Jonathan Abramson of Metro City Roofing: “Do what you say you will do”

Do what you say you will do. Do unto others. Treat customers’ homes like our own. It is that simple. At Metro City Roofing, we respect your time. We don’t provide an appointment window for your inspection but rather book a specific time and honor it. As part of my series called “Five Strategies I Used […]

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Do what you say you will do. Do unto others. Treat customers’ homes like our own. It is that simple. At Metro City Roofing, we respect your time. We don’t provide an appointment window for your inspection but rather book a specific time and honor it.

As part of my series called “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Abramson.

Born in New York, Jonathan Abramson earned a BA at the University of Florida and an MBA at Arizona State University. He worked in consulting, operations, and sales for global companies like Apple and Crocs. After working for another roofing company, Jonathan founded Metro City Roofing in Denver, Colorado. He is married to his wife of 19 years and has two children. Jonathan loves helping homeowners when they need guidance and trust to replace their roof after Colorado’s annual hailstorms.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I didn’t grow up in the construction or roofing industry. In 2014, I left the corporate environment. After working for another roofing company for several years, I elected to branch out on my own. I founded Metro City Roofing to deliver outstanding customer service and treat customer’s homes like my own during the roof replacement process. I used my corporate and roofing experience, coupled with my education, to grow a successful business. As our company grew to seven-figure revenue, we pivoted as necessary while staying true to our mission. I am glad to have the opportunity to serve customers the way I want to and follow the processes I established.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

Recently, I was at a customer’s home to meet with an insurance adjuster. The homeowner had previously contacted another roofing company to inspect his roof but forgot to call and cancel. He apologized but advised this other salesperson he would hire me. The salesperson then asked for 350 dollars for his time, the amount the company charges as a repair minimum. After settling for 100 dollars, the salesperson pocketed it and drove off. I’ve never seen someone shakedown a customer first-hand, and I imagine the salesperson would be fired if the company ever learned of this. This is the reason the roofing industry has earned such a poor reputation.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are many inspirational innovation leaders such as Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk. For me, it comes down to having a partner who will listen to all my crazy ideas and help synthesize the good and discard the bad, and who calms me down. My wife also earned her MBA and is a certified project manager. She is brilliant, rational, and pragmatic in her approach, which is a great counterbalance. When I started my roofing company, I wanted a company name that was simple and easy to understand what we do. I love rock music from the 1980s and wanted to infuse this into my business and toyed with Rock Star Roofing. I felt it would be a great fit for my personality. Fortunately, my wife guided me away from this as it sounded gimmicky and trendy. I am glad she did. I chuckle when I have driven past Rock Star Plumbing or Rock Star Landscaping.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Steve Jobs said, “The most important resource we all have is time.” He also said, “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” One can apply these concepts to just about anything personally or professionally. This means focusing on things that matter to me and avoiding allocating my time to things that do not. We believe we deliver a better customer experience at Metro City Roofing than our competitors but know we cannot be all things to all people. We focus our efforts on residential roof replacements via hail damage insurance claims. When I founded the company, we included retail projects and commercial projects. I quickly realized how much goes into running a business and that we needed to find our core competency and only focus on that.

By having one core competency and primary focus, we increase our return on investment for our time and remove the barrier of needing to be the lowest cost for retail projects, as homeowners are only required to pay their insurance deductible.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?

We specialize in hail damage roof replacements through insurance claims. A key strategic objective for us is to create differentiation in everything we do, compared to competitors. We try to distinguish ourselves when we meet with new insurance agents with professionalism and sharing some nuggets of why we are different than competitors. It includes sales differentiation when we meet with a prospective customer during an initial inspection. From there, we try to differentiate ourselves with “wow” customer experiences in everything we do, including better protecting their property with our landscape protection kit or the canopy we pitch to keep our installation crew’s gear, coolers, and drinks as tidy as possible. We pay attention to all the little things like showing up at the end of each project to assist the crew or the next morning in picking up any missed nails on the ground. When customers see us on our hands and knees, they gain confidence that this company really does treat their home like their own.

