Business View Caribbean interviews Costelloe, CEO of Lifetime Solutions, as part of Best practices in Arima, Trinidad and Tobago Business.
Lifetime Solutions uses innovation and technology to stay on leading edge
The company now known as Lifetime Solutions got its start as Lifetime Roofing Ltd. in 1985 and opened for business as a manufacturer and installer of products for both steep-slope and flat-roof applications. Subsequent expansion took place to provide downstream roofing-related items pertaining to related functions like guttering, insulation, soffits and steel fabrication.
The acquisition of Trinidad Asphalt & Metal Roofing Ltd. in 2012 meant the addition of a flat-roof waterproofing portfolio with more than 30 years of domestic and regional project work, which prompted leadership to rebrand the combined entity as Lifetime Solutions as a better reflection of its burgeoning prowess in both metal roofing and flat-roof waterproofing.
“The roofing industry was fairly young and the founders saw an opportunity to provide a quality service,” said Deborah Costelloe, who’s now the company’s chief executive officer. “We really started as a service company, where we purchased already-formed roofing material, spooled it and installed it for our clients. That went on for a while until we decided to look into manufacturing operations.
“Most companies start off in a very small manner, and as the opportunities arrive they grow.”
That growth has resulted in a full-time workforce of about 150, alongside a roster of 100 subcontractors used on a recurring basis. The company’s initial facility housed sales and manufacturing operations in Arima – the fourth-largest metropolitan area in Trinidad – before a new one was established in Port of Spain, the capital city of the twin-island nation of Trinidad & Tobago.
Another branching-out resulted in an office in San Fernando and was followed by another location in Caroni, which is about 12 miles east of Port of Spain and 25 miles north of San Fernando.
The company also has an office presence on Tobago, and it has done work on projects as far north as the island of Puerto Rico and as far south as the South American coastal nation of Suriname.
“Our forays into the Caribbean islands are really based on a project-by-project basis,” Costelloe said. “Recently, we’ve done work in Guyana on a fairly consistent basis, but really it’s more project by project. Off-island business is really spread out evenly. A couple years ago, we set up an office in Puerto Rico and we ran that for a year-and-a-half, but eventually sold it.”
Metal roofing and the appropriate accessories for those projects are the mainstay of the business from day to day, Costelloe said, including insulation, rain-water discharge systems and external sealants. A proprietary line of windows and doors is also available, she said.
Roughly 70 percent of the corporate revenue comes in from commercial projects, with the remaining as residential. The numerical quantity of projects is split closer to 50/50 because commercial projects are often-times much larger in scope. The company was much more residentially based in the early years, but was able to add commercial work as it added credibility and experience in the industry.
“Competition is very fierce in the industry right now,” she said.
“There are probably about 15 main competitors and maybe another five to 10 minor competitors with similar capabilities. Lifetime has set itself apart with the service and the quality of our products, in addition to the range of products as well.”
Challenges also exist in the market as a whole, where Costelloe said accessing a skilled workforce is a major issue to deal with, as is the reality that all the company’s major suppliers are overseas, which creates additional necessities that operations in less-remote locations aren’t forced to handle.
“We are required to hold large inventories of stock,” she said. “In the U.K. or the U.S., roofing companies would not have to do that because they have access very quickly to a lot of suppliers. They wouldn’t have to typically hold the stock themselves. A roofing company here in Trinidad & Tobago needs to be able to carry large volumes of stock.”
The company’s perpetual quest for in-house improvement has prompted creation of a training program whose aim is to keep the workforce up to speed on all aspects of the business, which in turn will help influence its standing in the roofing market. Better and more efficient manufacturing is also an ongoing goal, and has resulted in frequent upgrades to equipment and machinery.
A recent investment was made to purchase an upgraded lightweight insulating concrete machine to replace an older version, and Costelloe said plans are in the works that may clear the way for an expansion to the 100,000 square feet of manufacturing the company now possesses.
“A new plant and new equipment are always on the horizon,” she said. “Those are some of the things we plan to do to maintain our position in the market.”
Though Costelloe initially suggested she hopes to fishing in five years while the next generation is running the operation from day to day, she did concede that keeping tabs on the manufacturing capabilities – and potentially adding to the already vast array of products – is high on the priority list.
In fact, given that Lifetime is operating in such a competitive space, it’s as much a requirement for survival as a goal for the future.
“Our capacity is No. 1, but we still have a lot of room to grow,” she said. “There are an infinite number of products that we can manufacture that would complement our lines, and that’s what we intend to do, grow the manufacturing end.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Lifetime Solutions
WHAT: Specialty manufacturer and contractor of roofing and waterproofing products for the exterior envelope of commercial and residential buildings, with services including cladding, windows and doors, insulation, guttering, skylights and soffits
WHERE: Headquarters in Arima, Trinidad and Tobago