Candace Klein is CEO of Meta Team, LLC and President of Klein Contracting Corp.
A highly respected and accomplished business and civic leader, Candace excels at building with keen business strategy and passion for service to others.
With proven success in managing the daily operations of one of only a few certified woman-owned commercial roofing contracting companies in the U.S., she has developed and implemented strategic plans to ensure the company’s profitability in volatile markets while delivering exceptional customer value and service.
Follow Meta Team on LinkedIn.
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for GWBC Radio’s Open for Business. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:18] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of GWBC Open for Business. And this is going to be a fun one. Today, we have with us Candace Klein with Meta Team. Welcome, Candace.
Candace Klein: [00:00:27] Well, thank you so much, Lee. How are you?
Lee Kantor: [00:00:29] I am doing great. Now, I’m excited to learn about Meta Team. How are you serving folks?
Candace Klein: [00:00:34] Well, right now, Meta Team is the first women-owned commercial roofing company in the country. We put together some of the top talent from a regionally-owned – or regional women-owned roofing companies so that we can serve our clients in a new and better way.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:51] So, how did you get into this line of work?
Candace Klein: [00:00:54] Well, you know, the smell of asphalt in the morning is so invigorating that I just couldn’t help myself. No. Lee, I have a background in IT. And for a long time, I found myself with more dogs than friends, because I’d work a hundred plus hours a week every single week. And when I was very young, my father had an asbestos abatement company because, you know, roofing isn’t sexy enough. And he said, “You know, come on and join the team. Move over to construction.” And I said, “You know, I don’t think so.” And this went on for a little while. And then, I said, “You know what? I would like to have more human beings as friends than dogs.” So, I made the leap. And we quickly diversified from abatement to roofing as we realized that we were growing market share in a diminishing market of one market where we could grow into an ever present market, if you will. So, that was a long, long, long time ago. So, I have been a commercial roofer for a few decades now.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:53] So, now, when that initial kind of pivot occurred, what was the thinking in the room when you were kind of contemplating this? Like, what kind of research had you done and what kind of – like, where did you see the opportunity where others didn’t?
Candace Klein: [00:02:06] So, I’m assuming you’re asking me about Meta Team, because, again, asbestos is just the most exciting topic on the planet. And roofing is second most exciting. So, I’m going to go for roofing. So, what I saw, Lee, is that my roofing company is Klein Contracting and we’re based here in Georgia, and we service the Southeast. And I have several companies that are very active in the supplier diversity space. And what I was seeing is that I’m able to do a great job for them and to meet their needs. But my philosophy here at Klein Contracting is, if there’s an emergency, I need to be able to get a crew to your building within, about, 24 hours. And that means I’m going to be very regionally capped.
Candace Klein: [00:02:47] What about outside of my region? I’ve been asked to go outside of my region for some of these clients. And I just didn’t feel that I could truly serve their needs with the integrity and service that I believe that we deliver. So, when I started to do a lot of digging, I would go to conferences and I would ask some of these prospective clients, who I don’t do business with yet, “How would you feel if I could give you another roofing company in, say, Texas or, perhaps, Virginia or, maybe, Colorado?” And they were super excited. They’re like, “We’d appreciate the lead.” But it’s hard for them to buy one off. So, instead of having 15 roofers across the country, it’s a lot easier for them to have one consolidated opportunity to use their focus on supplier diversity in one place in construction.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:36] And then, how did you kind of find those appropriate resources in the other markets?
Candace Klein: [00:03:43] Well, so, since I have been in roofing a long time, I go to a lot of educational opportunities. We have the National Roofing Contractors Association has a myriad of education from both on the commercial and the residential side. And at any level that you are in our market, if you’ve never roofed in your life and you want to be a part of the roofing community, you can learn. So, I spent a lot of time in their risk management classes. And year over year, I would see these high caliber roofers in the room with me. And then, suddenly women started to appear. And naturally, you just kind of go up and say, “Hey, it’s so nice to meet you. What’s your region? What’s your company like? What are you doing? What are you seeing in your market?” So, I had happen to know a few women who I thought were unbelievably dynamic, doing the same thing I am for their clients and their market with the same kind of culture and values. And all of a sudden, it was a match.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:42] So, now, did you at first just find one other person that was appropriate and you’re like, “Hey, there’s work here, maybe I can expand this”? Or, was it always kind of the I on the pie of, “Okay. This can be, like, national.”
