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High ceiling

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 7:14 a.m. January 3, 2014
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
  • Strategies
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The tactics roofing entrepreneur Gary Curry used to survive the recession, from mass layoffs to forgoing a salary, weren't some secret sauce concoction.

But the meat-and-potatoes approach, combined with a rebound in the Sarasota-Bradenton real estate market, definitely produced some extraordinary outcomes. Indeed, Curry's business, Sarasota-based Roofing by Curry, has grown sales more than 600% over the last four years, from $1.7 million in 2009 to at least $12 million in 2013. The firm's payroll is up from a low of around 10 people in 2009 to more than 100 at times this year. There are currently around 90 employees.

“It's nuts,” Curry says. “It's crazy. I didn't anticipate this, but I'm going along for the ride.”

Working primarily in the new homes market, Roofing by Curry, which Curry founded out of his house in 1986, had grown to $6 million in sales and 50 employees by 2006.

Then, in early 2007, the firm went from 100 projects to 20 in a month. That's when Curry says he realized the “business model we had before didn't exist anymore.”

The new model, Curry decided, would be to expand to residential retail and work with homeowners, not only homebuilders. That involved doing tile work and rehabs on older roofs, not just shingle work on new homes — its previous niche. That meant new training and new equipment. The firm made the switch in 2007, however it took several years for it to start to pay off given the depths of the recession.

More recnetly, Curry made a concentrated effort, in time and money, to get the word out about the shift. That includes a new website and an expanded marketing budget. Curry, for example, spent $100,000 on marketing and related projects in 2013 and $51,400 in 2012. That's a giant leap from 2010, when the firm spent $13,100 on marketing, and 2009, when that figure was $12,200.

The spend-money-to-make-money strategy worked. It worked so well, actually, the firm's 1,800-square-foot office, which was fine for the downturn, has become sardine city. There's not even room for a separate space with a door for Curry. His desk sits amid the chaos of scheduling and customer service calls, in one big room. The firm currently seeks new space to lease, up to 10,000 square feet.

Beyond space, Roofing by Curry also faces the challenge/opportunity of being a fast-growth company in an industry with a high flameout quotient. Curry hired a consultant, Joey Brannon of Lakewood Ranch-based Axiom Strategic Consulting, to help address that looming issue. Brannon will help the firm develop processes and systems, including a revamp of the procedures behind the books and financials. Says Curry: “I could see this collapse on itself if we don't do it properly.”

Another big challenge, says Curry, is how he will handle the federal health care bill. While Curry says he pays a better salary than most other roofing contractors, the firm doesn't currently provide health benefits for employees. “It's been cost prohibitive,” Curry says, “and I don't think that's going to change.”

Curry nonetheless says growth challenges are good problems to have, even more so when considering where the business came from. “It can be scary when there are a lot of people in the company who rely on you,” says Curry, “but it can also be rewarding.”

Turnaround tip
Roofing by Curry owner and President Gary Curry says one thing the recession couldn't take from him was his optimism. He says he always tried to keep his spirits high and lead by example. Looking back, that attitude, while it didn't make a sale, was the genesis of the company's survival and ultimate turnaround. “You have got to have a really strong positive attitude, says Curry. “You can't let the fear take a hold of you.”


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