Interview with Elite Roofing | Episode 5

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In Episode 5 of the Trades Secret Podcast hosts Devon Hayes and Amanda Joyce interview Cody Hayes, co-founder of Elite Roofing. Learn from a roofing industry veteran about lessons learned along the way to building a multi-million dollar roofing company. 

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Transcription:

Amanda Joyce:

Hi guys, I’m Amanda Joyce.

Devon Hayes:

And I’m Devon Hayes.

Amanda Joyce:

Today, we are interviewing Cody Hayes of Elite Roofing, in Colorado. Here’s why you should care. Cody and his business partner grew their operation from a three-person company, to a multimillion dollar roofing company in three years.

Devon Hayes:

Welcome to Trades Secrets, where we demystify digital marketing to help contractors get the most bang for their marketing bucks.

Amanda Joyce:

This is for you if you’re a contractor looking for actionable marketing insights.

Devon Hayes:

Learn from home services industry experts to elevate your business through simplified marketing strategies.

Amanda Joyce:

Let’s dive into today’s trade secret.

Today. We are going to dive in on this interview, and I feel like the first thing we need to address here, is how Cody and Devon know each other.

Devon Hayes:

Well, it’s no coincidence that we have the same last name. Cody and I are married. It will be actually 10 years in May that we’ve been married, and we know each other through you, Amanda Joyce, but I only know you because of Cody Hayes.

Amanda Joyce:

It’s a big circle.

Devon Hayes:

Big circle of life. Big circle of life.

Amanda Joyce:

Yes, absolutely. A little bit of background on how I know these two beautiful humans. Cody and I were really good friends a million years ago, when we were young and crazy, before he even knew his beautiful wife. Then, when Cody moved back to Colorado and met Devon, I got a bonus friend who just turned out to be my brilliant business partner years down the road.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah, I started working with Elite when I went out, went solo on my own, left the corporate marketing world, and then soon thereafter, I needed your brilliant services and you had your own agency, and were a content marketing guru, and I didn’t have the bandwidth. I mean, you can whip out content like it’s nobody’s business, brilliant writer. We started working together with our own agencies before we actually merged and combined clients, cross-sold clients and services, and became what is known today as, Elevation Marketing. Talk about some sort of full circle relationship something.

Amanda Joyce:

Yes, something.

Devon Hayes:

That’s our story. That’s Elevation.

Amanda Joyce:

Yes.

Devon Hayes:

That’s how we all know each other. Let’s dive into Cody and Elite Roofing. For those of you guys in the Colorado market, actually outside of the market, because we get clients simply because they’ve found out that we do your marketing, they see us on the footer of your website. We know digitally you crush it in this market, but we all know there’s more to marketing a company and growing a company outside of the marketing world. For the contractors out there listening who are like, “Man, in three years you went from three people to this multimillion dollar company?” Tell us the story, tell us from the beginning. Tell us the story of Elite Roofing, just you and your best friend. I’m going to stop talking and let you take it from there. Cody Hayes.

Cody Hayes:

Well, thanks for having me on, I’m really excited to be here and I’m really excited for you guys and your growth, and of course, you’re one of my best friends. Just love my wife so much. It’s great. So, thank you guys. The short version of Elite Roofing really is, I met my business partner, Randy. We were just kids. We were in middle school, and obviously grew up together through every stage of life really. After college, I had gone my way and I was doing commercial property management. He had gone his way and had gotten into construction, general contracting. Through a series of different transitions, my business partner went through being an insurance adjuster, and had done some roofing sales, and was getting the idea of getting a roofing company going.

It got the building blocks for that started, and I was in a transitional period with my commercial property management company where I was moving for them, but made a pit stop in Colorado and had sat down with Randy, and did some basic things with Elite at the very beginning stages. He had said I should quit my job, and we should go on this adventure together. We’ve been doing it for over 10 years now, almost 12, 13 years now. It’s been a wild ride of lots of great successes and great challenges, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Amanda Joyce:

Amazing. I have to say, I can remember the day you told all of us here in Arizona you were moving to Colorado, and I’m glad you didn’t take my advice because I was like, “Why would you do that?”

