Opening Garage Doors: Overhead door company rolls it forward

Betty Dillard The sliding, glass-paneled garage door signaling the entrance to Bret Westbrook’s office is more than a conversation starter – it’s his calling card. The 29-year-old Westbrook is the founder and chief executive of Overhead Garage Door LLC, a rapidly expanding garage door repair, installation and replacement company located on the north fringe of downtown Fort Worth. The family-owned company, a division of Westbrook Industries, serves North and East Texas, Houston and Oklahoma. Overhead Garage Door offers both custom commercial and residential services as well as a selection of products and parts to satisfy any customer’s needs.

“We’re a one-stop shop for general contractors so we provide them with overhead doors, dock equipment and fans. We package all that together and sell it to them. It saves them money. It saves us money,” Westbrook said. A native of the East Texas town of Athens, Westbrook graduated in 2007 from Texas Christian University’s M.J. Neeley School of Business. But before launching his business two years ago, Westbrook fulfilled a family tradition by enlisting in the military. He graduated in the top of his class in officer candidate school and went on to infantry, airborne and ranger school. An 82nd Airborne Army Ranger, he earned the rank of captain and served three years of active duty, including a one-year tour in Ramadi, Iraq, prior to his honorable discharge. While serving in the Army, Westbrook was able to save most of his pay so he could put his business degree to work. “I have an entrepreneur management degree so I figured I should try to start my own company when I got out,” he said. “I didn’t have any expenses so I was able to save my money. I had that planned going into it. I saved pretty much everything I made while I was in there. It gave me the financial backing I needed to get moving.”

Westbrook found a small overhead door company for sale in Corsicana and bought it. A part-time job installing doors when he was in high school had given him a little experience. Six months later he opened an office in Fort Worth. “It had a good customer base that allowed me to expand,” he said. “I knew I wanted to expand fast. I knew the revenue potential and I knew I needed a lot of cash to be able to expand fast.” Westbrook had saved about $175,000 but says he hasn’t really dipped into it.

“We’ve stayed cash-flow positive from the beginning. I’ve stayed on top of accounts receivable and made some good sales,” he said. “We’ve been turning a profit since we started. We’ve been lucky. I’ve made some bad decisions. My first commercial job was hilarious. I was two weeks out of the Army and I didn’t know how to bid the job properly. It turned out OK. We’re behind all that now. We’ve made the major mistakes and have learned from them and are moving forward a lot faster.” The company experienced 1,000 percent growth in revenue its first year and, according to Westbrook, revenue will double again this year.

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“We doubled our revenue last year and will double it this year,” he said. “We plan on doubling it for the next three or four years and then it may level out a bit.” One key to Overhead Garage Door’s success, Westbrook says, is its business model, an approach that sets the company apart from its competitors, adding that there are only a few competitors nationwide. “Most companies have estimators and project managers and sales managers. The way we do it is our salesman is the estimator and the project manager. From bidding the job to collecting the check to everything that goes in between, they do everything on that job. That one contact takes care of everything, “Westbrook said. “It makes a big difference on a job. People really like having one person to go to. Packaging and selling is basically what we do. Being able to put it all together and provide people with better service is the reason we’re able to grow better and faster.”

While his company handles numerous residential garages, Westbrook is also behind numerous commercial installations – he’s focused on increasing the commercial side – including many high-profile projects such as Landmark Bar & Grill, Kent & Co. Wines, Coyote Drive-In and the Fort Worth, Texas Magazine Dream Home in Fort Worth; Capital Bar and Clear Channel Outdoor in Arlington; and the soon-to-open Blue Mesa spin-off TNT Tacos and Tequila in Dallas. “I love Kent & Co.,” said Westbrook. “I’m modeling our new office after that showroom. We’ll have beer on tap, too,” he added, with a laugh. Westbrook owns the company along with his wife, Lindsay, also a TCU graduate and currently employed as the university’s spirit director, coordinating all the activities of the TCU cheerleaders, showgirls and mascot. As their business grows – Westbrook is scouting Fort Worth’s near north side for larger office space that will be separate from the present manufacturing site – so does their family. The couple is expecting their first child soon. To keep up with the expanding business, Westbrook recently opened new offices in Tyler, Sherman and Oklahoma City. A Houston location began operating this month. Westbrook’s looking at opening Overhead Garage Door in other areas, including Austin and Shreveport.

“The plan is to operate at low cost by having strategically placed operations,” he said. “Houston will probably be our most profitable office in the future.” Also new in recent weeks is the addition of interns to the 40-person staff. Juniors at TCU, the interns will go through two years of training and earn commissions while they learn. “When they graduate they’ll be full force. They’ll have contracts in place and will be making good money right out of college,” Westbrook said. “I would have loved that opportunity. It’s a really good deal for them.” Westbrook, a true entrepreneur, said the biggest hurdle he’s faced with his startup is finding the right employees. “Although it hasn’t been easy to start a business,” he said, “this is a cake walk compared to the military.” Overhead Garage Door LLC Westbrook Industries 1709 White Settlement Rd. Fort Worth 76107 817-713-5519