Candace Klein: [00:04:54] So, the I on the pie was always national. And right now, I have two other roofing partners, so we cover 21 states. But right now, we’re in talks with a few others. So, the goal is to cover the continental United States. And I would expect by year-end we should be at about 35 to 40 states.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:14] So, now, when you’re working with these other business owners in the other markets, the value proposition to them is that this is an easy way for customers to hire all of you rather than them out there battling. Like, that’s part of the value proposition?
Candace Klein: [00:05:29] Well, that’s part of the value proposition, Lee. But what we’re really focused on is supplier diversity. So, we’re looking for the long term property owners who are looking for companies that highly value our ability to invest back in our community. So, we are minority contractors. All of us are minority contractors. But what we strive to do is take that a step further. We don’t subcontract labor. So, we give people good jobs in our community. These aren’t low paying jobs. They’re good quality jobs. We invest in our people. So that, when you have an experience with one of our companies, you’re getting not just a great experience. You’re knowing that your dollars are being spent not just with a minority contractor, but in that community. So, it’s an investment. It comes full circle.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:14] Now, is part of one of the benefits of being part of the Meta Team, like if somebody has a win in one of the cities, like, say – I don’t know if you’re in Virginia – but, say, Virginia.
Candace Klein: [00:06:25] Yes. Yes.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:27] The folks in Georgia high five-ing or, like, are you all in this together like a win anywhere?
Candace Klein: [00:06:34] Yes. So, none of us compete. So, we all have our regional territories. And there are overlaps in our territories. And what we’ve done in those overlap areas is, we’ve defined who’s best. So, for example, I love reroofing. I love it. I love these jobs that are complicated and really hard to get to. And they’re leaking. And the building is occupied and people are frustrated. I want to solve their problems.
Candace Klein: [00:06:59] One of my partners is a new construction goddess. So, in areas where we overlap, she’s going to look at the new construction. I’m going to look at that. One of our other partners in Virginia is great at solar. Because we don’t compete, I can bring her in to any project that I need a solar piece done on. So, you know, we’ve set it up so it’s a collaboration model. And again, it’s really who’s best for the client. If they have a very unique need, who’s got that experience? And we have 230 years of experience combined. So, we have a lot of experience doing a lot of different kinds of things.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:36] This seems very innovative to me. And to be able to get a lot of people in different markets to be able to collaborate this efficiently seems a tremendous achievement just by itself. How was it when you were kind of pitching it to them? Were they always on board? Or, did they have tweaks and it’s evolved? Like, how has the back and forth of, you know, just dealing with a lot of people that are leaders, you know?
Candace Klein: [00:08:01] Sure. So, the value of dealing with a lot of leaders is you have a lot of good ideas. But one of the things, Lee, that I learned really on is that I, personally, am very attached to the success of Meta Team. And I don’t believe that I, personally, know everything that is best for the organization at all times. And I believe every single one of my partners feels the exact same way. So, in order to do that, I came to the table and approached a few different people and they brought on better ideas for certain aspects of it. Some people were really good at the marketing aspect of this. Some people were very good at the safety aspect of this. So, it allows each of us to really be good at what we’re good at.
Candace Klein: [00:08:42] But we are pretty road tested. So, it’s not an ego based organization. It really is how can we come together and create something that is a new experience? Meta means to transform. So, the goal was to offer our clients a transformational opportunity in construction. So, that means we always need to be sitting at the table, finding the best idea, and adapting to that best idea for our clients and for our partners.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:13] And Meta Team is kind of its own thing. Like, each of you has your own day job business that serves, but Meta is kind of an additional kind of revenue stream and opportunity for everybody.
Candace Klein: [00:09:25] So, we each have our own day jobs, with the exception of Meta Team does have its own employees and its own sales force. So, I may be running Klein Contracting, but I also happen to be the one person who overlaps and also works technically for Meta as well. So, what we’re doing on the Meta side is looking at developing those relationships nationally with people who are focused on supplier diversity.
Candace Klein: [00:09:48] On the Klein Contracting side, we’re servicing the needs of our clients, but we’re open up to find the best way to solve the needs for any of the Meta Team clients as well, as well as each other. You know, if there’s a technical problem that comes up in one of our markets, we want to communicate that so that we all are aware of it. And you have the opportunity to brainstorm with a team to help the client.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:11] So, now how long has Meta Team been around?
Candace Klein: [00:10:15] So, Meta Team has been in process for two years, but we officially opened up in January of this year. So, right before the pandemic, we were rocking it.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:27] So, there’s been opportunities to serve clients as Meta Team?
