By Anthony Brass
The transition from commercial aluminum siding and shingles to residential metal roofing is a necessary process for some companies – Isaiah Industries is the perfect example how to accomplish this move, beginning three decades ago by Don Miller.
“It started out with a couple of product lines acquired from Kaiser aluminum,” says current Vice President of Sales Seth Heckaman, “with the bulk of that business being aluminum shingles being sold to a number of franchise businesses popping up: Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen, Dunkin’ Donuts, IHOP, 7-Eleven.
“That business slowed down and we understood that we needed to get into residential re-roofing, as the next opportunity.” Todd Miller and business partner Kelly Joseph now own the company from Piqua, Ohio, making it a second-generation industry leader. “That coincided with Todd coming into the business after he graduated. He led that transition for us of learning the home improvement industry, the home consultative sales process, and took our products and married it with that.” He added they primarily go to market through a network of independent dealers and home improvement companies selling and installing their products throughout the country.
“What we learned from the huge aluminum siding companies that developed our products, back in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s – metal shingles date back to Alcoa, Kaiser and Reynolds – they thought that if they were selling aluminium for the sides of houses they could sell it for the tops of houses as well.” Heckaman adds premium specialty metal roofing isn’t a commodity like aluminum siding and can’t just sit on the shelf of a distributor in a box and sell itself.
“All those companies exited the roofing space and we started with the acquisition of Kaiser and over the years acquired the products from Alcoa and Reynolds,” he says.
They use these products and integrate their unique market strategy, building a relationship with contractors, who in turn market the product in their local area and generate leads. “They have a process and system for sitting down at the kitchen table and letting homeowners see the value. That’s what our model looks like.”
By purchasing companies over the years, they now have 11 metal shingle products, including Classic Metal Roofing Systems, Kassel and Irons and Green American Home.
“Metal building project space is all that we do. We have a great team here with the average team member [tenure] of over 15 years.” Heckaman stresses the importance of their culture: “We are not successful unless our customers are successful.”
What’s in a Name?
A company that changes the direction and branding can certainly change their name. “We started under the name Classic Products.” Heckaman reiterates the acquisitions and expansion over the years, and brings up the aforementioned brand they still use, Classic Metal Roofing Systems. “As we added additional brands we needed a clear distinction between the corporate name versus the brand names.” Heckaman says they did not opt to change their name because of any ownership changes or brand purchases, but to reflect what their company represents and strives for.
There’s scripture in the Bible Seth points to: “The Biblical Book of Isaiah we often point to imagery of being a refreshing stream in the wilderness [‘ … I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert’] and ‘Be just and fair to all, do what is right and good, for I am coming to rescue you,’” [Isaiah 56:1 NLT] Heckaman repeats, citing his faith and the connections to their business practices. “There are a few scriptures we use frequently that reflect that.” Heckaman recalls joining Isaiah 13 years ago, and the origins of how he joined. “I knew Todd through church connections and I was looking for work while going to school.”
Selling Points to Technical
His marketing roles and, in particular, sales background with product knowledge serves the company well. “Having that first-hand relationship and connection to learn what can make that more successful and come alongside in support of that certainty helps drive strategy and direction across the rest; the entire organization has to be working toward that end,” he says. “A big part of what we do is trying to learn as much as we can from our successful dealers. Then, we can replicate them in other markets.” He adds those best practices and getting in the trenches and building relationships just “snowballs” success for sales elsewhere, and he repeats the company mantra: “We need our customers to be successful for our ultimate success.”
They stress not compromising on any aspect of neither the technical side of products nor process. “That firmly positions us as one of the premium solutions on the market.” Heckaman recognizes the importance of communications with clients on products. “The key technical differentiators there – fully interlocking panels, concealed fastening panels, premium PVDF coatings – those are consistent across our product lines. We’re ‘beating those drums’ constantly in our marketing efforts.” He adds their sales team needs a passing knowledge and articulates those differences and benefits “over the lunch table.”
“We’ve been blessed recently with some unique historical restoration projects across the country: We were part of the restoration in Ft. Wainwright in Alaska last year; we’re part of a prominent building restoration in Yosemite this year. We have a number beyond that.”
He adds it’s the opening themselves up to get their company in the conversation for these types of “one-off” opportunities as key.
“We’re willing to be flexible, we’re willing to do things that are custom, whatever we can do to make the project as unique as the customer wants it to be and as tailored to that property and their set of goals.”
Another company project involved a historical building in California, where the company utilized their ThermoBond powder coating line to customize and match their 100-year-old shakes.
“We went back and forth in the color-approval process in order to meet their needs. We had another project we were able to come up with the perfect custom orange for a restoration in Joshua Tree National Park for an old Jellystone campground.” Heckaman says sometimes it’s color, sometimes it’s unique trims or technical details.
“The previous roof system there [campground building] had special hip cap and copper flashings they wanted to maintain while going with a more permanent roofing product with the rest of the roof. They were willing to garner all the feedback and come up with custom solutions.”
He added they were able to accomplish maintaining the aesthetics without compromising the longevity of the finished product. Their detailed discussions with the client on the project ensures both their cosmetic and long-term functionality goals.
Build It and They Will Come
The company utilizes in-house marketing, design and lead-generation strategies to retain and gain more clients, but also partner with new technologies out in “the industry space.”
“Ingage, a new presentation software, new visualization software from Renoworks and others – we’re able to support and make that as compelling of a value proposition in the house as well. We really view our role as more than just crunching up pieces of metal and shipping it off.”
Isaiah also builds a networking base for other industry colleagues. They host an annual metal roofing summit each spring in Ohio [metalroofingsummit.com].
“We invite the leading metal roofing contractors from across the country for a few says of incredible training and also an opportunity to network and share best practices with each other.”
He says they strive to make the event a benefit for those within the industry so they can all be successful the following year. Those who aren’t in the same region have much to say to each other in this setting, facilitating conversations.
“They get to see their friends from the other side of the country and share what they’ve learned. A rising tide certainly raises all ships,” Heckaman says, adding they understand the value of those relationships and staying on the leading edge. “If we’re not growing we’re dying.”
Their networking coupled with work they offer only allows the right kind of exposure with growth. He concludes that opportunities to establish partnerships with contractors and other clients is always at the forefront. “We’re working as best we can toward that end.” MR
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