Reliant Roofing is working to redefine the meaning of professional, quality roofing services in the Jacksonville, Florida area. The young company is expanding to meet new challenges and serve markets as it moves into commercial work and residential roof-mounted solar panels.
According to its co-founder, Reliant was born of a simple industry absence. “We saw that there was a large gap in our market here for a professional, white-collar approach in the roofing industry,” recalls Chief Executive Officer Sean Shapiro. He and his company President Cameron Shoupe had managed four companies before and believed they had what it took to fill this niche.
“He was a general contractor; I was involved in flipping residential properties.” The two entrepreneurs witnessed many contractors in roofing but believed their combined experience gave them the edge they needed to fill this market.
Four years after opening its doors, Reliant employs over eighty people at its Jacksonville office, with Shapiro anticipating growth to approximately one hundred staff by the end of this year.
The company has enjoyed continual growth in its area, and Shapiro notes that much of its advertising has been word-of-mouth and repeat business from satisfied customers. “A good bulk of our business is people that are moving to Jacksonville and buying homes,” he explains. In addition, the more recent trend of mobility has served the company well as former customers move into new homes and return to Reliant. “People that we were serving in 2015 are now on their second home in 2019, and it’s only been four years.”
From its beginnings as a residential roofer, Reliant is now branching out into commercial work as well. One of its largest and most recent contracts is a 600,000-square-foot TPO roofing system on a distribution center for a large retail company. “That’ll definitely be a portfolio project, to get us on the map,” Shapiro states with professional pride, elaborating that the project will be finished in the coming months. “It’ll be the biggest roofing project in Northeast Florida for 2019.”
While the expansion into commercial work is part of Reliant’s growth, Shapiro emphasizes that the company waited until after it became sufficiently proficient at residential roofing. “We really wanted to master that first,” he admits frankly. “We wanted to make sure we had all our systems and processes built.” The company is now investing more heavily into commercial roofing, with an estimated even split between the two sides of the business shortly.
He wants Reliant to see itself as a customer experience company. “We’re big about the ‘why’ and not the ‘what,’” he continues, explaining that the company intends to build a strong base of repeat customers. It looks to retail giants such as Amazon and Publix for inspiration on customer focus. Shapiro takes a pragmatic approach to this, believing it is the next logical step in the business. “A roofing contractor should be great at roofing but we want to be great at serving our customers.”
Reliant takes pains to distance itself from the ‘storm-chasing’ contractors that prey on victims of hurricanes and other natural disasters with high service fees and shoddy workmanship. Shapiro hopes the company can set a better standard in the area and remove this harmful stigma. Being in Northeast Florida, customers have not been as heavily affected by hurricanes as Floridians further south, until recently. As a result, the company has become more and more involved in post-storm recovery in Northeast Florida. Reliant has begun to focus on damage prevention rather than repair with advanced hurricane shutter materials such as rolldown shutters and AstroGuard Hurricane Fabric.
The company is heavily involved in local activism. “I’m very thankful that people entrust us with their projects,” Shapiro remarks, “and we wanted to figure out a way to give back to the community as best as we could.” The company launched its ‘Every Shingle Heart’ campaign in 2017, providing roof replacements to those in need of a new roof. Rather than a charity drive, he says Reliant played to its strengths. “What better than what we know best, which is roofing?” The company has now given away seven roofs completely free of charge, to both individuals and area non-profit organizations.
Much more goes into construction than materials. Recruiting and maintaining a workforce of talented professionals are essential elements of the construction process, arguably the most important. He explains how Reliant has built a strong work atmosphere and sense of camaraderie, with staff members committed to the company’s principles of professionalism, quality, and integrity.
This approach appears to have been beneficial to Reliant’s growth. Employees voted the company one of the top one hundred places to work in Florida Trend Magazine in 2018. The Jacksonville Business Journal also named it among its own top hundred places to work in both 2017 and 2018. By building a strong, highly professional crew of employees, the company is ensuring long-term business and employee retention.
Thanks to Reliant’s previous success, Shapiro says the company is now able to recruit the majority of its own talent, thereby avoiding the present dearth of skilled labor. It has now recruited and trained fifty employees as certified roofing contractors. Rather than being a victim of circumstances, the company instead took a proactive approach. “We saw that we could be impacted by a labor shortage, and we decided that we were not going to be pigeonholed into having this problem like most of our competitors have.”
“We’ve had a hard time finding guys coming out of trade school who didn’t immediately want to go into a management position after being on the job for a week,” he remarks. Instead, Reliant found more success in handling the training internally. “We’ve been very successful in going out and recruiting our own guys, giving them a pathway and a vision to learn a skilled trade and earn a really good living for the remainder of their working life.”
As a roofing contractor, Reliant is now expanding its business in a remarkable yet logical way, with roof-mounted solar panel installations, having recently obtained its state licensure as an officially certified solar installer. Shapiro sees the issue as a natural industrial evolution. “We think that’s the future. Roofing and solar are going to be a very blended product very soon,” he explains, elaborating that the two industries go naturally together.
“There’s a lot of synergy there, between roofing and solar,” Shapiro remarks, “and we want to be at the forefront of that.” He plans for Reliant to apply its high-caliber customer service and professionalism to the solar market.
Given Florida’s naturally sunny weather, he sees extensive potential in roof-mounted solar panels across the state. Although the state government is not providing any incentives or tax breaks at this time, a nationwide federal solar tax credit allows homeowners to deduct thirty percent of the installation cost. With this tax break, plus increasing economies of scale as production increases and solar technology advance, Shapiro believes this will be a staple of future home roof design. Now that Reliant has a firmly established record of quality and professionalism, he intends for the company to be a strong part of this new market.
As it grows, Shapiro has faith that Reliant will show steady and natural growth, particularly in commercial roofing. “We’re in our infancy right now,” he admits, “but that will pick up extremely quickly for us, we believe.” However, he also wants to ensure the company does not lose the positive work environment it currently enjoys and that he believes gives the company its competitive edge. “At the end of the day, everyone’s here to hopefully enjoy where they’re at,” he remarks, “and we want to make it an enjoyable place.”