Cody Hayes:

I remember that, yeah, very much.

Devon Hayes:

Oh my gosh. I was going to say, Randy, that had to be some sell. Randy Brothers just sitting down having lunch with his BFF, and he is like, “Actually, I don’t think you should move. Why don’t you stay here and let’s do this thing.”

Cody Hayes:

Yeah, right? He’s like, “You know that wonderful corporate job that you really, really enjoy? You should quit and jump off this cliff with me.”

Devon Hayes:

Yeah. You have that little bit of, not a little bit, but maybe you didn’t know it then, but you had that entrepreneurial spirit where you wanted to do your own thing. I love that Randy was the bug that inspired you to just get out from under the man’s thumb and do it.

Amanda Joyce:

Go for it.

Devon Hayes:

It’s awesome. Yeah.

Amanda Joyce:

Yeah, absolutely. Cody, is there anything that sticks out to you in the story of Elite, a turning point in the company where you really felt like things were really catching their full tilt?

Cody Hayes:

I think, like any company, there’s going to be situations where if I had chosen this, it would’ve led to this result. If I had made this decision, it would’ve been impacted us positively or negatively. For us, I mean, we’re in a storm market, so I mean, of course I think it’s important to recognize that there is a catapult that happens when a four or five star storm comes through your area. That’s going to be really, really life-changing, I think, positively and negatively. When we had a really big storm in ’17, that was a really big portion, that was a part for us to say, “Okay, well, how do we build upon the systems we’ve already been doing previously? How can we double down on our production? How can we get great sales guys? How can we make the decision to not necessarily expand too fast, because I think that leads to customer service experiences, but not go too slow and really miss an opportunity to grow.” I think the big storm we had in 2017 was a huge shift in the way that our company worked.

I think on the other side of that, I think another big pivotal point for us was actually in 2020 and ’21, where we didn’t have storms and we haven’t had a big storm in Colorado since, where we now needed to make the hard decisions of, now that we’ve grown our company to have all these positions built and all these crews do all this work, to say, “Okay, well, we’re not at that level anymore. I can’t keep that number in my overhead, because it’s just not realistic to run a company that’s that top heavy, but we’re not going to have as much production.” How do you run a company lean and mean, and just make the tough decisions as an entrepreneur to say, “Unfortunately, these are the really hard decisions I have to make that impact a lot of people.” It can be really tough. I would say, on a great production type turnaround, was 2017 where we had awesome opportunity. I think from a real, true business owner point of view, I think ’20 and 21 were really a good testament to the way we needed to run our business.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah. I mean, I definitely appreciate your candor and transparency on that, because there’s a lot of value in that when you’re in a storm market, and when you realize after a couple years, “All right, we have to pivot. We have to be the go-to in a retail market. What other opportunities can we create for the team that you have?” I think, being married to you, I get to meet and get to know the people that work at Elite Roofing. I get to meet their families, I get to see their kids, I know their stories, and so there’s a massive responsibility for you as the business owner, but I see the impact and I think that’s where Amanda and I, we just care so deeply, and we’re very ingrained in the lives of our…

We have what we call, CMO assist clients, where we full service do everything for them. We have that firsthand knowledge of that impact that you have as a business owner when you need to pivot and not rely on a storm to increase your bottom line. With that, and with how you all have pivoted and really started to… I mean, now you’ve diversified and you’ve gone into the solar market, I guess I would say, at what point did you and the leadership team get together and really say, “You know what? I think there’s an opportunity here. Lets go all in. Let’s go down this solar avenue.”

