As part of a new series, Roofing Contractor will be taking an in-depth look at the next generation of roofing contractors. We tapped key players at roof-contracting firms in their 20s and 30s and asked them to share their stories and their unique perspective on the roofing industry.
Family businesses make up a large chunk of roof-contracting firms, but whether a business is family-owned or not, it needs an influx of new employees to keep it running decade after decade. The industry has acknowledged that roofing has suffered from an image problem that has led prospective employees to pursue careers in other fields. Industry associations have formed organizations to help fill the void. The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) initiated the Future Executives Institute to educate future company leaders. The Midwest Roofing Contractors Association (MRCA) formed the Young Contractors Council to assist younger contractors with sharing best practices — and at the same time help business owners find out how to make the industry more appealing to the next generation of employees.
Roofing Contractor reached out to a cross-section of roofing contractors in their 20s and 30s who made the choice to pursue a career in the roofing industry. We asked them to share their views and opinions on different topics including generational differences in their companies, new technology, social media, green products, recruiting, training, sales, marketing, legislation and regulation. The following is an introduction to these up-and-coming roofing contractors as they discuss new programs and ideas they have been implementing in their companies. One thing they all share is an emphasis on new technology and software to help streamline business practices.
Cheryl McGlothlin is the director of Business Development at Empire Roofing Inc., a commercial contractor headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. At age 29, she has been in the roofing industry for more than 10 years. She represents the second generation of her family in the business.
“We have been in business for 30 years,” she said. “My parents started the company in 1982 with a one-year old and a baby on the way, which would be me! My dad had worked as a laborer for another roofing company before while my mom helped in the office. After a few years they were ready to go off on their own so they sold their car to buy a kettle and a work truck. Due to the special skills each of them brought to the table and the special skills of our vice president of sales, a few years later they were able to grow this company to what it is today.”
McGlothlin explained that her company has grown a substantial amount in the last decade and that they are in the process of incorporating new technology to help their business be more productive and profitable. “We are implementing a new time and attendance piece,” she noted. “All of the foremen use a tablet instead of a paper time card to keep their time. They also get their work orders through their tablet. We have noticed that getting the exact clock in and out time instead of a rounded number that we save anywhere from 75 to 100 hours per week. I think once we really start using all of the features it will help in other areas as well.”
McGlothlin credits roofing industry associations for helping the company stay on top of new technology, as well as code changes. “We stay very involved in roofing associations, and we get a lot of our information between all of them that helps us make better decisions no matter what is going on in legislation and government regulations,” she said.
She is personally active with associations as well, and she is the youngest person on the MRCA board of directors. “I am blessed to have been considered and to know be part of a wonderful board that has so much knowledge to share with me,” she said. “They have also put me in charge of heading up our Young Contractors Council, which will be huge for our industry and will help guide our young leaders. I am also on our local roofing board: NTRCA, the board members are so involved and have really helped make the organization a great organization to be a part of. I don’t think I would have been able to achieve what I have achieved without great people cheering me on and helping guide me though out the years.”
Dane Bechtholdt is the sales manager for Douglass Colony Group in Commerce City, Colo. The company specializes in commercial applications, with about half of its business being new construction and the other half service and maintenance. Bechtholdt, age 27, joined the Douglass Colony team five years ago, when Douglass Colony President and CEO, Bob Bechtholdt, Dane’s uncle, brought up the opportunity at a family reunion. Since then Bechtholdt has been an integral part and high-performing sales representative for the roofing, re-roofing and waterproofing divisions.
The company is currently in the process of implementing a new software program for the company’s service division team. “The program helps to facilitate the roof inspection process by providing real-time photos so the service division team can recommend actions, estimate roof life and costs for repairs/replacement,” Bechtholdt said. “The service division shows the most potential for revenue growth and the implementation of this software will help this division to grow exponentially.”
Douglass Colony is focused on making the most of trends in mobile phone technology. “Many of our business partners and clients are accessing our information via cell phone,” he said. “This past year, Douglass Colony created a mobile website that is easy for mobile phone users to quickly and easily access our site. Lastly, we have noticed trending towards iPhone (or smart phone) and iPad technology. We wanted to ensure all sales and field staff could take advantage of these highly efficient technologies and that’s why this last year the entire staff received iPhones and the project managers and superintendents received iPads for more accurate reporting in the field.”
Shelley Metzler is the president of Interstate Roofing, Inc., in Portland, Ore. About half of the company’s revenue comes from steep-slope re-roofs, but it does a variety of work, including low slope re-roofs, service and maintenance, and carpentry, as well as the installation of siding, windows, and gutters.
Metzler, now 33, grew up in a family of roofing contractors and started out running the magnet and picking up debris when she was just a kid. “As I got older, I worked in the office doing all the normal functions,” she said. “I worked on the roof (mostly doing torch down) one dreadful summer my sophomore year of college. After that experience, I decided to spend the next summer in my college town and work for the local roofing contractor there. In my final summer of college, I completed an internship with GAF and then went to work for them full time once I graduated. Less than two years later, I craved the ‘clean and green’ of Oregon and returned to the family business in 2003."
