“2008 was an unprecedented year with material cost increases, led by asphalt and petroleum price increases,” said Jay Butch, Director of Contractor Programs for CertainTeed. “The big wild card in ’08 was Mother Nature, and in several states, storms generated a lot of roofing business.”
Butch expects residential volume will be down in 2009, with prices being slightly more stable than in 2008, but higher than they’ve been historically. “The economy is down, so business will be down,” he said. “In general, people will do more shopping, hold onto their dollars, and possibly postpone work until the economy improves. Contractors are going to have to work even harder on marketing and lead generation.”
In a tough economy, sound business practices are more important than ever, said Butch, and CertainTeed has educational programs designed to help contractors with all phases of their business.
“We’re doing training seminars around the country for contractors,” he said. “Some of it’s the basics - managing your financials. There’s no silver bullet for selling in a down economy, so we’re doing interactive sessions on business planning, marketing, lead generation, selling and profitable pricing.”
Butch urges business owners to concentrate on the fundamentals. “On lead generation, one of the things I tell contractors - it sounds simple, but it works - use doorknob hangers and job signs,” he said. “Mine that neighborhood. Do targeted marketing. Decide what towns you want to work in and what towns you don’t want to work in. Contractors have to make sure their marketing efforts are geared toward the targeted customer.”
“Currently, the economy is even harder to predict - especially the latter half of ’09,” he continued. “The economy could start to improve by then, but it might not. You have to prepare for both scenarios - if it comes back sooner than expected, or if it gets even worse before it gets better.”
“There will be some competitors you’ll see go out of business,” said Butch. “These are trying times. There are going to be casualties. If there’s a silver lining to that cloud, it’s that in every market, there are companies doing very well. You have to make sure you’re managing your costs and concentrating on the financials.”