It’s less what we sell than how we sell. That’s our sales differentiation. The difference is in the relationships, and brand one builds, plus doing what you say you will do. The roofing industry does not have a stellar reputation, and we try to dispel this with each customer interaction.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Roofing is messy. It’s also a commodity. We differentiate from our competitors in our consultative approach to educating homeowners, applying a no-pressure sales approach, and customer service throughout the roof replacement project.

For example, we do not ask customers to sign a contract until we have settled their insurance claims. We ask for a verbal commitment to hiring Metro City Roofing, but nothing is necessary to sign until we are ready to do the job.

I worked for a company that decided door knocking and contingency contracts with high-pressure sales tactics were the way to go. I don’t like when anyone knocks on my door to solicit business, so how could I want to run a company that does this? I lose out on business this way, but it’s not the model I aspire to have. Contingency contracts are simply a way to “lock-in” a customer from the first meeting. At my previous company, sales reps were measured based on whether they got this signed contract at the initial meeting. I would rather have a handshake and personal commitment that a contract is not required until we are ready to order materials and do the work. We anticipate that a homeowner will hire us if we meet with their insurance adjuster and settle their insurance claim, but we don’t need a contract to do it. I believe customers feel better that they have an advocate and expert to guide them and handle everything for them. If the claim doesn’t get approved by the insurance company, they have not signed anything and avoid the anxiety about getting out of a contract.

We take pride in treating your home like our own. I stop by every roof replacement project at the end of the project or the next morning. I spend time walking the property to look for any roofing debris or nails the crew might not have picked up. It’s that extra attention to detail so that we leave a property in the same or better condition than before we arrived.

When you first started the business, what drove you, what was your primary motivation?

When I worked for large, global companies, I was confident in my business contributions but did not directly interact with customers. I love the personal interactions and relationships that front-line salespeople have. After a hailstorm, many homeowners have hail damage to their roofs. If not addressed, often with a full roof replacement, this damage can cause interior leaks. I enjoy helping customers when they need us the most.

My primary motivation in year one was not to be the largest roofing company in Denver but rather to generate a specific number of thrilled customers. To do so, I needed to find several insurance agents willing to refer their customers to Metro City Roofing. I also needed to present my company different than a competitor and then deliver a “wow” customer experience during the actual work. We were successful and continue to focus on this objective, albeit now with an increased number of thrilled customers each year.

What drives you now? Is it the same? Did it change? Can you explain what you mean?

I still love helping customers and building relationships in our community, but I also focus on building a brand and operational processes. I want to create a lasting company based on our principles and would love for my children to take the reins someday.

There is a phrase, ‘when a tree stops growing, it dies.’ This is my approach to running my business. We continue to evolve, make changes as necessary, and grow. That doesn’t mean focus only on increased revenue, but also processes. When you are a startup, you must do it all, and most tasks are completed without a rigorous process. As you grow, you hire more staff, write more checks, and realize the need for training and clear operational processes. Training and clear processes have helped to double our revenue this past year. We look towards this strong revenue trajectory to continue.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We continue to improve our website to provide better and more engaging content and be more visible to Colorado customers who search for a quality roofer online. Besides wanting to offer a better interactive experience for anyone who visits, Google has announced it is updating its algorithm soon to prioritize websites that deliver a better user experience. So just having a high amount of content won’t be enough in the future. We want to be positioned at the forefront of this.

The topic of this series is ‘Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue’. Congratulations! Seven figures is really a huge milestone. In your experience what was the most difficult part of being able to hit your first million-dollars in sales revenue?

Having sufficient cash to manage Accounts Receivable (AR) has been one of the hardest discoveries on our way to 7 figures. One can start a roofing company out of their home with only a few thousand dollars to purchase a company domain, build a basic website, embroider the company name on a few shirts, purchase insurance, and get a roofing license in one or more cities. (I am simplifying the effort to earn a roofing license, but the cost is minimal.) However, the real costs are materials and labor (and sales commission if you are not the sales lead). Even with 10,000 dollars to start a business, one can only build one residential roof replacement when the customer payment is necessary to recoup these costs paid upfront and allocate the profit from that one job towards a second. It might take 2–3 jobs completed to advance to having two open jobs simultaneously, meaning installation and job scope is completed, but you are waiting on customer payments. There may be a long gap up to several months from installation to payment received with insurance claim projects, as insurance companies may take time to settle the claim and make the final payment. If a homeowner has a mortgage, the mortgage company may be listed on the checks, and banks require the mortgage company’s signature on the check. Mortgage companies are routinely slow to complete this transaction. If you do not have enough cash to pay for materials and labor, you cannot start the next job.

