The seventh Roofing Contractor Best of Success Conference was held in Clearwater Beach, Fla., Sept. 26-27, and the event once again set records for the number of attendees and the number of sponsors.
More than 255 roofing professionals converged at the Sandpearl Resort to attend the two-day conference, network, and share ideas that could help them run their businesses more profitably. Some even found time to sit on the powder-white sands of the resort’s world-renowned beach and dip their toes in the ocean or the pool.
But the top priority was definitely business. The seminar speakers were the headline attractions, but members of the diverse group of non-competing contractors provided learning experiences for one another at every break, and the conversations that began during the networking reception continued into the night.
“Best of Success is unique because the majority of the speakers are roofing contractors that are sharing best practices they are passionate about — ideas are working for them in today’s work environment,” said Roofing Contractor Publisher Jill Bloom, who heads up the event. “When business leaders share these successful ideas — getting them more leads, making them more profitable — contractors leave with a simple action list they can take home and implement right away to improve their own businesses. When you see the passion of a business owner who believes in an idea, it can be contagious. When you share that energy, that passion, you can’t help but leave on a personal high.”
Contractors we spoke with after the event were overwhelmingly positive, and most pointed to the seminars and the networking opportunities as the most valuable components of the event.
“Attending the Best of Success Conference was incredible for Ridge Valley Exteriors,” said Derric Stull, the president of the Atlanta-based contracting company. “Getting the opportunity to network with fellow participants and getting time with the conference speakers was very unique. The material that was covered was so relevant to the struggles all contractors face in the current roofing environment. Attending the Best of Success conference and then implementing some of the material covered on stage by the speakers has helped our team propel its efforts to the next level. We will be back again and can’t wait to attend the next event.”
“We have implemented a great many ideas from Best of Success, with much more to look forward to,” said Breandon McEwen, general manager of Grace Homes, Charlotte, N.C. “We have your manual and use it as a ‘Cliff Notes’ doctrine to draw continuous information and advice.”
Doug Lanier, president and CEO of Collis Roofing Inc., headquartered in Longwood, Fla., commended the presenters. “Each and every speaker was very passionate about their topic, and each had a valuable thing to say to each of us in the audience,” he said. “We learned valuable business lessons that everyone should be currently implementing into their companies.”
Chad Bolt, an estimator and project manager at JVS Inc., Simpsonville, S.C., pointed to the networking opportunities as the crown jewel of Best of Success. “The most valuable part of conference was learning the different approaches other successful companies are taking in these hard times,” he said. “The Best of Success is invaluable when it comes to being a better manager or owner.”
Logan Beckman, vice president of sales for Nordkap Construction in Prior Lane, Minn., attended the event this year for the first time. “I always say that if I only get one thing out of every show/conference/seminar that I attend, it is worth it,” he said. “I left Florida with a wealth of newly acquired knowledge which I will be able to pass on within our organization.”
Improving Your Business
Two contractors who have seen Best of Success from both sides of the podium are Ken Kelly of Kelly Roofing in Naples, Fla., and Christian Madsen of Madsen Roofing & Waterproofing in Sacramento, Calif. Both of them presented educational sessions this year, but they made it clear they were also on hand to find ways to improve their own businesses.
Kelly has been to all seven Best of Success conferences. “I’ve been coming to all of them because every year I get those little nuggets that are golden gems that I go back to my organization and I put in,” he said.
“The conference is really an extension of what we read in the magazine,” he continued. “What we can’t do in the magazine is ask questions to the speakers or the authors, and here we get that opportunity. So now we can go in depth, we can actually talk about implementation and how that’s really going to work in my organization. I’m able to share scenarios and get feedback from the experts. That just makes it so much easier to implement when it’s time.”
Sharing ideas is what it’s all about, said Madsen. “We’re here to learn from other individuals, other professionals in the industry about different techniques, applications and share best practices with colleagues and here to improve our businesses,” he said.
“Some are residential, some are commercial, but by being able to share best practices I always have some kind of take-away that I can bring back to my business, improve my business and implement and help not only my bottom line but also help my people be more productive.”
It’s hard to get away form your business, said Madsen, but ongoing education is essential. “If you stay at home, you stay in your bubble,” he said, “People get very, very busy and they have many excuses not to come to conferences, but if you come, you’ll learn and you will improve yourself and your business. You’ve just got to make that effort to try it once — and once you’ve done that, you’ll be hooked.”
Tips From the Next Generation
Where is the next generation of roofing business owners coming from? And what can they tell the old guard? These were the questions that spawned a panel discussion featuring contractors who had graduated from the Future Executives Institute (FEI), a three-year NRCA-sponsored business management program geared specifically for the roofing industry. Courses are held at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Chicago, and the classes are limited to 30 people.
Steve Little, the president of KPost Company in Dallas, moderated a wide-ranging panel discussion featuring recent FEI graduates Brad Satran of Interstate Roofing, Portland, Ore.; Brent McFarlin of KPost Company, Dallas; Greg Farris of Springer-Peterson, Eaton Park, Fla.; Rosemary Reynolds of Madsen Roofing & Waterproofing, Sacramento, Calif.; and Matt Moul of Houk Services, Harrisburg, Pa.
Satran drew on his own experience as a second-generation owner to offer tips on succession planning. He stressed the importance of having a third-party valuation of the company before the transition and ironing out all of the details of the sale — including the future duties and compensation of the seller. “You’ve got to groom future managers and set up the changes to prepare for the transition of control,” he said.
McFarlin focused on new technology, which can be intimidating for old-school owners but is a must for success in today’s world. He touched on the benefits of software, satellite photography, GPS systems, electronic time cards, tablet computers and smart phones — and the people who can use them and train others. “Technology touches us every department in your business almost every minute of the day,” he said.
Farris recommended starting an internship program with a local college to attract new blood. In a tight job market, it gives the students a chance to earn some money and gain exposure to the industry. The company also benefits by getting seasonal help and finding a source of future employees. A fresh perspective never hurts, either, and the company conducts a survey of its departing interns. “We get a lot of ideas from them, we learn a lot from them, and we plan to implement some of them in the coming year,” he said.
Reynolds talked about the power of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. “You need to be on Facebook for your business,” she said. “Your customers have their pages, and you are missing the boat if you aren’t liking their page.”
Moul detailed the unique benefits the FEI can hold for up-and-coming roofing professionals. The course work helps with strategic planning, but according to Moul it is the relationships he’s formed with the other class members that are the program’s greatest asset. “The best thing about FEI is the networking,” he said.
Thanks to Our Sponsors
“This event would not be possible without the support of its sponsors,” said Roofing Contractor Publisher Jill Bloom. “I’d like to thank 3M, ABC Supply, AccuLynx, Aerialogics, Allied Building Products, Black Rhino, Bosch, CertainTeed, EagleView Technologies, Equipter, GAF, CARE, Hunter Panels, IKO Manufacturing, Johns Manville, MSA, National Roofing Partners, Owens Corning, Pictometry, Polyglass, RoofLogic, Roofers’ Success International, Inspire Roofing Products, TAMKO Building Products and Trufast.”
“Next year’s Best of Success Conference will be held at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, Colorado, Sept. 24-25, so mark that date on your calendar,” said Bloom. “See you in Denver!”
Chris King is editor of Roofing Contractor. He can be reached at 248-244-6497 or firstname.lastname@example.org.