When David and Darian Bobby interview for new positions at their company, they often start out by asking the candidate: “How did you get here?” They ask this question not to find out what route the candidate arrived by, but rather to learn the happenstance of how the candidate came to be seeking new employment. For the Bobby’s, a father – son duo, it has always been fascinating to learn the personal story behind a potential new recruit and why they are looking for a new direction.
How David and Darian “got here” is also an unusual and unexpected journey which many people find genuinely interesting and somewhat compelling. Perhaps you will as well.
Back in the late 1980’s, David Bobby found himself estranged from the corporate world.
The perfect storm for him was the combination of yet another tough Michigan economy, management’s need to replace higher compensated employees with entry level and his propensity to bristle under the direction of others. He had come – at long last – to realize that he needed to be in business for himself.
In 1989, David became a Licensed Builder and started a handyman business (The House Doctor) and soon realized that he would always have plenty of work. He also found that he would be forever constrained by the hours in the day – as to what he could accomplish and earn as a sole proprietor. Yet, he was happy.
One of the services David offered as a handyman was window cleaning. It was one of the few aspects of “house doctoring” that he neither liked nor was good at. That’s why he was happy to hand off a couple of ladders and a squeegee to his then 16 year old only son Darian, who did like washing windows and was good at it too! Darian started his new business (The Window Doctor) in the summer of 1992. Would you believe that in a few years, by “word of mouth” alone, Darian had amassed a solid customer base of over 1000 regular customers? These customers were extremely loyal and would call every spring to have their windows cleaned by one of his uniformed crews composed of high school and college students.
During their window washings, homeowners would often ask Darian and his workers if they wouldn’t mind – since they were already up there on the ladder anyway – to clean out their gutters. Darian found that he didn’t like cleaning people’s gutters any more than they did! It was a dirty job and he had a few close calls walking on the roofs cleaning gutters. As a result, Darian began installing aluminum screens for his customers – so he wouldn’t have to clean their gutters. He soon realized that screens were ineffective and would never be a long term solution.
Intuitively, Darian knew there had to be a better answer to gutter protection than screens, so he began searching the internet. He was able to make contact with different gutter protection companies and interviewed with several District Managers. Gutter Helmet was impressed with Darian and his fledgling small business – and Darian was equally impressed with Gutter Helmet. As a Mechanical Engineering student, he had quickly discerned the design superiority of Gutter Helmet and the multiple patents protecting its imitation. Darian was offered and accepted the franchise for Livingston County in 1999, just three months after graduating from Michigan State University. He was now the youngest authorized Gutter Helmet Dealer in the Nation, at 23.
His father David continued working as the House Doctor and watched as Darian would return Home each evening – still living with his parents – after another evening’s sales appointment with yet another Gutter Helmet sale. He would simply look at his Dad and say, “sold another one.” Darian soon became overwhelmed, constrained by the hours in the day – just as his father had been with his business. It made sense for them to join forces and they officially named the company “Atlas”. It turned out they became a great team who complimented each other’s skill sets. Gutter Helmet Corporate was impressed with their initial efforts and soon offered them the Washtenaw County franchise.
By 2003, David and Darian were honored at the National Gutter Helmet Convention in Florida and they were named as the “Top Performing” Gutter Helmet Dealer in the nation. They had sold and installed more Gutter Helmet per household than any of the other 250 Authorized Dealers. In the spring of 2006, the Bobby’s were awarded the Franchise rights to Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne County and are now one of the largest Gutter Helmet Dealerships in the United States.
From early on in their business, satisfied customers would continually ask David and Darian if they could recommend contractors to perform other home improvement projects. As you can imagine, recommending other companies would sometimes backfire. Customers would hold them and their recommendation responsible when their expectations did not match performance. David and Darian soon learned that to properly serve their growing customer base they had to offer more than just gutter protection. The Bobby’s believe that one of the company’s greatest strengths is the talented people they have brought on board over the years. This has allowed them to offer additional products and services and have total control. They could now confidently recommend the right company to help their customers – their own!
