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Meet Andrew Merrick of Aquatech Raingutters and Soltech Patio Covers in Point Loma

Today we’d like to introduce you to Andrew Merrick.

Andrew, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started my rain gutter career in Nebraska on a whim. I was 20 years old and in between jobs. I found an ad in the newspaper for a gutter installer and it seemed to pay well so I gave it a shot. I eventually moved to San Diego and was able to find a rain gutter job here shortly after I arrived. I worked for a couple outfits here as I grew my knowledge of the trade. As time went by I noticed things I thought I could do better than the places I was working for, mainly customer service related. I finally decided to go for it and took the necessary steps to get my CA contractor’s license in January of 2004. I began Aquatech Raingutters completely solo. I did absolutely everything myself. Within a few months I was I need of some help and hired my first employee. As time went on I slowly created a great reputation and work flow continued to grow. I carefully grew the business being careful to not get too big too fast. One thing that really helped my growth was the introduction of online review site such as Angie’s List. I was the first gutter company with a review and have not looked back.

Today, I remain the highest rated and most reviewed company on Angie’s List. The attention to detail and top-notch customer service is how I have been able to rise to the top of the San Diego gutter industry. Rain gutters is a somewhat seasonal business, so as I grew it became harder to keep the staff busy in the off season. This is when I decided I needed to do something in addition to rain gutters if I wanted this to be a viable year-round business. Through much research and consideration, I decided that aluminum patio shade covers were the perfect fit as the other product to sell. This is when Soltech Patio Covers was born. It turns out that patio cover installation is also somewhat seasonal but the busy time is the rain gutter slow time and vice versa. By 2017 I have expanded my one-man operation into a 16 person thriving business. I oversee all the operations and my wife Robyn helps part time with scheduling and invoicing. We have a full-time receptionist/office assistant and a full-time sales person and 12 installers. This year we will hit record sales with a gross of over 2 million.

Has it been a smooth road?
At first, everything was great. I was making much more money than I ever had and was working less. As I got busier and started hiring people things were great in the busy season, but in the off season I would lose money trying to keep my employees busy when there really wasn’t enough work to keep them around. I never wanted to be an employer than hired on when it was busy and laid off when it was slow. I wanted to prove a safe reliable environment for my guys. I felt I would never keep good guys around if there was always a threat of layoffs when work slowed down. This was my main struggle in growing the business, and why I felt the need to add Soltech to the business model. Soltech has done its job in evening out our work volume through what was previously the “off season”.

The only other major struggle I can recall was the economy crash in the late 2000’s. It definitely affected me, but I was still in a relative infant stage and was able to maintain through the tough times.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Aquatech Raingutters and Soltech Patio Covers story. Tell us more about the business.
We install all types of rain gutters and downspouts as well as Elitewood patio shade structures. We are known for high quality work and reliable service. We also have installed some of the most beautiful, decorative copper rain gutter systems you could imagine. One of our show case houses is a historic house in Coronado called the Baby Del. We installed over $60,000 of custom copper gutter with artistic cast bronze hardware. We also installed period correct copper gutters on the Whaley House in Old Town.

What I am most proud of is having and keeping the best employees in the industry. I have tried hard to offer above average pay and benefits that other companies in my industry don’t offer. I provide health, accident, and life insurance to employees and do everything I can to make sure they are happy working here. I feel as though keeping my employees happy with their job in turn provides my customers with the best quality work and finished product.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
In general, construction is booming. Everyone I know is busy to some extent. I don’t see any major changes to that any time soon. If there is a slow down, I feel confident it won’t be anything like 2008-2010. I am looking to introduce some new designs of gutter into the San Diego market in the next few years. Currently there are only 3-4 shapes of rain gutter that we can provide as a “seamless” product. I have a plan to double if not more than double that number in the next few years. This will set us apart further as we will have more design options than any of our competitors.

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