Pulling into the headquarters of Turner Roofing, you immediately get a sense they’re a bigger operation than you realized but still retain that small locally owned community feel. You don’t find that too much anymore.
I set out to interview the owner of the company, Chris Meyer, because they’re about to celebrate Turner Roofing’s 50th Anniversary of being in business. That’s a big deal for our local economy, and again, not that common anymore. I realized that I probably couldn’t tell the story about the company being in business, if I didn’t realize how Chris came to buy it back in 2008.
From Pilot to Salesman
Chris grew up in Houston, Texas. His father was a commercial pilot, so he followed in his footsteps and attended flight school. Part of being a pilot is building up your hours in flight. Most new pilots do this by taking whatever jobs they can find that help them build hours. Chris found himself flying over pipelines for inspection or flying human organs that were needed for donation. “Back then, those jobs paid next to nothing. I think I was earning about $5 an hour,” says Chris with a smile. After getting frustrated with little pay, he started to look for more options. “One day, I answered an ad in the classifieds for a window manufacturing company that needed a salesman. I got the job.”
Along the way, he had a client in the construction business who later recruited him to be a sales manager for their company. That job took him and his family from Houston, to Corpus Christi to Dallas to Tulsa and finally Broken Arrow. He proved to be really good in sales and eventually found himself managing 130 people. Like many people in sales, his work required him to be away from his wife and daughter and this began to wear on him.
An Opportunity Presents Itself
One day, he had lunch with one of his customers, Phil Dickerson, who owned Turner Roofing. Phil explained to Chris that he was nearing retirement and wondered if Chris would be interested in buying the business. Chris went back home and discussed it with his wife, Michelle. They both saw an opportunity to be a part of a great company, as well as, a way to allow Chris to stay home for work and leave the traveling sales job behind. He also knew the people of Turner Roofing and really liked them. “The employees that work here are a big part of the reason I wanted to buy the company,” says Chris. Turner Roofing was first established in 1966 making it the oldest roofing company in Tulsa. Employees at Turner are all salaried and don’t work off of commissions. Many of the employees have worked there for 30 years.
After serious thought, Chris and Michelle made a joint decision to pour in their life savings and borrow the additional money they needed to buy the business.
Reflecting on What Makes Turner Roofing Great
Chris says the people that work there are what make the company great. He now can be home at 5 p.m. for dinner every night, or go to a school event for his daughter, or go on a vacation with his wife. “I wouldn’t be able to do that if I didn’t believe in the people we have working at the company. I believe in having the right people in the right job and then stepping back and trusting them to do their jobs.” Turner employees are paid above industry average and are on salary as opposed to commission. He also encourages his employees to have work-life balance in their own lives. “If they have a family issue or a child’s performance, I want them to attend to it.”
When I asked Chris about his wife’s role at the company, he let me know how integral she truly is to Turner Roofing. “In additional to Michelle’s overall bookkeeping skills, Michelle looks at things differently than I do, and I think having that alternative perspective is what really helps the company. Additionally, in our industry, our customer is typically the lady of the household, so Michelle can communicate how our customer may perceive any given situation.”
Chris is also an innovator always learning and researching how to better serve his customers and his employees. Whether that’s a podcast, a conference, or a new book on business strategy, he’s constantly trying to learn. As he says, “When you own the company, you have to be the one to push yourself to do better and ultimately be accountable.”
I walked away from this interview with so many amazing stories about the people who worked there, how the company started, memorable moments over the years and more. I’ll share those stories in the upcoming weeks and months on this blog, but first, please join me in congratulating a great local company on their hard earned accomplishment of celebrating 50 years in business. Congrats to Turner Roofing & Sheet Metal!