Contractor’s sixth Best of Success conference held Sept. 26-28 in Denver will go down as the most successful event ever.
The two-day educational and networking conference set an attendance record, with 249 attendees eclipsing last year’s record of 225. Contractors and the event sponsors had high praise for the seminar speakers, and they made the most of the many opportunities to share ideas with others in the roofing industry during meals and the networking reception at the Omni Interlochen Resort.
Contractors were quick to mention the action items they would bring back to implement at their companies. Dustin DiVitto, Sales Manager for Interstate Roofing in Denver, attended Best of Success for the first time. He found the session on collecting in a down economy most helpful.
“For a lot of roofers, that’s their shortcoming - getting paid on the back end, and that’s where we all know the money is made in this business. I definitely learned something there,” he said. He also took interest in the seminar on solar roofing and government rebates, noting, “I think that’s where the roofing industry is going, and it’s always nice to stay one step ahead of everybody else.”
Chris Cain, President of Roof Check in Longmont, Colo., said the conference gave him some valuable tips on managing employees, noting that stepping away from the daily details of his business allowed him to concentrate on the big picture. “This conference gave me a reminder,” he said. “It gave me things to learn and stay up on.”
Linda O’Lyn, Office Manger for O’Lyn Roofing Contractors in Norwood, Mass., said she came away from Best of Success with “a lot of great information.”
“The conference provided great networking opportunities,” O’Lyn said. “Everyone I have met has been wonderful. It’s important to share what you’ve learned with your people back at home.”
Mike Treaster, owner of Mike’s Construction in Hannibal, Mo., said he would definitely attend Best of Success again. “Absolutely I’d come back,” he said. “I learned a lot of information that’s going to help my business expand and go forward.”
David Hernandez, President of CD General Contractors in Las Cruces, New Mexico, said the marketing sessions convinced him to advertise on the Internet. “I don’t do that right now, but now I will,” he said. “There was a lot to learn in every session. There’s a lot of mind-boggling stuff you don’t think is out there, and it’s there.”
“It’s a great conference,” said Chris Barrow, CEO of EagleView Technologies. “I think for our business and for roofing contractors who are trying to improve their business and trying to learn how to run their business better, run it more profitably, I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to do that and to learn, and so I highly recommend it.”
Panel Discussion: New MediaTim Fausch of Roofing Contractor’s parent company, BNP Media in Troy, Mich., moderated a panel on new media, including websites, blogs and social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The panel consisted of Rick Damato, Editorial Director of Roofing Contractor; Randy Diefel of Donahue Roofing in Billings, Mont.; and Ken Kelly, President of Kelly Roofing in Naples, Fla.
Fausch, who oversees 25 different brands as a corporate director at BNP Media, detailed what he calls the “the five E’s of e-media:”
1. Embrace. “You’ve got to embrace e-media” he said. “Acceptance isn’t enough.”
2. Educate. ““Education is when you provide good solid content,” he said. “Content is king; there’s so much fluff.”
3. Entertain. “You are competing for someone to communicate with,” he said. “Create an experience for the user.’
4. Engage. “This is one of the biggest buzzwords these days in e-media,” said Fausch. “You have to build relationships.”
5. Euthanize. Realize that some old standbys might not longer be effective and phase them out, Fausch advised. “You will need to kill some sacred cows.”
The panelists discussed their experiences with electronic media, websites, blogging, webinars, videos and social media in an era Fausch described as “media gone wild.”
All agreed that social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were venues companies could use to reach new markets.
Randy Diefel said Facebook has helped his company considerably - at no cost. “There are ways to use it locally,” he said. “You can use it to tell your story, and let others tell your own story.”
Diefel also said YouTube is a hot item for his company, which uploads videos of projects. “Searches on YouTube are exploding,” he said. “It gives you the opportunity to tag it. There are a lot of links.”
Kelly agreed that a presence on Facebook has been productive. He uses Facebook for customer testimonials and even hiring. “It gives us a lot of credibility to our customers,” he said. “Also, for the first time, we can put a job opening on Facebook and they say, ‘Hey, Kelly is hiring.’ It’s just like Google.”
