More Than Just Roofing
The Affordable Roofing Company offers diverse suite of services to customers across Ohio and beyond
When Will Smith decided to launch The Affordable Roofing Company in 2010, he did so with boldness and optimism, trusting that his business acumen, strong work ethic and intrinsic motivations would provide the foundation for a successful venture. Now, a decade later, the Greater Cincinnati-based company is flourishing under his leadership.
A Bold Career Move
It was a decision of the heart that led Will to open his roofing business. Previously, he had traveled the country as an insurance adjuster handling catastrophic storm claims. Then after his daughter was born, he wanted a career that would give him more time to spend with her. So, the Ohio University grad (Go Bobcats!) left the corporate world and put his business degree to use as an advertising and marketing consultant selling Google products.
About two years later, a work acquaintance from Will’s days as an insurance adjuster reached out with a business proposition. Roth, who worked for a roofing contractor in Cincinnati, told Will the company had gone bankrupt, but there were still a handful of contracts pending completion. He suggested that they team up to finance and complete the projects themselves, then split the profits.
Will was certainly no novice to construction. In his youth, a mentor taught him the art of homebuilding craftsmanship, plus Will’s adopted father was a skilled laborer and union carpenter. Although he was in a comfortable place in his consulting career, Will’s penchant for new and exciting opportunities won out in the end. So, he decided to give it a shot—and The Affordable Roofing Company was born.
“I didn’t have anything!” Will admits, laughing. “My business started with a borrowed ladder from a neighbor, and a truck that we would rent weekly.”
What began with just a two-person crew has now grown to 12 team members who take care of the residential and commercial roofing needs of clients across Ohio, primarily in the Dayton and Cincinnati areas. In addition to roofing expertise, the company offers valuable services such as siding and gutter work, interior and exterior painting, commercial insulation installation, safety rail installation and insurance claims support.
According to Will, the team’s hard-earned reputation for quality workmanship and integrity has helped to land jobs in other states like Illinois, Georgia, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
“Our mission is to create an experience that makes our clients feel comfortable, where they know our top priority is to conduct ourselves with honesty and integrity,” he says. “We also give them peace of mind by providing high-quality workmanship that meets or exceeds their expectations, and by being as close to our quoted prices as possible to help them stay within budget.” As a result of these practices, the company has enjoyed much repeat business and client referrals.
A Winning Business Strategy
Using personal insights gleaned from previous career experiences, Will has been strategic and purposeful in cultivating his company’s capabilities and culture. His interactions with professionals from businesses large and small, and from all types of markets, taught him important lessons on hiring practices, the dos and don’ts of running a business, the nuances of building positive relationships with customers, and much more.
One key principle he’s embraced is to push past self-perceived limits in order to meet a client’s needs—because you never know where an opportunity might lead, says Will. “If you’re not willing to take chances, try new things or offer new services, you’re going to become irrelevant,” he adds. “This philosophy has allowed us to grow and branch into different silos of business.”
A signature project for one of the world’s biggest companies exemplifies the team’s adaptability and flexibility. In summer 2018, The Affordable Roofing Company was contracted to install a new roof on an 86,000-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center located in the greater Chicago area. A roofing crew of 14 completed the job successfully in 30 days.
“We removed the existing EPDM and ballasted roof system by hand, then replaced it with a Mule-Hide EPDM roof system,” Will says. “We were able to overcome every hurdle we encountered and still be ahead of schedule and on budget for the general contractor.” This remarkable performance led to requests for additional services—interior painting for the entire two-story structure and insulation installation in the ceilings and walls, all while the building was still occupied.
“This was a huge, defining project that really catapulted our company’s reputation. We ended up providing three services instead of just one, and knocked each job out of the park. We learned so much about ourselves in the process, and have really benefited by taking these types of opportunities to diversify our services,” Will says.
In addition to general contractors, the team often works with property management firms on multifamily apartment complexes and on dormitory projects for higher education institutions like Ohio’s Wright State University.
Respect & Empathy for Homeowners
Residential is another major market for the business. Being a family-oriented man, Will makes it a point to treat homeowners with respect and empathy when consulting with them about potential roof repairs or replacements.
“I’m not someone who’s going to sit down at your kitchen table in hopes of capitalizing on a commission,” he emphasizes. “When I sit down at that table, I realize that I’m sitting in someone’s home, which is probably the second most important thing in a person’s life. Homes protect people. They create safe places for families. They are where we celebrate holidays, birthdays and first steps. It’s where we have hard conversations and make big decisions. These are some of the reasons why we want to make sure a homeowner’s hard-earned money goes to the right place and that they get every penny out of their investment. Also, we never make promises that we cannot deliver.”
“[My grandfather] taught me how to be a good businessman and, more importantly, showed me how to be a good person. …As both a father and a business owner now, I honor his legacy by practicing what he taught me.” Will Smith, Owner, The Affordable Roofing Company
Commitment to Community
Will’s passion for meeting people’s needs also extends to the community at large. Last year, for example, when a tornado outbreak on Memorial Day devastated the highly populated city of Dayton and other areas of Ohio, Will’s crew stepped up to help those whose lives were turned upside down by the catastrophic event.
