.

In the coming years, Morrison, who has been an active U.S. Marine reservist for about six years, would like to grow his sales force to 10 sales representatives. His company also focuses on gutters, siding, windows, doors and concrete work. Morrison has achieved the Silver level in the Atlas Pro™ Plus program.

In his free time, Morrison, who is one of eight siblings, enjoys spending time with his family and giving back to the surrounding community. Morrison Roofing & Construction recently became a sponsor of the local high school football team.

Swapping Paintbrushes For Hammers: John Roff Jr. Finds His Place In Roofing

John Roff Jr. Headshot

For John Roff Jr., some adages still ring true. His favorite?

“Treat your customers the way you would like to be treated,” he said.

In the competitive world of roofing, one negative review on social media can topple a business. That’s why Roff, 24, part owner of Roff Roofing & Renovations, works so hard to make sure all of his customers are satisfied.

“We got to be as successful as we are by remembering you're never too big to stop caring about your customers,” he said of the company, located in Hackettstown, NJ. Roff has achieved the Silver level in the Atlas Pro™ Plus program.

For the past three years, Roff has been working side by side with his father, John Roff Sr., in the business. In addition to roofing and interior work, Roff handles the company’s website and social media.

One of his most memorable jobs was a structural repair and new roof install on a log cabin after a large tree crushed parts of the home.

“We repaired it all – interior and exterior and topped it off with an Atlas Pinnacle® Pristine roof. It was nice to restore the home to its previous glory,” he said.

Not long ago, Roff considered a career as an artist. His colorful and descriptive contemporary pieces have garnered acclaim, but, in the end, a practical career won out.

Roff plans to expand the company’s reach by moving into New York and Connecticut and some Southern states to “provide more jobs to people seeking to build their own American dream.” With quality work and a positive reputation, he hopes to see the company compete against some larger roofing and construction businesses.

“I know we will someday because quality will always triumph over quantity,” he said.

Walker Baldwin Trades Storm Chasing For Storm Repairs

Walker Baldwin Headshot

As a Virginia Tech student, Walker Baldwin always had his eyes on the sky, chasing and researching tornadoes and hailstorms for a possible career in meteorology. 

Now Baldwin keeps his eyes on the sky for different reasons. As the owner of Reliant Roofing & Restoration, Baldwin is dedicated to transforming homes and businesses one roof at a time. His company, based in North Carolina, started in 2013 and has locations in South Carolina and Virginia as well. 

“What I enjoy most about the roofing industry is the ability to transform our customer’s homes in a matter of a couple days,” the 27-year-old said. “It is really great to see the hard work pay off after the roof is installed.”

One transformation came when his company tackled a job on a Wilmington, N.C., home that had a drab and aging roof with brown gutters and trim. The makeover, complete with Atlas Pristine StormMaster Slate in Blackstone Slate, copper valleys, white gutters and trim, made the house sparkle.

“The homeowner loved the results, and it looks amazing,” he said.

Baldwin started in roofing in 2011 as a project manager and sales representative. He credits the success of his business to the people on his team. Their quality workmanship and dedication ensures customers are satisfied. That, in turn, has led to a thriving referral-based business.

Baldwin has achieved the Gold level in the Atlas Pro™ Plus program. He plans to expand with new branches and a move into new construction to drive business through slow months and retain good employees. He does it all with a focus on his wife, Amy, and their two-year-old son, Will.

“I would never have gotten where I am today without the support of my wife and surrounding family,” he said. ‘I look at work as a means of paying them back for everything that they have done for me.”

Dad’s College Plans Flop When Son Dreams Of Roofing

Victor Smolyanov Headshot

When Victor Smolyanov climbed onto his first roof at age 13, he was hooked.

His dad, Vladimir, was a roofer and put Victor to work for the day to encourage him to take school more seriously and pursue a college degree.

Boy, did that backfire.

“I loved every minute of it,” the 29-year-old said. “I love working with my hands.”

Today, Victor Smolyanov owns Victors Roofing in Canton, MI, focusing on residential roofing, gutters and attic insulation with more than 50 employees. He hopes to grow the business into new markets in Michigan in the coming years and begin installing siding and windows. He has achieved the Gold level in the Atlas Pro™ Plus program.

Victor credits his work ethic to his father, who moved their family of six from Ukraine in 1996 to be closer to relatives living in Michigan. Victor was only 9 and didn’t speak English.

Not long after they settled in to their new country, Vladimir got a job as a roofer.  Years later, Vladimir would bring his son to the job site to encourage him to go to college.

Victor is gratified when he sees happy customers at the end of every job and is proud of the perks Victors Roofing offers. That includes a leak-free guarantee covering workmanship defects for a minimum of 12 years.

