When it comes to installing something as complicated as roofing systems, no company gets the job done all by itself. Roofing contractors rely on material manufacturers, distributors, salespeople, subcontractors, bankers, lawyers, accountants and a host of others to help them succeed. The difference between a smooth job and a headache - and a profit or a loss - can rest not only with your employees, but those of another company. That's why Roofing Contractor decided to put the spotlight on the industry's Most Valuable Partners - those individuals outside of contracting firms that make an extra effort to help contractors satisfy the needs of their customers. We asked roofing contractors to nominate their MVPs, and we singled out the winners for profiles in this issue. The business partners honored here were recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty to help their contractor customers succeed.
Iowa Lumberyard Sales Rep Carries a Big StickBrad Worthington owns Worthington Construction in Newton, Iowa, along with his wife, Michelle. Worthington nominated Jim Wilson as his Most Valuable Partner. Wilson works in sales and purchasing at McKlveen Lumber, a full-service lumberyard in Newton.
"Jim has been my MVP since we started our business in 1992," says Worthington. "From the very first time I met Jim, I knew he was a different kind of lumber salesperson. Jim was very friendly and worked hard to make sure that all our materials needs were met. If he did not have a product we needed, he would work until he found a wholesaler with the product. If the wholesalers did not have the product, he would not stop there; he would call other retailers to find what we needed. That is much different from most salespeople, who will make one call and tell you it will be here in four days."
Worthington Construction specializes in residential reroofing work. The company, which employs eight to 10 people, does a small percentage of new construction work, but only for close friends.
"Our business is unique in that it is one of two businesses we operate," notes Worthington. "Our other business is a farming operation. I run the roofing business year round, but the majority of our roof work is done from May until October." In peak times, he supplements his labor force with college students and schoolteachers. "Their schedules fit perfectly with the labor needs of our business," he says.
In the busy season, scheduling is tight, and Worthington counts on Wilson to make sure deliveries are at the correct jobsite at the proper time. Throughout their working relationship, Wilson has kept up his end of the bargain, even if it means going the extra mile.
"Jim works hard to understand our business needs and how we work on our jobsite," says Worthington. "To help us stay as efficient as possible, he will make it a top priority to get our materials to us when we request them. There have been times when I have been unable to get my materials list to him until late in the day with a request for an early morning delivery the next day. Of course, I apologize for the inconvenience, but Jim always says, ‘No need to apologize; we will do our best to get the materials there.' I am sure Jim has angered a few delivery men by pushing them for an on-time delivery for us, but he is willing to do that to help us stay productive on our jobsite."
When unexpected problems come up on a job and additional materials are needed in a hurry, Wilson makes sure McKlveen Lumber gets the products out as soon as possible, even if he has to put the material in his personal vehicle and make the delivery himself.
"I remember one Saturday I had a large crew lined up to do a roof," recalls Worthington. "When I called the day before to verify that the materials would be delivered first thing in the morning, I was told that the yard crew was understaffed and the yard foreman would not guarantee the delivery when we needed it. Instead of taking a chance on a late delivery, Jim came into work early that Saturday and drove the materials to our jobsite so we would not be held up waiting for our materials. There are very few people who would make that kind of effort for a customer."
For his part, Wilson shrugs it off as all in a day's work. "Last-minute deliveries happen all the time, so we try to put ourselves in position so we can handle it when it comes up," he says. "We try to take care of the little guy just as well as the big guy, and I'm happy to do it for him."
McKlveen stocks shingles by CertainTeed and Owens Corning, as well as four types of roofing felt, ice and water guard, gutter apron, and roof edge, but Wilson will work with other distributors and suppliers to make sure his contractor customers can get the products homeowners want. At the start of the busy season, Worthington and Wilson go over a list of commonly used items to make sure everything will be in stock and the pricing won't be a surprise.
"Jim always works hard to keep his materials prices as low as possible," states Worthington. "He knows that we have to compete with other contractors that get their materials at the big box stores. In the event that a materials price increase happens during the roofing season, Jim will notify me as soon as he knows the increase is going to occur so that I can make the necessary adjustments to my bids or order in the needed product ahead of the price increase."
He adds, "I know that Jim is watching out for my best interest and will do everything in his power to help make our roofing business a success. Our roofing business is much more successful because Jim has worked so hard for us."
It's clear Worthington admires Wilson's work ethic, and the feeling is mutual. "I've had the privilege of working with Brad for the past 12 or 15 years, and he's been a pleasure to work with," says Wilson. "There's nobody who does a better job than he does. He's very conscientious about quality."
How does Wilson sum up their working relationship? "We've worked together long enough that if I tell him something, that's the way it's going to be. And he's the same way. His integrity is unimpeachable."
Florida Tile Reps Come Through for CustomersPatrick Connolly is the sales manager for Southern Coast Enterprises Inc. in Deerfield Beach, Fla. The company, which is owned by Skip and Maggie Barrett, employs more than 50 workers and does 70 percent of its work in the commercial arena and 30 percent in the residential market. Ten percent of the company's business is in new construction. Annual sales last year were $10 million.
