Entrepreneur Magazine – These Entrepreneurs Succeeded — But Only After Failing Once Before

… For Mark Carpenter, the hard-fought lesson of his first venture was that undercutting the competition on price isn’t necessarily a winning long-term business strategy. He bought Whatco Roofing and Sheet entreneur-magMetal in Tualatin, Ore., back in 1981 to cater to commercial builders who needed roofing. No repairs, no custom work, no residential jobs — easy, he thought. “But it was all contractors looking for the cheapest possible bid,” Carpenter says. And lowball bids meant he couldn’t give customers his best work, which also meant most didn’t hire him a second time. Five years in and $300,000 in debt, Carpenter liquidated the company and took a day job.

We have customers who have been with us for 20 years and continue to hire us.”
— Mark Carpenter,Columbia Roofing

In 1996, Carpenter decided to try owning a business again, launching Columbia Roofing & Sheet Metal. This time, instead of focusing on new construction, he offered repairs, reroofing, sheet metal work, seismic retrofitting and other custom services to commercial building owners. All the while, he stuck to his pricing, refusing to play the lowball game.

“There are people who shop at Nordstrom for its quality and service, and people who shop at Walmart for its prices,” Carpenter says. By earning the trust of the Nordie’s crowd, he’s built a $10 million company with customers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California. “We have customers that have been with us for 20 years and continue to hire us.”…