Roofing and Sustainability Expert Mike Feazel Predicts a Bright Technology Future
Are you ready for what the next 1–3 years in technology will bring?
I initially interviewed Mike and Todd Feazel, Co-founders of Roof Maxx, which uses plant-based technology to restore asphalt roofs, in the Forbes article “When and How to Disrupt an Industry” on 7/23/2019, available here. This interview was excerpted in Entrepreneur Magazine on 9/26/2019, available here.
Who are you?
I grew up in a small farming community just north of Columbus, Ohio.
I lived away for a time but have returned and am now the third generation in my family here. I’m addicted to travel and adventure and enjoy exploring new cultures. I love the challenge and rewards of growing a business but have never before done anything as disruptive as what my company is doing right now. It’s had highs and lows, but I an incredible experience.
What are you more skilled at than most people in the world?
My biggest skill is identifying talented people who fit our culture and then letting them run. I’ve learned not to micromanage. The failures are as important as the successes. As long as our team is learning and growing and correcting things quickly it’s okay, especially when
disrupting an industry because there isn’t any rule book for this.
What are the core values that guide your business, and why did you pick them?
I don’t see business and personal values as separate. They are one and the same. Treat people fair, try your hardest to always do the right thing and stay positive, especially when things aren’t going your way. That’s the most difficult of all. But treat people with respect across the business.
What’s your favorite quote?
“Respect is how you treat everyone, not just those you want to impress.” It’s by Richard Branson. I have a lot of respect for that man and the way he’s lived his life and run his businesses.
What was your biggest challenge in starting your business and growing it to its current level?
Far and away our biggest challenge has been people’s skepticism that you can rejuvenate an asphalt roof. Last year we saw GoodYear win the environmental achievement award for first soy-based tire. There’s awareness growing around bio-based technology and a growing demand for greener products that can come at a lower price and affect the environment in a positive way. The skepticism still remains today but it’s steadily decreasing.
How did you overcome it?
Our key partners are global leaders in biotech and sustainable technology. We are partnered with Batelle Labs, the world’s largest private research and development company that actually created our soy-based Roof Maxx formulation. They manage Los Alamos Labs and eight other national labs for the U.S. government. We also partner with Ohio State University and the Ohio Soybean Council which has given us high credibility.
How do you define great leadership?
I don’t think great leadership is about control. It’s about empowering people. I rarely insist things be done my way. I hire talented people and then get out of their way.
My role is to supply the vision, especially in the early stages as the vision can sometimes change by the hour. Each day there is less ebbing and flowing than in our beginning. My job is to communicate to the team, get buy in, and if they don’t buy in, we debate it and maybe my vision changes a bit. It’s a team effort. I think I’m a good leader, but there’s not one person in our company that isn’t amazing at what they do.
I don’t add value to any one department. This is a much different experience than in our early years and even at the end of our prior company, Feazel Roofing we didn’t have a team like this.
How do you identify a good business partner?
A great partner is someone you can trust and respect. Someone who’s got your back. For me, that’s my brother and co-founder and he’s been my partner for the past 30 years. I wouldn’t have it any other way. If it weren’t for him — in earlier times I was impatient and wanted things to happen fast and it created a lot of problems. But I now think that was a benefit as I look back at the major challenges we faced.
Twice we were right against the wall and threatened with closing. Pulling through those situations produced the hard lessons I learned at a young age, but those were the hard lessons that gave us the right skills. Stick-to-it-iveness, patience — I’m still not a patient man — but there’s no way we could be pulling this off if we hadn’t had those experiences.
One of our main partners is American farmers, who back us all the way on our mission to create plant-based solutions to restore roofing. And we’re highly partnered with the Ohio Soybean Council. But of all our partnerships, we love America’s farmers and the ability to partner with them has been beneficial to all and is particularly key.
Gave us the skills to succeed — from just a handful of dealers and a few employees in the past 12 months to more than 400 locations and a large staff and hiring new people every week.
In a very short period of time — to more than 400 locations. Wow. The market has accepted this. Market buy in.
How long can you sustain your current level of growth?
It’s due to our partnerships in large part that we’ve grown from a handful of dealers and a few employees to more than 400 locations at present and are hiring new people every week. I believe we’re the fastest growing roofing company and are still at the bottom of the hockey stick for our our fullest potential. If our current pace holds, we’ll surpass the largest roofing company in the nation (by topline revenue) by mid 2021.
Do you see other competitors entering your market?
We have an exclusive patent pending for our formula which is plant based and environmentally safe. We fully expect additional competitors to enter this industry, but they’d be competing with a non-plant treatment. This is a huge market that will be $11B when it is fully mature, and the need to protect and restore roofs is recurring and ongoing. There’s no one and done. But competition is a good thing and will help bring awareness to this fairly new service offering. Asphalt roof maintenance and rejuvenation is here to stay.
Are you afraid of failure?
People have asked Elon Musk at various times if he’s fearful of failure. In his case, electric vehicles, he said he gave his venture less than a 10 percent chance for success in a market that had already spent $56B at that time. But electric cars are here to stay. That’s our story as well.
I don’t just feel it; I know it. People have so much skepticism about a new idea, but the doubts are going away as the familiarity with a novel idea is increasing. As that happens, we except to at least double or perhaps even triple in size.
How do you prevent burnout?
I stay active by mountain biking or paddle boarding. And I love to read and research the new technologies that are shaping the world. Companies like Uber and Airbnb — what an amazing model for business. Once you’ve stayed in an Airbnb you get better service and have a better experience for less work and hassle and less money, as well. Why would you do anything else? That’s what I see Roof Maxx as. We are Uberizing roofing in a grand way and we’re only at the beginning of what technology can eventually do.
What would you like to be doing in three years?
I’d like to be entering the solar market. I follow new technology and I follow Peter Diamandis — one of the top tech guys who consolidates in a way you can understand it. Sustainability — whatever you call it, it’s important. If you’re burning natural resources nobody can deny you’re ruining rain forests and putting plastic into the seas. Solar is so important and is expected to double from 12 million homes to twice as many within the coming 5 years. Soon you won’t be able to build a home in California that’s not solar. Every 18 months, technology doubles and drops 50 percent in its cost (Moore’s law). That is being applied to everything but especially to solar. Over that period, I see millions of relationships with property owners. The new “land grab” will be the rooftop, so it only make sense we’ll get into solar. In the next three years I’d like to invest in a small solar company with the right team as we can acquire customers at near zero cost — where current solar companies are having to expend 33 percent of their cost in customer acquisition. So clearly, I am seeing