After brothers Prentiss and Frank Baker started working in the family business, they realized they would need to increase Baker Roofing's revenue if they wanted a salary.
After brothers Prentiss and Frank Baker started working in the family business, they realized they would need to increase Baker Roofing’s revenue if they wanted a salary.
It was 1969 and the company, which was founded by the Baker brothers’ grandfather, had about 17 employees and nearly $1 million in revenue. The brothers, however, needed to do more.
Over the years, the brothers built partnerships and expanded the company’s geographic reach and its offerings.
Now the Raleigh, N.C.-based company has 12 satellite offices across the Southeast and employs about 1,250. Construction resource Engineering News-Record ranked the company’s nearly $160 million in revenue in 2012 as the third-largest roofing firm in the nation.
Frank Baker, 66, now serves as vice chairman on the company’s board and Prentiss Baker, 70, serves as chairman.
Baker, which offers services such as new roofing, masonry restorations, roof replacement, repairs and maintenance, has built and restored roofs at universities, institutions and homes across the state and country. Their projects have included the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C., and the Nashville Music City Center.
Growth in a labor-intensive business requires management, supervision and skilled people familiar with the company’s standards and expectations, Frank and Prentiss Baker said.
“You need to grow from strength, and not just say, ‘I am going to be a $10 million company,’ ” said Prentiss Baker.
Jim McHugh, owner of Massachusetts-based strategy and consulting firm McHugh & Co., said leaders of a growing company have to work together and be willing to let go of some control.
“A CEO who believes they have to do it all themselves isn’t going to grow,” he said.
The company also needs to be profitable, have processes in place that reflect its culture, and have access to capital, including cash, debt or equity capital, he said.
Lewis Sheats, entrepreneurship instructor at North Carolina State University’s Poole College of Management, said there is no magic road map to increase revenue and the path is different for each business. A general strategy, however, can be broken into a three-step process.
First, identify a specific target market, Sheats said. “What does the customer look like to them, who are they, where are they and what is unique about them?”
Second, owners have to persuade their market to buy their product or services.
“It’s now on your shoulders to tell them what you have and how you are going to deliver it to them,” Sheats said.
Owners also have to determine whether they will reach customers through social media, traditional media or relationship-building sales.
Third, owners need to execute the promised product or service.
“It is that execution piece that most businesses fail at, and that is what leads to stagnation,” Sheats said.
To scale a business, small-business owners have to establish systems and processes that can be replicated and identify new target markets, which allows them to sell to a larger pool of people. The options include expanding the geographic reach through acquisition, franchising, or building another location or satellite office from the ground up; adding products, services, or market segments; and working with partners to cross-market using existing resources and relationships.
Before moving forward, owners should do a cost analysis of the different options and consider the cost in terms of dollar amount and the potential impact on the overall brand.
(EDITORS: BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM)
In 1915, Prentiss and Frank Baker’s grandfather, W.P. Baker Sr., opened a tinsmith firm, which became Baker Rawls Tin Shop and eventually Baker Roofing.
Around 1921, the brothers said, W.P. Baker Sr. hung a sign in his downtown Raleigh shop that said, “We shall do good work at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always good work.”
The saying, which is hung in various places in Baker’s Raleigh office, has become the company’s mantra and has been key in building Baker’s solid reputation and company, the brothers said.
Prentiss Baker started working at Baker Roofing after his father, W.P. Baker Jr., who was running the company, had a heart attack in 1966. The company had about 12 employees and less than $1 million in revenue, Prentiss Baker said.
Frank Baker joined the company in 1969 after a long-term knee injury prevented him from joining the U.S. Army.
Building on the company’s good reputation, the brothers reached out to their existing contacts and forged partnerships with companies such as Davidson and Jones Construction Co., which built Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh.
“So, they built a building, they get us to put a new roof on it,” Prentiss Baker said. “We sort of built the business based on that new construction.”
At the core of the relationship, the brothers said, was the company’s ability to deliver a quality product with exceptional customer services.
(END OPTIONAL TRIM)
In 1980, the Baker brothers bought a roofing company in Norfolk, Va. A few years later they set up an operation in Charlotte. By 1990, revenue had jumped to $20 million, but “we kind of lost control,” Prentiss Baker said.
The satellite companies weren’t delivering quality products, meeting deadlines or collecting money for finished jobs.
The brothers dropped the ball, they said, by hiring people to run the satellite offices who weren’t familiar with the company’s core culture and systems.
“So we drew back and got small again,” Prentiss Baker said.
The company rekindled its focus on delivering a quality product at a reasonable price. After a couple of years, they rebuilt the Virginia company and established a Greensboro, N.C., office. They reopened a Charlotte, N.C., office and expanded in other cities where they had contacts and jobs.
Meanwhile, the company was also expanding its production line, and adding to and diversifying its services, such as repairing and maintaining roofs.
The company has also added recruiting, marketing, accounting and other departments, along with premier account representatives, who manage relationships with clients such as Belk.
“As our reputation has kind of grown, and our relationships have grown, now we are not just a company that does work out of 13 locations,” Prentiss Baker said. “We have all these great relationships that carry us to other places to do business.”
Continued success comes from planning and forecasting. Here are criteria recommended by the U.S. Small Business Administration to help owners define and achieve positive growth outcomes through strategic thinking:
—Organization: What will the company look like? What structure, people and resources will be needed to reach the ideal outcome?
—Observation: Increase observation to find out what motivates people, decide how to solve problems, and make decisions.
—Driving forces: Set the foundation for what you want people to focus on in your business.
—Ideal position: Necessary conditions needed for the plan to succeed.
SOURCE: U.S. Small Business Administration
©2013 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)
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