You might think that with the world facing a pandemic, the days of running a successful business by knocking on people’s doors are over. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Caleb Johnson, founder of Elevate Roofing and Construction, did the unthinkable and launched his startup when most people were stuck at home and needed restorations on their houses. In just under a year, his business garnered $400,000 in gross sales and has huge plans to double that number by next year. But, no matter how big he gets, Caleb notes it is important not to lose touch with who he is and to always take pride in the work that is done.
Caleb Johnson Founder of Elevate Roofing and Construction
Caleb Johnson grew up in Medina, TN and was always running around playing guitar, whether it was for the school jazz band, church, or with friends. He learned his work ethic from studying his grandfather, who also ran his own restoration business, and learned his people skills by working as a cable installer as an adult. Caleb built his business from the ground up in June 2020 in the middle of pandemic by driving around Jackson, TN and finding homes with storm damage. Elevate Roofing and Construction’s business focuses on roofing, siding, window and interior leak repair. What is remarkable about their success is that Caleb has been able to generate interest for his business solely through social media interaction on Facebook, obtaining referrals by word-of-mouth, and old-fashioned leg work.
How did your family fuel your entrepreneurial spirit?
My great-grandfather didn’t have a normal nine-to-five. When he was still young, he would get up and go to work every day even though he didn’t know what he was going to do. He would create opportunities by driving to people’s houses that needed to be painted and he would give them his card. And my grandfather would do the same thing. He would have more business than he knew what to do with because of all the referrals. I admired that and aimed to develop that same skill set to become independent.
Do you remember your very first first job?
Yes, I worked at Rhodes Family Diner in Medina, TN during high school. It was a pretty tough job: flipping burgers, burning myself on grease, and mopping floors. I started from the bottom right there and it taught me about hard work and how to stick with it.
What urged you to start your business in the middle of a pandemic?
My grandfather was a general contractor and he would build houses from the ground up with my uncle. I also worked with them myself here and there. I’ve always had this entrepreneurial spirit inside of me and, after discovering how the industry works, I came across the opportunity to launch my own business.
So, I dove into it and sold myself to get people to trust me to take care of their roofs. I also networked with laborers and different crews. They’ve been doing a fantastic job and we’ve been working as a team where I find the business and work with the insurance company. Once I obtain the contract, I’ll order the materials and send my crew to go out and do the work. It’s truly a team effort.
What was the biggest problem you set out to solve when you started Elevate Roofing and Construction?
I really wanted to ensure homeowners were being treated fairly by their insurance companies. I saw a trend of homeowners either getting denied for their property claim or receiving a fraction of what it actually costs to restore the property. My goal was and is to fight for the customer to receive fair treatment by their insurance carrier.
What challenges did you face by starting your business in the middle of a pandemic?
I think starting any kind of business is challenging to begin with, but to add a pandemic to it was definitely icing on the cake. The obstacles I faced were certain shingle colors not being available because of COVID. I had to make some calls and take special trips out of town to satisfy a customer’s color preference if it wasn’t in stock locally. I’m hoping here in 2021 shingle manufacturers will start producing a wider variety of colors to choose from.
It seems like social media plays a big role in expanding your business. Do you have any tips for other small businesses owners?
When it comes to social media I would encourage any business owner to consistently produce content. When I first started, I would take selfies on the roof and show consumers what storm damage looks like. Then once I made some sales I would post jobs that were under production and again when it was finished. I think posting regularly creates noise for the marketplace to know you’re there.
How do you get business to pick up when things are slow?
When things get slow I go back to my roots of knocking on doors. Storm damage is easy to spot driving down the road and most homeowners have insurance so there’s plenty of low hanging fruit, you just have to be willing to pick it.
Now that you own your business, what is your management philosophy?
It’s very important to hold your people accountable. I don’t have to be there for every job I do because my guys have been doing this for years, so they know what to do and how to do it. But I still like to show up so they know I’m involved with the whole process from start to finish. If I have to help carry a few bundles of shingles up to the roof or throw some debris in the garbage, I will. I want my crews to know I’m not too big to get my hands dirty, even though I own my own roofing company now. I don’t want to get to the point where I sit in my truck with the AC running. My goal is to make sure I’m involved in every aspect to try and keep the respect of my crew and the customers.
What has been your most successful moment so far?
My biggest win recently has been becoming debt free. We have had our fair share of financial hardships in the past and I am thankful now we’re able to enjoy the fruits of our labor. I was making okay money as a cable guy, but this has definitely been a life-changer. I own both my vehicles and paid off all our loans and credit card debt. Now I’m looking forward to saving some money to reinvest in the business, but also to save up to buy our first home.
What’s your primary goal for 2021?
I’d like to invest more money into social media advertisement by finding a team that can take that over and scale that to more than I can do. I’d also like to get a few more billboards in town and hire a few more people who can generate some leads by knocking on doors.
What are you most excited about for your company in the next few years?
I’m most excited about continuing to build the company brand and serving the local community. Once the company is able to function without me being involved in it day to day, I would be open to expanding this company nationwide. This first year has been great and I look forward to all possibilities to come.
What last bit of advice do you have for new entrepreneurs?
Anything you do, do it with pride and excellence. Perseverance has a lot to do with being successful. You’re going to have some slow weeks where you’re not making any sales, but don’t give up and go back to your comfortable nine-to-five job. Tough it out and figure out a new strategy to become productive, even if it means going out and knocking on doors.
To learn more about Elevate Roofing and Construction, visit their Facebook page here.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.