Jim Johnson is the founder of ContractorCoachPRO, a consulting company that offers roofing companies around the United States the tools and resources they need to be successful in business.
Born north of Houston in the city of Magnolia, Johnson grew up in a part of Texas where the heat is sweltering, but the general tenor of everyday life is more relaxed.
“It’s hot and it’s sweaty,” Johnson says of Magnolia.
“And it’s more blue-collar than Dallas, which is more white-collar.”
After high school, Johnson escaped the grueling humidity offered by The Lone Star State and migrated north for college, enrolling at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where he planned on pursuing a career coaching basketball.
But those plans were benched when Johnson learned about the roofing industry, and how much money one could earn if they could sell a large quantity of new roofs.
“I ran the numbers and realized that I could make five times as much money doing roofing,” Johnson says.
Initially, Johnson started off as a salesman for a roofing company in the Twin Cities, a role in which he was so successful that he was soon elevated to sales manager, where he was then given the responsibility of trying to lead and inspire other sales reps to mimic his success.
A clear and effective communicator who also understands the importance of empathizing with others, Johnson believed he could get his sales team to sell 2,000 roofs in his first year as sales manager.
The owners of the roofing company weren’t as optimistic, but Johnson was so confident in his ability to lead others toward success that he negotiated a clause in his contract where he would be paid a sizeable bonus if his sales team sold 2,000 roofs.
“And by September 1st of that year we had sold over 4,000 jobs,” Johnson recalls.
On the surface, it appeared that everyone benefitted from Johnson’s ambitions being realized, but the owners ended up not paying Johnson his bonus, leading to Johnson exiting the business in order to start his own roofing company.
“They [his former employer] became the evil enemy, and I went and started my own roofing company,” says Johnson, who immediately made an imprint on the roofing industry in the Twin Cities.
“We did $5 million in gross revenue the first year, and a little over $20 million the second year.”
Johnson continued that level of success for several years, until unfortunately he ran into issues with one of the investors in his roofing company.
“I trusted somebody too much on the money side of things, and they stole about $585,000,” Johnson says.
Losing over half a million dollars compromised Johnson’s entire roofing company, and in the process he also lost his right-hand man, who was so shaken by the theft that he left the roofing industry altogether.
“And then our top salesperson and one of my best friends went into business with the person who stole the $585,000.”
Blindsided and devastated from the sequence of events, Johnson notes how that experience taught him a lot about being a leader, but that also led to multiple rounds of deep introspection.
By that point, Johnson had built an impressive financial portfolio and accumulated a bevy of assets, but that alone wasn’t enough to make him feel fulfilled.
After several conversations with trusted associates, and with God, Johnson decided that he needed to focus more on enriching the lives of others.
“From that day forward, I started serving other people because I wanted to help them get better and achieve their goals,” Johnson says.
“It’s kind of funny, but the more I gave, the more I got back.”
Around that same time, Johnson also got involved with commercial roofing, moving around the country to help business owners who were affected by calamities such as Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Ike.
Once again, Johnson was able to wield his sales skills to make money, and this time his efforts set him up in a way where he could pursue other ventures in life.
“2008 and 2009 were my last years doing sales, and during that span I sold $27.3 million in business,” Johnson mentions.
“We performed the work that we sold, and so that was a good time to be done with roofing sales.”
Unlike some successful entrepreneurs, Johnson didn’t take his earnings from roofing sales and retire to a remote beach to indulge in a life of endless mojitos and sunburn.
That’s because Johnson had also developed a software that enabled roofing contractors to measure roofs and come up with a price in a way that was much quicker than traditional methods, where roofers would hand-measure roofs with a tape measure.
“The software would ultimately generate your roofing estimate, your order for your supplier, and your order for your crew. That was considered high-tech back then,” Johnson says.
In fact, Johnson’s software became so popular that Acculynx, a notable software company out of Wisconsin, bought his system.
As part of his agreement with Acculynx, Johnson became their Director of Sales for the next five years.
“That position allowed me to go into the back office of over 1,000 different roofing companies in order to implement our software,” Johnson says.
It was during this stretch that Johnson learned there were many roofing contractors who knew how to install shingles and order supplies from manufacturers, yet these same roofers struggled when it came to understanding other facets of their roofing business.
For context, Johnson says that 70-80% of roofing contractors go out of business within their first three years, but lost in the malaise of bankruptcy and failed business ventures is one critical element.
“These roofing contractors who go out of business, it’s not from a lack of effort,” says Johnson.
“It’s from a lack of knowledge.”
This disconnect, where roofing contractors lose their business and their livelihood over what they don’t know, was the catalyst for Johnson leaving Acculynx and starting ContractorCoachPRO.
For the last decade, ContractorCoachPRO has been helping roofing contractors streamline their business operations by offering their clients access to a variety of business experts, whose specialties include:
Sales, HR, lead generation, and marketing.
Johnson and his cast of experts also focus on leadership training, yet one area his staff really prioritizes is effectively managing a roofing company’s finances.
“A lot of roofing contractors don’t understand their finances and how cash flow works,” says Johnson, adding that often roofers will buy a new vehicle when they should be allocating those resources toward labor and materials, or future unforeseen expenditures.
“Roofing contractors will also sometimes take on more work than they can handle. Their cash flow will consequently suffer, so that’s something we try to work with roofers on, and based on the results our clients get, I’d say we do a pretty good job.”
By offering coaching assistance in an array of disciplines, and by making a concerted effort to address every aspect of a roofing business, as opposed to only a few categories, Johnson and ContractorCoachPRO are helping roofing contractors build and maintain sustainable businesses.
This all-encompassing approach isn’t for every roofing contractor, especially those who believe that sales can fix all that ails their business.
“Most roofing contractors focus on the operational side, like marketing, sales, production, training, recruiting,” Johnson notes.
“That’s not a bad thing, but it becomes problematic when roofers don’t focus on things like leadership, building a culture and process, HR, finances, and accountability. Those things don’t seem like a lot of fun, but they’re necessary.”
Considering that many roofing companies have doubled and even tripled their gross revenue after bringing ContractorCoachPRO on as a consultant, it would make sense for a contractor to explore working with Johnson and his team, but there are still some who are reluctant to make the investment.
“It all depends on what the roofing business owner wants, and what they’re willing to sacrifice in order to achieve their goals,” explains Johnson, who concedes that not every roofing contractor wants or even should scale their business.
As for the future of ContractorCoachPRO, Johnson is always looking to innovate, which helps explain why in the last year he has created a social network aimed at being a positive resource where roofing contractors can go to get information, without all the fanfare and drama that plagues other online roofing networking groups.
“I am tired of social media and all the chaos that comes with it,” says Johnson.
“That’s why we have created a place for people who want to be professional. We have 35 vendors who are behind us that believe in our platform and want their roofing contractors to be a part of this group.”
For reference, the platform can be accessed by downloading the app Contractor Collective.
The purpose of the app isn’t to inundate roofing contractors with products or services they don’t want.
Much like ContractorCoachPro, the aim is simply to provide value and help roofing contractors achieve their goals.
“We want to offer a place where roofing contractors can go get information that they can trust, and that they know will help them with their roofing business.” QS
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