Jaime Westenbarger is from Brentwood, Tennessee, and is the Director of Sales for Bluebird Roofing in Nashville. He is an experienced entrepreneur that has been involved in sales his entire career. He went to college at the University of Michigan and studied business and marketing. Then he worked in the financial and insurance sector for over 20 years.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
My wife passed away a couple years ago. My son and I were living in Michigan and had no reason to be in that area, so we considered what other places we would like. I was tired of the cold winters and being stuck indoors in Michigan. I found a good local company in the Nashville area that needed my sales experience and we just made the transition. Now I manage all the sales and marketing for Bluebird Roofing. I really liked Bluebird’s way of doing business. The way that the company owner is involved in the community and is taking care of his customers was very appealing to me. He has done really well without intentionally trying to promote himself or grow a sales force or a large sales department, so he gave me the opportunity to come in and create some programs to actively grow the business and our customer base. The company has five-star reviews everywhere and has a fabulous reputation in the Nashville area. It is a very well-run and respected company according to everyone we do business with. Now I am able to get out of the office and be outside in the sun and climb around on some roofs. It’s been a $5 or $6 million company, and the owner would like to actively start growing and has a goal of becoming a $10 million company next year. My role is to bring in the right people and the right processes so that as we grow, we can continue to take care of our customers at the same high level of service.
I got here and before I could even start the work, a tornado hit earlier in the year in Nashville. Then it just became a trial by fire because it was all hands-on deck just to help. The tornado missed our office by less than half a mile. We set aside our long-term plans to take care of the community and do what we could to help people that are literally in our backyard that had gone through a terrible tragedy. It was pretty crazy for the first six months I was here, but it was pretty awesome to be able to work in the community that I had just moved into. It was great watching people coming together to take care of their neighbors.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I do get up early and I often start with a workout at the gym. Sometimes it is just a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood. Then I will head into the office and catch up on what installations we have for the day. Sales is still really involved with the installation side of things because we really believe in making sure our salespeople and roof consultants are involved from A to Z. We make sure that we know who is scheduled for that day and following up as needed. I touch base with all of the sales department in the morning by phone to see what their day looks like and if they had any issues the day before.
Then I will have a couple appointments with my salespeople. A lot of our customers are insurance related so a lot of the day involves meeting with them, looking at damage, discussing what their options are, and helping them understand what the process is if they file an insurance claim. A lot of times it is their first time dealing with something like that, so we help walk them through the process.
We may have an adjustor meeting. We will meet with the adjustors for any of our customers and go over what the damage is and help with the process of getting the claim through for our customer.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I am very much a long-term thinker and a big picture kind of guy. I have a pad of paper that sits on my nightstand because I’m the guy at 2 am that thinks of something. I realize I need to write those down or the next morning I don’t remember them anymore. I like to take those big ideas and drill them down into more actionable things within a shorter time frame.
For instance, one of my biggest goals is to improve our online presence. Our website is a little tired and we have not been doing a lot of social media. There has been very little video or picture interaction. My big picture is I need to completely revamp what we are doing there to make us more relevant when it comes to how people find, know, and learn about you. But that is a huge project, so I consider what I can do right now. I’ve started by updating Facebook, started an Instagram page, and started to record some videos and will start a YouTube channel. Those are things I can do pretty quickly. They are not the endgame, but it will immediately make some improvements and moves us closer to the end result of having the best possible professional online presence. You can’t bite off everything at once. If you get overwhelmed, it is hard to accomplish anything.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One of the big trends in the roofing business is the creation of products that are hardier and more consumer friendly. For a long time, many shingles did not hold up well to the wind. The options of what to do there were limited. Now manufacturers have been coming up with phenomenal technologies that allow for unlimited wind warranties on their shingles. There are new designs for shingles as well. You can now get an asphalt shingle that looks like slate roof. There are more product options that are more durable and also less expensive that weren’t as was available 10 years ago.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I try to not get bogged down in things that don’t go my way or don’t go the way I had hoped they would. I’m a big believer in dealing with the hand you’ve been dealt. COVID is a perfect example. It has been an opportunity for us to really stand apart. As soon as Nashville and the rest of the country started to shut down, we immediately transitioned into a contactless process. We could inspect the roof, talk to the customer, and provide paperwork, pictures, and documentation all electronically to give people the confidence to do what they needed to do without being face to face with us. A good entrepreneur looks at what a lot people think of as a negative and instead looks at it as an opportunity.
