Sam Frank of ‘Four Twelve Roofing’: “You should know yourself and your values”

You should know yourself and your values. Without a clear understanding of who you are and what you want, how can you lead others. For me, studying other business minds and constantly trying to improve my business acumen through education, helps me to keep this sharp. I am also a firm believer in taking care […]

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You should know yourself and your values. Without a clear understanding of who you are and what you want, how can you lead others. For me, studying other business minds and constantly trying to improve my business acumen through education, helps me to keep this sharp. I am also a firm believer in taking care of your constituents — your employees, your customers and your community. If you do all 3 of those things and make them central to your business, it has proven to be a good recipe for success.

As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sam Frank, a 30-year-old Baltimore native, made a commitment to making a positive difference in his hometown through his company and relationships in his community. After a short career on Wall Street, he moved back to Baltimore to uphold this commitment and founded his company, Four Twelve Roofing.

Frank attended Northwestern University and studied Economics and Spanish. He always knew he wanted to have a career in business and Spanish was a passion project to engage his love for Spanish culture — including Salsa dancing, Spanish music and Spanish art.

Frank graduated in 2012 and started a career in finance in New York — where he learned to work hard and have a successful business career — before moving back to Baltimore to be closer to his family. Having grown up in Baltimore, he missed the culture and living in the city.

Frank and his business partner, Shea Frederick — who has a background in computer programming and has lived all over the country — founded the company in 2013 as rowhome rehabbers. The pair set out to start a small community business that focused on quality values like integrity and customer service.

Frank and Frederick starting renovating rowhomes to improve neighborhoods in Baltimore City and their love for architecture in the city led to careers fixing old houses. Their initial project had such an impact that Frank and Frederick named the business after their first home renovation project, 412 East Lanvale Street. Thus, Four Twelve Roofing was born.

Building a business that positively impacts the community was imperative for Frank and Frederick and initiatives like the Baltimore Roof Trust — a program created to deliver free roofs to community members in Baltimore City in need of roofing services — is one of many ways they have been able to give back.

Four Twelve Roofing has received recognition from Inc. Magazine’s list of 5,000 Fastest Growing Private Companies in the U.S., ranking #122 on its 2020 list. The company has also been recognized by the Baltimore Business Journal in their Fast 50 Awards 2020 as the №1 fastest growing company in Baltimore. In 2019, Four Twelve Roofing did more than 600 projects and is on pace to surpass 1,000 projects by the end of 2020.

In addition to his company and giving back to the community, Frank is also passionate about traveling and meeting people of different backgrounds. He spent a year abroad traveling the Mediterranean and has a love for history, geo-politics, food, and culture in different places.

Frank describes himself as professional, high-quality, and service-oriented. He has a passion for education, thinking of innovative ideas, and mentoring his staff to help them grow their careers and lives. Frank enjoys laughing and exercising and values mental health and the appreciation of one’s co-workers, friends, and families.

Frank likes to pass time with friends and family and loves eating out in Baltimore City. He lives with his fiancée, Grace, and their pit bull Blossom, whom they adopted from the Baltimore Animal Rescue.

By building Four Twelve Roofing, Frank realized caring for people and being a standup person can get you really far in life and in business. He hopes long term to see his company recognized as the highest quality roofing company in Greater Baltimore and to work on some of the largest projects in town.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

My journey as an entrepreneur started from a place of passion. I wanted to be my own boss and I wanted to work on things that I thought were worth building a life and a career around. Construction projects always peeked these interests. I love seeing something tangible come to life. I grew up in Baltimore, where our company currently resides and through a circuitous path, found my way into growing a roofing and construction business that has grown leaps and bounds since we began it back in 2013.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Entrepreneurship is a series of brick walls that challenge you to break them down. At the onset, I wasn’t sure if I had what it takes to make it happen. Would we succeed or would we fail. Eventually, if you find success, you will begin to overcome challenges you hadn’t known possible. And as you do that, you build a base level of confidence. The problems we face nowadays, are equally as challenging, if not more, than the problems we faced early on as a business. We have just proven to ourselves that we have what it takes, through time and again busting through these hurdles.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

We’ve made all kinds of mistakes. Truly a dancing routine, doing the fake it til you make it. Without that kind of guts, you’re never going to build a successful company. You have to try new things, and fail, in order to grow.

