George Cameron, owner of Allied Roofing in Denver, believes in the power of roof repair because, although servicing a customer's immediate need to stop a leak is typically a small job, repair work can lead to bigger things — sometimes, really big. “Half the battle in this business is getting to know people on a personal level,” he says. “And you never know when you're going to meet someone with 10 properties.”

Allied Roofing operates a service department with specialists for everything from metal work and painting to power washing. “Service, service, service” he says. “You're no good as a contractor without it, and if you're in this business for the quick buck, you won't last.”

SLOW-SEASON WORK Alan Archuletta, of Full Systems in Salt Lake City, treats service differently from Cameron. “We're primarily a tear-off and re-roof company,” he says. But Salt Lake City has two rainy seasons a year, which slows production. If a customer calls during a full-tilt production cycle, Archuletta tells him or her that he's running X number of weeks out and understands that if the customer's need is urgent, they may have to call someone else. On the other hand, if the call comes during the rainy season, he can allocate personnel to perform the service, which often leads to more work. For instance, one repair call revealed a defective roof installed by a now-defunct company. Archuletta won the re-roof job.

GOOD GUYS David Cameron (brother of George) owns Certified Roofing in San Jose, Calif.

His repair work is a cottage industry within his company. He's often called to “repair” a roof at the end of its life cycle when a home is about to sell, turning the trip into an inspection where he's nicely positioned for the re-roof. For other customers, he can extend the roof's life by three to four years by doing simple maintenance: cleaning gutters, blowing out valleys, etc., which all turns into a revenue stream. And Cameron looks good not “forcing” a new roof on a customer.

Who knew going out to caulk flashing or replace a roof boot could be a gateway to being an honest and successful business owner? —Mark Clement is a freelance writer and former contractor based in Ambler, Pa.