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MADSKY Contractor Story: Debra Finch, CEO of First Construction

Debra Finch, CEO and Co-Founder of First Construction

Debra Finch, CEO and Co-Founder of First Construction

“I think the key to success is hard work, being knowledgeable and having knowledgeable key personnel”

I’m the CEO of First Construction. My husband Caleb and I run it together.

I grew up in a very small town in northwest Oklahoma. I went to college at Oklahoma State University and graduated with a degree in business and marketing. I moved to Edmond, got a job, and pretty much lived here the rest of my life. When Caleb and I got married about 18 years ago, we combined our two families and had four kids under the age of seven. Our boys are four months apart and they were in diapers when we got together, so it’s been very much like having twins.

I’ve been a marketing executive most of my career. I still do some marketing consulting, but I joined forces with Caleb and started working in construction as well. He’s the expert when it comes to construction. 

Prior to our current business, Caleb was a partner in another company, but ultimately, he had to leave it. So, we went out on our own in 2014 and started First Construction.

Every self-employment journey is full of challenges

I’m the CEO, marketing person, secretary and janitor depending on how busy we are, the time of year, and the number of office staff we have. I do pretty much everything except to actually get on the roof. I can do full estimates, insurance estimates, cash estimates, cost analysis — I do all of our actuals coming back in to verify if a job made money. I handle every bit of red tape and bureaucracy involving licensing and insurance.

Every self-employment journey is full of challenges. So many people don’t understand that there’s more to running a business than just the work. If it’s a roofing business, for example, just because you know how to do roofing doesn’t mean that you are qualified to run a business. There’s so much more involved in it.

Debra and Caleb Finch, Founders of First Construction

While the “vultures” are knocking on doors trying to get business, we are building a roof

When we’ve had a small storm come through Edmond (Oklahoma) last year, there were a lot of roofers out there just waiting for that business. So it’s always challenging to prospect and get business. What MADSKY has really allowed us to do is to not be in that position. We really try to stay within the timelines that are in the contract. We may go and do an inspection on one day and get paperwork the next day, and then do the roof the following day. So while the “vultures” are out knocking on doors and trying to get business and compete against one another, we’re building a roof in that neighborhood. And that gives us a certain amount of credibility where neighbors come to us. It’s easier for us to get our foot in the door because they know we’re legitimate — because we’ve already built a roof in their neighborhood.

It gives us that advantage, and it also allows us to manage our cashflow. When we’re dealing with mortgages, the wait time to get paid can be very long. We have waited six weeks for forty thousand dollars from Bank of Oklahoma, for example. Managing money in this industry has become a full time job for everyone. I don’t know one owner who isn’t doing it, or a sales guy that isn’t doing it. Being able to bypass the mortgage company, the depreciation checks, and having MADSKY pay for materials helps us manage cashflow so much that it’s become a really vital part of our business, especially as we launch a new storm season.

First Construction team

The Finch family and First Construction team

A smart roofing company

I think the key to success is hard work, being knowledgeable and having knowledgeable key personnel. We like to think that we’re a smart roofing company. We can help people through their claims, and we work hard. We try to keep all of our staff together. We are not perfect and sometimes things do fall through the cracks. But, having that expertise, not just the construction expertise, but paperwork expertise, the estimating expertise, the expertise in dealing with insurance companies and mortgage companies, that is critical.