Kelly Roofing also sends out an e-newsletter to its customers. He thinks it’s a great way to stay in contact with and educate customers, but he cautioned against sending it out too often. The Internet can be a great place to spread good news about your company, noted Kelly, who uses www.prwire.com to distribute press releases about the company’s certifications, awards and volunteer work to media outlets.
Panel Discussion: Sales and MarketingThe final educational session was a panel on sales and marketing moderated by Greg Hoffman, President of Roofing Contractor Marketing. Panelists included Jennifer Ford-Smith with Johns Manville, Jeffrey Carpenter with Owens Corning, John DeRosa with IKO Manufacturing, Chad Nikkel with Colorado Roofing & Exteriors, and Greg Palandrini with CertainTeed Roofing.
Hoffman emphasized the importance of preparing a marketing plan in this constantly changing economic environment. “You must plan to change,” he said. “Too many contractors are reactive. If you fail to plan, plan to fail.”
Palandrini agreed. “Only the companies that have a plan, follow the plan, and review the plan succeed year by year.” He noted that many companies that once appeared successful are no longer in existence. “You cannot succeed and be a reactive company.”
DeRosa pointed to “moments of truth” in which companies can distinguish themselves from their competitors. “Identify every single moment the customer comes into contact with us and rate your performance,” he recommended. “Work with salespeople to create a list of questions to cover the entire experience.”
Ford-Smith agreed, emphasizing the importance of “value selling” and educating the homeowner about the services provided. “List the services you’re providing even if they have a zero balance,” she suggested.
Problems will sometimes crop up, but they should be greeted as opportunities to shine, maintained Ford-Smith. “It’s how you handle problems that makes you unique,” she said.
Carpenter advised contractors to increase training in slow times to prepare for the eventual upturn in the economy. “Be ready for the market to pick up so you can take advantage of it,” he said.
Palandrini concurred, noting, “Training and education is a key benefit manufacturers can supply.”
“It all circles back to planning,” said DeRosa. “Do one thing - have more fun. You can have a little more success and live happily ever after. Let’s make a commitment. Let’s say, ‘I will not participate in this recession!’”
NRCA UpdateAllen Lancaster, the current president of the National Roofing Contractors Association and the president and CEO of Metalcrafts, Inc., in Savannah, Ga., updated Best of Success attendees on NRCA initiatives and the state of the industry. “In a tough economy, there’s no shortage of issues,” he said.
Lancaster questioned the effectiveness of the federal stimulus package. “Have you got your stimulus money yet?” he asked. “I’m still waiting on my stimulus check.”
The increasing emphasis on environmentally friendly products and systems is a trend to watch, said Lancaster.
- A new manual NRCA photovoltaic (PV) manual and a PV manual for building owners and designers.
- The revised NRCA vegetative roof manual.
- The possibility of a Department of Energy grant to test rooftop PV systems.
- A PV certification program for roofing contractors named RISE (Roof Integrated Solar Energy), in development in conjunction with the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing (CEIR).
- Discussions with Penn State about developing PV training programs.
In the technical arena, Lancaster highlighted recent code hearings in which the association succeeded in getting rooftop PV into the roofing chapter if the International Building Code (IBC), as well as publication of the fourth edition of The NRCA Roofing Manual: Architectural Metal Roofing, Condensation Control and Reroofing. He also touted the association’s educational programs, including its website, www.nrca.net, which has a wealth of resources for members. “If there’s one thing about our website - I’m amazed at how much is on there,” he said.
The Sponsors Who Make It All PossibleIn closing, Roofing Contractor Publisher Jill Bloom said the event would not be possible without the support of its sponsors, and she thanked sponsors 3M, ABC Supply, AccuLynx, Allied Building Products, Bradco Supply, CARE, CertainTeed, Chem Link, EagleView Technologies, Equipter, GAF-Elk, GenFlex, Grace, HAPCO, IB Roof Systems, IKO Manufacturing, Johns Manville, National Roofing Partners, Owens Corning, Rain Flow, Roofers’ Success International, and TAMKO Building Products. She also thanked the event’s Tool Sponsors, Black Rhino and Bosch Tools, which provided free tools for attendees who won drawings, and its Safety Sponsor, MSA, which provided lucky winners with fall protection equipment and hard hats personalized with the company’s logo.
