In my role as a manager of facilities housing roofing and other building materials, one of the biggest pain points I encounter is finding reliable and flexible contractors — contractors of all kinds, ironically, except for roofing contractors, who typically work for my landlords.

I define a reliable contractor as one who answers phone calls or e-mails and shows up when he says he will. Flexible for me means contractors who see themselves as more than this or that type of subcontractor. I understand there are codes and licensing restrictions in some jurisdictions, but if you walk into my place with a hammer and a screwdriver you should be willing to do anything with it that you can legally do and make money while doing it.

In my roles serving roofing contractors, you have told me for 38 years that your biggest pain point is finding reliable and flexible customers. You define reliable as any owner who pays as agreed and who will call you back when the need for roofing arises again. You define flexible as customers who will take the time to work through the repair or construction process with you and who will accept reasonable changes.

You would think getting the two together would be easy. Problem is there are a lot of unreasonable building owners out there and there are very few roofing contractors who are dying to serve the reasonable ones with their needs for inspections and the occasional repair job. But there is a solution.

Some enterprising commercial roofing contractors take the unique step of separating their roof-contracting business and their roof-maintenance businesses. Setting up a company with the sole purpose of filling the maintenance needs of building owners has worked out very well for many roofing contractors. They have found a business model where the margins are vastly superior to those in the world of bidding and negotiating large roofing projects. They found the key to the customer’s heart by dealing with the small, painful work of maintaining their assets instead of simply offering replacements.

The value proposition is clear for everyone concerned. If you are involved in commercial roofing and do not have plans to set up a focused maintenance program, you may want to consider launching now. The storm season is upon us and many owners will be receptive to a “pre-storm checkup.”

The best way to begin is with a plan. Writing a business plan is a good start if you do not already operate a separate division or company to service repairs. You must know that in spite of better margins, you should expect considerable differences in the cost basis for running this type of operation. You must consider how this will impact your existing operation and draw the lines between what you will consider maintenance and what you will consider replacement roofing. Every internal process may need to be set up differently. Your roofers may need to be introduced to new skill sets, including selling, writing work orders and collecting.

 If all of this sounds like a big pain, consider the rewards. Who will be first in line when it comes time to replace the roofing system? I can tell you, as one who manages property, I truly value my relationships with reliable and flexible contractors. And they seldom complain when I call because they know the bill will be paid on time.