Meet the owner:
Zachary Sayles, Omega Roofing
Zachary Sayles is co-owner of Omega Roofing — a family business founded on honesty, hard work, and integrity that provides high-quality roof installation and repair services throughout Idaho’s Magic Valley.
Who better to answer your questions about starting and running a small business than successful business owners who’ve done it themselves?
This month, we’re partnering with business owners featured in Grit & Greenlights: Small Business Stories with Matthew McConaughey to answer questions from our social media audience — covering getting started, building a team, expanding locations, and more.
First up is Zachary Sayles.
Zachary and his business partner, Dylan Winmill, took a big risk in quitting their sales jobs to open Omega Roofing in the midst of the Pandemic. But they have a vision to build Idaho’s biggest roofing company on a foundation of honesty, hard work, and integrity. And business hasn’t stopped or slowed down since they started.
How big is your crew — and how did you find and train them?
This was a trial-and-error run for about a year before we pivoted into a solution that has worked extremely well for us. At first, our crew fluctuated heavily (from 5 crew members at times to 16 at one point). Like most other companies during the pandemic, we had difficulty finding help — and finding great help was even more difficult. Turnover was high, and so I’ll say we averaged a 6-7 man crew. We found a handful of people from Homebase’s hiring tab. The bulk of the others came from hiring a guy who then “had a friend who was looking for work.” It was a domino effect. The training formula was essentially: 1) teach them the core concepts, 2) let them become efficient, 3) teach them digestible chunks of new information, 4) let them become efficient, and 5) repeat steps 3 and 4.
We’ve since pivoted from that model. We kept 3 core guys from the original crew and repositioned them into a production manager, project manager, and repair tech. Throughout the last 4 months or so of our first year in business, I began constantly networking and building relationships, many of which happened through joining every roofing/contractor group I could find on Facebook. I met a subcontractor from a nearby city in one of the groups — and our work values aligned nearly perfectly, which is very important to me. We brought him on board and vetted his crew, and we continually conduct quality control throughout and post-build. They’ve become a key partnership.
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As a GC currently operating on a small scale but seeing the potential to expand, I’d love any insight into “growing pains” and tips to get my company through what feels like a big transition to the next level.
This is a bit tricky without knowing more specifically the growing pains you are facing, but I can speak to four things, in particular, that have helped me through some of my growing pains:
- Make it a priority every week to spend time networking and building relationships. Even if you’re a sole owner you MUST have a team you can rely on. These relationships can be with your supplier(s), manufacturing reps, accountant, bookkeeper, attorney, in-house employees, subcontractors, building department officials, other GCs, etc. They all hold a capacity to make your life much easier and allow you to better focus on your business.
- Build out super clean systems and processes for any potential in-house employees. This made a huge impact on my business. Before I created systems, I would spend a large part of my day fulfilling tasks that I could’ve easily delegated down to my team to allow me to focus on more important things. But nobody knew what they were doing until I realized they couldn’t without a well-laid process to follow. For my business, that was tasks like sending receipts to the bookkeeper, creating/sending material orders, creating/sending work orders, running miscellaneous supplies to the crews, scheduling jobs with the customer and material drop-offs with the supplier, pulling permits and city inspections, and quality control inspections on subcontractor labor.
- Take advantage of software. For example, a good CRM that can not only track relevant customer data but also track workflows/job progress. We leverage software for roof measurements, estimates, work orders, material orders, storing project photos, etc.
- Like me, it sounds like you have lofty goals but don’t dwell on how far away the destination appears. You’ll arrive before you know it, just slow down and enjoy the journey. With the end result in mind, work backward from your destination and create a roadmap on how you’ll get there. Break down the “big transition to the next level” into smaller, just-out-of-reach road bumps. Once you pass them, celebrate the milestone and keep moving forward!
What can we do to get existing clients to spread positive word-of-mouth?
Make their experience with your company one-of-a-kind and unforgettable. In my market, a simple thing we do is always answer our phone (or call back asap) and show up when we say we will. People love it because it’s not the norm for other roofing companies here.
It also helps to always have your clients’ best interests at heart. You can show this in a multitude of ways: showing professionalism in every interaction, leaving the job site cleaner than you found it, going above and beyond the scope of work (even in just some minor way), taking pride in your craft, owning and addressing legitimate mistakes, and being fully present when you’re engaging with a client.
Something else you can do is market research in the field. Ask your clients — or a client whose business you didn’t earn — why they did or didn’t choose your company. Then, continue asking follow-up questions based on their responses and why they feel that way. You can learn a lot with this tactic that you can capitalize on and begin implementing in your day-to-day operations to earn raving fans.
Finally, you can offer incentives. For example: “If you wouldn’t mind sharing your experience about our company with your friends and family, we offer $x per referral.” Or, on a more personal level, you could offer something more tailored, such as tickets to a baseball game for the family.
How do you encourage employees to identify new business opportunities?
I personally believe this stems from the creation of an inclusive company culture. I think an environment in which an employee feels safe and comfortable — and is also encouraged and applauded for effective critical thinking — will foster the types of behaviors that lead to them identifying new business opportunities.
A few concepts I’ve recently begun implementing are: creating a familial bond through company events (e.g., BBQs, bowling, dinner), a conversational meeting style in which I actively encourage discussion and participation, asking open-ended questions to engage critical thinking and correct mistakes (e.g., “where could we improve the next time we run into a situation like this?”), allowing employees to problem solve themselves, praising publicly, owning any mistakes made by an employee to an outsider of the company, and giving the team all the credit for a job well done.
What, if anything, is different for you in your second year of business versus your first?
We’ve done almost an entire rehab of the company from the ground up, with the exception of our values and other key areas we felt we excelled at. In our first year of business, we had a goal of being the number one roofing company in Idaho — with a lot of hunger and little plans or resources to help us get there. Going into the second year, we began making drastic changes.
- We repositioned our core crew members into new roles within the company while simultaneously hiring a subcontractor to fulfill the labor of the roof replacements. We spent hours over several months networking and building relationships until we found a crew that matched our ethos. When it comes to roof replacements, they have been a game-changer in terms of quantity without the sacrifice of quality.
- We found a CRM alternative that would better serve us and our customers. We would often get “stuck” or “lost” on where we were with our clients, as our old CRM had a limited workflow. We now have a customized (and cost-effective) option that suits us very well. We researched and made much better use of software based on roles to increase productivity.
- We moved to Homebase payroll for the flexibility of paying subs more frequently, and also paying our employees weekly (without it costing a fortune like it did with our old provider).
- We’re investing in long-term SEO as an organic lead source — and also better measurement software to prepare estimates, material orders, and work orders within 30 minutes from start to finish.
- Last but certainly not least, we’ve created incredible systems for our employees to follow and accomplish tasks, saving us dozens of hours a week that we can now put into driving the company forward.
Overall, it comes down to having a crystal clear vision of the future and a plan full of smaller more attainable goals that move us that much closer to bringing our vision to fruition. Our foundation started out on sand, and is now freshly poured concrete. It’s getting stronger every day through intentional effort. We are excited and looking forward to beginning to build upward. The sky is truly the limit!