Where is the next generation of roofing business owners coming from? And what can they tell the old guard? These were the questions that spawned a panel discussion featuring contractors who had graduated from the Future Executives Institute (FEI), a three-year NRCA-sponsored business management program geared specifically for the roofing industry. FEI centers on subject areas including management, leadership, strategic planning, human resources, financial management, sales and marketing, risk management, and succession planning. Courses are held at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Chicago, and the class size is limited to 30 people.
At the conclusion of Best of Success, Steve Little, the president of KPost Company in Dallas, moderated a wide-ranging panel discussion featuring recent FEI graduates Brad Satran of Interstate Roofing, Portland, Ore.; Brent McFarlin of KPost Company, Dallas; Greg Farris of Springer-Peterson, Eaton Park, Fla.; Rosemary Reynolds of Madsen Roofing & Waterproofing, Sacramento, Calif.; and Matt Moul of Houk Services, Harrisburg, Pa.
Satran drew on his own experience as a second-generation owner to offer tips on succession planning. He stressed the importance of having a third party valuation of the company before the transition and ironing out all of the details of the sale — including the future duties and compensation of the seller. “I’ve seen succession planning go beautifully and horribly, horribly wrong,” he said. “You’ve got to groom future managers and set up the changes to prepare for the transition of control.”
McFarlin focused on new technology, which can be intimidating for old-school owners but is a must for success in today’s world. He touched on the benefits of software, satellite photography, GPS systems, electronic time cards, tablet computers and smart phones — and the people who can use them and train others. “Technology touches us every department in your business almost every minute of the day,” he said.
Farris explored ways to attract new blood. He recommends starting an internship program with a local college. In a tight job market, it gives the students a chance to earn some money and gain exposure to the industry. The company also benefits by getting seasonal help and finding a source of future employees. A fresh perspective never hurts, either, and the company conducts a survey of its departing interns. “We get a lot of ideas from them, we learn a lot from them, and we plan to implement some of them in the coming year,” he said.
Reynolds talked about the power of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LikedIn. “You need to be on FaceBook for your business,” she said. “Your customers have their pages, and you are missing the boat if you aren’t liking their page.”
Moul detailed the unique benefits the FEI can hold for up-and-coming roofing professionals. The course work helps with strategic planning, but it is the relationships with the other class members that might be the best asset of the program. “The best thing about FEI is the networking,” he said, noting that the advice from non-competing contractors and the exchange of best practices were invaluable.