ASHLAND -- If Charles Lacey could see the company he founded, he would be amazed.
Bo Lacey, formerly Bo Lacey Construction, is a full service general contractor serving primarily Richland and Ashland counties. Over the course of three decades, the thriving business has survived a recession, a housing market crash and the tragic death of its founder.
Since taking over operations in 2012, Bo’s son Kevin and his business partner, Jon Qualls, have transformed Bo Lacey from a tiny home business to a bustling company.
The company’s growth has even caught the attention of Roofing Contractor magazine, one of the largest trade publications in the country.
“From Mansfield, to be on the national stage is just really awesome,” said Kevin Lacey, co-owner and vice president of Bo Lacey.
Charles “Bo” Lacey founded Bo Lacey Construction in Greenwich in 1984. At first, he focused primarily on residential contracts, working with a crew of just two or three people. He didn’t need subcontractors.
“He did a lot of the work himself,” Kevin said. “He’s a super smart guy. He’s built a house from the ground up. From digging the footers to plumbing the electrical, the HVAC -- he would do every single part of the process and he was licensed to do those things.”
Lacey remembers his father as a man who built his company on the timeless principles of honesty, hard work and quality. Doing it the right way was the only option, even if it meant losing time or money.
Bo worked hard, only taking off Sundays and the occasional Saturday to watch Lacey play football. As a defensive tackle for the Ashland University football team, Kevin played in stadiums across Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. His father was always in the stands.
Although he spent the summers working on his father’s crew, Lacey didn’t see himself taking over the family business.
“My mom and dad worked real hard to help send me to college. I majored in sociology and criminal justice. I felt that was my calling,” he recalled. “I knew the business and to be honest, I didn’t want anything to do with the business. I saw my dad struggle with it. There’s very competitive, there’s new companies popping up all the time, it can be very price driven.
“If someone gets laid off from the factory and helps their uncle put a roof on, they think they can do roofing professionally."
Lacey went on to work in the criminal justice field after graduation, but returned in 2011 when he and Qualls, whom he’d met at AU, teamed up to launch Bo Lacey’s roofing division. Home renovations had become the prime source of business, as the ripple effect of the 2008 housing crisis squashed demand for new builds.
A year later, Bo passed away from a sudden illness. He was 57.
“My kids were his only grandkids and they were pretty young at the time,” Lacey said. “Just knowing that he’s not going to be around to help raise them, it was pretty tough.”
At the time of Bo’s death, the company had just three employees -- Lacey, Qualls and a third crew member who left soon afterward. It had never been Bo’s ambition to grow the company, so Kevin and Jon were left to build the operation.
“When me and Jon took it over, he had one open project that we had to complete for the company and after that we had to come up with new ways to get new leads,” Lacey recalled. “We started off knocking on people’s doors asking if they wanted work done.”
Eventually, the pair drummed up enough business to hire more employees. Bo Lacey has been growing ever since, though it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
“It started off with just me and Jon’s hard work, just knocking on people’s doors. A lot of times you get the door slammed in your face and you don’t want to go back out. But you gotta do what you gotta do,” Kevin said. “I remember paying our employees and (Jon and I) didn’t take paychecks for months on end just to make it.”
Now the company has grown to approximately 20 full time employees and 10 seasonal employees. Quality and honest work remains the bedrock of the organization, but Qualls and Lacey also prioritize education and training for employees.
“If we were doing today the same thing we were doing in 2013, we’d be out of business,” said Qualls, the company’s president and co-owner. “There’s always a way to do something better. If you’re not constantly improving, you're really taking steps backwards.”
Bo Lacey recently underwent a months-long training with Dave Harrison, a business professor and senior consultant with the Certified Contractors Network. Harrison needed a company to test out his “tune up toolkit,” which will soon be rolled out for organizations across the country through the CCN.
“They just ran with it and they were awesome,” Harrison said. “I’m so proud of that entire team.”
Since the partnership between Harrison and Bo Lacey began last June, the company has doubled their business. Harrison predicted they’ll double it again before the end of the year.
“The results have been incredible,” Harrison added. “Even through this virus, they’re killing it.”
During the training course, Bo Lacey examined its operations from start to finish, revamped its advertising and adopted a more intentional approach to company culture.
“It all starts with culture, having a healthy culture and everybody being on the same team,” Qualls explained. “We don’t punish mistakes, we learn from them. We don’t just tell, we explain the “why.””
Creating go-to policies for every area of the organization was another big shift that’s already paying off.
“Having documented policies and procedures, which we call roadmaps, it helps prevent mistakes that are repeated constantly,” Qualls said. “Everybody knows what to do, there’s not a question or gray area.”
Lacey described the new Bo Lacey as a “mini Fortune 500 company.”
“There’s a ton of stuff that was implemented from production to sales to customer service, it was a little bit of everything,” he said. “It was pretty intense.”
The company changed its look with an updated logo and replaced its black and gold branding with eye-popping red, white and blue.
“We were already, I feel, world class installers. What we weren’t world class at was our advertising,” Lacey said. “My dad ran (the business) out of his house. He was OK keeping the size he was. He always had work, so work was never a problem. He didn’t advertise on anything, he was all word of mouth.”
“He’d be pretty blown away I think. It’s fun to see his name everywhere.”