Money was tight when Rob Kornahrens started Advanced Roofing in 1983. He had already borrowed $15,000 from his father and few other avenues were open for the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., entrepreneur. So he turned to Avenel, N.J.–based Bradco Supply Corp., a major supplier whose West Palm Beach branch he had worked with at his former employer. “They extended me a line of credit,” says Kornahrens, whose company is now a major South Florida commercial roofer and expects to do more than $30 million in sales in 2004.“I've never forgotten that.” It's one of the reasons that, more than 20 years later, Bradco is still his primary supplier.
Family owned and operated since the day CEO Barry Segal opened the doors in 1966, Bradco Supply has retained that feeling of a small family business, despite six years of explosive growth that now have it poised to establish a nationwide presence as a specialty distributor in categories including roofing and siding. Through 109 locations in 26 states, Bradco serves commercial roofers, replacement roofing contractors, and new-home builders with an extensive line of roofing products, tools, supplies, and accessories; one of the nation's largest tapered insulation departments; and an expanding group of supplemental product lines, including siding, windows, doors, decking, millwork, cabinetry, and countertops.
While some building materials suppliers have adapted their business models to compete with big-box retailers, Bradco has shifted its focus to grow the company with a pro-oriented specialty distribution business model. Ten years ago, commercial roofing was its bread and butter, but over time, a dragging economy led to a drop-off in commercial construction. Plus, Bradco already had significant share of the market in commercial roofing supply where they operated; there was little room to grow. Barry Segal's son and company president Brad Segal studied sales at the company's roughly four dozen branches and saw that the locations that focused on residential construction had the highest numbers.
The residential market offered growth opportunities for several reasons. First and most simply, there are more houses going up than commercial units; home building accounts for about two-thirds of the nation's construction, according to NAHB. Second, the supplier market on the residential side is more fragmented than in the commercial segment, so there's plenty of room for growth. Focusing on the segment involved opening branches in high-growth housing markets and offering a wide variety of shingles and metal roofing, as well as siding and windows.
While embarked on an aggressive campaign to add at least eight new branches a year—and to leverage that exponential growth to reach $2 billion in sales within seven years—Bradco still is committed to remembering where it came from and remaining true to the company's core values. At the same time, the company is constantly looking ahead, seeking new markets and product lines and making strategic investments in operations and technology.
Core Values Even with almost 2,000 employees, Bradco Supply has not lost touch with its roots. When customers like Kornahrens refer to the company, it's not usually with descriptions like: “They're a billion-dollar company,” or “They're a force in the roofing supply industry,” although Bradco Supply is both of those. Most who have contact with Bradco will tell you that it's a company where “they put people first,” and employees, suppliers, and customers routinely call Barry and Brad Segal by their first names.
“Barry makes you want to do things better,” says Joe Revello, the company's inventory manager. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1997, Revello says he couldn't work for six months. “If I didn't work here, I'd probably be out of a job,” he says. “They set me up to work at home and changed my hours. Being given that opportunity was great. It was very uplifting to have that. It made me want to try harder.”
The service from energized staff like Revello is what keeps Brad Beldon coming back to Bradco. The president and CEO of San Antonio–based Beldon Roofing Co., Beldon says Bradco has exceeded his expectations “since the day they moved here” in 1998. “Bradco does what they say they're going to do,” says Beldon, whose roofing and gutter business does about $50 million a year in sales. “They're a customer service–oriented business. They go out of their way to make sure you're satisfied. … From the top down, everybody in the organization is first-rate. If you have a problem with anything, you can call a number of people to get it resolved. They don't pass the buck.”
Bradco doesn't always have the lowest prices, Beldon says, but he still gives about half his business to the company. “You can always find anything for a cheaper price, but you have to develop a comfort level with the people you do business with,” he says. “They're able to attach value to a commodity product, which is hard to do.” “This is a very simple business, and there are only three separators—price, service, and relationship with the customer,” Brad Segal explains, adding that if one aspect of that business model triumvirate rises above others, it would be service. “We're never satisfied with our service,” he says.
The company's commitment to service has helped it keep long-term commercial customers such as Advanced Roofing, even as it seeks to expand markets and product lines. “They're not just order takers,” Kornahrens says. “We can say, ‘Hey, we've got this project, what do you think is a good manufacturer to go to?' Their knowledge of products and systems is excellent.”