Our Company Story or How we got here
When David and Darian Bobby interview for new positions at their company, they often start out by asking the candidate: “How did you get here?” They ask this question not to find out what route the candidate arrived by, but rather to learn the happenstance of how the candidate came to be seeking new employment. For the Bobbys, a father – son duo, it has always been fascinating to learn the personal story behind a potential new recruit and why they are looking for a new direction.
How David and Darian “got here” is also an unusual and unexpected journey which many people find genuinely interesting and somewhat compelling. Perhaps you will as well.
Back in the late 1980’s, David Bobby found himself estranged from the corporate world.
The perfect storm for him was the combination of yet another tough Michigan economy, management’s need to replace higher compensated employees with entry level and his propensity to bristle under the direction of others. He had come – at long last – to realize that he needed to be in business for himself. In 1989, David became a licensed builder and started a handyman business (The House Doctor) and soon realized that he would always have plenty of work. He also found that he would be forever constrained by the hours in the day – as to what he could accomplish and earn as a sole proprietor. Yet, he was happy.
One of the services David offered as a handyman was window cleaning. It was one of the few aspects of “house doctoring” that he neither liked nor was good at. That’s why he was happy to hand off a couple of ladders and a squeegee to his then 16 year old only son Darian, who did like washing windows and was good at it too! Darian started his new business (The Window Doctor) in the summer of 1992. Would you believe that in a few years, by “word of mouth” alone, Darian had amassed a solid customer base of over 1000 regular customers? These customers were extremely loyal and would call every spring to have their windows cleaned by one of his uniformed crews composed of high school and college students.
During their window washings, homeowners would often ask Darian and his workers if they would mind – since they were already up there on the ladder anyway – cleaning out the gutters. Darian found that he didn’t like cleaning people’s gutters any more than they did! It was a dirty job and he had a few close calls walking on the roofs cleaning gutters. As a result, Darian began installing aluminum screens for his customers – so he wouldn’t have to clean their gutters. He soon realized that screens were ineffective and would never be a long term solution.
Intuitively, Darian knew there had to be a better answer to gutter protection than screens, so he began searching the internet. He was able to make contact with different gutter protection companies and interviewed with several District managers. Gutter Helmet was impressed with Darian and his fledgling small business – and Darian was equally impressed with Gutter Helmet. As a mechanical engineering student, he had quickly discerned the design superiority of Gutter Helmet and the multiple patents protecting its imitation. Darian was offered and accepted the franchise for Livingston County in 1999, just three months after graduating from Michigan State University. He was now the youngest authorized Gutter Helmet dealer in the Nation, at 23.
His father David watched from the sidelines and was quite sure that people would not spend money to keep their gutters clean and believed Darian’s venture would not go very far. As weeks sped by – Darian would return home, still living with his parents – after another evening’s sales appointment – with yet another sale. He would simply look at his dad and say, “sold another one.” Darian soon became overwhelmed, constrained by the hours in the day – just as his father had been with his business – and was unable to handle all the selling and the installations by himself. He decided to ask his father to throw in with him as his partner. Imagine that – most people think that David brought Darian into the business, when in fact it was the other way around! It turned out they became a great team who complimented each other’s skill sets. Gutter Helmet Corporate was impressed with their initial efforts and soon offered them the Washtenaw County franchise.
By 2003, David and Darian were honored at the National Gutter Helmet Convention in Florida. They were named as the “Top Performing” Gutter Helmet dealer in the nation. They had sold and installed more Gutter Helmet per household than any of the other 250 authorized dealers. In the spring of 2006, the Bobbys were awarded the dealership rights to Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne County and are now one of the largest Gutter Helmet dealerships in the United States.
From early on in their business, satisfied customers would continually ask David and Darian if they could recommend contractors to perform other home improvement projects. As you can imagine, recommending other companies would sometimes backfire. Customers would hold them and their recommendation responsible when their expectations did not match performance. David and Darian soon learned that to properly serve their growing customer base they had to offer more than just gutter protection. The Bobbys believe that one of the company’s greatest strengths is the talented people they have brought on board over the years. This has allowed them to offer additional products and services and have total control. They could now confidently recommend the right company to help their customers – their own!
For the Bobbys, this included getting into the guttering business. They have now become one of the largest gutter companies in Southeast Michigan. They are proud to offer both the exclusive Titan straight-face gutter profile as well as the traditional 5” & 6” K-style gutter. They also offer the state-of-the-art SnapLock gutter attachment method, whereby the back of the gutter is not punctured with a screw, nail or spike. All the company’s gutter installations are custom fabricated on-site and they avoid the typical “quick and cheap” methods used in the building industry. Next, they brought on Helmet Heat cable because some of their customer’s were experiencing ice damming caused by heat escaping into the attic.
As David and Darian’s business continued to grow in size and reputation, there was just one problem. The business was too seasonal and they were having trouble keeping their best employees busy during the slow season. After all, there is only so much exterior work that can be done during a Michigan winter. For this reason, the Bobbys set off to find another product they could install year-round. After researching several products, they found what they were looking for: Bathwraps. A Bathwrap is a premium acrylic wall system that can be installed over existing tile walls in about a day. Some of the higher end Centrelle panels even mimic natural marble, granite and travertine stone but without the maintenance. They can also install custom acrylic tubs and shower pans that fit almost every space. They are now the authorized franchise for all of SE Michigan and the bathroom business has been booming – and not just in the winter. It seems almost everybody has an old bath they want to update in half the time of traditional remodeling.
The Bobbys have continued to expand into the bathroom business and now install complete bathroom remodeling services. Most recently they have begun to serve the needs of our Seniors and became Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS). Due to the dangers of using a traditional bathtub for older homeowners or anyone recovering from an injury, the company began to specialize in walk-in safety bathtubs with a door. This revolutionary product allows the user to safely take a bath in the comfort of their home without the risk of falling. They are now the authorized Jacuzzi Walk-In Tub dealer for the entire state of Michigan. Due to the success of their Walk-In Tub business, The Bobbys have continued to expand their Senior Products division to also include Jacuzzi Hydrotherapy Showers and EasyClimber stair lifts. The entire staff at Atlas is proud to offer home improvement products geared specifically for Seniors so they can stay in their homes – and believe we actually Save Lives!
In the beginning – it was just the two of them. The Bobbys used to install during the day, change their clothes in the work truck and run leads in the evenings. After returning home late, they would empty out the truck and load up for the next day – so they could do it all again! Now they are fortunate to have a full staff of quality people and have become a multi-million dollar company with over 16,000 satisfied customers in Southeast Michigan. The company’s continued growth has brought many new challenges and opportunities and after all they’ve gone through, David and Darian are still best friends. This is how they got here. Hope you enjoyed their story!