Cody Hayes:

I think it’s just a realization of our scenario. I think, like I said, we haven’t had a storm since ’17, you get some of the low hanging fruit to the point where the trees are a little more barren. So, you shift into doing retail primarily. We needed to stop thinking of the storm as the cake and the possibility of a storm now needs to be the ice cream. Our retail needs to be the cake, our service and our commercial. How can we grow on that? I think as an entrepreneur, you don’t want to think about shrinking down. It’s always, how can I grow? How can you be in growth mode?

For us, the next natural way to grow and expand, since we’ve done very good at commercial and at residential service stuff like that, solar, especially here in Colorado, has been a really big boom recently. We’ve seen a lot of companies that have tried to make that shift. For us, we realize with the systems we’ve built to be successful in roofing, can translate very easily into solar. It’s a different widget, if you will, but the systems still remains. I think with building a company in general, it starts with great people. We have those great people. If we can have those great people shift those systems into a different thing that we are producing, it seemed like a pretty natural progression for us.

Amanda Joyce:

Awesome.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah. Oh, sorry, and I was going to say, Cody, you talked a lot about processes and things that you guys have gotten in place. We don’t do any affiliate marketing, we’re not that cool yet. I know that you guys went through a business coach, Breakthrough Academy contractor coaching. At what point did you guys know that you needed something like that? Then. When I hear you talk about processes, and scaling, and hiring the right people, I know that that’s something that they talk about over there. At what point in, I guess in your growth, did you guys realize you needed some guidance like that, maybe some structure? Can you speak to that a little bit?

Cody Hayes:

Yeah, I mean, I think no matter what level you’re at, I think it’s always important to have some sort of accountability. For us, I think I am not too naive to the realization that I can learn things from other people. When I was able to get in and learn more about a company like, Breakthrough Academy, they have the business acumen, they have the contractor background to help us really dial in our systems and say, “Okay, well, do I truly know my numbers?” I had a good general idea of where we always sat, and I could look at a P&L and get a pretty good idea of what we had done previously, but how do I forecast? How do I really sit down and say, “Okay, well, these are my goals. These are my deliverables to meet those goals. Here’s the results I’m getting from them weekly, monthly, quarterly, to lead to the annual end.”

Versus just being like, “Oh, how do we do based on a P&L?” I would say, I guess it’s hard to say when I came to the realization of it, but I know that when I did realize it, I was like, “Why didn’t I do this a long time ago?” We started with BTA when they were, I think they were under 100 clients. I think now they’re crazy. It’s one of those things, and it also builds a community too. I think one of the cool things with that also, whether it’s BTA or Contractor Coach PRO, or the Roofing Academy, to have somebody else who knows the pains you’re going through, somebody else that can give you feedback on what they’ve done in the past or help you problem solve on things you’re dealing with now, I think it’s huge.

Amanda Joyce:

Yeah, absolutely. Now, we’d be remiss to not take this and now talk about marketing for a minute. This is a marketing podcast after all.

Cody Hayes:

Of course.

Devon Hayes:

Specifically for contractors, yeah.

Amanda Joyce:

Exactly. I’d like to pose the same question that Devon just posed in terms of when you were ready to go out, really seek out business coaching. When did you guys, as a company, decide that it was really time to start investing more in marketing and make that a priority?

Cody Hayes:

I think it’s, as we started to get just even a little bit bigger. I think when you are first starting a contracting company, you want to keep things as lean as you possibly can, right? Whatever money you’re spending on other ancillary things you’re not doing yourself, realistically when you’re on a low margin, that’s money you’re not making. For us, it started out heavily on door knocking, and simple flyers, and door hangers, and just word of mouth, stuff like that. If we really wanted to go to the next level, we knew it had to be done obviously, through some sort of avenue of marketing. I think a lot of contractors jumped quickly to, how can I get on the radio or get on TV?

