Thirty-nine years ago, California roofer Pete Scudder started his career working at a local roofing company. After a while, he figured that there just might be a better way to run a business, so he and his wife Karen decided to open their own roofing business, and Scudder Roofing was born.
Today, Scudder Roofing has grown into much more than just a roofing and re-roofing company. It offers a large menu of comprehensive contractor and construction services, and the business has become a family one. Two of Scudder’s three daughters work in the company, along with two of his sons-in-law. All in all, it employs a staff of seventy-five, many of whom have been with the business for more than fifteen years, and it serves the counties of Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito, California.
For President and Founder Pete Scudder, building this business with his family by his side has been nothing but a positive experience. “I love the idea of working with two of my three daughters because it’s like a family reunion every day, and now I’m working with two sons-in-law, so there are some advantages there,” explained Scudder. “Obviously, the trust part of a family business is a benefit. You trust your family members to do things well and the honesty part of it. You don’t have to question any of that, so that’s nice.”
However, for Scudder, ‘family’ is a much broader term when applied to the business. “I look at the whole organization as a family unit, and the whole culture base. Everybody who works here is part of the Scudder family, if you will, and hopefully, they feel the same way,” he explained. “We’ve tried to develop a team that believes in family culture and the kind of transparency you expect to have in families, and there’s always a roller coaster involved in that. You get the ups and downs of it, but the best part is the closeness we all have here.”
Having that kind of relationship and strong trust amongst Scudder’s whole team is probably one of the reasons the company has been so successful; it’s also one of the reasons Scudder Roofing’s customers stay with the company for so long, and why nearly eighty-seven percent of its work comes from word of mouth and referrals.
“What really sets us apart is our customer service,” said Scudder Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Scudder. “We offer a huge variety here. We do commercial; we do residential; we do new construction, remodels; we’re now doing a lot of waterproofing; we do doors and windows, and leak detection, and we have a full twenty-four-hour service repair division. But I think where we really shine – where we’re really able to show what we’re made of, so to speak – is in the residential remodel sector, and that’s really because of our obsessed commitment to customer satisfaction.”
When asked what the company’s biggest accomplishment has been, Scudder joked, “not going out of business in forty years.”
But in all seriousness, Pete Scudder credits his daughter Jennifer as playing a huge part in the company’s success and longevity. “I think that most of the accolades fall on Jennifer,” he said.
“She’s built an incredible team around her. With our production team, we have a really good group of people, and she built that. She’s the one that hires the people in the production end of the world here, and she does a really good job with that end of it as well as the culture here. She’s taken my vision and just ensures that culture carries on and communicates it better than I do,” he said.
Jennifer Scudder, however, attributes the company’s success to the fact that she has tried to follow her father’s example. “From my perspective towards my dad – my boss – it’s that he’s made such an amazing name for himself and the company, and I always tell my friends and people that I meet that everybody knows Pete, and it’s really true, and it’s a positive recognition and something I experience almost daily,” she explained.
She went on to describe how people have told her that her dad came and fixed their roof for free years ago, when they could not afford it, or how he even drove homeowners with health issues to the hospital.
“These crazy intimate personal stories – and I’m really not just saying this – it’s amazing the kind of feedback I get from clients and employees,” she said. “We’ve had stories just like that but with employees, things that he did for people without telling anybody, but they’ve told me in the years that I’ve been here. He’s really just a great person and a great human being, and so working for him, everybody here feels that. It’s in the culture; it’s how we treat our customers; it’s how we treat our employees. It really does kind of trickle down, and everybody at Scudder really does feel it. I can honestly say he’s just an amazing person, so if I am doing something well with my team, it’s under the umbrella of his leadership.”
The turnover at Scudder has been very minimal, which is not the norm in the roofing industry. The average time an employee stays in the construction or roofing business is two or three years at most, but the average employee at Scudder stays fourteen or fifteen years, which reflects how the team is managed and how they live the culture every day.
One of the challenges the company has begun to run into, however, is the aging of its staff. Many employees are starting to retire, which means looking at bringing in new blood and getting them trained – something that has become no easy task in recent years within the construction industry.
Another challenge the company continually faces is keeping up with the constantly changing regulations, codes, and permits which primarily relate to safety issues. “Here in California, it’s the regulations we have to deal with – government regulations that focus in on a lot of different things in business. We’re just trying to get through those hoops every day with the way business runs, making sure you have all your T’s crossed and I’s dotted and making sure you’re up on every change in the regulations and protocols with regard to equipment,” said Scudder.
One of the ways the company has been able to stay on top of these changes is through its membership in the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA). “We’ve been members for thirty years or more, and it keeps us abreast of what’s going on nationally,” said Scudder. “Currently, we’ve been more active with them on some of the new regulations that the feds and the state have been putting on roofing contractors.”
Pete Scudder is also the president of the Independent Roofing Contractors of California (IRCC), which is doing a great deal of educational work on national standards for training for apprentices and journeymen.
“We have an apprenticeship program that we set up and an educational program which launched in January, and some of these programs intersect with the NRCA. It will be more of a global training process, working on a national standard to get everybody on the same page and have a one-stop-shop to train your employees so they can better succeed in the industry,” explained Scudder.
Pete Scudder has also anticipated some of the changing needs of the roofing industry. Thirteen years ago, he founded a solar company (Scudder Solar) which has complemented the roofing work; it can warranty the installed solar roof panels by ensuring the seal between the panels and the roof is 100 percent watertight.
Along with the addition of solar, Scudder Roofing offers other in-house services, such as fabricating custom sheet metal and rain gutters, which enables the company to offer a comprehensive menu of residential and commercial construction solutions.
“There are always opportunities out there, and we formulate our business around the ever-changing business needs,” said Scudder. “We didn’t do metal roofs for a long time, and then twelve years ago there was a demand, and now we do more of those. We try to forecast where the industry is going and hopefully not end up on the bleeding edge, but maybe the leading edge… we’ll keep doing that as products come on board and our customers demand change.”
“We’re also doing quite a bit more waterproofing than we have in the past; more of the envelope of the entire structure, and not just the roof,” said Scudder. “With growth you have expansion, and you have opportunity, but there are also those growing pains you get by just learning how to do new things. Sometimes you learn the hard way, but once we get those new things mastered, we hopefully become the premier installers of these products and just keep building our reputation for quality work. We’re always going to change things up as we see fit for our customers’ needs.”
The business has begun to migrate a bit more into the hands of the next generation with Karen Scudder’s retirement in 2018, but at 62, Peter Scudder himself has no immediate plans to retire. “I like the business; I like the people; I love the team; I love my clients; I love my relationships I have with the people I work with. So, it’s kind of hard when you’ve been doing it for forty years to suddenly say you’re going to quit doing that, so I’ll probably always have my hat in the ring in one way or another,” he stated.
One thing is clear: Scudder is a company that loves what it does and truly cares about its staff and customers.
“I learn something every single day – and every day there are challenges. I’ve learned, over time, that whatever challenges are in front of us, we’re going to get through them,” said Scudder. “My team has obviously pulled us through the challenging times we’ve had. Now I realize that whatever we go through, we’ll get through just fine, and at the end of it, we’ll learn something and become a better company because of it.”