The family was started in 1988 by her father, Mike Satran. Metzler and her brother, Brad Satran, purchased the company in January of 2009. She notes the company has reaped benefits from its investment in software, but there’s no substitute for personal interaction with the customer. “We spend a lot of time and money on customer service related applications,” she said. “We just invested in a program that brings the roof to the customer. We are also still very involved in good old fashioned networking. We find that people want to do business with someone they trust — and like.”
Metzler is optimistic about the future of her company. “The future will bring more refining and more investment in our employees,” she said. “We have been repeating our goals within the company like a mantra. For the first time, we have implemented profit sharing. If we can get all employees moving in the same direction, all focused on the same goal, we will improve our customers’ experience as well as bottom-line profitability.”
Kevin Gwaltney, age 35, is president of Diamond Roofing in Dodge City and Manhattan, Kan. got his start in the roofing industry working summers at age 13. He moved from doing odd jobs around the shop to working on hot roofing crews until he graduated from high school.
“My father started this roofing company when I was two years old and I jokingly commented that I was born into this industry,” he said. “Before starting kindergarten, I went to work with my dad every day. I had three sisters at home, and I am sure it was easier for my parents to send me to work than deal with the alternative. We still reminisce at our company with our veteran roofers about the days when my dad would take me on the roof, tie a rope around my waist and tie me up to an air conditioning unit.”
Commercial roofing makes up 80 percent of the company’s business, while service and repairs account for 15 percent and residential roofing makes up the other 5 percent. The majority of their business is roof replacement work. The company is also a member of RoofConnect and is active in industry associations. Gwaltney has served on the MRCA board of directors and now chairs the MRCA Technical and Research Committee, which he has served on for five years.
Gwaltney explained that his company has tried to position itself on the leading edge of technology in the workplace, as well as embracing green products and systems. “We have started a solar company, Diamond Solar Solutions,” he said. “We have progressed in our roofing installations to be more appealing to the green movement without sacrificing the performance of the roof system. We have expanded into new markets and also changed our mentality from being an order taker to and order creator. We have taken on mobile time clock solutions for field employees, as well as CRM (customer relationship management) software that provides tools for our frontline managers to be efficient and professional. In addition, we have made a huge investment on our safety program, dedicating a person to focus on this part of the business.”
Tracey Donels is the service coordinator for KPost Company, a commercial contractor in Dallas, Texas. He’s 34 years old and has been in the roofing industry for more than six years. The company is focused on expanding its customer base while continuing to concentrate on re-roofing opportunities. Donels began his roofing career through a new program that KPost was implementing to train college graduates to work in the commercial roofing business and so they could learn it from the ground up. “They thought I would be good fit as a guinea pig to try out the program,” said Donels. “Six years later I am still here.”
Donels mentioned that the company credits much of its recent success to a “Touches Program” that requires every manager, estimator, project manager an salesperson to contact a certain number of customers a week — hence the program’s name. “It really helped get our name out there and keep our name out there as a leader in the marketplace,” Donels said.
He points out that new technology has also made the company more productive. “The implementation of two software programs — Dataforma and Roof Logic — has helped us bring our company into the 21st century and bring that technology aspect to roofing where it has sorely been needed.”
Advances in software have increased profitability and made the industry more appealing as a career path in today’s high-tech marketplace. “I believe as software companies enter that market it will only make everyone better, while making sure the existing companies keep striving to improve themselves,” he said. “The use of technology in roofing will also help to improve our image and get us away from the dirty truck and ladder stereotype we often see.”
Geoff Mitchell is the CEO of Mid-South Roof Systems in Forest Park, Ga. He’s 36 years old, and he has been in the roofing industry for 17 years. The company does 100 percent commercial work, 70 percent of which is new construction. Mitchell got his start in roofing after graduating from high school through a number of different connections to Mid-South. He started working there as a gopher and IT support person while going to college, and he works to keep the company on the leading edge when it comes to IT.
“Sometimes the most simple of steps in technology have the largest impacts,” he said. “All of our foremen are now using smart phones. The increase in efficiency has been great. The foreman can take pictures of field situations and e-mail the picture in for comment from the office instead of having to describe it entirely over the phone or wait for pictures to be carried into the office. The ability to send daily reports and time sheets directly from the smart phone is probably our next step. We are looking at putting basic tablets in the hands of our service foreman once the apps are in place for our service software. I think that tablet computing represents a huge leap in the usability of devices in the field. The industry as a whole is going to see its next leaps in productivity based on this, I believe.”
Mitchell mentioned that the company has also recently implemented some new incentive programs for each revenue-generating/controlling center of the company, including estimating, project management, operations, and service, etc. He believes these systems will help increase efficiency and give people more control over their own income.
“We are continuing to dial in our efficiency and focus on ways to deal with the curveballs that roofing can throw you,” he said. “We want to enhance our visibility with some focused marketing in the next year. Our revenue related to PV has continued to climb significantly year over year. We feel like PV will be a very important part of our market in the future and we want to be very involved.”
Be on the lookout for the future installments in the Young Guns series, which will include in-depth discussions on topics including green practices, recruiting and training new employees, the future of the roofing industry and more.