John Martindale is the CEO of Brothers Services Company, a residential construction firm specializing in home remodeling in the central Maryland area. Voted Best Roofer in Baltimore by Baltimore Magazine, Brothers prides itself on customer satisfaction and industry leadership. Renovation services provided by the company include bathrooms, kitchens, roofing, siding, additions, outdoor living, insulation and more. With corporate headquarters in Hampstead, Brothers runs showrooms in Columbia and Timonium. In addition to his role as CEO, John is also a board member of BBB|Greater Maryland, the Genesee Valley Outdoor Learning Center, and the National Advisory Board at Owens Corning.
Q. How do you feel being nominated for the Entrepreneur Of The Year Award?
JOHN MARTINDALE: I think I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I had a paper route when I was maybe seven years old. I started a lawn care business when I was I think 12 years old. I was pushing the lawn mower with the lower rung of the mower when I was doing it and working up customers in my neighborhood. By the time I was a teenager I was buying my own clothes and bought my own car, and had become really pretty self-sufficient. I’ve always loved the freedom America provides. You can look around and if you can find the need that’s out there and find a way to fill that need in a way that’s better or different than what’s out there, there’s an opportunity for you here in America to make something for yourself.
Q. Who were your early role models?
A. I really had very few role models from an entrepreneurial standpoint. I was the son of a pastor, actually a long line of pastors and ministry people in our family, and so they were actually sort of against entrepreneurial stuff. But it just was how I was made from the very beginning—I just always had a bent that way. So I read a lot, I got various books from Steve Covey stuff to Jim Collins to all sorts of books.
Q. Have you continued to educate yourself as an entrepreneur these days?
A. About ten years ago now I decided I wanted to go back to school. I had grown the business as far as I thought I could grow it given my current skill sets and so I decided to go back to Loyola and get my MBA there. In the process I discovered a whole new world of analytics and an ability to study and develop business from a systematic and intentional strategic way. Before I had been doing things much more instinctively I guess.
Q. How did that experience change how you approached Brothers?
A. When I went to Loyola it was a turning point for us I think. Before that it was just my instincts and we just tried to serve people well, but I did learn—and it was a pivot point in the time of our company history—how to become more of a real business built to last. We started putting in structure and systems and strategies and tactics that were, I believe, best of class. It’s been rewarded with growth and profitability and being able to sustain ourselves through one of the worst recessions our country has faced. It was a process of constantly being willing to reevaluate your strategy, reevaluate your cost structure, working with attention of being fiercely loyal to our employees. I didn’t want to be that guy that just dumped people because I could save a few dollars. So we were constantly fighting the tension of being as efficient as we possibly can, being as loyal as we possibly can, but building ourselves to last and making sure we were going to be there for the long haul. We changed our strategy at times. We tried to realize, “Where’s the segment of the market that’s hottest right now?” And we would focus there. We expanded our product line to give us more flexibility to move with where the market would go.
In any economy, what we do, there’s hundreds of thousands of homes in this area and they need the services that we provide. So, in any economy, if we’re flexible we can shift ourselves to that. During the recession a lot more repair work was done. People didn’t do the large-scale projects as much, but they still wanted to be protected from Mother Nature. Their roofs had to still be taken care of, their gutters had to work, and the things that broke had to be fixed. I would say during the recession we focused a lot more on repairs and things of that nature whereas now it has shifted much more to a replacement cycle and an improvement cycle.