Echols Home Improvements is a fixture in the Atlanta roofing and exterior home renovation scene—in fact, the company’s name probably rings a bell if you’ve ever considered new windows, siding, or a roof for your metro-Atlanta home.

Home improvement is a competitive industry, and remaining successful takes a lot of work. So, how does Echols do it? To find out, I talked to company president Mark Ashe about how Echols Home Improvements got its start and what makes it one of Atlanta’s leading exterior home improvement firms.

Keep reading for the story behind the company (and stick around to the end for Mark’s advice on hiring a home improvement contractor)!

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Echols’ Beginnings

Mark’s stepfather, Frank Echols, started the company in 1960. Echols’ first focus was on roofing, but the company soon expanded to include almost every aspect of a home’s exterior, including window and siding replacement.

“When we started the business, we started with an answering machine in our home,” Mark says. “I was the ladder hoist, and my job was to carry the shingles up.”

The business has grown significantly since those days, and Mark now runs the company with his business partner Armando Cartaya, who handles all of the window and siding crews; Mona, Echols’ office manager; and several team leaders.

Attracting Talent

man installing roofTo a certain extent, a business is only as good as its people, and Mark takes a lot of pride in recruiting—and keeping on staff—the best tradespeople in the industry. The first thing he looks for in a prospective hire is character. “Everyone who runs a business knows that an indispensable quality is the ability to discern the character of who you are hiring. You can teach skill, but you can’t teach character,” Mark notes.

“When you find character, you also need to be able to read their skills. I look for people who impress me when I see them working and when I talk to them.” With many of the skilled trades seeing rapid decline in new members, Mark knows the importance of identifying talent when he sees it.

“When you find good people, you grapple them to you,” Mark says, adding that several of his key employees have been with the company for many years. “We have great relationships [here at Echols].”

Mark also acknowledges the importance of making sure that his employees know they’re valued. Working in a trade such as roofing, siding, or window replacement is tough, physical work, and the hot, humid Georgia summers don’t make things any easier.

“You can’t look at people like numbers, and you can’t judge them that way. [My employees] deserve to be respected and considered. And if you don’t do that, then customers aren’t going to be happy, because you’ll never get that far,” Mark says.

Earning a Top Spot in Atlanta’s Exterior Home Improvement Industry

man installing sidingThere’s no shortage of roofers (or siding installers, or painters, or window installers—you get the idea) in Atlanta, and in a booming metro area with a housing market growing at breakneck speed, the competition is tough. But Mark is OK with that.

“The best thing about the home improvement industry [is that] you can’t outsource it. If you want something done on your home in Atlanta, you have to hire [my company] or somebody like us, and that will never change,” he explains.

But with a crowded marketplace that gives homeowners plenty of options, it’s easy for homeowners to make the wrong choice. “Anybody telling you about their company will tell you how ethical they are and how good they are,” Mark says. “But you don’t find out how good [a company] is until something goes wrong.”

Mark’s philosophy for how he approaches customer service and running a business came not only from his personal ethics, but also from a family trip to Disney World. When Mark’s daughter got sick and needed medical attention in the park, park employees went above and beyond, arranging for the family’s transportation to a doctor and back to the park.

“I made up my mind that from that day forward, that would be my standard for how I ran my business: We’d do whatever needed to be done.”

A home improvement project that goes off without a single hitch is rare, so how the contractor responds to any unforeseen issues is often the difference between a business you’d want to work with and one you should probably avoid.

“When something goes wrong, [we do] whatever needs to be done—what would wow me if I was in [the homeowner’s] position. That’s always how I look at it,” Mark says.

That approach to business and customer service is what has made Echols stand out among the many roof replacement and home exterior contractors in Atlanta.

Home Improvement Advice from a Pro

attractive suburban homeHaving work done on your house can be thrilling—it’s fun to make improvements that you know will boost the value of your most significant investment—but it’s also a little (and sometimes a lot) nerve-wracking. You’re probably putting up quite a bit of money for the work to be done, and you want everything to go smoothly and end in a result that you love.

Totally normal! But the key to your vision being realized is the quality of the contractor you hire. Crossing your fingers and hoping things will go well just won’t cut it.

Here are Mark’s top tips for hiring the right company:

1. Do your research.

“Know something about the company that you’re hiring. [Get information] from a third party: a neighbor who used them, or a relative who used them,” Mark recommends. “I caution people about doing business with people who knock on their doors. A lot of those people are not even from the state.”

2. Try to meet a few people in the company.

“It’s easy to make promises, but the company will be in the image of its owner. There are some unknowns in anything, but if [the owner] has a long history of ethics and fidelity, that means that any problems will be handled by an ethical person saying, ‘How can we make this right,’” Mark says.

Ask the company for a list of references you can call and look for reviews of the company online, but don’t ignore your intuition. If you get a bad feeling after talking to anyone from the company, it’s probably best to keep looking.

The Bottom Line

If you’re in the metro-Atlanta area and want to update your home’s exterior, you can’t go wrong with Echols Home Improvements. And if you’re not in the Atlanta area, keep these takeaways in mind as you search for a contractor:

  • Always look for third-party reviews and recommendations. Canvas your neighbors, friends, and family members, and seek out objective consumer research sources.
  • Listen to your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, move on.
  • Look for both integrity and skill. One without the other won’t give you the results you’re looking for.

Echols Home Improvements is a Best Pick in Atlanta. While we strive to publish relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.