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

We are millennials disrupting the construction services market. Construction companies are stereotyped to be owned by older generational folks, and oftentimes aren’t bringing new ideas about business to how to run their company. We bring the new ideas of technology, customer service and marry them with old school values that never go out of style — like shaking your customer’s hand and letting them know you’re going to take care of them. I think that is what we are building here.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Turn off your email notifications. Ever since I watched the Social Dilemma, I have done this. The dopamine rush (positive or negative) that kicks in anytime I get an email, was not productive towards my work / life balance.

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?

Obviously, my parents. They’ve supported me unconditionally through every step of my journey. But I also definitely have a lot of mentors that have impacted my life and taught me things along the way.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?

A good company is above 50 percentiles in terms of processes, people and product. You are better than the average and the worst, of your competitors. A great company is one of the top 3 companies in your strategic landscape. At least this is how I think about this question, as it relates to our industry, with so much competition. I think a great company should inspire people to come to work, have a staff that takes pride in what they do for work and have repeat customers who sing the praises of your company.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.

You should know yourself and your values. Without a clear understanding of who you are and what you want, how can you lead others. For me, studying other business minds and constantly trying to improve my business acumen through education, helps me to keep this sharp. I am also a firm believer in taking care of your constituents — your employees, your customers and your community. If you do all 3 of those things and make them central to your business, it has proven to be a good recipe for success.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

People want to do business with companies that feel more personal / personable. Big box companies have a negative impression. People prefer to work with small, local businesses that have a vested interest in positively impacting their community. Being a part of that landscape is a great mission to tie into your business’ approach as well. Me and my business partner, from the outset of starting our company, said that if we ever made money, we would use it to contribute positively to our community and try to leave a positive legacy. We still believe in that mission to this day.

What would you advise to a 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 and “restart their engines”?

I would say that you might not want to listen to me, because I haven’t been through what you’re going through. There’s an expression from Russell Brunson that says, if you want to buy a Lamborghini, don’t take advice from the guy who drives a Toyota Camry. So…. that said, I would suggest that person find companies to research, which are doing what he wants to do. If there are companies in their industry growing to the size they desire to be, why is that? What are they doing? And how can we strive to do those things ourselves, to grow in the same way that they are?

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

We watch our profit and loss financials closely. If we are losing money, we make changes. If we are gaining money, we invest it back into the company. That said, I have a background in financial accounting, and knowing how to read company financials is important to understand how the business is performing. If you don’t understand how your Income Statement, Balance Sheet or Cash Flow Statement work, then I would strongly advise taking a course or reading a book on how these flows, so that you can read them yourself. Understanding Gross Profit Margins vs Net Income and all kinds of other info is valuable to helping manage the different segments of the business.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

The human component of running a business is by far the most challenging yet rewarding. We aim to create a culture where people feel appreciated and like coming to work. It is not always something you can make happen, but when you win, in terms of taking care of your staff — it is certainly the most rewarding part of being in business as an owner.

As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?

Running a good sales and marketing program is vital to growth and success in business. As one of 2 owners at Four Twelve Roofing, that is one of my primary roles at the company — managing our sales and marketing. Improving conversion takes place in both the content you deliver to the market (marketing), as well as the message you convey to your audience once you have them in a sales situation (sales). We use lots of different methods of marketing (digital, print, consultants) and we use lots of our time and investment working with our sales team and honing their craft (weekly meetings, paid training, etc.)

Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

We are always investing in our brand. We love online reviews and bending over backwards to create positive client relationships and outcomes (these have taken us far). We also do radio ads and other spending to get our reputation out there.

Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?

We tell our staff 2 things — do what you say you’re going to do. And make sure that our customers feel “taken care of.” If everyone can punch the clock at the end of the day and say that they earnestly did that for our customers, then we have had a successful day of serving our clients.

What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

Online reviews on google are a huge driver of our brand, marketing and professional reputation. Managing these reviews and our good standing on these platforms is vital to performance. I would also recommend being active in a positive way on social media. I personally never post on my personal Instagram but spend an unjustifiable amount of time-consuming posts from some of my friends. Being in front of that audience is free and an easy way to be thought of as a business building its reputation.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Spending too much time thinking about how they’re going to start a business. Just go! Start selling something and then figure it out. Without faking it til you make it, and going to market with something, you’ll never know how the market will receive it, whether your pricing is correct (low or high). Just go for it, start selling something, and then figure it out as you go.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

I believe in doing small movements in my own life, to make an impact over a long period of time. Individual relationships, small acts of generosity or kindness, over extended periods of time. These types of concentrated efforts can make a lot of difference over a lifetime of practice.

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