The New Marketing FundamentalsGreg Hoffman, President and co-founder of Roofing Contractor Marketing (www.roofingcontractormarketing.com), likens the recent advances in technology to the Industrial Revolution. He maintains the Internet, smart phones and social media sites such as Facebook are transforming the media landscape. “The effectiveness of ‘old standby’ advertising methods has changed substantially and new advertising opportunities have taken their place,” he said. “Everything has changed, and your media mix and marketing has to change, too.”
His presentation titled “The Top 10 New Marketing Fundamentals for Roofing Contractors” was designed to help roofing contractors find the most efficient strategies for generating leads in this new environment. In reverse order, he offered the following ten tips:
10. Include your Web address on everything. “Drive your customers to where they are comfortable,” Hoffman recommended. “Plus, it’s easier to remember than a phone number.”
9. Get your website smart phone ready. “This is a huge growth market,” he said. “Make sure your website is mobile ready, which makes it easy to read on a smart phone.”
8. Build more trust on your website. “Building trust is critical,” said Hoffman, who urged contractors to include industry affiliations and local endorsements from organizations such as the Better Business Bureau.
7. Add promotional video to your website. “Video should be prominently displayed on your home page,” he said.
6. Add an “easy fill” form to your home page. “Make the form easy for customers to fill out and locate it on your home page,” he said. “It will be accessible 24/7 for leads.”
5. Use a Google sponsored links campaign every month. “Consumers use Google more than any other search engine,” he noted.
4. Make offers on your website. “You need to give people an incentive for action,” he said. “If you give people a reason to act, it gives you an edge over someone with just a brochure and information.”
3. Start a social media strategy. “Facebook is a worldwide phenomenon,” he said. “How we’re going to use it in a year is anybody’s guess, but it will be big.”
2. Get your company listed on page one of Google for roofing-related searches. “Get your site optimized,” he suggested, advising them to target the first page of the Google search results, preferable one of the top three spots. “If they can’t find you, you don’t exist.”
1. Ensure your website is sales oriented and expect good leads. “We like to call it your 24/7 salesperson,” he said.
According to Hoffman, marketing is the key to penetrating the local market. “If you’ve established a brand name in your market, consumers will go to a brand name they recognize.”
Want Higher Profits? Make Every Employee the CEODon Kennedy is President and CEO of Kennedy Roofing Co. in Nashville, Tenn. In his presentation titled “Higher Profits the Easy Way - Every Employee is the CEO,” he asserted that when information is shared with employees, they act like owners. He encourages employees to share ideas on how to save money and run operations more efficiently. Kennedy Roofing recently set up “Profit Centers” in his company in which he re-invests money saved from employee initiatives. The company then matches these funds for new equipment.
“We have over $100,000 of matching funds for equipment in our company,” he said.
For example, Kennedy set up a recycling center. “Our sheet metal division recycles metal,” he said. “They have taken ownership.”
Kennedy said a company needs to partner with its employees.
“Employees will tell you areas they are making mistakes,” he said, noting a biblical proverb: “Where there is no vision, the people will perish.”
“Your company vision must be planned, simple, and a reflection of its decisions and actions,” he continued. “We just don’t want to show up for a paycheck. Have a simple plan.”
Kennedy advised business owners to set goals and then “manage the journey.”
“Managing the journey of change is the key to consistent positive growth in an organization,” he said. “Without growth comes death.”
Kennedy said little changes will make a big difference. “Research confirms that 70 percent of organizational changes fail as a result of ineffective leadership,” Kennedy said. “If a guy’s not doing a good job, he should know it. People want to be proud of where they work. Employees want their family to be proud of them.”
Kennedy recommended sending a note to an employee’s wife or husband to tell them of their achievements. “Tell them he or she is doing a good job.”
He pointed to reality television for a symbol of employees taking ownership in a company. “I think of Michael from ‘The Biggest Loser.’ He weighed 526 pounds and got down to 262 pounds. He took ownership of his life,” Kennedy said. “Dale Carnegie once said, ‘You can take everything I got, but don’t take my people.’”
Kennedy noted that in today’s competitive environment, the prize goes to those who can do more with less. “Training is everything,” he said. “It is the only way to be the leader in your market. Train, train, then train some more. And inspect to make sure you get what you expect.”
