Jonathon Stowell – Five Guys Roofing
So, how hot was it in Phoenix this past summer? Hot enough for the mercury to reach or surpass 110 degrees on 54 days, including every day in July, and eclipsing the previous record set in 2020. But projects went as scheduled at Five Guys Roofing.
“You do get used to it,” says Jonathon Stowell, who’s chief executive officer at this roofing contractor in suburban Gilbert, Arizona. “Your body acclimates well if you drink enough water.”
Stowell’s hires apparently consumed enough water, “probably a gallon a day each,” as they added to the company’s portfolio of 15,000-plus projects, including a couple for which the boss seems especially proud.
There’s the Desert Ridge Marketplace, which is Arizona’s second-largest shopping center with a gross leasable area of 1.2 million square feet in northern Phoenix. Topping that complex is 250,000 square feet of roofing that had been baking under the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Five Guys had been doing piecemeal patching at this mall, but this time, a long-term restoration—a company specialty—was in order. Its bid accepted, Five Guys dispatched a crew to do its standard 50-point inspection, power-wash the roof, and apply an acrylic coating that should extend its life for at least 15 years with the time matched by a labor warranty that Stowell says is the biggest differentiator between Five Guys and its competitors.
“We’re matching year-for-year labor on top of the product,” he says. “Similarly, we cover the internal damage for an uninsured event.”
Mindful that the work would be undertaken during normal business hours, the roofers spurned the use of abrasive tools that would have meant a blizzard of dust falling upon shoppers. Everything was kept low-key, with the project beginning in June and ending in August.
The same modus operandi went into the roof restoration of another prized commercial client, the PGA Tour Superstore, which had endured much wind damage. The insurer referring the project to Five Guys, Stowell’s crew completed a full replacement in July, ensuring longevity with polyurethane spray foam.
Forecast looks good
In the best sense, there would seem to be a perfect storm blowing for Five Guys. The unforgiving Arizona sun generally limits any roof’s lifespan to around 20 years. Couple that with there being so much commercial and residential construction in the Southwest as well as the repurposing of buildings gone obsolete as baby boomers gray, and there’s no shortage of roofing work.
Thus, Stowell envisions the company’s revenues soaring from the present $30 million to $50 million within a couple of years. While most of the business is in Arizona, it’s also active in New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, California and even Colorado, where sun and snow can challenge a crew.
While Five Guys doesn’t manufacture roofing products, Stowell says it partners with the industry’s favorites, many of which are manufactured in the Sun Belt and thus, as Harry Truman would say, can stand the heat. Though it’s actually harder to roof in cold climates, Five Guys’ growth plan includes going well outside their comfort zone.
With 85 employees and around 15 subcontractors, Stowell assures the manpower is in place. They’ve already got millions of square feet of roofing to restore or replace annually, and while other contractors may struggle to round up the hired hands, Stowell says it’s rarely a problem at Five Guys. According to him, the dynamics of this company make it an employer of choice.
“We’re all relatively young here compared to others in the roofing industry,” says the 39-year-old Stowell. “As we hire—and we are hiring—we look for inexperienced young people with the right attitude. It’s a unique opportunity for them to train in the classroom or with seasoned vets on the roof and be able to make good money and grow on the job.”
And what about the company’s name, he is asked. Isn’t there a burger chain that also calls itself Five Guys?
Yes, but there’s no connection save for the roofers buying and distributing the other Five Guys’ gift cards to customers. At any rate, Stowell says it’s good brand recognition for his roofing company and probably for the burger chain, too.
As for the five roofing guys, aside from the CEO, they are Brent Stowell, who is now serving a mission for the Mormon church; Jake Stowell, senior account manager; Jesse Stowell, senior account manager; and Justin Stowell, director of production. All were sired by the patriarch, the retired Brent Stowell, who honed his skills as a California roofer before moving to Arizona and starting his own company in 1994. While intergenerational family businesses often aren’t built to last, the CEO says Five Guys is an exception.
“We all learned the business when we were young,” says Stowell. “My earliest memory is me as a 9-year-old, riding a forklift with my father and helping to load a truck.”
The Stowells being of the Mormon faith, the sons and one daughter have done their share of missionary and charitable work. It’s all part of being a good person, says the CEO.
The corporate goal includes 1,000 hours of community service with Five Guys directors and hired hands participating in blood drives, food banks, clothing drives and sports coaching. They’ve even gathered trash from the desert as a companywide service project.
“We get involved in any opportunity we have to serve in the community and expect our employees to do the same,” says Stowell. “We have our core values of service to our customers and the community,” he says.
It also helps prevent the formerly hands-on type from getting restless. As the boss, Stowell spends most of his time in meetings and overseeing training sessions and can miss being on a roof. But, he says, it’s probably best he stays in the office, and he does have off-the-job outlets to keep him from getting stale.
A married father of five children, the oldest being a 15-year-old football player, there’s always something to do. The family enjoys motorcycles, off-road racing, and they spend much time in the desert.
But recreational time might become sparse for Stowell, what with the company aiming for a significant jump in revenue and there being so much opportunity to optimize in the Phoenix Valley and outside it.
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. I 2024 Edition here.
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