Maintaining a competitive edge in the gutter manufacturing and installing business requires efficiency. Time and product are commodities you can’t afford to waste. Kirk Tiley of Tiley Roofing and Solar in Denver believes the key to making a gutter installation profitable is efficiency. It starts at with the sales call and is completed upon the final clean up of the jobsite.
Tiley’s sales people take care of the estimating and play a key role in the efficiency of the project. Ordering the proper materials and components, as well as in the correct amount, help ensure jobs go off without a hitch. That information is turned over to the project coordinator, who organizes photos of the jobsite and directions to the site. Crews can’t afford to be wasting time looking for their customers. They’re making money when they are installing!
“The crews are paid in piece work,” Tiley says. “And from the size of the checks they’re cashing, it looks like they’re working efficiently. I think our guys are the best gutter installers out there.”
That wasn’t always the case. Tiley once eliminated gutters from the company’s service offering because he was not able to run a crew efficient enough to make it profitable. His current crews make it work.
Occasionally, Tiley will get a call about site clean up after a job. Customers are demanding and can be picky. “When we have a tear-off and we’re removing screws, sometimes we miss a couple or one falls into a window well, where it’s not obviously seen,” he admits. “We just talked about this as a meeting. One of our crews recently trimmed a few tree branches and didn’t think to ask the customer. Now I’m buying a new tree. Next time, we’ll be sure to ask.”
Tiley says maintaining trucks, machines and tools are keys to efficiency as well. “We like to stay up to date on the latest tools, make sure everything is in good shape,” he says. “The crews make sure the proper materials are in the truck, like elbows and offsets. Extra trips to the shop are costly.”
Trucks are purchased new every few years, tools are always maintained and gutter machines get a going over “every couple months,” Tiley says, noting he has never had any serious trouble with his New Tech Machinery equipment.
Approximately 75-80 percent of the gutter jobs completed by Tiley’s crews are residential. The rest are commercial and institutional installs. Tiley has a pair of two-man crews, one that has been together with Tiley for almost three years and another that has been working together for about a year.
“It’s important to have crews out there that can answer questions and make decisions on their own without calling back to the office,” Tiley says. “They’ve been out there and they’ve seen almost everything. Being able to act independently is crucial.”
For almost six years, the company has run gutters on a pair of New Tech gutter machines — both of them are 5/6-inch combos. Tiley also runs a New Tech standing seam roofing machine. He purchases gutter and roofing coil from Coated Metals Group and Weather Guard Building Products. Tiley says because gutters makes up only about 10-15 percent of his overall business, he has not purchased elbow or downspout roll formers. On the other hand, purchasing the gutter machines was an easy decision.
“Honestly, I like tools and machines and I like to buy things like that,” he says. “In my opinion, having someone chop and drop gutters for us seems very inefficient. We really didn’t hesitate to purchase the gutter machines.
“Most of the gutter work we do involves tear-off and installation,” Tiley says. “There’s not a lot of new construction going on here. We’re definitely at the higher end of the price range and that’s because we offer roofing as well as gutters. We can do it all as a package.”
Gutters torn off by Tiley’s crews are returned to the office and placed in a container for recycling.
Another part of the efficiency quotient is when coil comes into the shop. The sheet metal fabricator organizes coil in the shop. Tiley says there is a place for leftover coil, stock coil and coil that has come in for specific jobs. Everyone knows where to find what they’re looking for.
No system is perfect, but striving for ultimate efficiency gets you and your crews closer than not trying. “In the roofing business, efficiency is important and it’s something we’ve always tried to impress on our people,” Tiley says. “It carries over into the gutter business. It pays to be efficient.”