Roof Diagnostics, Inc., of Spring Lake, N.J. takes a businesslike approach to a blue-collar industry.
“We understand people typically do not want to have to deal with their roof,” said Kelcy Pegler Jr., Vice President/Residential Director for Roof Diagnostics. “We understand the fine line of being both straightforward and comprehensive.”
Roof Diagnostics, Inc. (RDI), the 2010 Residential Contractor of the Year for Roofing Contractor magazine, has been in the roofing business since 1994. The company approximately 50 employees year round, and while it is being recognized for its residential side, it also does commercial and maintenance work.
“We make sure we educate our customers on the reasons behind the materials, systems and techniques used on a particular project,” Pegler Jr. said. “Additionally, most of the time we are educating them as to why we do not use some of the alternatives. Educating the customer allows us to complete projects with conviction. We always believe in our roofing solutions.”
On the commercial side, RDI performs work including modified bitumen, EPDM, TPO, BUR, metal and cold process applications.
“We are unique in that we are diversified and able to complete residential work, commercial work and public projects, as well,” Pegler Sr. said. “By being diversified in this manner, we are able to continue to grow our company by focusing on the work that is available in all sectors. When one area of our business is slow, we can move our resources into another business sector to provide the revenue and growth which we desire. This approach has helped us significantly during the last two years when everyone has felt the effects of the recession.”
Add to the equation that 15 percent to 20 percent of RDI’s work is new construction.
“Our annual revenue has grown steadily over the last ten years at a rate of approximately 15 percent per year, including the last two years in the recession,” said Pegler Sr., noting the company is affiliated with the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) and RCI. “We are in the $6 million range for 2010 with our sights on settling in at the $8 million to $10 million mark.”
The company’s ability to adapt to ever-changing economic conditions is another reason Pegler Sr. said they are unique. “The diversity of our company permits this,” he said. “Additionally, we consider ourselves on the forefront of technology by utilizing the latest technologies to present our proposal information and to educate our customers.”
One example is Roof Diagnostics use of infrared scans, which are often incorporated to tailor a project’s specifications.
RDI also brings a high level of professionalism to the market.
“We often say that we are businessmen first - it just so happens that we are in the roofing business,” he said.
Company HistoryAt Roof Diagnostics, they purposefully try to do things differently, and their willingness to adapt to a changing environment is reflected in the company’s history. After finding it difficult to find a meaningful job out of college, Kelcy Pegler Sr. decided to get an MBA from Drexel University in 1981. “Since Drexel was a big engineering school, many construction-related firms were represented at Career Day,” he said. “I met with a major nationwide roofing manufacturer at this event and was subsequently hired in, which I think I was an experiment to see if there was anything to the MBA craze at that time.”
For the next 14 years, Pegler Sr. promoted roof systems to architects, engineers and building owners throughout New Jersey.
“In the mid-1990s, my entrepreneurial spirit finally took over and I finally got the nerve to start Roof Diagnostics.” he said.
Roof Diagnostics started as a consulting company servicing Fortune 500 companies, local businesses, hospitals and property management firms. “We started as consultants only, but after five years in the business I converted over to contracting after realizing that we could actually build better roof systems than the applicators we were recommending to complete our work,” Pegler Sr. said. “I guess we actually believed the grass was greener on the other side.”
“In the late 1990’s, we began to complete maintenance work on commercial buildings throughout New Jersey,” he continued. “It wasn’t long before we were presented the opportunity to install new roofs on commercial buildings.”
Once this happened, RDI outgrew their building. “We purchased our existing building, which is in an upscale shore community and has a high profile.”
The move helped the company branch out into residential work. “Within the first week at our new location we had five potential customers request residential service,” said Pegler Jr. “That’s when reality smacked us in the face - you are not always what you think you are.”
“Recognizing this potential, we organized our current Residential Division and began completing residential projects,” Sr said. “Immediately we realized that the residential market was a perfect fit for our company. Our business thrived in the residential market.”
Each division of Roof Diagnostics is handled separately.
“There is a management hierarchy within each,” Pegler Jr. said. “We have learned that with each step forward, your business needs to be managed properly. A lack of management creates a lack of accountability. To a man, we stress accountability. Whether you are a journeyman or foreman; you are accountable for your specific job.”
Kelcy Pegler Sr. is Company Manager/Owner. Kelcy Pegler Jr. oversees the Residential Division; Gary Uyeyama heads the Public Works Division; Scott Nappi runs the Maintenance Division; and John Roselli heads the Commercial Division.
“There is an open dialogue between divisions and some transfer of workers throughout the divisions as divisional workloads peak,” Pegler Sr. said. “We have a separate maintenance division for both the commercial and residential departments.”
The company’s safety program is a formal program that includes: new hire indoctrination, formal safety program manual review (conducted annually) and weekly safety meetings in the shop or on the jobsite.
Kelcy Pegler Jr. said he “accidentally got myself hired” in the roofing business when he helped his father fill a position of an employee who left the company. By helping his father recruit and hire an employee for a management position with Roof Diagnostics, he quickly learned that “business is business.”