Candace Klein: [00:10:33] So, right now, what it has been is it’s been more leads for smaller regional things or opportunities to answer questions. So, for example, we’ve spent a lot of time talking to general contractors because there’s a lot on the period of new construction coming down the pike. But for reroofing, a lot of people have gone quiet right now. Because people who are large scale property owners are doing everything they can to make sure they’re able to keep their offices safe, whether they’re in a reopening phase or they’re in a phase where they’ve got some employees in there. So, right now, they’re not really super excited to talk about reroofing. But, eventually, they will be. And I’m happy to help them. But right now, I need to give them the space to be able to operate in a healthy environment with their employees.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:19] And then, for you, is this something that – has anything surprised you going around kind of finding these fellow collaborators? Is that something that you kind of feel that this community that you’re building would kind of flourish like it is?
Candace Klein: [00:11:36] Well, you know, Lee, one of the things that’s been a pleasant surprise was really how easy it was to start Meta Team. And I’m not saying that there isn’t, you know – starting any business has a myriad of challenges. But it is as if the ground was prime for the female voices in my industry to come together and to talk about how can we do things differently. Why are we here? And how are we able to leverage as minority contractors the opportunity to bring more minorities into our space?
Candace Klein: [00:12:08] There’s only less than one percent ownership of larger commercial roofing companies by women. And it’s an opportunity for us to discuss why is that and how can we make the next generation of all minorities feel comfortable in this space. Because there’s a lot of opportunity in construction for everyone to be at the table, because we need all great ideas to solve the problems of today and tomorrow.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:36] So, if you were kind of speaking with a young person, how would you kind of pitch them on this career in this industry?
Candace Klein: [00:12:43] So, I’m fortunate that I get to do that every day. Because we have a wonderful, delightful woman who graduated this year from Kenesaw, who’s in our estimating department. And she interned with us for two years prior to graduation. And she was in construction management. So, she was excited about construction to begin with. But I didn’t know if she wanted to pursue a career in roofing. And one of the things that it allows her to do is, there’s a level of perpetual learning. I know it doesn’t seem obvious, but what we use, the materials that we use on these projects, the complexity of the buildings that we’re doing, the opportunity to mobilize efficiently, there’s never a day where you can’t learn something. And she is hungry for knowledge. And we respect that she is a smart person. And give her a level of autonomy to both create and to win and solve problems as well as she’s got a team around her, such that if she makes a mistake or she feels that she has a failure, she’s not failing. It’s a team.
Candace Klein: [00:13:45] We don’t have a competitive estimating environment. Everybody is a team. So, no matter what level you are, you collaborate with each other here internally. So, I encouraged her to jump in. The water is warm and the atmosphere is friendly. And I think that all construction is really moving in that direction. Not all of it yet. But you’ll find a lot of it, especially general contractors that we’re working with that that’s really their focus. So, it’s a wonderful opportunity for young people today no matter what area of construction they may be interested in.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:19] Well, this is a question for people that are in other kind of male dominated industries. How do you create that culture, especially when you’re the leader, that makes everybody feel safe? Because a lot of I’m sure some of the hesitancy for some young women, especially – I don’t know if I want to get – there’s all the stereotypes of the construction industry. How do you kind of create an environment where they do feel safe?
Candace Klein: [00:14:42] First of all, I want to say what a fair and important question that is. Because I’ve been in the industry long enough where there have been times where I have gone out on projects, I’ve reviewed projects, where I have not always felt that way. But what we have here is, again, you’re not alone. And I think that is one of the most important cultural elements you can create in any construction environment to welcome people. So, we don’t send new people out on jobs alone at first. They’re uncomfortable because they don’t have a level of knowledge. So, they’re insecure to begin with, so why would you throw them to the wolves? It makes no sense.
Candace Klein: [00:15:19] So, we bring people together. We encourage people to work together. We tell people, “This is a new person. I want you to be with this new person for X, Y, Z amount of time until they feel comfortable going out onto the project by themselves.” You start by letting them know that they’re on a team so that if they have reservations, no question is stupid. Safety is fundamentally important. We try to train them in a way that you’re not alone. You’re with a group. You’re with a group that cares about you. And we value your voice. And I think that that is one of the most important things you can do to make sure everyone feels comfortable in construction.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:06] Good stuff. I mean, that’s super innovative. Again, it’s funny when you have diversity in an organization. Ideas come from, you know, just your way of seeing the world. And then, everybody benefits from that, if they’re just open to this. So, fantastic, great story and great important way of looking and leading a company. I mean, kudos to you.
