Listen in as Don talks with 40-year Ft. Worth Area Roofing Contractor Larry Huffaker, owner of Huffaker Roofing. Larry shares his wisdom and what it takes to be a Proven Entrepreneur.
Listen to the podcast here
Larry Huffaker, Owner of Huffaker Roofing Shares His Wisdom & What it Takes To Be A Proven Entrepreneur
With this episode, I’ve got a very good, twenty-year friend and neighbor. Our guest is Larry Huffaker with Huffaker Roofing. Larry, welcome to the show.
Thank you very much for having me.
I’m thrilled that you could come to join us. It will be fun. We have been neighbors for 22 years in 2021. Tell us, what are you up to? What is your business? What do you do?
I own Huffaker Roofing Company.
How long have you had Huffaker Roofing?
Forty-three years in 2021.
Think back to childhood, Larry. Where are you from?
I’m from Denver, Colorado.
They ran you out of Colorado. You are on the run from the law and got to Texas.
No, I went to Kansas for a few years.
Did they run you out of Kansas?
They run me out of Kansas.
Many entrepreneurs had begun their entrepreneurial journey and experience as children. Did you have experience as an entrepreneur as a young man?
No. When I was fourteen years old, I used to sell donuts door to door. We would meet at the donut place and put them in a ‘57 Chevy. It had eight kids in the ‘57 Chevy. I load it with a dozen of donuts in the trunk. They would take us to this spot and let us off. We would go door to door trying to sell the donuts.
I have known a lot of entrepreneurs. I have been around the world three times with Entrepreneurs’ Organization and people from every culture. I do not think I ever heard of someone selling donuts door to door.
It was not good.
It was Colorado. It was cold. Some days, it was nice but it was pretty cold.
Were you a good donut seller?
Yes. I make $0.50 a day.The bottom line to running a business is having good help and treating them right and paying them right. Click To Tweet
It is common for an entrepreneur to take out an early start, where they were selling something to somebody. When you left donut sales, did your path take you to college? Did you go to the military?
I went to college for a year.
Did they run you out of college?
It was not my expertise being a college student.
What college were you at?
I was at Garden City Community College in Kansas.
After that, where did you go to?
I joined the Navy.
Thank you for your military service.
You are very welcome.
How long did you serve in the Navy?
I served for four years on a submarine.
Did you spend your entire Naval career underwater?
Pretty much. We traveled an awful lot, though. I was on a diesel submarine. We went all over the world. We went into ports. Some nuclear submarines can’t port right into ports. We’ve got to do that and had left. We had a great time.
Is there anything from your military experience that helped serve you well as a business owner?
It all boils down to working hard. I worked hard when I was fourteen, and in the Navy. You can usually do pretty well if you are a hard worker.
Entrepreneurs have a great work ethic, though maybe not always.
I had few jobs or businesses that I did not work hard at.
Samuel Goldwyn said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” It is how that goes. After the Navy, what was your first business?
Another guy and I had a cleanup truck. We cleaned up new houses and sheetrock.
They are building a new house. After they had done the sheetrock, they made a mess with scrap. You were going in and cleaning it up before the next contractor sub comes in and takes care of that. How long did you own that?
I owned it for maybe a year.
Was it successful during the year?
We did good. It got bad. It was on and off.
Was it Huffaker Roofing or something else?
I went and started roofing in Texas. I went from Colorado to Texas.
Were you roofing on a crew?
How many roofs have you been on, Larry?
Huffaker Roofing has done about 30,000. I have been on a lot because I worked as a roofer for a few years. We do a house a day. We work 5 maybe 6 days a week.
Larry’s company has done four roofs for me on different properties. In all fairness, it is not even all day to do a roof. By 2:00 or 3:00, they are gone, the old roof is gone, and the new roof is on. That is a feat of engineering. You started roofing for a few years and opened Huffaker Roofing?
Yes, I started Huffaker Roofing after. It was Meyers and Huffaker back then.
