Roofing Contractor’s eighth annual Best of Success Conference was held at the Omni Interlocken resort in Denver Sept. 24-25. This is the second time the conference has been held in Denver and the conference yet again set records for the number of attendees and sponsors. More than 339 roofing professionals attended this year’s Best of Success conference, which lived up to its name once again.
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During this two-day conference, sessions were held on topics including crisis management, sales and marketing, safety regulations, succession planning, preventive maintenance and more.
Speakers and topics included:
• Curt and Suzan Boyd, Academy Roofing Inc. — “Things I Wish I Knew When Starting My Business”
• Craig Brightup, the Brightup Group LLC — “Election Year Policies, Politics and the Roofing Industry”
• Jay Elie, Ridgecon Construction — “Mobile Tag Marketing”
• Greg Hayne, Roof Management — “How to Sell Preventive Maintenance (And Why You Need To)”
• Kevin Kennedy, Beacon Exit Planning — “Succession: A Journey from Management to Leadership”
• Bruce McCrory, Kiker Corp. and president of the National Roofing Contractors Association — “NRCA Update”
• Brad Satran, Interstate Roofing — “Recycle Your Way to Profits”
• Cal Schreiner, Prologis — “The Roofing Contractor from the Perspective of the Building Owner”
• David Welch, Ben Hill Roofing and Siding, Inc. — “How to Create Raving Customers”
There were also three panel discussions, which focused on crisis management, the benefits of industry associations and the role of women in construction.
“The Best of Success model is unique in the industry and has consistently proven its value to roofing contractors year after year,” said Roofing Contractor Editorial Director Rick Damato. “Attendees enjoy direct input as to the content and the presenters, consisting mainly of successful roofing contractors, deliver tested and reliable advice. Our attendees tell us the information they receive at Best of Success delivers results as soon as they return to the day-to-day operation of their roofing business.”
“The Best of Success conference is always motivating for everyone who attends,” said Roofing ContractorPublisher Jill Bloom. “What I enjoy the most is watching the energy coming from the attendees and excitement I see in their eyes as they hear new ideas. It’s also gratifying to hear from them throughout the year as they report on the changes they’ve made in their businesses and the positive results they’ve experienced.”
Would employees at your company know how to react if there was an accident at the jobsite and workers were injured? Would they know what to say if TV news reporters suddenly showed up with their cameras rolling? That’s the scenario KPost Company used to determine if its management team and employees were ready to handle a crisis. Steve Little, president of KPost, moderated a panel discussion in which KPost employees shared their experiences handling this surprise drill and offered advice on how businesses should prepare for crisis situations.
The panelists included the KPost employees who participated in the exercise: Keith Post, CEO; Jayne Williams, CFO/Safety Director; Brent McFarlin, Vice President of Operations; Tracey Donels, Service Manager; and Dale Tyler, now president of President of National Roofing Partners, who was KPost’s vice president of sales at the time.
Little stressed the importance of being prepared for the unexpected. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when you’ll have a crisis,” he said.
The first step is defining the crisis architecture, noted Little. Smoldering crises might include things like low employee morale, outdated technology or personnel conflicts, while devastating crises might include things like the CEO of the company dying in a plane crash or a fire at a jobsite that destroys the building.
Key steps in preparing to handle a devastating crisis include:
• Defining the chain of command and the roles of the management team.
• Establishing the lines and methods of communication.
• Developing the company’s message, both internal and external.
• Developing a manual to cover crisis situations.
• Training employees on how to act and react.
• Setting up practice drills.
“You have to have a plan, you have to execute the plan, and the plan has to be written down,” said Little.
McFarlin and Williams stressed the continuity and consistency of the message. “When you step out of the war room, it’s one message,” said McFarlin. “We had one person talk to the media.”
“Employees need to be told immediately what happened and that everything is under control,” added Williams. “You have to practice. You have to make sure people are singing the same hymn.”
Donels urged everyone to not only have a playbook but carry it with them. The manual should define not only the key roles but who should be the backup for each person — as well as the backup for the backup. “You have to make the time to prepare yourself,” he said.
Training and cross-training was arduous, but it was worth it, according to Post. “It’s made us a better company,” he said, “We practice it every year.”
The speed at which the company reacts can be crucial. “If you put the message out first, you control the message rather than having the message control you,” said Little.
The Power of Associations
Day one was capped off by a panel discussion titled “How My Association Has Significantly Impacted My Business,” moderated by Jill Bloom. Panelists included contractors who shared stories about how their national, regional, state and local associations helped their business. Bill Baley, president of C.I. Services Inc. in Mission Viejo, Calif., and the president of the Western States Roofing Contractors Association, (WSRCA), described how his association saved him from a legal nightmare. Baley had served in a management role at another company several years earlier, and the company had subsequently run up huge debts with a vendor. The vendor cast a wide net to try to recoup its losses, and tried to recover the money from anyone with ties to the company. To make matters worse, they were able to legally attach the debt to his contractor’s license, which was immediately suspended. As part of his WSRCA membership, Baley was entitled to free legal advice, and the lawyers quickly resolved the problem. “My $545 per year investment in my association dues paid off in huge dividends over one simple issue I had no control over — and had no idea how to solve on my own,” he said.
“No roofing contractor is an island,” said Amy Hawkins of Boulder Roofing Company. She is a past president of the Colorado Roofing Association (CRA) and is currently on its board of directors, and she detailed the ways state associations can benefit contractors, including educational events, legislative input, community service opportunities, and group discounts. But she singled out peer interaction as the greatest benefit. “The most significant impact comes from the actual association with other members that a state organization encourages and provides,” she said. “You can share ideas and share solutions.”