Kennedy also urged attendees to make it a pleasure for customers to do business with you. “Teach your employees how important this opportunity is to their future. Tell customers, ‘Thank you for your business. That is why I have a job.’”
Creating Your Company CultureEric Rich II, CEO of Rich Roofing in Troy, Ohio, shared his secrets on creating a “first-class company culture.”
“The success or failure of every civilization, family, business and even an individual is most often determined by its culture,” said Rich, noting that culture is defined as the values of a group, social behavior and shared beliefs.
Rich said every business has its own culture, and its culture is the difference between success and failure. “People are what make a company great,” he said. “Let us imagine, for a moment, if all of their people cared about the customer and the company.”
Even in a down year, Rich Roofing saw 14 percent growth in 2009. “It’s all about people,” he said. “You set the example. If you don’t believe in your heart, they’ll know it. If you are not passionate, it won’t work. It’s about the success or failure of your business.”
Rich said determining whether or not an employee shares the company’s values is a key part of a manager’s decision-making process when it comes to hiring and firing. “We have to evaluate,” he said. “Getting back to organizational values is what makes people get together.”
If employees deliver on commitments and share the company’s values, obviously they should stay. When an employee misses on commitments and does not share the company’s values, a manager’s decision is also simple: “They must go.”
Then there are “Rock Stars,” he said. “These are employees who deliver on commitments, but do not share the company’s values. The decision of what to do with them is difficult.”
Tolerating them equals danger. “This is dangerous, very dangerous,” he said. “It’s a constant reminder. They know where they fall.”
Those employees who miss on commitments but share the company’s values might be trainable, so with help they might turn things around.
Rich said when it comes to keeping employees engaged, surveys show the top three motivators are interesting work, appreciation, and feeling “in on things.”
“You’ve got to keep your employees happy,” Rich said. “If you’ve got an employee who does everything, we send them a card that says what a great job they’re doing. That’s an ‘Oh, my goodness. I never expected that.’ They get emotional. In one way, shape or form, the company will benefit from it.”
Motivated employees increase productivity, boost profit and inspire people to do more, Rich noted. “The hardest thing for your competitors to duplicate is your most powerful advantage,” he said. “Engage their minds. Engage their hearts, to create passion. Then conquer the competition with passionate performance.”
Building Value With Today's Consumer“Nothing in America happens until something gets sold,” said Michael Kelley. “And hard work is the yeast which raises the dough.” Kelley, the General Manager of Kelley Construction Contractors, focused his presentation on building value with the customer, but he acknowledged that it takes time and effort.
The key is communication. “Communication is the number one thing that can bring value to your company,” he said. “The better quality communication, the more the customer will experience the value of your service.”
He noted the two most stressful things for homeowners are moving and having repair work done on the home. “Discover what customers’ expectations are,” he suggested. “Great communication will help decrease the homeowner’s stress levels. Poor communication will add to their stress levels.”
Having a live person answering phones around the clock is the best method, he said, even if it means using an answering service after hours. “You only have one chance to make a great first impression - and that first impression is when the phone rings,” he said. “Teach all team members to answer the phones appropriately.”
Kelley urged attendees to be specific about scheduling. Setting a schedule - and sticking to it - will differentiate you from the competition. “Schedule set appointment times,” he suggested. “Be specific: Monday evening at 6 p.m. - not Monday evening between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Show up five minutes early on every call. If you’re late to the first appointment, you’re already like everyone else, and you have already broken your first promise.”
Technology can help with customer communication, noted Kelley. “Use a type of customer management software to make communication simple and keep customer information at your fingertips,” he said. “Gather e-mail information, and utilize estimating software for professional-grade drawings, blueprints or outlines of projects.”
He recommended that contractors take the time to verify the details of the project with the customer, including the work schedule, and meet with the homeowner daily. “Communication doesn’t just stop because the paperwork is authorized,” he said.
Kelley believes training is the key to operational excellence. “Train, train, train,” he said. “It’s a broken record. Training of team members never stops; it is an ongoing process. Training is expensive. You might ask, ‘What if I train them and they leave me?’ The question should be, “What if I don’t train them and they stay?’”
According to Kelley, in the final analysis it all comes back to communication. “The most important thing is this: Contractors are notorious for not returning phone calls, not getting back to people. You have to improve your communication.”