At Metro City Roofing, we allocated a certain amount of cash towards these items. Given metro Denver and Colorado’s annual hailstorms, it was not enough. Fortunately, we have been able to allocate most of our profits earned to increase our working capital. Along with many other activities I’ve shared in this interview, we are fortunate to have new customers who want to work with us.

Could you share the number one sales strategy that you found helpful to help you reach this milestone?

I have focused my efforts on fostering strong insurance company relationships, as my goal is to become the #1 recommended roofer from local insurance agencies in my market area. I don’t need to be the company that generates the most customers, the most revenue, has the largest team, etc. Referrals from insurance agents are critical, as homeowners typically trust their agents, and the sales lead is a “warm lead” where the company recommended has some credibility established. But trust is earned — and we passionately care about every interaction and experience. When we delight customers, they are likely to share with neighbors, friends, family, and coworkers.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you or your team made during a sales process? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One mistake I made was assuming that customers will remember everything you tell them. As I said, I enjoy being in front of customers and believe my background and professionalism differentiate my company and me. During an initial customer visit and inspection, there can be a lot of information shared, including critical facts about our company and the services we offer. I forgot to mention a complimentary shingle upgrade that we provide to our customers on one occasion. One week later, the customer informed me he was hiring another company because they communicated this free shingle upgrade. I explained we offer this too, but it was too late.

I learned my lesson from this loss and built a printed introductory packet to hand out to each customer during the initial visit, including several key facts about Metro City Roofing presented in a simple visual format. By handing this packet to every customer and discussing these items together, we never lose the opportunity to share critical information.

Does your company have a sales team? If yes, do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?

For me, hiring great people is the right start and letting the best ideas win is the way to stay on top and retain top talent. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

As the founder of Metro City Roofing, I recognize that my ideas are not always the best. I solicit opinions from those I trust and respect outside our company and am equally open to ideas from within. Our salespeople are closest to our customers, and we are passionate about attracting the right customers and earning their business. I worked for another company where the owner’s view was the only view that mattered. This worked for him. For me, I want the best ideas to win. Earlier this year, during a brainstorming session, an idea surfaced to donate to charity on behalf of each customer with each completed roof replacement. This idea was a way to differentiate ourselves from our competitors further and support local charities. It was a great idea and is now part of our DNA. We donate time and money to many charitable organizations that matter to our customers. When salespeople and staff see that the best ideas win, they know they are valued and are excited to contribute more.

Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Set a strategy, mission, and vision — refer to it often for decision-making. Amazon is famous for making decisions using its 14 Company Leadership Principles. At Metro City Roofing, we follow a similar approach with our core values.
  2. Make smart hires. When we hire for a sales role, we do not hire just anyone. We look for intelligence and communication skills and for someone who enjoys customer service. Roofing is what we sell, but we hire for the customer experience. We want someone who will deliver a great customer experience from the first customer meeting and communicate well at every step. My first hire was someone I knew previously, who was fantastic with customers. He possesses a strong knowledge of roofing but is an excellent salesperson. Customers love him, and our referrals and reviews on Google reflect this.
  3. Build reliable processes ready to scale. As you grow your company, you need a solid foundation and processes to propel the company forward. That can be tough to believe that someone else can do it as well as you can — but if you don’t let go, you can never grow beyond your own capacity. While we’ve built many processes, we continue to evolve and adapt as needed. For example, after we receive customer payment, we mail the invoice back reflecting it is now ‘paid in full,’ and include a postcard requesting to share their experiences on Google, plus a sticker the homeowner can affix inside the garage or other location that lists the installation date and roof material used.
  4. Be in the middle of the action. Where is a leader’s place — in his control tower or the center of his teams? When I worked at Apple, I had a manager who asked to shadow me and others for several weeks. He shared that he could not manage until he knew exactly what we all do. He was the best manager I ever worked for. In addition to providing great insight and recommendations, he was the first in the office and last to leave each evening. He was both smarter and worked harder than anyone.
  5. Do what you say you will do. Do unto others. Treat customers’ homes like our own. It is that simple. At Metro City Roofing, we respect your time. We don’t provide an appointment window for your inspection but rather book a specific time and honor it.