Candace Klein: [00:16:29] Well, thank you, Lee. I appreciate it. And, again, I look forward to the opportunity to perpetually learn. And I hope that not only do all of my partners feel that way. I hope that we can help educate our clients on anything they need so that they can get the best possible, best energy efficient solutions. And that we’re able to broaden and other trades see this model. And they understand that we can succeed together. There’s no reason for each of us to try to push an elephant up a hill. And if you look at WBENC, the whole focus of WBENC and, particularly here in my area, the Greater Women’s Business Council is about succeeding together. So, I really hope that this serves as the beginning of something.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:13] Well, let’s talk a little bit about GWBC. How has that organization, how has Roz Lewis impacted your business? And what compelled you to get as involved with the group as you are?
Candace Klein: [00:17:25] So, going back to the fundamentals of Meta Team, one day, I asked Roz for a meeting. And she is always generous with her time. And this was about two years ago – a little over two years ago now. And I sat her down and I said, “What do I need to do? And how do I need to position myself as Klein Contracting, a regional women-owned roofing company, in order to properly use my credentials as a certified women-owned business company?” And she looked at me and she said, “Well, talk to the other women. Put them all together.” She’s the one that inspired the Meta Team. So, for that, I mean, kudos, celebration, and gratitude galore. Because as soon as I left that meeting, I think I didn’t sleep any night for a good solid two months trying to noodle how I can make this idea work. You know, the first thing you do is you’re like, “Okay. What are all the barriers to entry?” And you think about this. And then, none of them were real barriers at all. None of them were real at all.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:26] Right. It just hadn’t done been done that way.
Candace Klein: [00:18:28] Exactly. Exactly.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:28] So, now, once your mind is open, now it’s just problem solving.
Candace Klein: [00:18:31] Roz is the ultimate put the great people together person. She is the key center networking piece who sees the value of collaboration and inspired us to find a way to collaborate and to serve everyone’s needs better.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:51] Good stuff. Well, that organization is an amazing organization that’s helped so many folks really take their business to the next level and dream bigger. And that’s really at the heart of it. I mean, a lot of women-owned businesses I don’t think dream big enough that –
Candace Klein: [00:19:09] You know, I couldn’t agree with you more. And I’m very sad to see that. I think there’s, for some reason, this level of fear and doubt that exists within women who have a brilliant idea. And if they could just silence that piece for just a moment, they may see that the possibilities are endless. I know we’re in these weird times, but that’s okay. Now, is the time to go in and say, “What are these great thoughts that I’ve been holding on to?” And I really hope more women – more of all people really allow those thoughts to bubble up because they’re what’s going to change everything.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:49] Yeah. And that’s why groups like GWBC are so important where women can get together kind of in a safe environment, share their fears, share the opportunities, and brainstorm new ways of moving forward.
Candace Klein: [00:20:02] Yes. Sometimes just having a person to speak with. Just a stranger who’s in a business that may be completely different than yours will give you the courage to go to the next step. But then, let’s go beyond that. GWBC also brings the business opportunities to the table too. So, they not only give you a sense of community, but they are also giving you an opportunity to succeed. So, they have the best of both worlds under one great umbrella.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:32] Right. So, any women business owners out there that haven’t taken advantage of all of GWBC’s offers, you’re missing out. So, I would suggest going to their website and getting involved with the Greater Women’s Business Council, because it can help you grow individually and your company.
Candace Klein: [00:20:53] Absolutely. And they have so many resources posted not only for starting a new business, getting certified, but they also have an entire section of COVID resources, whether that be small business lending, safety tips, how other businesses have pivoted. They really are an incredible wealth and absolutely worth your time to go visit the site and make contact with the great people at GWBC.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:19] Well, Candace, thank you so much for sharing your story today. If somebody want to learn more about Meta Team or Klein Contacting, what is the coordinates?
Candace Klein: [00:21:28] They can go to metateamllc.com or kleincontracting.com. And if there are any women out there who have questions or that I can support, just drop me a line. I’m the one who receives the lines from these. And I’m very happy to have a discussion with anyone.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:44] Well, thank you again for sharing your story. This is Lee Kantor. We will see you all next time on GWBC Open for Business.
The Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC®) is at the forefront of redefining women business enterprises (WBEs). An increasing focus on supplier diversity means major corporations are viewing our WBEs as innovative, flexible and competitive solutions. The number of women-owned businesses is rising to reflect an increasingly diverse consumer base of women making a majority of buying decision for herself, her family and her business.
GWBC® has partnered with dozens of major companies who are committed to providing a sustainable foundation through our guiding principles to bring education, training and the standardization of national certification to women businesses in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina