It is not often you find members of the construction industry who are more concerned about the customer than the work itself, but for Ryan Hoke, Owner and President of The Exterior Company (TEC), witnessing the ongoing mistreatment of customers by the industry motivated him to start his own business and play by his own set of rules.
Hoke started The Exterior Company in 2012. His service-driven company is dedicated to roofing, siding, gutters, and restoration work for homes and commercial properties that have been affected by some sort of catastrophe such as a hurricane, big rainstorm, or hail. The goal from the beginning was to produce quality work and products, and to make his customers happy.
After a year, his reputation for customer care began to spread, and the company grew. He started adding people, and today, the company has a team of about seventy staff. It has been so successful that, in seven years, it has expanded to seven locations all around central Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Connecticut, and Virginia.
Hoke attributes the company’s rapid growth to its culture. “I am very focused on making sure all the employees of TEC are happy because I feel there is a trickle-down effect. How happy an employee feels towards the company they work for is ultimately going to overflow to the customer experience.”
He is extremely proud of that corporate culture and customer service because employees try to treat customers’ residences as if these were their own family members’ homes.
When it comes to adding to this team, the company spends more time on the vetting process. “We do a background check, and we do multiple interviews because we want to make sure that anyone we are hiring is a good fit for our culture because we know one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch,” said Hoke. “We’re very cautious too because we know that anyone we hire is going to be out there representing our brand, so we don’t want to send somebody out to a customer’s home that we wouldn’t want to do business with ourselves.”
He emphasized that, “People alone are not a company’s greatest resource… it’s the ‘right’ people that are a company’s greatest resource. We strive to hire only remarkable people in order to maintain a remarkable culture. The best businesses are those that make a real difference in the lives they encounter. So we know how important it is to hire for character and train skills, knowing that the customers will ultimately net the end benefit of a good experience.”
TEC looks for people with like-minded values because it wants to invest in them for the long haul. It ensures that the trucks and equipment are of the highest quality and offers ongoing training for staff. “I can’t think of one person who has left the company to go work somewhere else within our industry unless they just had to relocate for personal reasons,” said Hoke.
Having good relationships between staff members seems to be the secret to the company’s success. It hosts many events, holiday parties, trips, and award ceremonies, and spends much time creating connectivity and friendship. This includes having a dog-friendly office as well. It invites spouses and significant others to events as a way to say thank you for their understanding when staff are required to work long hours to get the job done.
For these efforts, it has been named one of Pennsylvania’s best places to work in 2017 and Inc. 5000’s fastest-growing, privately-owned company from 2016 to 2018.
TEC has also found a name in the niche of restoration work. A huge selling feature is that it will work directly with the homeowner’s insurance companies to get the home back to the pre-storm condition. The time it takes to do this is a big part of what sets it apart because the service alleviates much of the distress and frustration that homeowners have with the claim process.
“Many contractors don’t want to work with insurance companies or spend time educating themselves on how that process works, but that’s where we thrive – we spend a lot of time educating ourselves on how insurance companies want us to document the scope of work to get a roof back to its pre-storm condition,” explained Hoke. “One of the programs we use is called Xactimate, which is the same estimating software used by most insurance companies we work with, so it makes it easier for the insurance company to work with us as well since we’re using the same software that they are using. It’s pretty much like speaking the same language they speak.”
Another competitive edge is the company’s platinum preferred contractor status with Owens Corning, a world-famous company that develops and produces insulation, roofing, and fiberglass composites. This status means that Owens Corning will back the materials and the installation workmanship, because it has faith in the work the company does. Less than one percent of companies ever achieve this platinum status.
Technology has also made an impact on the business, both in raising the awareness of natural disasters and where they are occurring and in the time-saving tools for measuring.
“The biggest one that came out is a company called Eagle View Technologies,” said Hoke. “With aerial photos, they actually create the measurements for us, so we don’t have to hand-measure the roof anymore, we can just order the report from them, and that has all the measurements on it. This technology saves us a tremendous amount of time and effort getting up on the roof and using a tape measure while increasing our ordering and estimating accuracy.”
The company also uses a customer relationship management program called AccuLynx that streamlines all operations, as well as iPads in the field, to be paperless and show customers example videos and photos. “We take a lot of pride in saving people time,” said Hoke.
Part of this involves bringing enough workforce so the project can be finished in one or two days, for a total of between two thousand and three thousand roofs per year. For huge projects like apartment complexes, the company aims for a few weeks as opposed to a few months. The roofs are rated for fifty years.
Referrals have been the base of the company’s growth. “Word of mouth is everything in our business. If we do a good job on one roof, then we get referred to five of their friends, and their friends refer us to five other people,” said Hoke.
The company has been fortunate enough not to have been faced with any significant challenges over the past seven years. There will always be fly-by-night competitors, but it distinguishes itself by making customers realize the value in dealing with a reputable company.
Another part of its corporate culture revolves around being an organization that gives back. It does a substantial amount of community work for groups like Habitat for Humanity, the Williams Syndrome Association, the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development, and many other local organizations.
“I’d like to do more in the form of giving back – donating and helping other causes out there,” said Hoke, “maybe a free roof giveaway in low-income areas and donating towards other community projects.”
One final thing that is nice to note about The Exterior Company is that despite its rapid growth and expansion, it has never forgotten its humble roots. It knows that if it was not for its customers and their referrals and reviews that it would not be successful at all. It is also very important to Hoke that people know how truly grateful the company is for that.
“A good business is never about making money. It’s about making a difference in people’s lives, and we believe that from both the employment side and the customer experience side.”