I really just try to maintain a level of optimism in my life. I don’t see any point in dwelling on negatives or things that are not working out. I would much rather figure out what needs to be done to make it work out next time.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Do not be afraid to try the crazy ideas in your head because probably a few of them would have turned into really good businesses. Being young is the best time to try those things out. Be a little bit more interested in learning some things that are easier to pick up when you are younger. I wished I had learned some Spanish and a little more computer science.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I think if you treat everyone with kindness and respect, the vast majority of people in the world will reciprocate that. I don’t believe that there are there are very many mean, rude, awful, or disrespectful people in the world. I think many times those people are simply reflecting the way they feel they are being treated.
Regardless of the situation or how upset someone might be, if I can be happy, friendly, and respectful, the other person will become more respectful, happy, and content as well. A lot of the world fights fire with fire, anger with anger, and yelling with yelling.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I am constantly learning. It is easy to assume you know enough or you are experienced enough, but it’s amazing that just when you think you know everything, you’ll find people that know a bunch of stuff you don’t know. I am constantly reading or listening to audio books and podcasts. I will even listen to things I don’t expect to find very interesting just to see if I might. I think it makes me more well-rounded and ready for opportunities that might present themselves.
A perfect example is the role that technology can play in the roofing business. I taught myself recently how to build a personal google map. I did not know it was something you could do, but I learned from someone else who had done it. We are going to have a google map on our website that shows every single roof we have installed with little pins. If a customer is debating between colors, they can click on this map, sort the roofs by color, and see the roofs in the area with that color put on them. They can drive by and look at them or view pictures online of them. It was a way to upload thousands of data points into one spot, and that will be really helpful for our customers. It was really easy to do.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I do the thing I least want to do first. If you get the medicine out of the way in the morning, the rest of your day is a lot more enjoyable. I force myself to do those things and get them out of the way and then move on.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In my first business I worked in safety and fire prevention. I started out very strongly. Things were going very well. I made the mistake of then attempting to grow before I really truly understood the market that I was in. In doing so, I put myself in a difficult financial position. If I had been a little smarter with my planning at the time, I could have forecasted some of the things that happened to me. I was overly optimistic based on short-term numbers. I learned very quickly that in any business you want to hope and work towards the best, but plan for the worst case so you are prepared if that is indeed what happens.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There are so many service industries that are run by the owner who is also providing the service, such as a locksmith or a tow truck business. If you are computer savvy, you could design very simplistic websites that could draw leads and attract business for these types of business owners. They may not have the time, ability, or resources to handle that themselves. Rather than charge them for building the site, you should build the site first, get it to rank, get it to start drawing in leads, and then approach the business with your lead generating system you have already created. You can let them use the site for their benefit while you retain ownership of it, making it more of a subscription model. I think it would be scalable and profitable.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought some AirPods for my phone, and they are amazing. I have had so many different earbuds over the years and most of them were terrible. But the AirPods are awesome. They are a superior technology, and they make my life so easy when I am on a roof.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
There is a web company called Zapier and it helps you to integrate other programs into one another. If Zapier is compatible with two different apps, it will link them so they will work more seamlessly with one another.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recommend Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss. The author was an international hostage negotiator that used to work with the FBI. It’s interesting. It has a lot of interesting ideas that anyone could apply to their life, including how to read the person you are negotiating with and how everyone can walk away feeling like they won.
What is your favorite quote?
“If a man works hard, the land will not be lazy.” Chinese proverb. It means if you put in the work, the rewards will come.
• Be open minded to learning new things.
• Try to always maintain a positive outlook.
• Look at the possibilities that even come from negative circumstances.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.