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Anissa Westfall Headshot

The Little Tampa Roofer That Could

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I met my husband Ryan in 2009. He just finished college and started working at his dad's construction company. I on the other hand, had been working in corporate marketing for over 8 years, and my experience with small business was pretty minimal. All I knew was, it was not a good time to work in the construction business.

Times were tough. His dad had to make ends meet by scrounging retirement savings. After all, he had mouths to feed. New construction all about dried up, which was his dad's bread and butter. Something major had to change or the company was going to become another small-business statistic of the Great Recession. (And my new boyfriend was going to have to start job hunting with an unemployment rate at 10 percent.)

Well... destitute is the innovator of creativity. In less than a year with Ryan's influence, the business strategy shifted from business-to-business (builder network) to business-to-consumer (residential replacements). I personally witnessed a trial of grass roots marketing, website development & SEO work and refined sales materials. I watched the business change its name from Westfall Construction to Westfall Roofing to focus on its core service. And I saw my husband go from a former jock and college student to a knowledgeable and astute businessman. (And ladies, this is a good place to be with your man).

All in all, with a paradigm shift and a little hard work, the roofing company sprouted its seed. Since 2009, sales have grown 159 percent! In 2012, Westfall invested in more employees, hiring a receptionist/purchasing clerk and a salesman (and coincidentally the best man in our wedding). And in 2013, their biggest acquisition to date -- me. Ha!

Lured by the freedom of small business, I quit my corporate job and am now experiencing the highs and lows of working with my family. (And let me tell you, it's nice to finally get that bus off my back). The biggest change is accountability. If I'm sick or need a day at the beach, before working here, I'd just cash in one of those PTO days and off I went. Now, the luxury of "shutting if off" just doesn't exist. Days and nights run together. The week flashes by from Monday to Friday. It's an interesting paradox. On one hand, I work harder (and wear many hats). But on the other, the work is so much more gratifying.

So, what do I see as the contributing factors to the company's success so far? Here's my answer.

1. Adaptability is key to survival
If "cause that's the way it's always been done" is your answer to most business questions, you'll never survive the millennial generation (and trust me, they'll be buying roofs before we know it). In fact, it's not just this generation we have to keep up with. My 70-something year old grandparents recently face-timed me on their iPhones. Oh yeah... it's like THAT. If an online/mobile/social strategy is not part of your business today, I'd advise you to hire a college intern quickly!

2. You can't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone
You're not doing something right if the routine becomes easy and second nature; you're not keeping up. If you're not comfortable with public speaking or if you're afraid of social media, it's time to shake off those reservations, take deep breaths and jump in. It may feel strange for a while, but it will pay off. (And when all else fails, try a little Kava or Passionflower supplement.)

3. Expect growing pains; it lessens the blow
You and your employees are not going to get most things right the first time. (Especially if you're following #2). Expect it, accept it and move on. This attitude will help lessen the blow... cause it will blow. And when it doesn't go right, don't take things personal. No one cares as much as you do. Period.

4. Stay true to your core values
Don't forget the "why." Remember why you go to work each day (and here's a hint: it's not for the money... well it is, but it's not). Here are several of my reasons why: because I can use my strengths to help my family live better lives, because I no longer wish to live under the tyranny of corporate life (and no, they're not all bad) and because I want to break the mold and stereotypes of the roofing industry. What's your why? Start there.

5. A closed mouth don't get fed
If you don't ask your customers, vendors, employees for what you want or need, even if it's unheard of, you'll never have a chance at anything. What's the risk? Rejection or appearing "silly"... pssshh! Trust me, rejection doesn't actually cause physical pain and a little bruised ego only builds character. Take a chance, the risk is worth the reward.

As for the story, we've only just begun. We weathered the recession, but we'd be naive to think there isn't another one around the corner. Someone once told me, either you're in it, about to leave it or about to get it. It's life. The test is how we hang on for the ride.

I welcome any comments.