Roofing business grows from ground up to accommodate goals, yet safeguard security
By Cynthia King, Washington SBDC
MAPLE VALLEY, Wash. – A roof leak necessitates immediate action so the building isn’t damaged nor its integrity threatened. It therefore seems fitting that Michael Dechand, owner of True Blue Roofing & Siding in Maple Valley, WA, a man of action and initiative, wasted little time opening his own roofing company when opportunities for growth with his former employer hindered his aspirations.
“There was no ladder of advancement to climb,” said Dechand. “For me, if you don’t keep growing, you’re going backwards.”
He had knowledge and experience from six years in roofing sales and a good bit of capital saved from his six-figure salary. But that salary was also a sticking point: his wife appreciated the security that his job provided for their family; starting their own business from nothing was intimidating.
Through his local business community, Dechand made contact with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Auburn and started meeting with Taryn Hornby, an SBDC certified business advisor.
The Washington SBDC is a network of more than 35 advisors in more than two dozen communities across the state working to help owners and entrepreneurs who want to start, grow or buy/sell a business. Advising is confidential and is provided at no cost to the client through a partnership between the U.S. Small Business Administration and Washington State University. Additional support is provided by funding partners including other institutions of higher education, economic development agencies and business and civic organizations. The SBDC in Auburn receives support from Green River College.
Nailing the numbers to assure a tight start
“Talking my wife into this was one of my biggest tasks,” Dechand recalled. “She wanted to see that we could do this. Other people also advised me not to jump ship. But I had confidence in me; with that, there’s no stopping you.
“With Taryn, we ran the numbers, developed spreadsheets – mostly about the industry and what I had seen there. I knew what I could sell and I knew the profits were there. Taryn helped me see what all I would need to do to make a profit. Seeing the facts and figures helped convince my wife.”
True Blue Roofing & Siding began business in May 2020 with Dechand selling, his wife in the office, and hired subcontractors doing the roof work. By December, True Blue tallied revenue of $500,000. In 2021, the company hired a project manager, revenue was $3.3 million and Dechand brought home a six-figure salary. Not yet half way through 2022, the business employs 14 of its own roofers and seven office staff in sales and marketing.
“But success is not always money,” Dechand is quick to assert. “That’s part of it; but fulfillment of what you want to do in life, and building a legacy for your family, are part of it too. And so is giving back to my employees and local community. Our company motto is, ‘Without you, there is no us.’”
A cover of care across the community
For example, his advisor Hornby had a file of contacts – other local entrepreneurs – and offered him at least three names to investigate when he needed to hire help with webpage design and other new-business tasks. “I am a local roofer, and I want to support the local small business community,” he said.
True Blue Roofing & Siding pays 50 percent toward employee health and dental insurance. Its sales, marketing and installation teams meet weekly and the entire staff meet monthly to discuss safety; Dechand attends all the meetings. “I am a hands-on person,” he said.
In 2021, he extended his company’s umbrella of care by working with a loan business to offer financing for roofs and siding, cutting out the middleman and simplifying the process for his customers. True Blue Roofing & Siding also partners with a local women’s shelter to provide housing, with the area food bank and with the Maple Valley chamber of commerce in events like the recent fishing derby.
Dechand also found a prime, though abandoned, storefront on busy Highway 169 between Renton and Maple Valley, hunted down the owner, offered to clean up the derelict site in exchange for an advantageous lease arrangement, and is thrilled with the high-traffic, 80,000-cars-passing-per-day location.
“The owner and I have a good working relationship,” Dechand said. “So much of this is down to finding the right people to work with.”
Adding on with prudence and good counsel
He plans to maintain working with Hornby as he continues to grow his business. “She emails me every month,” Dechand said, “to check in or maybe to tell me about training opportunities or Covid money that might be available.” Although he has used no outside money or loans – “My preference is to operate my personal and business finances debt-free” – he appreciates Hornby’s ongoing interest and knowing that her expertise is readily available as he needs it.
“I operate on the theory that ‘more will be revealed,’” he said. “I will know at the time what I need to know and do, and I will do it.
“People starting a business don’t always know all that they will need,” he said. “Taryn was so helpful to start. You need to get licenses, be registered with certain agencies, get certifications. More information is always good, and talking with someone like Taryn helps you know what you need and how to achieve it.”
Earlier this year, he contacted Hornby about an expansion that he loosely calls his 3- to 5-year plan: He intends to establish an umbrella company to encompass his residential roofing and siding business as well as a new commercial roofing company. Commercial jobs are much larger, potentially lucrative, but also entail more risk.
“My residential business is doing well,” Dechand said. “But commercial is a different animal, a different monster. I want both to grow and still be strong.” Hornby has helped him begin the process by offering names of attorneys and other local professionals to consider working with as he expands.
Though business is brisk, especially in the clear-weather summer season, Dechand also is eager to find more ways to advertise and expand his customer base. “You are never out of the woods,” he said. “I am thankful, but cautious. There is always more to do…”
Happily, that will include a family vacation, their first in three years, later this summer, “just to unplug and enjoy,” Dechand said.
Learn more about True Blue Roofing & Siding.
Learn more about the Washington SBDC.