The reality is, the ROI and even the tracking of that is so incredibly hard to do. I think it really needs to start more micro. How can I get in front of people in one way or another? Online marketing specifically seem to be what worked best. How do I have a strong brand presence? How do I have a great website? How do I have good clicks online? How do I really get in front of people when they… Everybody now, nobody even knows what a yellow book is nowadays. When they go online to look for a roofer, what are they going to type in? How do they find our company? That’s something that I couldn’t even pretend to start doing.

Amanda Joyce:

That’s where your beautiful wife came in.

Cody Hayes:

Yeah. I’ll be honest, obviously I already had the company before I ever even knew Devon, so I have the experience of dealing with other people. They didn’t just hop right into working with you guys and be like, “Well, we’re going to do it.” I will say, I think from a marketing point of view, there are just so many people that have these crystal balls or they have these over promise, under deliver, but you spend a bunch of money up front. You know a lot of acronyms, I don’t know what they mean. It’s hard to find somebody that I can know and trust, that can also come with the results on the backend. I think the primary word there, is trust. I think you just need to find somebody you do trust, because it does take a bunch of money up front to have that eventually roll into being the result you were looking for.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah.

Amanda Joyce:

Absolutely.

Devon Hayes:

I can say that, when I was still in the corporate world and Cody was at Elite Roofing and I just took a peak at their digital marketing, I was the marketing director at a lending company at the time actually, and I was like, “You guys don’t even have Google Analytics on your website.” Their website was pretty much just a coupon with the Pink Panther guy on there offering $500 off your roof. I’m like, “What’s going on here?” Then I kept making suggestions, we’ll call them. Then, I don’t know, it was a few short months later that I couldn’t take the corporate world anymore, and I had been on my own for about three months when I started working with Elite. Yeah, it’s been since 2014. What I’ve noticed, just as being your wife and marketing partner, how we slowly have grown.

It really did just start out a little bit. What’s the bare minimum I can do? If I’m a contractor and I’m starting out, what do I have to have? What’s the minimal investment I should make in marketing? At a minimum, it’s a website right now and your Google business profile, and that’s where Elite was at. At least get that Google Analytics on your site so you can start making smart decisions. Are my users on mobile? If you’re going to invest in ads, what’s the best place or platform to do them, and where are they at, and who should I target, and all that stuff. At a minimum, just having those two things to start. Websites, that’s a whole other podcast on what you can spend.

You can get a custom website for $20,000 to $30,000, or you can get a Wix website for free, or get their logo off for the year for $250. Again, that’s a whole different episode. I just know in 2014, you guys had a website, it didn’t even have Google Analytics, and then we just slowly were able to add on. Then, you guys had the benefit of having your marketing person in-house, so when there was a storm, “Honey, it’s hailing. Turn on some ads.” We do have that relationship now with our CMO assist clients, where they say, “Jump,” and we ask, “How high?” When a storm hits specifically in those storm markets, we know how valuable it is, and how competitive the roof market is.

Amanda Joyce:

Absolutely, absolutely. Losing an AirPod Here. One thing I wanted to ask you to speak to a little bit, Cody, was sales and marketing. You manage the sales team over there, and have. There’s a lot of times a disconnect between sales and marketing, which is not good in any business. We want to make sure that what we’re doing as marketing people, is really benefiting the business as a whole. How were you able to take the leads and growth that we were able to produce for you from a digital standpoint and really take the sales process and use that in the business growth?

Cody Hayes:

Yeah, I think there’s value in opportunity. I think you’re able to get great sales guys by saying, “Statistically, these are how many leads I can get in, and here’s how the leads get distributed.” I’ve never been a, hire a whole bunch of people and hope that some are successful. I want to hire great people. We call them the snipers. I want to hire the really great people that I know will take the leads that we get that do cost a decent amount of money, and treat all those clients like gold.