Collecting in a Down EconomyGregory Powelson kicked off his session with a question: “Does anyone have problems collecting money?”
Powelson is Director of the National Association of Credit Management’s (NACM) Mechanic’s Lien and Bond Service (MLBS), headquartered in Columbia, Md. He writes and produces the MLBS Lien Navigator, the online guide to serving notices and filing liens and bonds in all 50 states and Canada.
He said with a lagging economy, the topic of collections is certainly timely. “How much do these write-off things hurt?” Powelson asked, noting that with a profit margin of 3 percent, it would take $433,334 in sales to cover a $13,000 loss.
Construction credit is unique, stated Powelson, and the contractor is in a precarious position. “If anything bad happens, who doesn’t get paid?” he asked. “You!”
“How well are you doing your job on the backside?” he asked, noting the three key components to consider were (1) credit management (front side activity), (2) collection activity (back side activity), and (3) security (notice, lien and bond consistency).
He asked, “How do you measure up?”
Powelson was a dynamic speaker, mixing facts with personal stories to create a powerful message regarding the value of collateralizing receivables. He urged attendees to consider using credit applications and job information sheets. “Put yourself in a position to be able to collect,” he said. “Protect your rights and make sure you get paid.”
He said the other key is defining terms and conditions. “What are your terms?” he asked. “You’ve got to lock in your terms and conditions.”
He said a well-written credit application will help you get paid. “The credit application contains information that will be very important in the event of a default,” he said. “If you know where a customer works or banks, for example, you may be able to file garnishments after obtaining a judgment. It is much easier to get this type of information from your customer while you are still friends.”
Construction credit requires extra due diligence, noted Powelson. “The ladder of supply must be fully investigated,” he said. “The construction-oriented environment is unique.”
Powelson said to make sure change orders are reviewed. “Review purchase orders or subcontracts,” he said. “It is definitely a fight worth fighting.”
He also stressed that job invoicing is important. “Invoice as soon as possible,” he said. “You’ve got to do it correctly.”
In a tough economy, mechanic’s liens can be extremely important, Powelson noted.
“It’s an extremely powerful tool based on who you sell to,” he said. “It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. There’s a variety of things you can do to collect money.”
Business Success by the NumbersMany contractors who start their own companies realize that while they might be experts at installing roof systems, they aren’t experts at running a business. Before Aaron Santas, the owner of Guardian Roofing and Windows in Tacoma, Wash., partnered in the formation of his own company, he worked as a branch manager for a major construction materials distributor.
His background in distribution and supply exposed Santas to a lot of contractors, and he found out that the successful ones had something in common. “Successful contractors watch their numbers, and they know them intimately,” he said.
Business training is essential, asserted Santas, who shared his financial statements and pricing formulas with attendees in a session titled “Business Training, Balance Sheets and Gross Profit.”
Many contractors were never trained to read financial statements and compile a budget - and the result can be catastrophic for a company. “Not knowing the numbers is like going through the wilderness without a map,” he said. “You might make it, but you’ll have some hardship along the way.”
“What’s killing business is people don’t know how to price their jobs properly,” he said.
The key to budgeting is to understand the financials and use them to set expectations, said Santas. Those who ignore the numbers because they find them stressful aren’t doing themselves any good. “You can’t expect to lose weight without looking at the scale,” he said. Continuing with the weight loss analogy, he noted if the goal is to hit a certain number, looking at the scale might initially be painful. But it should also be motivational and help you determine what works and what doesn’t.
Santas used his own company’s budgeting process as an example. “We started our business in 2005,” he remembered. “We saw the impending recession, and we knew everything would come to a screeching halt.” Despite the tough economy, Santas on his co-owners knew they would have to set aside more money for marketing, raise prices, improve their value propositions and improve service.
They used their detailed financial reports and profit and loss statements to determine what they could survive on and set the budget for the coming year. “Your P & L can be used to plan where you are going,” he said.
Santas noted his company sets aside 7 percent of its budget for marketing. “Living by the Yellow Pages and referrals - you’re not going to live by that, you’re going to die by that,” he said.
The key is to business success is to understand the numbers and make decisions accordingly. “Making emotional decisions with your money leads to what? Failures,” he said. “That’s why they call it a good business decision.”
