Ken Parsons and his brother Ryan Parsons are looking ahead. While the thirty-something co-owners of “The Brothers that just do Gutters” business in LaGrange enjoy installing gutters, neither wants to be doing it 30 years from now.
In business? Absolutely. Outside installing gutters themselves? Not so much.
“There’s a lot of people in this business, and in many businesses, that they hit their 60s and if they don’t go to work, they don’t get paid,” Ryan Parsons said. “We didn’t want to go down that path, even though you can make more money if you do it yourself. We really wanted to have a company and something that we could build that had employees.”
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that construction was one of the largest industries in the nation in 2008, including 7.2 million wage and salary jobs and 1.8 million self-employed and unpaid family workers. Of the total, about 64 percent of wage and salary jobs were in the specialty trade contractors sector.
Older brother Ken Parsons started his gutter company in 1999 after having helped a friend install gutters the previous summer. Parsons, who had been working as a middle-grade history teacher, liked teaching kids, but not being confined to a classroom or tied to a repetitive schedule. Surprisingly, he found that gutter work appealed to him.
“You’re out and about meeting different people, doing different houses and different jobs each and every day,” Ken Parsons said of gutter work. “It just mixed it up a lot for me, which I think was good for my type of personality.”
And so the 24-year-old left his teaching job to start his own gutter business. He bought equipment, tools and a truck he had detailed with his phone number. Then he took out an ad in the Yellow Pages and, before long, pinned his schedule to a corkboard, and labeled a shoebox with paid accounts on one side and unpaid ones on the other. Waterfall Seamless Gutters was in business.
Clients called and Parsons worked. He looked for help, asking his brother, Ryan, to join him. But Ryan Parsons, who had studied graphic design in college, was working with a start-up graphic design/Internet design company in Kingston. Then the company folded, and 22-year-old Ryan Parsons was out of work.
“I said, all right, I’ll work on the (gutter) truck till I find a job,” Ryan Parsons said.
Turns out he already had.
“I didn’t realize how much I loved business,” Ryan Parsons said.
He computerized the company’s accounts, created job forms, set up a website and designed business cards. The brothers split the workload, with Ken Parsons installing gutters with a crew and Ryan Parsons doing sales and administrative work. They also sought advice from a business consultant, but suffered losses under the consultant’s lead.
They turned to others in the know. One of them was Brian Altmann, president of Dutchess Building Specialists of Poughkeepsie.
“Their philosophy is very similar to mine,” said Altmann, who has been in business for 25 years. “We’re never quite satisfied and we’re always looking to try to do things better.”
During their meetings, Altmann and the Parsonses share things that have and haven’t worked for both companies.
“They’re beyond their years in terms of where their experience and where they are with their company,” Altmann said. “That’s impressive to me.”
The brothers now have enough crew men for both of them to focus on running the business. They changed the company name to “The Brothers that just do Gutters” — their previous tagline and one, they found, the public most identified with. After becoming a partial owner, Ryan Parsons became a full co-owner with his brother.
Now, too, they’re branching out with franchise locations, and to date have two “adopted brothers” heading up sites in New Jersey and Virginia.
“We’re tying to do something awesome,” Ryan Parsons said.