Adapting to the Needs of the Community
There are three key parts to every successful business transaction: getting top-notch employees, offering superior customer service, and knowing where to find work. Lee Franciscus has excelled at all three.
Lee is the CEO of Franciscus Inc., the residential roofing company he founded in 1991. The company services all of Northern Ohio.
When he started the company, it was purely new construction. “We were the largest new construction contractor in Ohio,” he said. “A few years ago we realized that this wasn’t going to last forever, so we reached out to homeowners, focused on tear-offs, and started adding a sales force.”
Now less than 5 percent of the company’s business is in new construction, and the company has diversified to succeed in a changing economy. “We do it all — slate, wood shake, flat roofs, shingles, metal. We pretty much can handle everything that is thrown at us here,” Franciscus said. “We’ve become multifaceted at this point. We don’t know when new construction will come back, but when it does, we’ll be ready. It will be the icing on the cake.”
The Beginnings of the Company
Lee got into the industry by chance after serving in the military. “After I got out of the Army I was working three jobs,” he recalled. “I was approached by a friend who asked me to help out at his father’s roofing company. I never thought that it would become a career, but I liked the work, I loved learning about roofing. Three years later I started my own company.”
He knew that quality craftsmanship was crucial in the roofing industry, so he developed a business model that hinged on finding the best help available and paying the price for top-quality work. “I looked at the industry, at what everyone complained about — that they can’t find good help. I thought, you can find good crews — people just don’t want to pay them.”
Franciscus searched for installation experts who were struggling to run their own business and let them concentrate on what they do best — installation. “There are a lot of superb crews out there, but they can’t be on an effective crew and run the business at the same time,” he said. “We take on the business end and focus on marketing and sales, so we have jobs for them to install.”
Soon the construction boom was in full swing and business took off. In 1997, Lee did a little over $200,000 in business. By 1997 he had topped $1 million. “That’s when I stole my wife from the Cleveland Clinic because I couldn’t keep up with the office staff,” he said. Angela Franciscus is the company’s CFO. When he switched his focus to re-roofing, he brought on Tom Schlund, to be the company’s “sales manager and marketing guru.” Last year the company topped $13 million in revenue and did 26,000 squares.
A Rewarding Work Environment
Franciscus attributes the company’s success to the top-quality work with his crews. The company’s commitment to its employees begins with safety. “We’re proactive,” said Franciscus. “We care about our employees. We want them to be safe and feel safe in the work environment. We ensure access to proper safety equipment. And we have a phenomenal track record. We’ve always been about the guy on the roof — making sure he’s safe.”
“We’re always conducting ongoing training and certification,” Schlund said. “All crews are dedicated to following OSHA standards. Quality control is in place, and we are following up with crews to make sure no shortcuts are taken. And we compensate them fairly. We pay them enough to care.”
A term Franciscus likes to use is “life balance” — a rewarding working relationship that allows you to spend time with your family. “No one’s doing a good job if they aren’t making a living,” Franciscus said. “If you’re going to make it a career — and let’s face it, roofing isn’t easy work; it takes a toll — you have to be well compensated.”
Schlund agrees. “We feel the best work environment is one that makes sure they have time for their families,” he said. “As long as the job gets done, we don’t care if they take an hour off to attend their son or daughter’s tee-ball game. We don’t micromanage, and that goes a long way.”
You can’t take care of employees and customers if you aren’t taking care of business, and Franciscus has proved adept at adjusting to a changing economy and remaining profitable. The company has diversified, expanding its offerings to include siding, windows, and insulation. In the last few years, the company has gotten into insurance remediation work as well.
“Something that makes roofing unique is that we are cyclical,” he said. “If you get a roof, 15 or 20 years later you’re going to need another one. I’m young enough, and our company is young enough that we want to replace the roofs we put on. And we’re beginning to replace those roofs.”
Now the company is targeting houses built in the late 80s and early 90s.
“Roofing is a need, not a want,” said Franciscus. “When the question is, do we get a new car or fix the roof that is leaking water into the kitchen, the roof wins that battle every time.”
When it’s time for a new roof to go on that house, Franciscus wants his company to be the one to put it on. “We see by the results that we’re doing the right things out there,” he said. “The roofing industry as a whole has a bright future ahead of it.”
Franciscus Inc. Serves the Following Northeast Ohio Communities:
Avon Lake, Avon, North Ridgeville, Shaker Heights, Sheffield Lake, Cleveland Heights, Lorain, Westlake, Solon, LaGrange, North Olmsted,Twinsburg, South Amherst, Olmsted Falls, Strongsville, Vermilion, Bay Village,Brunswick, Berlin Heights, Parma, Medina, Wakeman, Parma Heights, Hinkley,Norwalk, Lakewood OH, Amherst, Perkins, Rocky River, Huron, Sandusky, Fairview Park, Middleburg Heights, Milan, Berea, Castalia, Seven Hills, Wadsworth, Bellevue Independence, Fairlawn, Bay View, Brecksville, Bath, Marblehead, Broadview Heights, Cleveland, Catawba, North Royalton, Grafton, Lakeside OH, Macedonia, Elyria, Fremont, Northfield, Sheffield, Port Clinton, Clyde, Hudson, Bowling Green, Put in Bay, Stow, Hartville, Kelleys Island, Aurora, Richfield OH, Oberlin, Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, Valley City, Green, Copley, Wellington, Litchfield, Chagrin Falls, Bratenahl, Euclid, Willowick, Eastlake, Mentor, Mentor on the Lake, Willoughby, Willoughby Hills, Wickliffe, Richmond Hts, Mayfield, Mayfield Heights, Cleveland Heights, University Hts, Beachwood, Shaker Hts, Moreland Hills, Orange and Solon.