With that, I can attract great guys by not saying, “Hey, I get X amount of leads a week.” Let’s just say, I don’t know, let’s just call it 20. “I have 20 leads, but I have 50 guys. I’ll give you one every couple weeks.” I want to get 20 leads, I want to separate it between 10 guys. Everybody gets two leads a week. The more I can invest in that, the more I can give great opportunities to our guys to not have to spend all their time, let’s say, door knocking. They can spend their time really cultivating a great relationship with a client and working on referrals instead.

Amanda Joyce:

Absolutely. Can you talk to us a little bit about how you guys are acquiring leads today? I mean, obviously marketing plays a role in that, but talk to us about all the buckets.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah, I know you had the sales guys all in networking groups for a time. I’m not sure if that’s still the case, but yeah, talk to us about lead acquisition.

Cody Hayes:

We do. I like how you put it in buckets. Obviously, I think a huge bucket is going to be what you guys do with us. How do we get people to find us online? How do we really build a brand and make sure that we are strong so that when someone does look for a good roofing company in their area, that we pop up. Not just pop up, but have great reviews, and great presence, and an updated website, and all the tools it takes to go there. I expect all of my guys to be in a networking group. How do you build your business? I think it’s important to know insurance agents, and real estate agents, and property management companies, and restoration companies, like all the people that can lead toward business, building those relationships is going to be a big part of having those people know, like, and trust you as a contractor. We have our marketing team run things like pick’em. So, during NFL season, we have all the people we have emails for, they all get invited to an NFL pick’em league. We have great responses from that.

It’s just a great way to capture people’s interests and they can stay involved in that. Of course, the winners of that every single week get a gift card. We like to do product programs like that. We’ll do happy hours where we invite all of our contacts to come meet us at a brewery, where it’s all food and drinking for a couple hours, or Topgolf events, or just baseball games or whatever. We really like to create events that can build those relationships. It’s one of those things where I’m open to almost any idea. We’ll do door knocking. We have had people that are in-office business development managers, where their only job is to go to offices, meet people, create relationships, take those people out golfing or to games or whatever, and really just make sure that if and when an event happens, let’s say hail happens, gosh, we’ve had a hailstorm happen and the next day the business development manager gets 300 calls. How do we just keep that front of mind for everybody? That’s just lots of different avenues that can hopefully lead towards the cost being offset by the production.

Amanda Joyce:

Absolutely. Well, I had one other question I wanted to run by you. I know we’re taking up some of your valuable time here, but one other thing that we feel like, because you’re just so experienced in this and we’re hoping to reach contractors at every stage of business growth. Can you talk to us about if there was one piece of advice that you wish someone had given you when you and Randy were starting out, whether it was year one or before you really took off, is there anything that really sticks out to you?

Cody Hayes:

I would say, the piece of advice I would really give, is to just make smart decisions. Don’t throw money at things just hoping they’re going to work out. Do the research to find the best avenues towards great production. What I mean by production, I mean people production of course, through production. How can you get the best return on your investment, whether it be, do I buy a used truck or a new truck? Do I put a bunch of money into a really big, flashy website, or do I put money into a very large door knocking team? Just making sure that the right decisions are made, and making sure that you’re not so top heavy that it comes to a point where you start slipping with paying your subs. The minute people start feeling like as employees you’re going to miss paychecks, as subcontractors or suppliers feel like you’re starting to get too far back on your bills, is the minute you lose that trust.

I think building that trust is paramount towards making sure that you are able to grow in those relationships. As the relationships grows, the trust grows. As the trust grows, the flexibility with when the hard times do happen, starts to grow as well. If you have a supplier who knows that you pay consistently every single month for years, and then you have a little lull and you start to have, “Hey, I was at net 30, can we expand that to a net 60?” Or, “Can you still make deliveries? Although I’m waiting for materials, although I’m waiting for a payment from, let’s say, this larger commercial job, they know that they can trust you and you built those relationships. I would say, making sure you walked your overhead, and really make sure you cultivate the right relationships and hire the right people to make sure your overhead doesn’t get too crazy, is a knowledge base and a trait that I think will lead towards better experiences as you grow as a company.

