You knew we'd say it, but it's still true: Roofing Contractor's Best of Success conference, held Nov. 8-9 in Myrtle Beach, S.C., lived up to its name.

RC columnist Ellen Rohr gets the room jumping with her presentation at the Best of Success conference.

Millard Fuller signs his books at the Best of Success conference.
You knew we'd say it, but it's still true: Roofing Contractor's Best of Success conference, held Nov. 8-9 in Myrtle Beach, S.C., lived up to its name.

Roofing Contractor, along with sister publication Walls & Ceilings, hosted nearly a hundred contractors as well as several representatives from our sponsoring companies. Attendees spent two days learning about how to succeed in business, and you can be sure that some enjoyed playing golf and running on the beach as well.

One highlight of the event was undoubtedly Millard Fuller's inspiring keynote address. Fuller, founder and president of Habitat for Humanity International, told the group that he felt "very much at home" among with building trades and that this group should be especially proud, since, "Everyone needs a roof, walls and ceiling."

Fuller and his wife, Linda, founded Habitat for Humanity in 1976 with the goal of eliminating all substandard housing from the planet. An organization with Christian roots and principles, the organization seeks persons and families who cannot otherwise afford to buy a home of their own but are willing to work in partnership with Habitat and put in "sweat equity." They still have to pay for their house, but Habitat doesn't charge interest or make a profit. "The only thing Habitat for Humanity gives away is opportunity," Fuller said. "We work with families not for them."

"A house is a place to be rooted," continued Fuller. "It is especially important to a child." He spoke of the need for housing for modest income people. "A society is judged by how well it takes care of its least," he said.

Fuller also announced that all the Habitat houses survived the recent hurricanes in Florida, 400 of which were affected by Ivan. "Not a single one had severe damage," he said, noting that the results were similar during Andrew in 1992. "We've built 7,000 homes in Florida and have an amazing success record."

Fuller told the group that a reporter once asked him why Habitat houses were so successful. He answered that the keys to success, were that, first, the "houses are built on rocks," an obvious biblical reference to a strong foundation; second, they have "love in the mortar"; and third, "they are built by volunteers who don't know what they are doing." Thus, "If you tell them to put six nails in a shingle, you will get six nails in every shingle."

The actual educational sessions started with a panel on insurance issues led by Lysa Saran of American Patriot Insurance Agency Inc. Sitting on the panel were Wayne Harris from Risk Services/Builders Insurance Co., Marvelene Feucht of CNA, Darwin Lucas of Risk Inc., and Randall Krueger of Randall Krueger & Associates. Each member of the panel presented different insurance product offering while Krueger spoke of the importance of implementing a safety program. Other tips for contractors noted by the panel included having strong management accountability; performing regular claim reviews on losses; and having a strong company vehicle policy.

The biggest issue to come out of the two-hour panel is that contractors need more help dealing with insurance. Many contractors, notably those in the Five Burroughs of New York, are hard pressed to even get coverage. Others expressed dismay at what they perceive to be unfair industry practices. There are no easy answers, but it seems like a legislative solution is needed. For example, as noted on page XX, Florida roofers have had success working in their legislature to get workers compensation rates reduced and the National Roofing Contractors Association has insurance as a top item on its 2005 agenda.

A second panel, moderated by Roofing Contractor's own Rick Damato, featured John D'Annunzio, president of Paragon Roofing Technologies, Shelby Township, Mich., and Roofing Contractor's technical columnist; Gene Mack, Allied Building Products, East Rutherford, N.J.; and Christian Madsen, vice president of Madsen Roofing, Sacramento, Calif. The group discussed important industry issues and fielded questions from the audience. D'Annunzio later expanded on the subject of building codes in the Best of Success finale.

Ellen Rohr, author and newest Roofing Contractor columnist, got the room jumping with her session on management strategies, "Should he stay or should he go? How to take back control of your company." The bottom line? "You get the employee you deserve," Ellen told the group. She emphasized the need to keep a scorecard on each person and have written policies-it's not real if it's not written!

Ellen gave the following formula for having anything you want:

Be worth following. Be trustworthy, accept your role, and intend to be successful.

Do what leaders do. Hold yourself and your team accountable. Know your finances. Track and train your workers-help them to get good. Deliver fair and reasonable consequences for people unwilling to do things your way.

Have integrity in all that you do.

Next, John Alfs, Roofing Contractor's legal columnist, and a shareholder in the Troy, Mich., law firm of Cox, Hodgman & Giarmarco, explained to contractors how to protect themselves through intelligent contracts. He covered internal contracts-the kind you use to set up a business and hire employees and subcontractors, as well as external contracts-those you have with clients. As for the latter, the most important thing to remember is to "do business with good people." A handshake with good person is better than a good contract with a bad person.

Jim Olsztynski, Roofing Contractor's Smart Business columnist and editor of sister publication Supply House Times offered "101 Smart Business Tips." Don't worry, we won't recount them all, but some highlights include:

1. Return phone calls promptly

2. Under promise, over deliver.

3. Know your cost per billable hour

4. Pay for referrals, including employees

5. Get friendly with realtors and people who work at Home Depot-they are a good source of leads.

6. Cultivate relationships with successful people-what can you do for them?

7. Solicit testimonials

8. Time direct mail to arrive mid week.

9. Church bulletins are a great bang for the buck.

10. So are home shows

11. Make your truck a roving billboard.

12. Don't forget signs on top of the roof

The second day started out with Roofing Contractor's safety columnist Chip Macdonald, who donned a harness and told the group how to write a health and safety plan. Such a plan has 10 components:

1. Corporate management and commitment

2. Assignments of responsibility

3. Hazard identification and control

4. Safety and health policies and procedures

5. Random safety audits

6. Enforcement and discipline

7. Employee training

8. Record keeping

9. First aid and medical assistance

10. Human resource issues

For more good advice from Roofing Contractor columnists and to see news about future conferences, be sure to check out our Web site at Roofing Contractor would like to thank the contractors who helped make this event a success, as well as our sponsors, without whom this would not have been possible: Allied Building Products, CertainTeed Corp., Elk Premium Building Products, Englert Inc., GAF Materials Corp., GenFlex Roofing Systems, IKO, Johns Manville, Karnak Corp., OMG Roofing Products, Center for the Advancement of Roofing Excellence (CARE), Owens Corning, The Ruscoe Co., 3M, TAMKO Roofing Products, and TruFast Corp.