After a couple years of studying business at HACC, Ryan Hoke quit in 2012 and started The Exterior Company Inc.
This year, the West Hempfield Township roofing company landed on the Inc. 5000, a list of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the United States.
“I was curious to see if we would make the list,” Hoke said. “I was actually pretty surprised when it came back I made the Inc. 500, ranked 168 out of 5,000.”
It was also the highest-ranking company from Lancaster County and the fifth fastest-growing construction firm in the nation.
The list is calculated by comparing revenue over a three-year span; his company clocked in with growth of more than 2,100 percent, hitting $8.3 million in revenue in 2015.
The 29-year-old Hempfield High School graduate said there’s no exciting story behind that growth, just hard work and a great team.
“I work with a lot of my friends, family members; my mom answers the phones,” he said.
He grew up around construction and started working in roofing around 2008, he said; from its start, he focused on running The Exterior Company as a business with the long view in mind, angling for referrals.
Along the way, he said, they earned the right to put manufacturer guarantees on their roofs — an honor offered to only a fraction of contractors. They now emphasize that to prospective customers.
As the company grew and his role became more administrative, Hoke said he turned more attention to getting the right structure and incentives — such as trucks or trips for high achievers — to encourage excellence.
He also bought a small plane, which he is licensed to fly. In addition to being fun, he said, it shortens the trip to his company’s Massachusetts office from about seven hours to under two.
From the beginning when it was just him, the staff has grown to about 75 people, about a third of them managers and office workers and the rest laborers.
In addition to the Lancaster headquarters and a Massachusetts office, there is an office in Virginia.
“We focus around big cities,” Hoke said, explaining that those tend to be good bases from which to expand.
The crews work in every East Coast state from Virginia to Maine, doing about 70 percent residential projects and 30 percent commercial, with some siding, window and gutter work thrown in, Hoke said.
In the next four years, he expects they will probably be working all the way down to Florida.
Having severe winters the last few years has slowed work a bit over that season, he said, but it has also increased the demand for their services.
“In Massachusetts they had a lot of snow last year,” he said. “During our typical summer season, we’re getting a lot of insurance claims saying ‘Hey, can you fix this roof because of all the ice dam problems we had over the wintertime?’”
Seven other Lancaster-area companies made this year’s list, up from a total of six last year.
Tom Baldrige, president and CEO of The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said that national recognition is good news for the local economy as well as the companies themselves.
“Any indication that we can have a as community that there are a host of successful businesses in Lancaster County and the more recognition those businesses can get, the better off we will be,” he said.
Those other companies are marketing platform Listrak Ltd. at 1,728; marketing firm Mail Shark at 2,160; decor and gift wholesaler Primitives by Kathy Inc. at 3,200; security provider Select Security at 3,723; digital strategy company Williams Forrest at 3,888; website development firm EZSolution at 4,040; and manufacturer CounterTek at 4,092.