From file "040_rcs" entitled "Managing3.qxd" page 01
From file "040_rcs" entitled "Managing3.qxd" page 01

Not long ago, Charles Ackles, of Clearwater Home Improvement, in Mystic, Conn., got a call from a customer. She'd arrived home expecting to see ladders, scaffolding, and shingles — proof a roofing job was in progress.

“She went to work at 7 in the morning and she called at 7 that night,” Ackles says. “She said, ‘You were supposed to have somebody here.'” Ackles suggested she shine a flashlight on the roof. Sure enough, finished.

Hola Two years ago, Clearwater Home Improvement, a three-generation company now owned by Randy Brown, began subbing out roofing work to Ecuadorians. Ackles says the Ecuadorians showed up at the company's showroom one day in a van with ladders, compressors, and everything else they needed to do a roofing job.

“They said, ‘You got a roof?' I said, ‘Yeah, I got roofs.'”

To test their prowess, the company set them to work reroofing owner Brown's house. Working methodically and without interruption, except for a lunch break, the Ecuadorians stripped and shingled the roof, laying 27 squares in a day.

“I said, ‘This is outrageous. I've never seen anything like it,'” Ackles says.

Ackles says the Ecuadorians are more productive than American crews because they “don't stop, don't talk, don't blast the radio, and show up on time.”

Training and Language Issues Since that time, the company's paid $50 apiece to send 60 Ecuadorians for GAF certification training in Walpole, Mass.

The biggest problem is that most don't speak English.

To resolve that, Ackles says, “We make sure we have an English-speaking person on the jobsite at all times.”

Ackles says he pays his Ecuadorian crews what he pays American crews. “They're getting paid by the square, so they want to lay as many squares as they can to maximize their profit.”

Clearwater Home Improvement receives about three calls a week from Hispanic subcontractors. “Once they know you've got a credible company and your checks don't bounce, the word's out.”