Epic Roofing & Exteriors Ltd.: Quality Construction Services with Integrity

Merlin Bartel never planned to open up a roofing business, or for that matter, a roofing business with 130 full-time employees. “I grew up as a farm boy,” says Bartel, president, CEO and founder of Epic Roofing & Exteriors Ltd. (Epic) in Calgary, Alberta. “As such, I was pretty handy and naturally adapted to construction from the get go. I spent the first 20 years of my adult life in bible seminary and pastoring churches. While doing that, I would supplement my salary by doing odd roofing jobs here and there to fill in the gaps. It was more of a means to an end for many years of my life. In 2001, I thought I was transitioning from one ministry to another. Well, I’m still in transition.”
With a background in ministry, Bartel comes from a people-centric place. While roofing is an entirely different business, he is able to apply much of his service approach to his work today. “Our company is squeaky clean as opposed to what people generally imagine when they think of a roofer. Our ethos makes us very trusted and clean cut in an industry chock full of rough and tough characters. As we’ve grown in the market, we have typical construction roofers work for us. The management level people I have here are heavy on the faith-based side, which is pretty unique. That flows well into a strong commitment to philanthropy. We do a lot of extra stuff with our profits that most companies don’t.”
Organic Growth
Epic has found natural growth in the regional market over the last decade. Bartel set out with little more than a hammer and a truck in 2001, incorporating his business in 2003. It was not until 2007 that he says the business started to really take off. “Up until then we were working out of garages and basements,” he elaborates. “We had a few roofing crews comprised of some family and friends. In 2007 we leased our first commercial building.
“The high caliber of employees we had caused us to find favor with general contractors, builders and restoration companies in Calgary,” he continues. “We are in a heavy hail and wind zone. In Canada, there is about $1.4 billion in weather related insurance pay outs per year, with half of that figure in Alberta. We got in the door early on, as a really clean-cut, good operator, with a reputation for being dependable, trustworthy and honest. We stand behind our work. Our commitment to integrity is very high so we try to attract certain people to maintain that culture. That goes beyond good business practices.”
This success in the industry helped Epic establish relationships with insurance companies. Where the business had been working primarily as a subcontractor, the team began fulfilling prime contractor roles with residential customers, commercial customers and homebuilders. Insurance companies started establishing a direct line to the team in order to streamline. Insurance claims soon became a major part of the business. While numbers are important, Bartel says, “A happy customer’s referral is the biggest part of a growing business. A happy insurance company has us perform 600 to 700 jobs per year and will refer us to other insurance companies.
Beyond the Roof
Epic started on the roof, however in the last five years, Bartel has added eavestroughing, siding, painting and windows. “We have begun the journey of becoming a full restoration contractor,” he explains. “Whatever hail and wind touches on outside of building, we can fix. In the last few weeks, we acquired a small restoration company, Red Dot Restoration. That has increased our capabilities for interior restoration for fire, flood, water damage, and mold remediation. We are creating a model here as a one-stop shop. We are not a not national restoration company, but we are basically in competition with them. With the volume of work we do on the exterior side, we are as big as they are anyway and now we are adding interiors.”
The business continues to cater primarily to the residential market, while slowly gaining momentum with commercial customers. For now, the team serves customers within a 2-hour radius of Calgary. Bartel has been encouraged to expand outside of Calgary, but he has not made any definitive plans for geographic expansion. “There are a couple unique things we are working on of a proprietary nature to help us set up our paradigm,” he notes. “We are using Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, not necessarily advertising market, to get us into conversations of all kinds. We want to be the contractor of choice for homeowners before they even need our services.”
Unique In-House Capabilities
With a growing audience and vertical integrations, the business is organized and set up for growth over the next few years. “We are fairly sophisticated for a roofing company,” Bartel explains. “One of the reasons insurance companies like dealing with us is that we understand the complicated estimation process. We use a similar system. We have some savvy employees and a consultant working with us to develop software. We aren’t doing it in house, but our program will combine off the shelf functions configured to fit our needs as a business.
“We also have two full-time mechanics on staff,” he continues. “This works well for us from a strategic standpoint. We buy used trucks and we have a one-stop shop to take care of our own equipment. That adds value to our services, It is also great because our employees can bring their vehicles to our in-house mechanics for an improved rate. My wife brings her van here. It is all about little, value-added things and vertical integration. The less we outsource, the more we have under control.”
Despite Bartel’s lack of business experience, he has developed a company that is pleasant to work with and pleasant to work for. In 2013, Epic marks 10 years in business. The company regularly holds family-oriented events with employees and offers a highly competitive benefits package. Employees are encouraged to participate in community initiatives. Over the last 10 years, the Epic crew has performed volunteer work for a number of charitable organizations across the globe. As the company grows, the team continually gives back. Global awareness and person-focused perspective will continue to give Epic Roofing & Exteriors Ltd. an advantage in the market.