Jeff Beck has led Leaf Home to a doubling of growth in two years by emphasizing in-house product development, IT, sales, marketing and service at the same time that the company has continued to rely entirely on contract manufacturing of the gutters, water-filtration systems, windows, shower floors and other home-maintenance and -safety equipment that consumers have sucked up during the pandemic and beyond.
Now the company based in Hudson, Ohio, is looking at adding significantly to its growth this year as Americans continue to tend to their homes coming out of Covid. Leaf is looking at revenues of about $1.1 billion this year, up from $580 million in 2019, Beck said, and the white spaces he’s seizing in the company’s businesses promise much more expansion ahead.
Besides maintaining internal control of crucial functions and organizational levers, building in repeatability has been key for Leaf as the company already has opened 30 new local offices around the United States in 2021. Beck plans to open a total of 60 offices nationwide this year.
“This hasn’t just been top-line growth,” Beck told Chief Executive. “In our expansion we have paid attention to everything. We hold ourselves accountable across the organization. It boils down to a team that we put together, including an office-opening team. We have a repeatable playbook. All the furniture is even set up the same way in each office.”
For decades, Leaf has been known as a maker and installer of the shields that keep annoying leaves from inundating and clogging home and commercial gutter systems. “It was one office, selling and installing LeafFilter[-brand products], with a very efficient, small team focusing on northeast Ohio and then expanding geographically from there,” Beck said. Founder Matt Kaulig purchased the manufacturing rights and began teaching handymen how to sell, install and service the gutter guards.
Beck was managing partner at business-consulting firm Avvenire Solutions and a consultant at DeCarlo, Paternite and Associates, where he worked to provide technology-focused solutions to companies. He joined Leaf in 2014 as director of technology and began reorganizing and bolstering the company’s internal business operations with the idea of scaling up Leaf Home. He became president three years ago, and president and CEO in 2019.
Beck focused, for example, on building an in-house digital marketing team, developing a metric-driven, omnichannel marketing strategy and a custom ERP application that has optimized Leaf’s national brand recognition and expanded its customer base. Throughout, he has focused on making Leaf’s systems proprietary and scalable.
“We could have outsourced ERP, for example, and gone with Salesforce off the shelf,” Beck said. “But we need to do it ourselves to be as agile as we are.”
Take product development, for instance. LeafFilter essentially sold a single product. Under the direction of Mike Gori, who joined the company a few years ago, Beck has built a robust R&D and product-development function that has continued to produce business-expansion candidates for the company, starting with a modular product that finally allows the company to attack markets in California and elsewhere in the western United States, where gutter systems tend to be different than eastward. Leaf also has developed systems for copper gutters and “half-round” gutters that are prominent in the Northeast.
Gori has equipped the company’s innovation team with technology such as a $150,000 “rain machine” that generates hurricane-force “rains” and “wind,” which has helped Leaf Home continue to perfect its original LeafFilter gutters.
More recently, Leaf Home has tacked toward other home-maintenance and -safety products including stairlifts and walk-in tubs, as well as going further afield into cabinet refacing and even water-softening systems.
“We have forward-thinking people,” Beck said. “That’s why we build our own product-development team.” The company has “tried to keep the new verticals to those that require only a one-day installation process – we don’t want to bleed into remodeling, or vinyl flooring or painting.”
Yet for all of this increasing number of products, Beck has maintained contract-manufacturing relationships. “Now we’ve got 13 manufacturers around the United States,” he said. “We’re spreading the risk. Different manufacturers come into play. We continue to diversify our manufacturing base. We own the tooling and manufacturing rights and the IP for everything.”