During the past few months, I have been zooming around the country teaching seminars and speaking at roofing conventions. On several occasions, I was speaking one-on-one with roofing contractors who commented about their strong administrative help.

During the past few months, I have been zooming around the country teaching seminars and speaking at roofing conventions. On several occasions, I was speaking one-on-one with roofing contractors who commented about their strong administrative help. However, when I was trying to offer business advice, they could not provide the basic business data I was asking for. Having strong admin support is crucial to building a successful contracting business. Yet, I wonder if a lot of roofing contractors really understand what that support should look like.

Most contractors are disorganized, don’t like paperwork and prefer sales and field work to office duties. Roofing contractors are no exception. If you are a disorganized person, such disorder is part of your personality and probably how you are wired. The tendency is for disorganized people to buy organizational self-help books, day planners and even electronic help like a smart phone. The books and planners tend to gather dust on the shelf and the smart phone - well, they use it as a phone and toy to play on the Internet. If you are disorganized or don’t like admin work, admit it and find someone to help you with these tasks. As many contractors grow, they mistakenly hire construction managers, estimators and salespeople to help them prior to establishing sound admin support. Such a practice can end up creating overpaid clerks - plus you do not have the data necessary to monitor and manage their performance.

So what does good admin support look like? For starters, if you have to tell administrative people what to do, you probably have the wrong people in place. You are looking for someone who is assertive, organized and has strong computer skills - someone who will help keep you and other revenue producers on task. A good office manager is detailed oriented, friendly over the phone, loyal, supportive and driven to stay caught up. Ideally, he or she is someone the field is respectful of and maybe even be a little apprehensive about dealing with should they not get their paperwork in on time. These folks are not easy to come by.

So do family members make good admin support staffers? Maybe, but having family member in admin support may not be ideal. Family members telling each other what they should and should not be doing does not always go smoothly. If you do use family members, they must work set hours and have the same set of skills any other good office manager would have.

So what should such a person cost? Well, that will depend on the area of the country you are in and their skill set, but it is not uncommon for this person to cost the same as a lead field person or foreman. If you have a really strong office person, the cost of employing that person may not be the issue. The real issue is performance and finding the person that will get the job done.

So what are some of the tasks a good administrative person can perform? Well, here are just some of the things they can do for you:

• For residential contractors, they can set appointments, control sales calendars and qualify customers. This keeps salespeople from playing phone tag with customers and allows you to accurately track closing ratios.

• They help order material. If estimates include accurate material take-off lists, ordering material becomes an administrative task.

• Admin help can help maintain a schedule and call customers.

• Office help can perform data entry, manage day-to-day bookkeeping and keep financial data up to date.

• They can help with collections and deposits.

• Administrators can make sure customers have picked colors and product prior to job start-up.

• Repairs and service can be dispatched and billed.

• Sales literature and other marketing details can be kept up to date.

• They coordinate and provide valuable reports that track closing ratios, job profits and other necessary financial controls.

And, last but not least, they can be someone on your side. Administrators are someone you pay to help take the stress off of you and keep the business going. A good rule of thumb is that when sales go above $400,000 you need at least a part-time person and when they begin to go over $700,000 or $800,000 you probably need a full-time administrator. Herein lies the problem of using family members who may consider the job to be a part-time endeavor; they simply may not have the time to expand the position as sales increase.

We have discussed embezzlement in other articles, and I realize that trust is an issue for many contractors and may keep them from hiring adequate support. One way to avoid embezzlement issues is to do background checks and to have someone different balance the checkbook each month and review credit card statements.

Expanding your business without adequate administrative support ensures your basic operational issues will continue to happen and the company will continue to struggle. As salespeople, estimators and production managers are added and business expands, more paperwork and overall company tasks will be required. To make matters worse, lack of admin support will probably keep you from identifying and correcting job and sales issues.

If you want to make $100,000 a year income in your contracting business with a 40-50 hour work week, this equates to $40-$50 an hour. If you continually perform tasks worth $20 an hour, you are dead-ending your income and business growth.

Join Monroe Porter at Best of Success

Monroe Porter will speak at Roofing Contractor’s Best of Success conference in Clearwater Beach, Fla., Sept 26-27. For more information about the event, see pages 38-39 and visit