In the past three years, the company has nearly doubled its revenue, in part due to Victor’s competitive nature. He likens roofing to a sport because it challenges him to be his best.

“I’m a believer in do what you do and do it to the best of your ability,” he said. “I always like to challenge myself and roofing provides that.”

There are two factors that Victor uses as indicators for success: “happy team members and happy clients.”

“If I see those 2 things, we are in good shape,” he said.

R.J. McGimsey Climbs Roofs To Work Smarter, Harder

R.J. McGimsey Headshot

Even after nearly a decade in the roofing business, R.J. McGimsey is still learning new things about the industry.

Every morning, McGimsey, owner of Premier South Roofing & Sheet Metal in Baton Rouge, LA, tears off roofs with his crews to get a better understanding of what they face and how to work smarter.

“I do it partly for motivation for the group and exercise but also to learn the failures of the installation before and why that system and manufacturer had not lived the expectant life,” the 29-year-old said.

McGimsey started his business in 2008 but had been working in the roofing industry long before, traveling around the United States as an adjuster. As a result, he has committed himself to quality work.

“When I started Premier South, I set a goal to complete every roof to the best of my ability – from the first consult to final payment. I think that is what has helped me build Premier South to what it is now. With quality work and positive customer experience, one customer talks to another and business is able to grow,” he said.

One thing that has made his job easier is the new Atlas HP42” shingle format. The bigger shingles mean fewer nails and shingles to install.

“Our roofers love it, and we will continue to put it on every roof possible, as it is still the best in the market but now easier and [takes] less labor to install,” he said.

Premiere South is currently expanding into Lafayette, LA, and other areas west of Baton Rouge. In the coming years, McGimsey is also considering a move into the Covington and Mandeville areas east of Baton Rouge. He has achieved the platinum Atlas Pro™ Plus level.

Meet The Man Who Is Redefining "Average"

Mike Boucher Headshot

The average workweek for Mike Boucher is anything but average.

It’s not unusual for Boucher, owner of Mike Boucher Roofing, to work seven days a week to stay on schedule, meet deadlines and communicate with homeowners. He does it all to ensure his namesake company lives up to its stellar reputation.

“My company is what motivates me,” Boucher, 28, said. “I have put so much work in starting it from the ground up. At the end of the day, my company is named after me, so I strive to have the best reputation in the area.”

Boucher started in roofing as a summer job while in high school. Fast-forward 12 years and his Orange Park, FL, business is booming. With a focus on residential properties, Boucher has seen the difference his work makes. For one of his most memorable projects, a home in a golf community, Boucher replaced the 70-square roof, re-flashed the walls, built dead valleys and installed rain gutters to stop years of leaks.

“Once you complete a project, your work is visible for years to come and, in most cases, a new roof can change the whole appearance of a house for the next 20-plus years,” he said.

During his scant free time, Boucher and his wife Heather enjoy perusing classic car shows and spending time with their 8-month-old daughter Juliette.

His bigger plans include growing the company’s online presence, adding more staff and continuing to bring honesty and integrity to the job. Boucher has achieved the silver Atlas Pro™ Plus level.

“I go to work every day with that mentality so in the future when I look back I can say I'm proud of what I accomplished,” he said.

Josh Neal’s Secret Weapon For Roofing: His Mother-In-Law

Josh Neal Headshot

Not many people can say they appreciate their mother-in-law’s 2 cents about their career choices and life goals. For Josh Neal, however, without his mother-in-law Kathy Cotten, he probably never would have gotten into roofing. 

Neal, 27, launched his roofing career shortly after helping Cotten navigate repairs to her roof. After Cotten’s insurance company underestimated her roofing claim, Neal spoke with the adjuster and pointed out specific areas of damage. She got a second insurance check with enough money to fix the roof and interior damages.

“After that, my mother-in-law planted the bug in my head that I could make a really good business out of roofing,” said Neal, owner of Josh Neal Roofing & Restoration in Madison, MS. “I started doing more houses and meeting people who had significant damage that was denied by insurance. I got their roofing claims approved by pointing out damages that may have been missed.”

Neal’s move into roofing came after he spent several years working as a lineman and was on the verge of embarking on a career as a helicopter lineman (that is, dangling off a helicopter to repair tall towers and transmission lines).

For the roofing company, Neal runs three crews and has completed an estimated 200 jobs since 2016. In the future, he’s hoping to hire more sales people and a marketing director and purchase more equipment, including a hydraulic lift.

Neal said roofing scammers have tainted the business. He strives to give all his customers the best service possible.

“I wake up every day to provide for my family and the people in my community,” he said.  “It is very rewarding to know that I've helped someone fix and add value to their home.”