On My Mind – Fall/Winter 2018March 7, 2020
Piper's passion is her frisbee. When she's not out on house calls with her dog-dad, Derek Worstell, she's likely in her New Town neighborhood backyard playing with her frisbee during friendly lunchtime games of fetch. "She really likes retrieving. She's gotten good enough that she will do acrobatic jumps in the air to get it," he says.
Derek is a Roofing Specialist with Pyramid Roofing. His father, Dan Worstell, founded the company in Dallas, Texas with the help of his father, Jerry, and they relocated it to Williamsburg when Derek was four years old. It has been a family affair since. Derek's grandfather stayed on with the company for many years, and Derek's uncle Dave came on board as a general manager. Now, Derek has joined them despite the fact that growing up he didn't envision his career would include working for his father full time in the roofing business.
"I've followed in my dad's footsteps in many ways throughout my life. He went to Louisiana State University (LSU), so I did too. He enjoys fishing, golfing, and playing sports so I got into those things," Derek says. But when I got out of school, I wanted to go to a bigger city like Houston because that's what my friends were doing." Derek studied Business Management at LSU, and his academic success coupled with the time he invested in several organizations outside of the classroom afforded him several job offers upon graduation.
"I didn't really want to pursue those, so my dad offered to have me work for him until I landed on my feet and found the job I wanted." Derek moved back to Williamsburg and began working for the family business. Each day, he responds to calls throughout the area and meets with homeowners to diagnose whether a leak is roof-related. He's responsible for developing a solution for the repair along with a cost-estimate for the customer in addition to calculating cost estimates for customers looking for roof replacements.
He was surprised to find that he really enjoyed the work he was doing. Every day was unique, meeting with different people, using detective work to solve challenging problems, travleing throughout the region, and working with his father, uncle, and grandfather. So, when several months into this new role he received the job offer he had been waiting for, Derek made the easy decision to decline it.
"I told them I really liked what I was doing at Pyramid, and I wanted to stay to pursue this instead," he says. "What was supposed to be a temporary thing has turned into a more permanent solution."
Now fully invested in working for Pyramid, Derek set an aggressive goal to reach $1 million in sales in his first year at the company. Estimators who achieve over $1 million in annual sales are flown to an industry gala and honored in front of their peers.
"Everybody kind of looked at me and said, Derek, it's your first year. It takes a bit of time," he says. "But in my first year, I was able to hit that million-dollar mark which is something that I am really proud of especially since all the other contractors up there with me at the awards ceremony were in their thirties and forties, and I was 23."
But professional success aside, Derek says his biggest accomplishment is marrying his high school sweetheart, the former Jackie Chisam. The two met while attending Walsingham Academy here in Williamsburg, where they both excelled in school athletics and were supported by their close-knit families. The couple endured four years of a long-distance relationship while Derek attended LSU and Jackie studied at James Madison University. They returned to Williamsburg after graduation, Derek to work for his father while Jackie pursued a career as an English teacher at Warhill High School.
"I don't think we could have done it [long distance] without our friends' and families' support along the way," Derek says. "Our parents helped pay for flights home to see each other. It made it easier that both of our families lived in the same town, but it was by no means easy. Personally, it's what I'm most proud of."
The couple bought a house in New Town and after several months, they started talking about adding a four-legged addition to their family. After much debate, they decided to find a border collie breeder.
"Border collies are highly trainable, so we found a lady who had a littler. She said she had one left. It was the runt," Derek says. "So, we drove five hours to get Piper."
Since bringing Piper home, Derek says they've really enjoyed having her as past of their family. He says she's a lot of work, but they've made large strides in training her. Her best, and arguably most convenient trick, is running to her bed when the doorbell rings instead of barking at the door.
"We've also done some agility training with a woman down in Gloucester. It's a bonding experience we have with her," Derek says. "She knows the basics really well. But the frisbee is her passion."
Derek takes the time between appointments each day to take Piper out during lunchtime and throw the frisbee around. He says as Piper's catching abilities have improved, so has his throwing.
"I've had to practice," he says with a laugh. "It's as much on the thrower as it is on her to catch."
Derek is also known to take Piper on customer calls, which have led to some interesting adventures. He recounts one notable visit with a customer who had sheep grazing in their yard. Knowing border collies are natural herders and that Piper's lineage includes a grandfather who was a master herder, Derek asked the customer if he could throw Piper in with the sheep and see what happens. The customer agreed, and without any previous training, Derek was surprised to see Piper pen all the sheep within a matter of minutes.
"It was really cool to see her natural instinct to put all the sheep in the pen," he says. "we haven't done any more herding training because where am I going to get sheep? So, the only thing she is herding these days is our Roomba vacuum. She will herd that all day long."
With Piper at his side, Derek plans to continue working for Pyramid Roofing as an estimator until his father is ready to retire. Eventually, he says there will be a succession plan put into place. Derek's younger brother Drew is an undergraduate student at William and Mary and has yet to decide whether he will join his brother in running the family business. But for now, Derek is content and happy where he is.
"I just couldn't imagine myself leaving what I'm doing now," he says. "I get to spend time with my dad every day. This business is a family tradition and I really see myself with a future here."