As if the economy and the price of a barrel of oil were not enough to upset the roofing markets this year, we are witnessing a record year for hailstorms and tornado activity. On top of that the tropical storm season is just kicking into gear.

A few months back there was a series of damaging hailstorms followed by some severe windstorms and even a couple of tornadoes near my home base of Atlanta. Not long after that we began to notice a steady stream of new roofing companies popping up on the scene: storm chasers. You will not find very many local roofing contractors ready to welcome them into the community. Most will tell their customers to beware that roofing contractors who are not from here are not likely to be here as years go by and when their roof will need service again.

But homeowners and building owners whose homes and businesses have just been damaged unexpectedly are focused primarily on getting their property and lives restored. They must do this while managing the further trauma and pain of dealing with their insurance carrier. Many storm chasers bring the answers that owners want to hear: “We can do it fast and we can help you manage the insurance company.”

Many roofing contractors could learn a few lessons from the storm chasers. They know their business. They may not know your market, but they have developed the tools, or perhaps just the instinct, to evaluate a storm event. They can quickly decide whether or not to chase the resulting storm business. In other words, they can evaluate a business opportunity and turn on a dime to take advantage of it. You may not choose to chase business in any geography other than your home base, but doesn’t it make sense to keep your eye on emerging business opportunities and develop the ability to execute? The best storm chasers are masters at this.

Follow the money. Storm chasers know that the lion’s share of the dollars for the work performed following a damaging storm event come from the insurance companies. Many roofing contractors will tell you that they hate dealing with insurance companies or simply do not trust them. Many storm chasers, on the other hand, have learned how to work with the insurance industry. They maintain ongoing relationships with insurance companies. They model their business process to match up well with insurers. Like it or not, insurers hold the purse strings in many post-storm repair transactions.

The point is the “customer” is not only the person or entity signing your contract. For example, many roofing contractors find that it pays to maintain strong relationships with architects and roof consultants. You do not need to be in love with them to maintain a relationship with them. They may have brought you pain in the past, but with an improved relationship they may well provide your next meal ticket. Some roofing contractors I know will not answer a call from a real estate agent, while others profess to make their living from agent referrals.

Learn something new for and about your business from a place you have historically shunned. There could be gold hiding right in front of your face.