Brian Benson & Patrick McNichols
Innovative Construction & Roofing
Oklahoma City, OK
St. Louis, MO
Best advice: Set your goals. That’s a big thing for us at the beginning of the year. Then set milestones for them. It’s easy to get busy throughout the year and, before you know it, the year has passed.
Biggest challenge: On a day-to-day basis, it’s managing people. But I think that’s true for a lot of business owners. We try to help everyone set their own goals as well, and stay on top of them.
Growth is always a good thing, right? Not necessarily. For Brian Benson and Patrick McNichols, owners of Innovative Construction & Roofing, it all depends on how and why they’re growing their small business.
That philosophy comes from experience. The pair spent two years in the roofing industry (including a stint replacing roofs on buildings damaged by hurricane Katrina) before going into business for themselves. They decided to start in Oklahoma City, and quickly learned how to work with insurance companies in the storm-prone area.
“We’re good at understanding and navigating customers’ insurance policies to get them money to pay for storm damage,” Benson said. “It’s often overlooked because the language is so technical.”
The business grew quickly, largely thanks to referrals. But in 2012, Benson and McNichols decided to reevaluate. “We had a lot more people working for us,” Benson said. “We brought people on board really quick, and I don’t want to say we lost control, but we found we needed people who were customer service driven because that’s our name out there.” They eased off the gas to make sure they could focus on establishing company culture.
Today, the business operates largely in St. Louis and employs 21 people, not including all the work crews and subcontractors. “Now we’re trying to decide if we do want to get bigger or not,” Benson said. With eight years of ownership under their belts, they understand the sacrifices that come with aggressive growth. No matter where they take the company next, though, customer service will always be nonnegotiable.
“Customer service is the most important thing, even if it comes to losing money to keep a relationship,” Benson said.
Benson and McNichols, who happen to be brothers-in-law as well as business partners, also work to balance the demands of being good husbands and parents. “It’s all about balancing personal goals and company goals,” Benson said. “I’m happy to sacrifice some money to be able to come home at night and spend time with my family.”
Having a smart growth strategy doesn’t mean the roofers don’t look for a challenge. Over the years, they’ve stayed competitive by adding new skills and tackling bigger projects. In addition to residential roofing, gutters, siding and storm restoration services, the company also handles a high volume of commercial jobs. Innovative Construction & Roofing also specializes in historic slate roof repair and replacement.
“I like taking on difficult jobs, stuff we haven’t done before,” Benson said. “It’s gratifying.”