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Business Observer Friday, Jul. 15, 2016 2 years ago

Break through

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The founders of Crown Roofing started a business with $75,000. Three years later $50 million in revenues is in its sights.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Guil Geneau says he's an all-in kind of guy, and while not a gambler, the early stages of the housing market rebound three years ago was a spacious spot to test his courage.

That's when Geneau and a business partner, Chris Copeland, left high-paying roofing industry sales management jobs to launch their own business. The company, Crown Roofing, started out of the garages of each founder's home, Geneau in Sarasota, Copeland in Fort Myers, in February 2013. The founders had $75,000 in savings and no clients. They went more than six months without a salary.

“We basically had a couple of business cards and a website; that wasn't even that good then,” says Geneau. “We had a lot to prove.”

A little more than three years later, Sarasota-based Crown Roofing is halfway through a third-straight banner year, where, if Geneau's projections hold, it will reach $50 million in sales.
The company did $6 million in sales in 2013, jumped 200% to $18 million in 2014 and doubled, to $36 million, in 2015. It has 300 employees spread though four offices. Says Geneau: “It's been a freight train.”

The company splits work about 65% residential and 35% commercial, with offices in Orlando and Miami, in addition to the Fort Myers and Sarasota headquarters. In Orlando it does mostly new homes, says Geneau, and in Miami it's found some niche work doing condos and townhomes that are big, but too small for other firms there. The company is moving from an office in east Manatee County to a building it bought for $700,000 off Fruitville Road, east of Interstate 75 in Sarasota County, later this summer.

One of the biggest all-in moves with Crown, says Geneau, and the best startup decision he made, was an investment in technology systems from the first day. The company, for example, used a chunk of startup funds to buy cloud-based accounting and job estimating software fit for an established business with several dozen employees, not a garage-based firm. One software package, he says, cost at least a $1,000 a month.

“When you have no revenues, that's quite a bit of money,” Geneau says. “But we had faith. We knew we would need these systems to grow.”

Yet even Geneau concedes a $50 million business in three years surpasses both his expectations and the startup moves he made to prepare for growth. That makes managing the expansion, especially finding and keeping top project managers, a top priority. The firm often recruits for employees in manufacturing and roofing products distribution companies.

In addition to planning early, Geneau says a key to Crown's success lies in the company's obsessive leave-no-detail-out approach to estimating the cost for every project. That helps for client relations, and to maintain predictable books. “We look at every dollar on a job,” Geneau says. “We estimate everything.”

Stability in the revenue stream, says Geneau, helped the company in another way, when it received a $1 million credit line from Ford to upgrade its fleet of vans and trucks. The company expects to spend more on equipment and gear in the coming months, including up to $100,000 on heavy-duty shears and auto-brakes that cut and bend large sheets of metal for commercial roofing. It might also buy a crane, instead of renting one.

Geneau worked for Circle L Roofing in Tampa and Latite Roofing in Palmetto prior to Crown. The plan going forward with Crown is to manage the growth, without taking on too much debt, and expand in locations for the right opportunity. Then maybe pass it on to another generation. Says Geneau: “We want this to be a legacy business.”

At a glance

Crown Roofing
Year revenues percent growth
2013 $6 million
2014 $18 million 200%
2015 $36 million 100%
2016 $50 million (projected)
Source: Crown Roofing

— Mark Gordon

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