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Home | AUSTIN | Spotlight | Spotlight - Marlon Cotham, Cotham Construction Services & Roofing, Cedar Park, TX

Spotlight - Marlon Cotham, Cotham Construction Services & Roofing, Cedar Park, TX

image L-R: Bob Jones, Mary Cotham, Marlon Cotham, Kiva Cotham and Margarito Ortiz

AUSTIN - Throughout his life, Marlon Cotham studied business icons to get an idea of what made them so successful. He absorbed the lessons he gleaned from their lives and implemented them when he established Cotham Construction Services & Roofing. Eleven years later, he knows that the greatest lesson he learned, to believe in himself, is the main reason for his success.



Share about your early life.
    My father was a naval aviator [and we moved around a lot]. We lived in Puerto Rico, Key West, Huntington Beach, Corpus Christi, Rhode Island, and Virginia Beach. When you’re a kid, you don’t like it because you move away from your friends, but when you get older, you appreciate it.
    I had been an athlete all of my life, and my first choice was to be a teacher and a coach. I was trying to figure out which way to go, and I was steered towards business. I got a BBA in Marketing in 1982 and ended up in sales and marketing most of my career in corporate America.
    I grew up in construction though; I had friends who were working in it. I decided to learn it and get a job when I was 17; one thing led to another and I worked in it through college. In the summers, I would build houses, and during school I would work in lumber-yards part-time. I got a little help from my parents, but I pretty much worked all through college.

What path did you pursue after college?
    After college, my first job was for [global tech company] NCR in Fort Worth and then in Austin. I then had two tours of duty at Dell Computer and worked for a couple of start-ups in an 18-year period. I got a lot of good corporate sales and marketing [experience] and I am one of those types of people that can talk to anybody. Sales and marketing fit my personality.
    I enjoyed it, but the reason I moved on is because the high tech industry started to commoditize and it wasn’t fun anymore. I worked for a small company in Austin doing what I’m doing now, and I knew in my heart that I wanted to start my own company. The timing was right, and in 2007 I established Cotham Construction Services & Roofing.

Was it a difficult decision to go into business for yourself, especially in a different industry?

    Yes, it was. You always have the “FUD” factor – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt – but you have to believe in yourself. I had saved money, I knew what I could do, and I knew I could always get a job; that wasn’t going to be a problem.

What were those first years as a business owner like for you?
    I started out with a Suburban and a ladder, got the business cards and started making calls. I got lucky because I had friends in the business and so I would get leads from them.
    I also got lucky because, along with remodeling, I did roofing. In 2008 and 2009, Austin got hammered with huge hailstorms. We made a lot of money, and the roofing side of the business during that time really propelled the company. That’s how we started, really.

What are some keys to your success?

    From the things I learned from sales and marketing, I formed a company motto from soliciting customers and my company motto was “On time. On budget. Every time.” People would tell me all of the time how someone they hired for a project wouldn’t show up. I just do what I say I’m going to do.
    Also, I have always loved reading about how people succeed through perseverance, believing in themselves. I always read about companies like Hershey Chocolate and Milton Hershey; he went bankrupt three times before he developed milk chocolate and the rest is history. I read things like that and it gives me great insight. I have always believed that if you believe in yourself, you can do it.

What was a rewarding experience you had through your business?
    One very rewarding experience was something I did with the Rotary Club; I started an English as Second Language (ESL) class. It was a class for Hispanic mothers who had children in kinder-garten through the fourth grade. One of the reasons we did it is because we wanted them to be able to communicate with teachers about things like PTA and meetings. It was very rewarding because I had hired retired teachers to all be in the classrooms; watching it, it was amazing to see that the mothers obviously wanted to learn. That personally was probably one of the highlights businesswise.
    We also did a large reroofing project in Washington, of all places. It was 500 squares for a huge retirement center. I knew it was going to be a long project when I got there in the summer. I talked to the manager there, and said, “It’s almost as hot here as it is in Austin!” and he said it was a record high. It was fun, though.
Who has served as a mentor to you?
    My dad was always a mentor. With my studying of successful businesses, he always told me there is no substitute for hard work. You will succeed if you work hard and work smart. I instill that in my kids too. He was always a hard worker, very smart, very talented and could do just about anything. He was a great craftsman and painted oils. When you grow up with someone like that, you learn. I also had several corporate people that I looked up to.

Share with us about your family.
    My daughter, Kiva, is 30 years old and she’s an adjuster for Liberty Mutual. She worked for me for about four years, so I taught her everything she knows! My son, Grayson, is 23 and is attending Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He’s into design and he’s a very cool kid. I have to brag on him a little bit: When he was a high school senior, he was the starting cornerback for Cedar Park High School, and they won the state football championships in Dallas! He’s doing great as a Texas kid in Brooklyn, and is doing really well in school. I’m really happy for him.

What do you like to do in your free time?

    When my kids and I are together, we do a lot of outside activities. We like to go on the lake; I’m an avid sailor from my time in Puerto Rico. My son and I like to play golf together. I also enjoy hunting and fishing. I just like being outside.
    I love to travel, especially to my brother’s home in Mal Pais, Costa Rica on the Nicoya Peninsula, one of the five blue zones in the world. I also travel to Albuquerque, NM and St. Augustine, FL. I have a couple of lofty goals I’m working on. I want to write a book; I have a couple of ideas. I’ve also been writing down lyrics for a couple of songs. I used to play the guitar when I was younger and I am starting to play again.
    One thing I have gotten into in the last year – and I have really enjoyed it but it has taken me a while to get there – is meditation and yoga. I have seen a really big benefit to those. I’m a Type-A, a Myers-Briggs ESTJ, so I had to really learn to slow down and wind down. It has been really good for me. I work out, I go and do Crossfit and other classes, but yoga is a little bit different than all of that. I have a self-guided meditation that I listen to first thing in the morning before everything starts to happen, and it does make a huge difference. I just start my day at ease, I don’t let the little things get to me and I get very quiet. I know that if I continue to incorporate that into my lifestyle, I think I can live a lot longer.

What do you think you will do professionally in the future?
    I think I am probably always going to do something in this field for a long time. I do want to get to the point in the next five or six years where I can spend three months out of the year in Costa Rica, but I want to have a little more flexibility as far as where I can go. My brother in Albuquerque and I were talking about a couple of projects right now in the Cedar Park community or maybe out west of here or in Llano, TX where I have a lot of contacts.
    I do invest in real estate on the side for my company and so I buy some houses and fix them up, I may flip them, or I may rent them. I’ll always be volunteering and doing something. I’m always going to stay active.

General contractor Cotham Construction Services & Roofing is located in Cedar Park. – mjm

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Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net