Mark Rutherford is one of the founders and current co-owner of Atlanta Roofing Specialists, where he's responsible for production and commercial sales. The company provides new roofs and repair services for residential and commercial buildings in the Atlanta area, and has been a part of the community for 30 years.
Rutherford started his journey in roofing at age 17 when he began working for his then-girlfriend's, now wife's, father's roofing company. He worked there after school and on weekends until he joined the Army. Rutherford was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, so he was able to continue doing roofing work on weekends and days off.
In May of 1993 after completing his military service, he formed Atlanta Roofing Specialists with his uncle Kevin King. They started the company with the goal of providing top-quality work and service, using superior products. Rutherford recently discussed his experience as a roofing professional and business owner as the company celebrates its 30 year anniversary.
Q: What Do You Wish You'd Known before You Started?
I wish I'd known how much work it was starting your own business. I knew the roofing business was hard, difficult, backbreaking work at times, but running a business is a whole other level of difficulty. Especially meeting all the government and state regulations we have to meet.
In the early days, we were working 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week—and sometimes seven if times required. It's a lot more work than I realized it was going to be, but it's all worked out pretty well.
I'm the kind of person that has to learn things hands-on, and by doing all of these things by myself, I learned by trial and error. What was the easier way? What lasted longer? I feel like if I hadn't done the hands-on part myself for so long, I wouldn't have come up with the process that we have now.
Q: How Did You Become a GAF Master Elite® Contractor?
We already liked GAF products and were familiar with them when GAF developed their certified contractor program*. We were one of the very first contractors in the Atlanta area to participate in the program when we became certified in 1997.
Q: What is it Like Being a GAF-Certified Contractor?
First, they provide a lot of resources that help us run our business properly. For example, they provide plenty of training that helped us learn about GAF products and installation techniques and procedures. In addition, as a GAF Master Elite® contractor, we're able to offer the strongest GAF warranty available — the Golden Pledge Limited Warranty, which provides 25-years of workmanship coverage on qualifying GAF roofing systems**.
They've been an innovator with products and warranties. I think they offer better-looking products than some of their competitors. They're always testing and coming up with new technologies. I think that they're leaders and innovators in the industry.
Q: How Has GAF Supported Your Business Growth?
We have regular meetings with our sales rep where he asks us what we're doing and where we want to be and if there's anything they can do to help us get there. They distribute all types of product literature and samples, plus they have great marketing that helps us advertise their products.
We have to take the GAF certification test every year and they offer refresher training, both online and in person. They also have a variety of training opportunities through GAF CARE, which is the Center for Advancement of Roofing Excellence. They have all types of instructional videos on everything from how to install a better roof to how to run a company better. So, there's lots of support.
Q: What Classes or Education That GAF Offers Have Been the Most Beneficial?
The CARE program is great. They even have YouTube videos that I can distribute throughout my sales force by just hitting the share button. A good example is with some of the shingles that we don't apply every day, some of the really high-end products that we might install only a few times a year. I always have my workers, the foreman, and the supervisor go over the videos for those products the day before and go through the installation instructions to make sure that they are following all the procedures. This is pretty important. If we're going to be offering their warranties, we want to make sure the products are installed correctly.
Q: What Advice Do You Have for Those Interested in a Roofing Career?
Buckle up and hang on because it can be a wild ride at times, but it's worth it. I would say get involved in the industry, learn everything you can to be the best you can be, and try to make the industry better for everybody.
Also, stay humble. Don't concentrate on making money. I say concentrate on being the best at what you're doing, and the rewards will come.
Grow Your Roofing Career
If you're interested in starting a rewarding career in either commercial or residential roofing, there's room for you—with 19,000 new jobs expected by 2028! To start your roofing career journey, explore classes with the GAF Roofing Academy for training, along with a pathway to new opportunities. And if you're already in the roofing trade, check out what a GAF certification could mean for your business and its future growth.
*Contractors enrolled in GAF certification programs are not employees or agents of GAF, and GAF does not control or otherwise supervise these independent businesses. Contractors may receive benefits, such as loyalty rewards points and discounts on marketing tools from GAF for participating in the program and offering GAF enhanced warranties, which require the use of a minimum amount of GAF products.
** See GAF Golden Pledge Limited Warranty for complete coverage and restrictions.