“Whether you are dealing with employee benefits or roof systems – believe in your service, find people who need you, then work to exceed their expectations,” he said.
High-Tech SolutionsTechnology has really helped refine the Roof Diagnostics Maintenance division.
“Each of RDI’s employees is provided a digital camera, which is as important of a tool as a hammer or a tape measure,” Pegler Jr. said. “In addition to having before and after photos of each project, we are able to use real life scenarios as teaching lessons. Having our technicians take photos of our work is a great way to instill a sense of pride in their work. Cameras have become a source of pride for our guys. We constantly have employees eager to show off detail photos of their work.”
When RDI hires a new employee, the company lets each person know they have a fundamental principle when it comes to employee compensation.
“Each employee from office manager to trash trailer driver must go home feeling properly compensated,” Pegler Jr. said. “We think it is imperative that each employee feels they are compensated accurately for the service they provide. Likewise, we make sure we are receiving fair value from each of our employees. No company succeeds on its own.”
About five years ago, RDI was at a crossroads. The business had grown and technology demands increased.
“We either had to hire a full time IT rep or hire a firm that could handle our needs,” Pegler Jr. said. “After interviewing several companies, they decided to move forward with a tech solutions company, TechPromise. TechPromise was small enough that they had a personalized contact with management and big enough to offer the services needed.”
“We make sure to keep open lines of communication with our vendors and material representatives,” he continued. “With so many changes and updates to materials in today’s industry, it is imperative to stay on top of information.”
Pegler Jr. said marketing is the “engine that drives the vehicle.”
“Each year, we continue our proven marketing methods and try one new form of marketing,” Pegler Jr. said. “Some of these ‘trial methods’ are now staples. Some have crashed and burned. (But) trial and error is the key to staying ahead of the marketing curve.”
RDI continually tells building owners to make sure they understand the benefits and costs associated for each of their options. “It is important to understand your current roof system,” he said.
Exceeding Customers' ExpectationsThe people at Roof Diagnostics find satisfaction when they are able to exceed customers’ expectations.
“Sometimes we provide our customers with ‘before photos’ of their home or commercial building to remind them of what was,” Pegler Jr. said. “The happiness and joy of aesthetic and functional success never gets old.”
RDI continues to grow as a business. “We have learned that you are not always what you think you are,” Pegler Sr. said. “Through the years we have really benefited from our diversification. When residential work slows down, we step on the commercial gas, and vice versa. We have grown steadily at a controlled pace. Each growth requires management. The business model is extremely important. Trust your system.”
The company’s business model embraces advancements in technology, especially the Internet, which has made information more readily available then ever. It can be a double-edged sword.
“Customers are armed with more information then ever before,” Pegler Jr. said. “Sometimes an educated customer can be a dangerous customer.”
Pegler Jr. said knowledge of a product or system is valuable but only when used with an open mind.
“Many times our customers bring a product to our attention only to find that it does not perform well in our geographical location,” he said. “On the flip side, we are always excited to learn of a new product or option.”
Advice for Contractors“Once your self-identity is determined, work like hell to make sure everyone knows who you are,” Pegler Jr. said. “All your actions should reinforce this lasting principle. Your employees, customers and target market should all be certain of this identity.”
Pegler Jr. said when you have a brand and a clear-cut identity “the business will grow naturally and with conviction.”
“Without a clear self-identity you will find yourself trying to react to competitors, attempting to compete with their identity instead of playing your own game,” he said.
“Our company is successful because we believe in what we do,” Pegler Jr. said. “We will never take part in a project where our beliefs are compromised. At times, this has meant declining projects because the customer request was not in line with our company principles.”
Success can also be defined by expansion, and technology can help.
“Recently, we undertook the task of becoming a paperless company,” Pegler Jr. said. “For those who have ever worked with a roofing customer file, they know how big of a task this was. The process took us about nine months to complete, but we are very pleased to have made the jump.
“We are proud of going paperless,” he continued. “First and foremost, it is environmentally responsible. In an era where all the talk is green, we like to take action first and talk about it later.
“Secondarily, it has enabled us to grow in a controllable manner,” he concluded. “Because of technology, we are able to access information easily and are able to recall projects by a click of the mouse.”
High-Profile JobsMarquee projects have helped make RDI who they are, including several historical structures along the New Jersey Shore.
“The re-roofing of the Bradley Beach Library with Ludowici Tiles and copper detailing is one,” Pegler Sr. said. “The complete exterior restoration of the 120-year-old Spring Lake LifeGuard Station, which is now a private residence on the Atlantic Ocean, is another. It was done completely with cedar. And the re-roofing of the historic Sea Girt Lifeguard station was another interesting project.”
RDI also has worked on several high-profile University projects including the new roof installation of the Collins Arena at Brookdale College in Lincroft, N.J., which has 400 squares of TPO, more than 250 squares of standing seam metal, and a large barrel roof with panels in excess of 125 feet.
The Roof Diagnostics mission is to “design, promote and install roof systems that we can be proud to put our name on,” Pegler Jr. said. “It took us a long time to build our reputation, and we plan on keeping it.”