As seen in the September 2023 issue of the Traverse City Business News.
Nick Jacqmain from Springfield Roofing gets it: You don’t really want to talk or even think about the likely hassle and cost of a new roof on your commercial building. But he insists — and by all accounts his customers agree — the Springfield process is different. The TCBN caught up with him to hear his thoughts on Traverse City’s growth, why they opened a second location and more.
TCBN: I’d love a new roof on our building. But I’m guessing I’m like most of your customers: I don’t know how to get started or I’m putting off starting the conversation or process.
Jacqmain: You’re spot on. Whether you’re a manufacturing facility, a school, or an office space, it’s always exciting for the organization to buy equipment that will help with reviews or, let’s say, a beautiful new gymnasium floor. But as important as a roof is, it’s not exciting – and they only notice it if it’s not working properly. It just tends not to be a huge source of pride. It’s sort of like that referee in a sports game: You only notice them if they’re doing a bad job.
TCBN: So how do you address that?
Jacqmain: The biggest thing we’ve found is customers don’t need help to get “excited” during that process. They’re already there in terms of worry about it all. So we hope to bring the temperature down and explain what the future is going to look like and how positive that will be for them. They’re not as interested in our company’s history. They want to know what the finish line looks like and the fastest route to get there.
TCBN: Springfield specializes in commercial work only. Why is that, and is that unique in your industry?
Jacqmain: Before my time here we did more residential work. As the former owner grew the company and secured more and more commercial accounts, it became hard to be competitive in both arenas. We still do a half dozen residential with flat or low slope roofs a year, but our systems are built for commercial applications. Our model is definitely different than most. We focus on renovating existing buildings (roofs) rather than new construction. We build most of our relationships by doing repair work on existing roofs until it is time to replace the roof with a new one. This model has helped us align ourselves with the right customers and growth opportunities. We recently found a parallel between commercial roofing and equipment transport. Over the past year, we’ve been helping our customers with the delivery of heavy equipment such as forklifts and scissors lifts to commercial facilities and job sites.
TCBN: I know you’ve opened a second location, so you’re now in Big Rapids. That’s a big move. What brought that about?
Jacqmain: We’ve been servicing central Michigan for years, and while we have some significant clients down there, the area as a whole is underserved. Additionally, we have employees who live in the southernmost part of Grand Traverse and Wexford counties, so it’s not a heavy lift to service the new location. But I think most importantly we really want to not only service the area but invest in it, too, by bringing jobs to the area, supporting local events, organizations, and nonprofits, and giving back to our customers and the communities they live and work in. Like our involvement in the Grand Traverse region, we want to be there.
TCBN: And speaking of “being there,” where are you doing jobs these days? Are most of your customers still right around Traverse City?
Jacqmain: Seventy-five percent of our business is between Cadillac and the Harbor Springs/Petoskey area, but we do have a five-person crew right now down in Lapeer, and we have a big client in Lansing. We have a project coming up on Mackinac Island this fall. So we definitely can service the small clients or the large clients quite a ways beyond Traverse City.
TCBN: I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the recent and rapid growth of the Traverse City area.
Jacqmain: In the last few years it seems as if the world has gotten a lot smaller. Everybody’s really connected, and distance seems to be less of a factor. I’ve been in the Grand Traverse area since 2007, and while it’s always been viewed as a tourist or seasonal destination, the lines have begun to blur and the area is booming for those interested in the trades and tech. It’s been great to watch our community grow and prosper in a variety of industries.
TCBN: You talk a lot about servant leadership in how you run Springfield. Talk about what that means to you.
Jacqmain: It means a lot. I’ve been really fortunate to have a number of good mentors in my career, people who showed me the right way to do things. Terry, the former owner of Springfield, really embodied that. Unfortunately in construction, there’s a tendency to put people in two classes: the workers and the office people. Terry did a wonderful job erasing that line – and I’ve made it my goal to ensure we continue that legacy. While education, experience, and skill sets are important, those are not marks of superiority or inferiority at Springfield. And the only people who don’t make it here are those who just don’t get that.
TCBN: And speaking of your people and culture, how is the labor situation?
Jacqmain: Like most businesses, it was at a crisis level for a while there. But we’ve been really fortunate; I would say the last 12-18 months we’ve attracted and retained some very good people. As an organization, we learned we had to improve everything over the past two years; not just raise hourly wages and throw money at a problem, but make this a desirable place to spend the day-to-day. We love what we do!