Work and Extraordinary Opportunities to Happiness
As you enter the modern offices of Maxwell Roofing & Sheet Metal, your eyes are immediately drawn to the beautiful photographs of many diverse types of roofing projects completed in recent years by this 60-year-old family business, led by President John Maxwell. John is understandably proud of his company’s work; but today he is more interested in talking about the “dignity of work.”
“The great value of work is not in the money (although that is a necessity), but rather in the value over and above that is in the service we bring to others. It is a vital ingredient to our happiness. The great news about this industry is that roofing DOES matter.
The business needs to honor the worker. In small businesses, we have the power and the latitude – the freedom — to design our business model to do that. We all like to matter; to want our lives to accrue to someone’s benefit other than our own. People want to matter. Our work is an extraordinary
opportunity to do just that.
I’m happy to say that in TARC, for example, there are a lot of good people that are trying to do this. This industry is often maligned, and to the extent that it is, by people who don’t know us. Of course, there are some ‘scalawags’ as Bobby Herbert would say. The people in the commercial roofing business in Tennessee do it the right way. They care and that is an honorable thing.”
John found himself thrust into a leadership position at an early age after a ladder accident shortened his father’s career in 1982. John was at that time a 27-year-old estimator and says, “Everybody answered to Mr. Maxwell. When he fell, the organization was broken. What did he do? How do we re-define our business?”
The good news was that he had competent and caring people on the team and the business grew stronger and better. Maxwell Roofing & Sheet Metal Company is first and foremost a family business. Pictures of John’s family adorn his office – his wife, Betty Ann, his four children, David, Rachel, Sarah and Kathleen; and his two grandsons. John, along with his brother, Dan Maxwell and Keith Stiles are the principal owners today. The values of this family business continue as the third generation becomes involved. Two of John’s four children work with him: David as Operations Manager and Kathleen as the Marketing Director.
On April 21, 2016, Mayor Megan Barry helped Maxwell Roofing & Sheet Metal celebrate their 60-year anniversary with a proclamation that reads in part: “This milestone is the result of continued professional, outstanding and exemplary service to its customers and to the citizens of Nashville and Davidson County.”
When asked about the changes he has seen in his 40 years in the business, John replies: “The industry has changed so much in the last 40 years. The roofer has to be half-chemist now. We’re dealing with all kinds of adhesives and membrane products, insulation materials, sheathing materials – all these different kinds of materials that have to be installed using different techniques, different combinations— thousands of different combinations of materials that comprise the various roofing systems. It is no small feat. Forty years ago, a roofer needed to know how to mop and roll – swing a mop of asphalt and roll the felt. Those were the two kinds of skills in commercial roofing. Today, everything is different.”
When asked about the future, John says that the labor shortage is the single biggest challenge we face today. He has high hopes that the Tennessee Association of Roofing Contractors can work together to find answers and bring in more people interested in the value of hard work and making a difference.
He has high praise for the recent leadership of TARC, “Rick Ragan, Curtis Sutton, John McNicholas, and Robert Smith have made great strides in bringing education to the forefront of what we do. The Proforeman Classes are a tangible benefit to our members. We sent several to the Proforeman Level I Class, and look forward to the level II Class.”
In addition to leading the 70 employees of his company, John has been instrumental in improving the Skyline North Area Business community, and is active at St. Henry’s Catholic Church.