Take some time to reflect, time to think, time to gather a new perspective on your world again.

I always love the start of a New Year. A chance to wipe the slate clean. A chance to reflect on the past year’s successes and missed opportunities. A chance to smell the coffee again. A chance to set some new goals.

Everyone should make an appointment with himself or herself as we kick off this New Year. Take some time to reflect, time to think, time to gather a new perspective on your world again.

So, without being too personal or philosophical, let me share a few observations of some universal trends I continue to see emerging in both our individual lives and business worlds:

  • Fewer manufacturers are offering similar products. We are becoming a generic world.

  • People and companies are becoming more specialized. Everyone wants to concentrate on his or her “Core Competency.” Outsourcing is flourishing.

  • Information is available on almost anything via the Internet.

  • Fewer, more educated buyers are controlling large purchasing decisions.

  • Standards are higher and service is lower.

  • People are working much longer.

  • Most people over 65 are still very productive and bring wisdom and maturity to your organization.

  • The new work force is different. Young people are less interested in careers and more focused on a balanced life than us workaholics.

  • There are always pockets of success in every economy.

  • Leading companies are those who always innovate.

  • We live in a time of rapid change. Change is impossible to manage. Our only hope is to stay in front of it.

  • Companies that have fun make money

How do these trends affect roofing contractors?

I believe we are going to continue to see real estate ownership and property management mergers and consolidations. Jonathan Litt, analyst from Smith Barney, recently predicted at the Real Estate Investment Trust annual meeting in Washington, D.C., that “We will see a couple of giant real estate and property management companies emerging in the next five or 10 years.” The industry will move toward certain companies taking on more scale and enjoying the benefits of that scale.” Other investment analysts also echo the same trend.

Real estate owners are demanding that property managers preserve the asset value of their facilities. This means both attracting the right tenants and preserving the physical facility. As these facility management responsibilities become larger and more complex, these managers will look for roofing contractors they can trust who will help them manage their roof assets and beat the expected life cycle.

Over the past 10 years, the roofing industry has become more service oriented. Most established contractors have realized that their customers are requiring service after the initial installation. We’ve also come to realize that the service business is different than the contracting business. It requires different equipment, different software applications and its own department identity. We also realize a good service department will allow your company to build a real relationship with your clients.

Today’s buyers are also better informed. Because of this they already have established budget guidelines. Clients expect their contractors to be low-cost producers.

Contractors need to remain focused on building efficient companies.

Pressure on pricing has forced roofing contractors to run leaner companies. Better companies are focusing on shifting as much cost as possible to variable cost vs. fixed costs. For example, instead of owning a dump truck, get a dumpster for the job.

Roofing contractors also need to create an environment for workers to feel comfortable, productive, informed, appreciated and respected. Good employees are being offered opportunities every day. If employers don’t take care of the human assets of the company, they might find themselves wondering who’s going to do the work.

Labor continues to be in short supply. We’re all going to have to focus on creative new ideas to solve these problems. Nothing stays the same long in this economy. We need to embrace the labor shortage in creative ways. Nobody responds to a want ad anymore.

We need to condition our staffs to welcome change: Secure organizations see change as an opportunity not a threat.

The roofing industry is just starting to embrace technology. We need to think about sharpening our computer skills. Those who don’t use a computer will be lost.

Finally, we need to listen better to our customers and follow their energy. Long-term success always follows satisfied clients. Clients pay us for results, not effort.