Business View Magazine interviews Kurt Scepaniak, Owner of Horizon Roofing, as part of our series on Fastest Growing Companies in the U.S. construction sector.
Horizon Roofing Inc. has been offering outstanding workmanship and service throughout the United States for four decades. Based in Waite Park, Minnesota, the firm’s reputation for innovative thinking has led to rapid growth in a slow-changing industry. Horizon Roofing has earned 45 awards and ranks in the top in North America for quality among Firestone contractors.
Kurt Scepaniak is the 2nd generation owner of Horizon Roofing. His father, a life-long entrepreneur, started the company in 1976, and young Kurt literally learned the business from the ground up, beginning by sweeping floors at the age of 10. He was initiated into actual roofing at the age of 12 – working 10 to14 hours a day. “At age 16, I started in our service department,” he recalls, “Basically, customers would tell me they needed a new roof. I’d go up on the building and look around, and really didn’t feel they did. So, I’d say, ‘You can do this, this, and this to extend the roof life.’ At that time, not many companies were getting into service projects. They just wanted to replace roofs.”
Following the premise of learning by doing, Scepaniak ran roofing crews, sheet metal crews, and the service department. He started estimating when he was only 18 years old. In 2000, he bought his father’s shares and took the reins of the company. At the time, Horizon Roofing had sales of around $2.5 million. Fast forward to 2017, the number will come in at $20 million, a significant amount of that growth happening in the last five years.
Horizon Roofing services the upper mid-west from headquarters in Waite Park, and another office in Brooklyn Center, MN, and has approximately 90 employees on the payroll. The company deals only with multi-family, senior living developments, commercial, retail, and government buildings – no residential work.
Scepaniak emphasizes the importance of innovative technology as a key differentiator between Horizon Roofing and its competitors. He states, “Roofing doesn’t change very fast, it’s a product we warranty for 30 years, and will last up to 40 years. When I talk about technology, it’s not that we’re creating new roofing systems. It’s about reporting to our customers, our inspection programs, things of that nature. I hired our first full-time programmer in 2007, and we’ve logged over 25,000 programming hours to date. What the programmers do is code systems that are built primarily for transparency in communicating with our customers. To try to describe what we’ve invested over $600K into is tough without seeing it. There are hardly any construction companies in the nation putting that much effort into making sure their customers are well informed.”
According to Scepaniak, their in-house technology is “quietly marketed.” When they are called in to inspect a building, building representatives can do virtual tours that help the customer with budgeting and forecasting for upcoming projects, for instance, showing the life expectancy of specific roof areas on different buildings. When they do a project, communication with the client takes optimum priority. Not surprisingly, Horizon Roofing has earned it many awards for quality, safety, growth, and innovative ideas. “We do what we say we’re going to do,” says Scepaniak. “If we screw something up, we fix it right away, instead of trying to find a creative out as to why it’s not our fault. That’s what people expect from us – honesty and quality.”
Commercial property managers and facilities managers call Horizon Roofing first when they have issues such as minor roof leaks. In the case of a catastrophic event, where a storm has come through and half the roof is lying in the parking lot, Horizon is, again, one of the first calls, sometimes before the insurance agent, to quickly install a temporary roof solution.
Looking to the future, Scepaniak anticipates growth will continue. “We usually grow about 20 to 40 percent a year and I don’t see that slowing down. The only rules I have for growth: the quality has to stay there, the customers have to enjoy working with us, and, just as important, our employees have to continue to enjoy working with us. And, of course, that we are profitable.”
The company bids competitively alongside other contractors who have good reputations and do quality work. “It’s a smaller group we compete against,” says Scepaniak. “As much as you don’t like losing a bid, I feel better if I lose to somebody else who’s going to give a good quality product, compared to losing a bid to one where you know the customer isn’t going to be happy after the fact.”
“Overall, it’s our commitment to quality, customer satisfaction, and employee satisfaction that makes the difference,” adds Scepaniak. “Every company out there, whether it’s McDonald’s or Boeing, they’re all looking for good people – the employees are the company. Some people use that pretty loosely, but it’s totally accurate. We couldn’t grow by 20 to 40 percent if we didn’t have awesome people. Every year we get one or two more awards because of our commitment to keeping everybody happy.
“I wish I could elaborate on the technology we’ve built, but we don’t need to educate competitors on what our customers like. That’s the rock and the hard spot. Even with all our technology, we don’t have any marketing material we send out. If we have people interested, we go out and meet with them. It’s a good company, our employees like working here. Nothing earth shattering; just putting in the effort to do the basics, and if you screw up, you fix it.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Horizon Roofing
WHAT: Award-winning commercial roofing company founded in 1976
WHERE: Headquarters in Waite Park, Minnesota