Devon Hayes:

Absolutely.

Amanda Joyce:

Brilliant.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah, I know, brilliant. I know we talk every single day, but that’s when we’re getting down to the tactical stuff and what’s going on. It’s really, really interesting to hear the big picture, that 30,000 foot view that I don’t always get because I’m down there in the weeds with you. I think you had some great points here. Contractors, if you’re looking to grow, trust is paramount on your relationships internally and externally. Do what you say, say what you mean-

Amanda Joyce:

What you do.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah.

Amanda Joyce:

Yeah.

Cody Hayes:

I just want to interject. That wasn’t a commercial for you guys necessarily, but just in general, I think just because, like I said, I was very familiar with a lot of the P&Ls, and I do look at the percentages of what we spend on things. I’m not blinded to the fact that myself and everybody should at least, or does, spend a good chunk on marketing. Whether it’s with a company like you guys for online things, or even just print things or whatever else, you’ve got to spend money to make money. On the building relationships and the trust side, it is extremely important to find somebody that you truly believe has your best interests in what you’re going to invest in.

Don’t just blindly lend money to a marketing company with these grandiose ideas of what they will return. I think one of the things, aside from Devon being my wife, I really truly believe that the team you choose needs to instill that trust with you. That they are going to have the trials and tribulations, they’re going to work as best as they can to get gains for you. I think having probably 5% of all your spending going into marketing on average, can be quite a bit of money, and it needs to be with a company that you can know and trust. That’s important.

Devon Hayes:

Absolutely.

Amanda Joyce:

Absolutely.

Devon Hayes:

Thank you.

Amanda Joyce:

Okay. In summary, we’ve learned so much from Cody today, but it’s hard to sum all that up, but I feel like the things that really stood out to us, was the relationship building, whether it’s with your partners or with the clients that you’re cultivating out there in your industry that-

Devon Hayes:

Your staff.

Amanda Joyce:

… Relationships. Yeah. It’s paramount to the growth of your company, and to establishing trust.

Devon Hayes:

Absolutely. Then, making strategic decisions. Meaning, when you are deciding to invest in anything, let it be a form of marketing or be it a new sales hire, whatever that is, or door knock, whatever it is, just make sure that, that is researched and you have a goal in mind, and you’re not just throwing bad money at good money. What’s the expression? I don’t know, maybe it worked for somebody else, but we preach that in our side of life, make sure you can track at the campaign, track what you’re doing and have a goal in mind, or else you will just throw money at an ineffective, I don’t know, radio ad or a direct mail or something like that.

You just need to have a goal in mind, and don’t just throw money at something to try and solve a problem. Then, last of all, I thought this was great for any contractor out there, watching your overhead and knowing exactly what you’re getting for your money. I mean, that’s huge. We’ve seen clients, they didn’t know they were paying X amount of dollars month over month until things went south, and then they started looking at that RIO on those line items in their overhead. Build relationships and trust, research before you pull the trigger on big purchases, and watch your overhead and really look at those P&Ls. Those are some great takeaways from our time with you, Mr. Cody Hayes.

Amanda Joyce:

Yay.

Devon Hayes:

Thank you so much-

Amanda Joyce:

We’re so thankful. Yeah.

Devon Hayes:

Yes, we really value this professional relationship, and obviously our personal relationships, but I think you’ve given a lot of value today to those contractors out there, and we are so glad you are our very first guest on the Trades Secrets Contractor Marketing podcast.

Cody Hayes:

Well, thank you.

Amanda Joyce:

Yay. Thanks, Cody. Thanks for listening, guys. We will catch you next time.

That was today’s trade secret. Thanks for listening.

Devon Hayes:

Did you find this helpful? We’re just getting started.

Amanda Joyce:

Subscribe, and don’t miss our next reveal.

Devon Hayes:

Until next time.