For the Bobby’s, this included getting into the guttering business. They have now become one of the largest gutter companies in Southeast Michigan. They are proud to offer both the exclusive Titan straight-face gutter profile as well as the traditional K-style gutters. They also offer the state-of-the-art SnapLock gutter attachment method, whereby the back of the gutter is not punctured with a screw, nail or spike. All the company’s gutter installations are custom fabricated on-site and they avoid the typical “quick and cheap” methods used in the building industry.
As David and Darian’s business continued to grow in size and reputation, there was just one problem. The business was too seasonal and they were having trouble keeping their best employees busy during the slow season. After all, there is only so much exterior work that can be done during a Michigan winter. For this reason, the Bobby’s set off to find another product they could install year-round. After researching several products, they found what they were looking for – BathWraps! A BathWrap is a premium acrylic wall system that can be installed over existing walls in about a day. Some wall panels look identical to natural marble, granite and travertine stone but without the maintenance or expense. They can also install custom acrylic tubs and shower pans that fit almost every space. Atlas is now the Authorized Franchise for all of SE Michigan and the bathroom business has been booming – and not just in the winter. It seems almost everybody has an old bath they want to update in half the time of traditional remodeling.
The Bobby’s have continued to expand into the bathroom business and now install complete bathroom remodeling. They have found that most homeowners want to improve the looks and usability of their entire bathroom. It may be the smallest room in the house but gets the most use proportionately! Homeowners often will take their pick of the following improvement offerings: flooring, wainscoting, toilets, paint, lighting, plumbing fixtures, cabinets and countertops.
It was about this time that David and Darian became CAPS certified becoming more aware of the huge underserved group of people, who due to mobility issues or age, experience real danger and fear in the process of bathing or showering. CAPS stands for “Certified Aging In Place” and recipients of this certification have had special training in serving the needs of seniors and the elderly. In 2011, the Bobby’s were chosen as the exclusive Jacuzzi Walk-In Tub Franchise for Michigan. They chose to add Walk-In Tubs to their Bathroom Division so that people could enjoy the many benefits of hydrotherapy safely seated in their Jacuzzi. A short 5” step-up gains access to the tub versus a minimum 15” threshold to step over the average bathtub. The Jacuzzi Brand was chosen because of its long-standing reputation and high quality.
In 2013, the Bobby’s continued to expand the company’s Aging in Place division to include the installation of Stair Lifts – designed for Seniors and others with mobility issues. A stair lift is a device that enables homeowners to access the upstairs or basement by climbing the stairs while seated. The Bobby’s’ and their staff genuinely believe they are saving lives as well as helping people stay in their home they love. David and Darian were proud to be awarded the exclusive rights to sell Navigator Stairlifts in SE Michigan.
In 2016, the bath division at Atlas got quite a boost when they were announced as the Authorized Contractor for Bath Remodeling at The Home Depot. At first, The Home Depot decided to try out Atlas in a single small store in Howell, MI – just to make sure it was a good fit. However, once the word got out about this Home Depot store having so many new Bath Remodeling options and that their customers were so happy with the work, that first store turned into 4. Then 11, and now Atlas is the Bath Remodeler for more than 20 Home Depot Stores in SE Michigan. Thanks in part to this great partnership, Atlas has become the Largest Bath Remodeler in Michigan!
Over the years, as David and Darian have seen their bathroom business grow with more and more satisfied customers, they have gotten one consistent request. These customers ask if the company can do the same thing for their outdated kitchen as they did for their bathroom! These requests from past customers have led to David and Darian adding Kitchen Remodeling services. In 2019, David and Darian accepted the exclusive Franchise for Cabinet Restylers for SE Michigan. For a fraction of the cost of a new kitchen, homeowners can get a substantial facelift with restyled kitchen cabinets and new counters.
In the beginning – it was just the two of them! Now David and Darian are fortunate to have a TEAM of quality employees dedicated to providing exceptional products and service in the Home Improvement industry and taking great care of the company’s 18,000 satisfied customers.
The company’s continued growth has brought many new challenges and opportunities and after all they’ve gone through, David and Darian are still best friends.
This is how they got here. Hope you enjoyed their story!