Separate from strategy and operations, we want to be viewed as the expert when meeting with homeowners. For many, it’s the first time they will replace the roof. For us, it’s our business. We aim to educate homeowners in a kind, professional, and respectful way.

What would you advise to another business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?

Speak with others in your industry. Join a networking group. You may not want to contact competitors in your local market, but why not try to solicit feedback from a market leader in another city? That person will likely love to share how his/her company achieved continued success and overcame obstacles. Ask others you respect and trust from outside your industry to analyze your business and identify areas for improvement. We read Harvard Business Reviews case studies and established cross-functional teams in business school to do just this.

In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?

As I mentioned earlier, we focus on building relationships with local insurance agents. This is a common sales approach with many other roofers too. One of my sales team recently visited one of his top agents. The agent shared that every single week, a roofing company stops by his office. We continue to deliver for his customers, and the agent communicated no desire to try a new roofer. Still, we know every roofer is only a few bad experiences away from losing a valued agent. We never take anything for granted and know that trust is built over time. We continue to add new insurance agents across different cities in our coverage zone, which pays dividends.

Based on your experience, can you share a few strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?

Roofing is not only about materials and installers. The difference is in the relationships, and brand one builds, plus doing what you say you will do. For us, it’s all about delighting our customers with outstanding customer service. Many homeowners distrust roofers, especially when they proactively knock on your door following a hailstorm. We are aware of this barrier and work to tear it down from the initial communication and educate our customers. We aim to be viewed as consultative experts rather than salespeople. Our goal is to earn their trust that we can successfully handle their roof damage insurance claim and competently complete the work. Beyond intelligent dialogue and a passion for customer service, we pay attention to and sweat the details. We want every direct and indirect experience to be fantastic.

For example, we have a canopy tent for our crews to store coolers and enjoy some shade while eating lunch. While the crew enjoys it, it also achieves our goal of minimizing the places we keep our gear, food, and drinks. We want our customers not to see additional trash on the premises. At Metro City Roofing, we don’t allow the crew to play music. It’s common to experience, but many homeowners are home when having their roof replaced — and certainly, many neighbors will hear the music. We believe other people do not want to hear our music, so we avoid it.

Another example is our landscape protection kit we place over the front of a home (or anywhere around the house where we discard roofing debris into a trailer or dumpster). Tearing off an existing roof is messy, but we want to protect customers’ homes with tarps that are more than just on the ground. We protect vertically in front of doors, windows, and painted doors, garages, and porches. We also cover plants, shrubs, and flowers with tarps that breathe and allow air and light to filter through. Our approach is not just one thing we do differently, it’s a combination of many items, large and small, that demonstrate to our customers, neighbors, and passersby that we care about the home we are working on.

As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?

In roofing, we do not typically have repeat customers unless they have multiple homes, such as a homeowner who has a rental home or moved to a different house. We install Class 4 impact resistant shingles on our asphalt roof homes, which better protects from future hailstorms. There is no such thing as a hail-proof roof, but this product better withstands hail. We aim for raving fans who will gladly refer Metro City Roofing to their neighbors, friends, family, and coworkers. For any existing customers, we are happy to speak with them following a hailstorm and inspect their roof to ensure everything’s in good working condition. We do this for free. We have a process to reach out and set up this free inspection for customers in areas that we know have been hit by a recent hailstorm.

Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Essentially, treat other people with the concern and kindness you would like them to show toward you. At Metro City Roofing, we give our customers the same advice and care as we would our parents, siblings, children, or closest friends. We take pride in this and in treating your home like our own. We avoid high-pressure sales tactics and do what we say we will do. This advice is timeless.

We give back to our local community with donations in our customer’s names to local charities and donations on behalf of a referring insurance agent for a customer referral. We contribute to various charities and non-profits directly as well.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

My parents. Due to COVID, I haven’t seen them in nearly a year since we live in different states. Knowing how time is our most precious commodity, I long to see them each again soon.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!

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