The Rooftop Reformers
Arrow Roofing & Siding adds new dimensions to building envelope
When Josh O’Brien took a job as a salesman at a roofing company at the age of 21, he never imagined that this first job would be his professional destiny.
First established in 1987, Arrow Roofing & Siding was a family-owned-and-operated construction and general contractor company based in Columbus, Ohio. After surviving the ups and downs of the construction market, the original owners looked to retire—and hand the reins to their young, energetic and trusted employee.
With a vision for growth, a sound business head and great partners, O’Brien has since turned a small local roofing company into one of the fastest growing, most respected roofing companies in the market while establishing a distinctive community bond.
O’Brien started working for Arrow Roofing & Siding in 2005 as its first sales-focused employee. At the time, the small family-owned company was focused primarily on residential roofing projects in Central Ohio.
“I had learned a little about construction from a local handyman, the father of a friend, while in high school, working for him on weekends and in the summer,” recalls O’Brien. “But, my goal was to buy, rehab and sell real estate—so I went to work for Arrow to build necessary subcontractor connections.”
Soon after, weather changed the course of the company and O’Brien’s life. In October 2006, a major storm with severe hail and damaging winds in the area caused in excess of $240 million in losses. Six months later, an even bigger hailstorm caused in excess of $288 million in losses. The following year, the Hurricane Ike-related windstorm caused over $1.2 billion in losses. O’Brien says, “In those two years, the company grew 15 times in terms of staff and revenue. We worked seven days a week and 18 hours a day. But, like any economic spike, there was an equivalent drop that coincided with the rise in storm chasers, those roofing companies that chase disasters. By the end of 2009, I was the only salesman left, and the owners were looking to retire.”
Over the previous three years, O’Brien had already begun learning and taking on many of the day-to-day operations of the company. By 2010, the owners were ready to sell, and he was ready to begin a new era in Arrow Roofing legacy.
O’Brien had a plan. He developed a business strategy that centered on the core of the company’s heritage, adding, “I didn’t want to be in the storm chasing business. We’re roofers and I saw great opportunities to expand to the commercial side of the market.”
For years, Arrow had focused on residential work, avoiding the complexity of the commercial side of the business. Beyond the clear difference in size, commercial roofs typically require specialized designs (e.g., flat roofs versus steep roofs commonly found in residential structures). Additionally, commercial roofs require different materials to support equipment and handle weather extremes, and they also need many external systems, such as piping, air flow systems, smoke stacks, etc.
Aware of the commercial roofing challenges, O’Brien brought on Mason Sherman in 2011. Sherman had worked for Arrow as a subcontractor over the years doing repairs and had considerable knowledge about commercial roofing challenges.
Sherman explains, “Very few roofing companies successfully specialize in both residential and commercial because the design, materials and skill set for installation are so different. I’d been involved in construction for a number of years, both in the field and on the business side. I always wanted to focus more on the roofing side. Josh and I had great synergy from the start, so I signed on.”
O’Brien agrees, adding, “Mason helped refine our hybrid business model, which would now include a commercial division and a residential division, and he brought in other commercial roofing experts.”
As the Arrow roofing team has grown its commercial clientele, they have also expanded capabilities. Most significantly, they established a custom fabrication metal shop in 2017 to support metal roofing installations.
“In previous years, we’ve relied on subcontractors to form the custom metal elements, such as edge terminations and wall flashings,” O’Brien says. “We wanted to retain as much quality control as possible on our jobs, so we added the metal shop with all the latest metal forming equipment.” All Arrow roofing professionals are OSHA trained and certified. The company is also a designated Johns Manville Peak Advantage® Contractor as one of the largest installers of single-ply roofing systems in the U.S. It’s also an Owens Corning Roofing Platinum Preferred Contractor–a designation that also helps the team better support the community.
"We wanted to retain as much quality control as possible on our jobs, so we added the metal shop with all the latest metal forming equipment.” Josh O’Brien, Owner, Arrow Roofing & Siding
A Personal Touch
While their work ethic, industry expertise and business savvy are all strong, the Arrow Roofing team really shines when it comes to helping those in need within the Columbus community. One example is the Owens Corning Roof Deployment Project that they participated in for the first time in summer 2017. Owens Corning launched the program in 2016 to inspire, activate and match its network of independent Platinum Preferred Contractors with military families around the country to deliver and install a free, new roof.
U.S. Air Force veteran Richard Wirth was last year’s recipient in the Columbus area. Wirth, who is 62, served in the U.S. Air Force from June 1975 to December 1981. After working as a plumber and truck driver, he went on disability four years ago with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Owens Corning contacted Arrow, who happily donated materials and labor to replace Wirth’s 940-square-foot roof, while other Program partners repaired other parts of the house.
The Arrow team plans to do more with Owens Corning in the future but adds that it is especially proud of its company-founded program. In 2014, O’Brien established the Roof Over Your Head program, partnering with a Columbus Christian radio station to donate a roof to a family in need every year. It’s a program in which every employee gets involved.
One year, they installed a new roof and completed some other home renovations for a man and his family. He’d just been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and the family was struggling under medical bills and loss of income. Another year, they helped the family of a wheelchair-bound teenager, whose home had been vandalized. Besides the new siding and exterior repairs, the Arrow team held a fundraiser to give the boy a new wheelchair and the house new garage doors.
While continuing its philanthropic endeavors, O’Brien and his team also have plans to continue expanding Arrow’s presence in both the commercial and residential divisions. In terms of volume, the company is about 50/50 commercial and residential—a unique position in the industry.
Currently, the company employs over 50 people working primarily on the commercial side and partners with a number of subcontractors for residential work. The company’s service area has expanded significantly since the early days when O’Brien took over the company, with work coming in from all over Ohio, Northern Kentucky and West Virginia.
To keep up with demand, Arrow Roofing is in the design phase of a new 10,000-square-foot office and 20,000-square-foot-warehouse.
Arrow Roofing has come a long way since the days when a young salesman with dreams of developing real estate turned his sites to roofing. Given the success of the entire Arrow team over the last eight years, the group expects to continue revitalizing and reforming the roofing industry for many more years to come.