Connolly nominated Joe Nemia and Mike Clarchick of Hanson Roof tile as his company's Most Valuable Partners. "This is a dual nomination," states Connolly. "Mike and Joe are our new roof and reroof reps for Hanson Roof tile."
Connolly credits Clarchick and Nemia with keeping the lines of communication open and product coming in as quickly as possible during a hectic 18-month period stretching from 2004 to 2006 when concrete roof tiles were in tight supply. In the face of cement shortages and record hurricane damage in the area, the two made sure that Southern Coast was kept up to speed on production cycles, product availability, and the best way to place orders during the shortage as Hanson continued to increase capacity to meet the demand for concrete roof tile.
"They have kept us up to date on the deliveries of tile and tried to help with projection of manufacturing dates," Connolly notes. "They are always quick to return phone calls, run samples and are extremely knowledgeable in the field when it comes to colors and profiles. Both Joe and Mike work within their company's internal systems to serve their customers' best interests."
This was never more evident than in the recent supply crunch. "I don't have to tell anyone how bad the cement tile situation has been in South Florida," says Connolly. "However, with every phone call and complaint, these two are more than happy to speak to customers and help calm them down. Even though that does not mean they get their product any sooner, taking the time to tell them what the problems are and why it takes so long for an order to be fulfilled can make a big difference. Compared to some other reps and the storm chasers who simply lie to their customers, these two must be the MVPs for most South Florida roofing contractors."
Mike Clarchick is a district sales representative for Hanson Roof Tile. He handles new construction accounts from Fort Lauderdale to Fort Pierce. "My job is tied into builders, distributors, and roofers," says Clarchick, who's been with Hanson for 11 years. "When it comes to contractors, we'll give them leads, and follow up on leads, but we're focused on service." Clarchick works with home builders of all sizes, and his job encompasses architectural advice and material support, as well as making sure the orders come in as scheduled.
Joe Nemia is the reroof account rep for Hanson in Broward and Palm Beach counties. He's been with the company 15 years, and he and Clarchick call on some of same accounts, such as Southern Coast, which does both reroofing and new construction in South Florida.
"Concrete is king in this market," says Nemia, but he acknowledges that the concrete tile supply situation was dire over the past two years. During the worst stretch, some orders were backlogged for a year.
Clarchick describes the events of 2004 and 2005 as the "perfect storm for the roof tile industry." In 2004, he notes, a cement shortage coincided with a surge in demand for concrete tiles, pushing two-week lead times to 16 weeks. Immediately after the cement shortage was alleviated, the hurricanes came through. In 2005, there was another cement shortage and another record-setting hurricane season, and again demand skyrocketed as raw material supplies were strained.
The hurricanes did more than cause damage to homes; some manufacturing plants were out of commission for periods of time due to a lack of electricity and manpower. To make matters worse, says Nemia, the area was inundated with storm chasers. Fly-by-night companies placed multiple orders for each job with different manufacturers and distributors, hoping to get all the tile they could for other jobs. This not only confused homeowners, it overwhelmed the ordering systems at the plants. "It was chaos," he says.
Through it all, Hanson did all it could to increase capacity and keep orders moving, adding lines to existing plants, building new ones, even bringing in material from Texas. "Hanson has constantly increased capacity every year I've been with the company," states Clarchick. "But the hurricanes and the record number of home sales have continued to stretch us. We've made more product than ever before, and a larger percentage has gone to the reroof market than ever before."
The addition of a plant in Jacksonville has doubled the company's capacity in the last year, according to Clarchick, who sees supplies catching up to demand.
Clarchick and Nemia agree that during the difficult stretches, communication was the key. Of course, it was easier to communicate with contractors and builders they had worked with for 12 or 15 years. "Orders were at record highs, and storm chasers with no knowledge of the concrete tile market flooded the market with multiple orders," explains Clarchick. This tied up the ordering systems and made lead times nearly impossible to calculate, and it wasn't only the manufacturers who struggled with paperwork; contractors also became confused.
"We informed our customers that multiple orders were just clogging up the system and making orders harder to track," said Nemia. "We told them, ‘You're just hurting yourselves.'"
"Roofers need not only great sales and installation teams, they need a great administrative team to place orders promptly and keep track of them," asserts Clarchick. "Sometimes we'd get a call from someone thinking an order had been with us for months, but the order had only been placed two weeks ago."
Although other products made inroads in Florida during the shortage, they believe concrete will regain any lost market share as supply catches up with demand. "There's no doubt about it, concrete roof tile is the way to go," says Clarchick. "The market isn't going to go away, even if there have been some bumps in the road. Correctly installed, a roof system with concrete roofing tile is the best system in Florida. And we have the profiles and colors to meet any architect's design. The structural integrity is superb, and the system is designed to hold up in Florida's environment."
But Connolly and Clarchick will attest to the fact that great products aren't enough all by themselves. Relationships are essential.
"We have a great group of customers out there who really support us," Clarchick notes. "The industry is built on service. It's built on people. It's not enough if you only have a great product; when push comes to shove, it's the people on the front lines who you have to count on to get things done."
"Both Joe and Mike are great sales reps," affirms Connolly. "They return phone calls and do everything they can to help us out. For a while, the market was so tight you couldn't get some reps to return your calls. These guys understand that it's all about relationships. Markets can change."