High-Energy Opportunities for Roofing ContractorsCraig Silvertooth is the Executive Director for the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing (CEIR), an organization dedicated to promoting the development and use of environmentally responsible roof systems. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the center is establishing a forum that draws together the entire roofing industry into the common cause of advancing environmentally friendly, high-performance roof systems.
He was on hand at Best of Success to update attendees on the CEIR, discuss ways to measure sustainable buildings, and detail some of the rooftop energy strategies that could help contractors increase their business.
Calling the Center “the leading information resource for roofing, energy and the environment," Silvertooth spotlighted key programs such as:
• Roof Point, a new guideline and rating system for the selection of roof systems to maximize energy efficiency and minimize environmental impact.
• RISE (Roof Integration of Solar Energy), a certification program for roofing contractors installing solar systems, in development in conjunction with the NRCA.
• Excellence in Design Award, an annual recognition program honoring innovation in roofing.
Silvertooth explored three strategies for measuring building sustainability:
1. Carbon neutral buildings, in which the carbon footprint is offset by clean energy production (on or off site) and carbon sequestration (on site or off site).
2. Zero energy buildings, in which all energy used is clean energy generated on site.
3. Net zero energy building, in which all carbon-based energy used is offset by clean energy production.
Net zero energy buildings get their name from the fact that the amount of external energy needed minus the amount of on-site energy used equals zero. Net zero energy is a desirable strategy because it has a simple definition and requires a strong mix of energy efficiency and clean energy production. “The trend today is toward net zero energy building versus carbon neutral buildings” Silvertooth said.
Net zero roofing opportunities include roofs with high R-values, cool roofs, daylighting, and rooftop solar and wind systems, and Silvertooth urged roofing contractors to become experts in these technologies. “There are a lot of people on roofs who have no business being on roofs - electricians, landscape contractors, solar integrators. They don’t have our safety record,” Silvertooth said.
“The roofing professional is critical to maintaining roof watertightness and continuous operations; maintaining the roof warranty; and ensuring that building codes and safety regulations are met.”
Tips on Entering the Solar Market“The one constant in this business is change,” said Scott Siegel. “You have to seize the opportunities that are there.” Siegel, owner of Maggio Roofing and Certified Contractors Network (CCN), believes solar systems pose big opportunities for roofing contractors, and he advised attendees to enter the solar market.
“Get a foothold,” he urged contractors. “Don’t give it up to electricians or so-called solar integrators.”
Solar roofing just makes sense, stated Siegel - and the roofing contractor is the person best suited to install it. “On-site solar technology can reduce utility costs, reduce dependency of fossil fuels, and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other ozone-depleting compounds,” he said. “Installing on a roof is logical. By installing on the roof, that building will absorb rays from the sun and use the energy to create electricity.”
The first step in getting into the solar market is to educate yourself. “Research,” said Siegel. “Learn about the technology, both past and present. You have to be able to talk to homeowners about this.” Other key steps to getting started inlcude:
• Putting the tools in place, including the selling system, software and financing. “The key component is financing,” he said.
• Networking with others who are installing solar.
• Training your people - both sales and production. “NRCA is putting together manuals and certifications,” he said. “You have to train your people and train them well.”
• Get some very good electricians who have done solar. Electricians can be hired in house or used as subcontractors, noted Siegel. The key is to make sure the roofing contractor owns the project and protects the integrity of the entire system.
Tax breaks and government programs are a vital component of the system’s return on investment, and Siegel directed contractors to sites like www.dsireusa.org to find out about incentives in their local markets. “The reason solar works is because of the tax credits,” he said.
Siegel noted selling solar requires educating the customer about such issues as rebates, federal tax credits, state grants, utility grants, and net metering. The right software can help simplify the sale.
Contractors should also offer same-as-cash financing. “This is a big deal,” he said.
Solar is here to stay, maintained Siegel. “It has increased roofing business,” he said. “The only contractors that are showing growth are those that are doing something new or those who are in areas with a lot of storm work.”
Better Insight, Better Decisions, Greater SuccessRod Menzel, CEO of GreatWay Roofing Inc. in Moorpark, Calif., believes better insight will lead to better decisions and greater success.
“Insight is a topic that is near and dear to me,” Menzel told roofing contractors at Best of Success. He noted that insight is typically defined as “the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.”