I have known you for many years. I have never heard of Meyers. Meyers went away at some point. He sailed off into the sunset. He lives in Boca Raton on the beach.
He lives in Oklahoma in a trailer. He should have stayed with me.
Sometimes that is how it goes. Did you buy him out? Did he abandon or left?
The business slowed down. We started two other businesses. They didn’t do well. I went into a bar with a partner. He would try to run the company and could not do it. It got really bad. He left, and I went full-time back into the company.
Tell us about a hard moment, sometime in your entrepreneurial career, where things didn’t go very well.
Probably the worst one was when I was working in the bar. I’m laughing about it because working at a bar, you do a lot of drinking. I was not watching Huffaker Roofing. It almost all went under.
You said, “I will start another business.” That other business took your eyes off the ball. How long did you have that business before you said, “Maybe I would better get my eye back on the ball?”
I had that for two years.You need to work hard at whatever you believe you can do, get good help, and be fair. If you’re not fair, they're not going to stick around. Click To Tweet
You closed that, came back to Huffaker Roofing full-time, and concentrated your effort there?
What about a work speed moment, sometimes when things were going along okay but all of a sudden, you had this massive acceleration, and things took off?
At one time, I had ten crews. Now, I have three. I will not have any more than three crews.
Ten crews were on ten roofs a day?
It was close to ten roofs a day but sometimes a roof would take two days. I did big houses. The money was there, so did the headaches. If you are not on top of the job, you can’t be on top of every single job that is being roofed. The people helping you do that are also getting more work for you. The money was nice but I had headaches four years after that because the guys were not doing it like they were supposed to be done. There are new crews, not my crews that I have had for many years.
That is common with entrepreneurs. You can be too busy. You can be doing too much. You have out pandered your coverage. You can maintain high quality to a certain level. If you double or triple that volume, it is hard to provide the same quality.
It is for me. I’m not programmed for that. I have traveled a little bit to reroof houses, apartment complexes, and churches in different states because they want me to. I do not take my crews and move to Colorado because they have a huge hailstorm in Oklahoma. I have never done that. We stay here 98% of the time.
If you could go back in time and give some advice to twenty-year-old Larry that would help you and your business career, what would that advice be?
When I was twenty years old, I had little sense. That is the truth. I was running from this to this. I could not stick to one thing. The bottom line to running a business is having good help, treating them right, and paying them right. That is why my super dentist has been with me for many years, the same three crews several years. Everybody that has worked for me has worked for me for many years except for my kids, which only have been here a couple of years.
You have a son and a daughter. They are twins. You have double trouble.
I waited until I was 42 and married 12 years before I had any kids.
You had 0 to 2 in 9 short months. Do both Danielle and Landon work in the business?
Did they start in the business?
They went out, got some life experience, and came back into the business?
Yes. I’m glad you are there. I’m privileged to be able to see my kids every day. Very few people at my age or 10 or 20 years younger get to see their kids every day.
That is the beauty of a well-run family business. Do you have any last thoughts or anything you would share that you think entrepreneurs should know from your experience that would help them with their business?
It all boils down to the same thing to me. You’ve got to work hard at whatever you believe you can do, get good help, and be fair. If you are not fair, they are not going to stick around. You are never going to keep going on if you keep losing the good people that work for you. You have to start from scratch again.
Herb Kelleher, the original Chairman of Southwest Airlines, said, “The customer is not always right but they are always the customer. They are always paying the bill. I’m going to take care of my people, and because I take care of my people, my people will take care of my customers.” He was not as customer-centric as a lot of business theory would tell you to be but he was very staff-centric. Take care of your staff, and they will take care of everybody else. You have been doing a very good job. People have been there for many years. The last question is, how could we support you now?
Find people that I can roof their houses.
If you are in Northeast Tarrant County, Texas or the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and you need a roof, reach out to my good friend, Larry Huffaker at HuffakerRoofing. Thank you so much.