“We provided water, flashlights and other essentials to those in need, to give them some sense of security while they tried to figure out what to do next. We also moved debris off people’s houses. We were there to help, not to seek contracts,” Will says.
While in Dayton he encountered Sheila Cain and her husband, Donald. He recalls Sheila being shell-shocked at the damages to the couple’s home. Will shares, “When she called me, she was in such a frantic mindset, like she didn’t know where to start. I said, ‘Well, first of all, Sheila, I need you to listen to what I’m going to tell you and let it sink in.’ ”
After pausing a moment, he calmly said, “You’re going to be OK. Your family is going to be OK. All we have to do right now is put back together pieces of wood, plastic and glass—and we can do that.” Will remembers hearing the gratefulness in Sheila’s voice as she thanked him for his reassurance.
Will’s crew delivered on that promise, helping the Cains rebound from “one of the hardest times” in their lives, according to Sheila. “Will Smith with The Affordable Roofing Company and his awesome team put our home back together outside and inside and assured us that everything would be OK,” she says. “He was right—and we could never thank God enough for sending us such a great young man and team.”
“She’s a friend now,” Will adds, “and people call me all the time because they heard about us from her.”
Will says his desire to do good in the world stems not only from his Christian faith, but also character-building life experiences.
Will was adopted as an infant and raised in a middle-class family. His father was incredibly talented as a skilled laborer, doing things like carpentry, concrete and drywall. Will’s mother, who always selflessly put her family’s needs above her own, worked in retail.
There were always financial worries for Will’s caring and hardworking parents. “I grew up watching my parents put in an honest day’s work, only to turn around and have to rob Peter to pay Paul,” he reflects grimly. Outside of work, his parents spent much of their time attending to the special needs of Will’s younger brother, who has autism.
Inspired by their self-sacrifice and fortitude, Will developed a hardy work ethic at an early age. His principles were honed further by his middle school art teacher, Bob Davis, a modern-day Renaissance Man with three college degrees and an abundance of life experiences and skills.
Bob, in a mentorship role akin to that of fictional karate master Mr. Miyagi, took Will under his wing, teaching him valuable craftsman skills as they restored Victorian homes during school breaks. Through these experiences Will also learned about the beauty of a home—and not just the exterior design, but the true value of a home to a family.
Bob also entrusted Will with various property management tasks such as mowing, collecting rent checks, talking to bank representatives, and writing deposit tickets. “Everything was a learning experience to help prepare me for what life had in store,” Will says. “Even if we took trips, he made me read the road map because it was important to know how to do it,” he chuckles. The pair often traveled to see various homes designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright (including the iconic Fallingwater residence in Pennsylvania) or to visit the culturally diverse neighborhoods of Chicago—all to stoke Will’s appreciation for life’s finer details.
Will’s eyes were opened to a world of culture under the tutelage of this man he now endearingly calls grandfather. “When I first started working in the construction industry, I did it out of love for him,” Will says. “He taught me how to be a good businessman and, more importantly, showed me how to be a good person. He pulled me out of my shell as a young man by showing me how to conduct myself. As both a father and a business owner now, I honor his legacy by practicing what he taught me.”
A Symbol of Strength
The company’s logo, a lion, signifies faith in God and is a reminder of the importance of strong leadership, according to Will. It also represents the courage of his adopted father, another huge influence in his life. Back in early 2020, as the elder Smith battled for his life while waiting for a liver transplant, the lion emblem became even more meaningful to Will.
“The lion also represents the fight that I watched my dad go through back in February and March. He almost died four times,” Will shares. Then came the day his father was scheduled for a critical procedure designed to extend his life long enough for a transplant. Will’s wife, a cardiac nurse practitioner (and another source of strength in Will’s life), dashed to the hospital gift shop to find a small token to inspire hope for Will’s father, similar to what her juvenile patients receive when they are awaiting heart transplants. She returned with a stuffed lion, handed it to Will’s father, and said, “This is your liver lion. We’re going to hold on to this until you get your liver.”
“My dad laughed at that,” Will remembers. “But when things went from good to really bad, and then horrible to even worse, that lion went with him everywhere. Every time I prayed that God would be with my father when he had to go into a room alone…that lion was with him.”
Will’s parents and grandfather have all inspired him to be more, give more, do more—both professionally and on a personal level. Now, as Will looks to the future of his business, he sees even more potential for growth—in large part due to the strong foundational values instilled in him by these remarkable mentors.
“We want to establish trusting relationships with more local general contractors looking to team up with a subcontractor they can depend on to do the job right, on time and on budget,” he shares as one goal for the future. The company leader also plans to spend more time with his loved ones, because at the end of the day, that’s the biggest priority for this family man.