Tough decisions have to be made daily in an ever-changing complex world, Menzel said, and insight can be the key to making the right ones.
“Insight can make the difference between success and failure, profit and loss,” he said.
He compared tough decisions to forks in the road. “When there’s a fork in the road, and we don’t know which way to go, we need to look for insight,” he said.
Business leaders should position themselves to gain the insights they need, said Menzel. One key is reaching a “point if balance.” To describe the principle of balance, he quoted the Chinese philosopher Mencius: “If you know the point of balance, you can settle the details. If you can settle the details, you can stop running around. Your mind will become calm. If your mind becomes calm, you can think in front of a tiger. If you can think in front of a tiger, you will surely succeed.”
Menzel also talked about “roadblocks” to insight. “You get information overload,” he said. “You may forget where you are going. You may be blinded by your own ways. You may have forgotten your old ways. You are one e-mail ding away form losing focus.”
He noted it’s also important to see things from the customer’s point of view. “It’s not what you think, it’s what they experience,” he said.
“What is a brand?” Menzel asked. “It’s not a company’s logo or advertising - those things are controlled by the company. A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company. Branding is a company’s effort to build lasting value by delighting customers.”
To delight customers, the company must shine in “moments of truth” during the first contact with the customer, the sale, and the production process.
In a world of cutthroat competition, differentiating your company is essential. “We’re feeling the competition is tighter,” Menzel said. “We want to make it irrelevant by doing what they can’t.”
Upping the Ante in a Tough EconomyTimothy Hershey, President of Thoroughbred Contractors in Shelbyville, Ky., has been involved in the commercial and industrial roofing business for nearly 25 years.
“Are you doing the little things that no one else wants to do?” Hershey asked roofing contractors. “Everything we do is part of a process. Are you different? Are you unique? Do you want to be the same as everyone else? Are you bidding the same work everyone else is?”
At Best of Success, he outlined of the steps his company has taken to flourish despite a tough economy. “What have a lot of contractors done in some of the worst financial times our country has ever seen?” Hershey asked. “Did they increase marketing, add individuals to their sales staff, see more people than ever? Or did they cut overhead, reduce staff and/or lower their numbers to get work and hope that things got better or turned around?”
Thoroughbred Contractors added staff, added salespeople, called on more customers and increased its customer base by 25 percent. “We did exactly the opposite of what we thought everyone else was doing,” Hershey said.
Hershey stated his company puts the client first every time and in every situation.
“What is this all about? The people and the companies we serve,” he said. “How do we make it happen? Have all employees with the same commitment and excellent people skills.”
“Our goal is to have them for life,” he said of his customers. “We will be there to help them. We become their consultant.”
His company philosophy is: “To repair, restore, renovate or enhance their roof system,” he said. “When no other option makes good financial sense, we will then help them prepare a plan to replace.”
For Hershey, the client is king. “Without the client, we don’t exist,” he said, urging contractors to talk less and listen more. “Remember, if you say it, they tend to doubt it. If they say it, it’s true. We let our actions speak and keep opinions to ourselves. Talk about them; it’s always about them.”
Building relationships is just a start, said Hershey. The goal is to establish trust. “You’re the professional - act, walk and talk like it,” he said. “Our number one goal is: Trust us.”
Hershey recommended that contractors establish goals, track everything and have a professional appearance. In closing, Hershey said, “Be unique, be careful, set yourself apart, and do things that no one else wants to do.”
Using Technology to Increase ProfitsMatt Spanton, Vice President of Mastercraft Exteriors in Rockton, Ill., tripled his company’s sales in three years, and he credits new technology for helping increase sales and boost profits.
After graduating from Illinois State University, Matt entered the roofing industry in a sales role where for four consecutive years he reached personal gross sales in excess of $1 million dollars annually. As the sales force of Mastercraft Exteriors grew, Matt was promoted into sales management, where he led Mastercraft through a comprehensive training program that increased the company’s sales from $7 million to $46 million.
