by Traci Chapman
No matter what Brad Elder has done in his life, he’s always lived by one abiding principle – “be honest and sincere and do the right thing.”
That philosophy has resonated with customers, who recently propelled Elder’s Yukon-based company, Oklahoma Strong Roofing & Construction, to its receipt of the Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award.
“Torch Awards, officially the International Torch Awards for Ethics, are given to companies that demonstrate the best practices in character and leadership, as well as organizational ethics and high standards that benefit not only their customers, but also their communities, their suppliers, employees and shareholders,” said Sheila Adkins, Better Business Bureau community outreach manager. “They’re a way of advancing trust in the marketplace, which is one of BBB’s missions.”
That award – and what it represents – is why Elder began Oklahoma Strong, he said.
“I’ve found in this business that it can be very easy to find someone to do an inexpensive job, even offer things that aren’t ethical, but the important thing is to find a company that will do the job right,” Elder said. “If you do that, ironically, you won’t be coming back to me for more business because you won’t need a new roof.”
While roof installation is part of Oklahoma Strong’s mission, it’s far from all of it, Elder said. Oklahoma Strong’s hail restoration contractors address issues with gutters, siding, windows, garage doors, paint and more – anything that could be part of a homeowners’ insurance claim.
“It could be one of those little gnomes in the garden that might be precious to someone – we inspect to make sure we find all that’s wrong so we can present a full package to the insurance company and make sure the homeowner is fully covered and protected,” Elder said.
The 59-year-old business owner has worked in service industries his entire life, even as a youth. His own grounds keeping and maintenance company, begun as a high school senior to fund college, grew into a 25-employee firm that Elder in 1997 sold to a large regional company.
He then went into telecommunication sales – at a time when long distance services were a big seller. After a year as an independent agent, Elder was promoted to corporate recruiting and mentorship, eventually managing 400 sales representatives.
It was in 2010, however, that a personal event would prompt a complete professional evolution.
“We were renovating our house and were out of town for a wedding when we got a call – a contractor had put in a faulty light fixture and there was a fire in the house,” Elder said. “About one-third was fire damaged, the rest with smoke and water.”
The rebuild of his own home brought Elder face-to-face with contractors, many of whom he watched cut corners and use substandard materials. As the process moved forward, he began to see a light – what he was meant to do, he said.
“I had a friend who said I needed to get into roofing sales, and I had done that, but I saw the same thing in my job as I did at my house – and I knew the only way I could fix it was to start my own company – so I did,” Elder said.
Thus, Oklahoma Strong Roofing & Construction was born.
“Trust is the major factor, the thing I most want to convey to my customers,” he said. “We don’t use substandard materials, we don’t use previously used materials, and we make sure the job is done right – and that’s why we received the Torch Award and why we’ve received the testimonials we have.”
While many roofing companies might re-roof 500, even 1,000, buildings annually, Elder has held the number of his jobs back to about 100 to 150 a year, he said.
“That way I’m able to have my hand in every single one of them,” Elder said. “I want to make sure that I am involved in the process every step of the way and that the homeowners have complete access to me and know exactly who they are dealing with.”
Oklahoma Strong has four full-time employees and a regular crew that performs the actual roofing services. That means every project is the company’s sole focus as it’s being performed – because no more than one roof is being constructed at any one time.
“I’m just one little portion of their life, but for me they’re all I’ve got going on, so I want to make sure it’s as painless as possible for them,” Elder said. “That’s why people are happy with us, and that’s how I want it to stay.”