In his session titled “Technology in Roofing,” Spanton detailed how he implemented new technology to streamline his business processes and increase profits. He covered advances including aerial measurement systems, construction management systems and customer resource systems. He also explained how his company uses social media marketing to reach new customers via Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
“Eight years ago I had a Nextel flip phone and no laptop,” said Spanton, who now sets up and tears down six to eight offices annually and oversees approximately 75 salespeople. He depends on web-based software to keep him in touch with his entire team. “I’m in the air roughly 150 days a year,” he said. “Thank God Air Tran has Wi-Fi.”
Spanton said new technology allows his company to maximize current personnel, lower overhead, increase profit margin, increase bid acceptance and reach new markets. For example, he noted that EagleView aerial measurements were not only faster and more accurate than traditional roof measurement, they kept estimators safer by keeping them off the roof, lowering workers’ compensation costs. They also allowed the company to hire sales professionals from other industries who didn’t know how to measure a roof - and allowed them to see more customers per day. The reports also help the company put together more professional presentations for customers.
Web-based customer resource management and construction management systems allow real-time collaboration, maximizing employees’ efficiency and minimizing overhead. “You can track production in real time,” said Spanton. “And there’s accountability - everything gets a note.”
With web-based systems, there is permanent access files, which saves space and secures records from such threats as fire, flood or theft. Plus, the entire team can access the same file simultaneously.
Social media marketing should also be a part of a company’s branding strategy, said Spanton, who detailed how Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can be used to “get your name out fast and free.”
“Utilize technology in order to reach a larger prospect base with efficiency and accuracy,” Spanton concluded. “Lower your overhead, increase margin, and enable your top performers to handle more.”
The Federal Government and the Roofing IndustryCraig Brightup, CEO of The Brightup Group, might not know a lot about the roofs contractors are building, but he certainly knows about the economy the contractors are facing.
Brightup, Chief Executive Officer of The Brightup Group, was previously Vice President of Government Relations for the National Roofing Contractors Association, having opened the Chicago-based NRCA’s Capitol Hill office in 1990. Since 1990, Brightup also has run NRCA’s political program and been treasurer of its political action committee, ROOFPAC.
Brightup gave an overview of federal issues affecting the $30 billion commercial and residential roofing industry, with an agenda including labor relations, worker safety, health care, energy, environment, transportation, insurance, procurement, regulatory reform, taxes and immigration.
He examined the political landscape, predicting a wave of Republican victories on election day that would make John Boehner Speaker of the House and Reid Ribble, a roofing contractor, a U.S. Senator - predictions that came to pass on Nov. 2.
Brightup talked about the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which was signed on Feb. 17, 2009. “Why is it taking so long to get the stimulus money where it’s supposed to go?” he asked.
ARRA opportunities in the form of tax breaks are available, noted Brightup. “Talk to your accountant,” he suggested.
According to Brightup, worries about the effects of health insurance, financial regulation, and changes in tax rates have resulted in an “uncertainty crisis” that has paralyzed the economy. He pointed to the Nov. 2 election as “the turning point for business.” He told attendees, “Your best opportunity is electing a fiscally responsible, pro-business Congress in November.”
The Roofer's Covenant With the HomeownerWarren McGrew, President and CEO of Academy Roofing Inc. in Kennesaw, Ga., believes there are ways to stand out in the world of contractors. Last year, Academy roofing did $25.6 million in the Atlanta area. “High numbers don’t tell the whole story,” he said. “I want to be the voice of reason. If you have a happy home, a happy wife, happy children, then you have succeeded.”
With God’s help, McGrew has gleaned many things that help his company, and he shared some of the insights with contractors at Best of Success.
McGrew calls himself the “Chief Servant Officer,” and he aspires to help his employees any way he can. “I will bleed for my people,” he said. “Never ridicule them.”
After starting his business in 1991, McGrew said the more he operated his company with integrity, the more profitable he became.
“I came up with a unique selling proposition,” he said. “We were actually honest. You can have a unique selling proposition. We don’t tolerate lying. As you seek integrity, you don’t have to worry. It frees you up.”
In his search for branding, McGrew found the key was a “total commitment to excellence.”
“The consumers want us,” he said. “If you want integrity, you have to treat people with integrity.”
Academy Roofing’s mission to educate customers is summed up in its motto: “We educate … you decide.” “We trademarked that,” he said.
According to McGrew, it boils down to establishing trust with customers. “Zero in on integrity. Everything is centered on integrity,” he said. “Customers are desperate to find someone they can trust.”