Brian McPartlon of Brian McPartlon Roofing in Santa Fe, N.M., is a member of national, regional, state and local associations. “Why do I write a check every year for these groups?” he asked. “The most important thing is they save me money and they make me money.” He pointed to safety training, best practices guidance and joint marketing efforts as major benefits and urged attendees to join their area organizations and become active members.
Lydia Brannin of D.C. Taylor Co. in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, detailed how the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) provided legal expertise to help with the disposal of hazardous waste the company discovered sitting in its yard. The NRCA helped D.C. Taylor properly dispose of the waste and develop a best practices guideline for managing and minimizing hazardous waste. “NRCA was extremely helpful during this process, and we’re very thankful,” she said.
Brannin shared some tips, including:
• Order only as much materials as are required to satisfy immediate needs.
•Maintain an up-to-date inventory.
•Inventory any hazardous materials delivered to the construction site by a material supplier.
•Above all, avoid returning materials back to the shop.
She noted that Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are the best source of information about the chemical composition of a product, its flash point, and particular hazardous traits it may exhibit.
“OSHA rules require a roofing contractor to maintain MSDSs for each product that workers may be exposed during work activities, so have a complete listing of MSDS for every chemical on site,” she advised.
Women in Construction
The Women in Construction panel consisted of Cheryl McGlothlin with Empire Roofing, Kate Bechtholdt from Douglass Colony Group, Molly Mortenson with NMC Exteriors & Remodeling, Jayne Williams from KPost Company and Diana King from Springer-Peterson Roofing & Sheet Metal. These women shared stories about how they got into the roofing industry and discussed best practices along with moderator Steve Little.
King mentioned the importance of bringing social media into your business. “Create new brands, websites, Facebook, Twitter and blogs. The world now interacts via online. We currently have done all of the above and after two years now have interaction and opportunities within our community.”
Bechtholdt agreed with marketing through online and social media but noted not to forget the personal sales basics that a lot of clients appreciate. “Having a great website is of course a must, along with taking advantage of all online and social media outlets. But make sure to keep up with your in-person networking, meet and greets and presentations; this is still essential must for a lot of our customers.”
Williams said safety should be the No.1 priority. “Set a safety culture and treat safety as a profit center not a cost center,” she said. “Calculate your soft costs per incident.”
Williams also mentioned to determine your company’s core values, share with employees, customers and vendors. “Hire employees that share your core values, they will stay around for the long haul.”
Mortenson tied in with social media as well and highly recommended Google analytics for the company, “If we are making that customer happy, it hits all the multimedia websites.”
Coming from a family business, McGlothlin made the point that in a generational business parents need to trust their kids in order for a succession plan to work. “I think it’s really important to learn every aspect of the business and understand what is going on out in the field,” she said.
Responses from contractors in attendance were overwhelmingly positive.
Billy Baley from C.I. Services in Mission Viejo, Calif., has attended Best of Success multiple times. “If you don’t come you are missing out on so many things; there is just so much happening,” he said. “You learn so much about the industry. You learn so much from other contractors. You learn from the manufacturers. How could you miss this? I always learn something really new.”
Second-timer Bob Kulp, Founder of Kulp’s of Stratford, LLC in Stratford, Wis., explained how the conference is worth coming back to. “You always take away great ideas when you get a bunch of 400 contractors together in a room. It’s excellent to hang out with guys that face the same problems you do and it has been very great.”
“This is my first time at Best of Success and it’s a really good conference,” said Gabe Carmona from Knock Out Roofing in Riverton, Utah. “There are a lot of roofers out here and we’re learning a lot as far as new techniques, running a roofing company, marketing, advertising, safety, crisis management. It’s a really good program. You’re in classes and constantly learning. Best of Success is a conference that I would definitely recommend,”
Chris Zazo from Aspenmark Roofing & Solar in Dallas commented on the networking that this conference has to offer. “It’s just a great atmosphere to learn and be part of something great. Some strike more with owners, some strike more with sales people or management people that we bring to the event so it really ties in to get a little bit of everything for everybody. It helps us with the networking. It helps us with the motivation. It helps us with the comrade of the whole industry to know that there are outlets for us to find professional information and apply to our daily business practices.”
“I am so grateful that I came to see so many great quality contractors,” said Tom Imbruglia from Royal Roof Company in Pomona, Calif. “You come to a national event like this and you realize that there are a lot of good contractors out there and you realize that you are just one of many. You suddenly recognize that there is a lot of room to improve and I found today to be really motivating to try and reach that higher bar and for that reason alone I am really glad that I came.”
Brad Satran from Interstate Roofing in Portland, Ore., said, “This is my third Best of Success and I keep coming back because one, there is a ton of relationships made and you can really learn from those, and two, I have never left with nothing. I have always been able to steal one good idea from somebody, which pays for the trip.”
Doug Van Dyke from Van Martin in Dayton, Ohio, complimented the educational lineup. “In the brief history of our company, the Best of Success conference has been the single greatest factor for gaining knowledge and implementing ideas which have separated Van Martin from our competition.”
“Best of Success helped my business,” said Kevin Gwaltney from Diamond Roofing in Dodge City, Kan. “I learned a couple things today that I want to take back and get with our residential manager. Just being involved networking with contractors here is exciting — to share ideas and best practices. I am excited to be here.”
Bloom commended all of the speakers and thanked the attendees for their enthusiasm. She also expressed her appreciation for the event’s corporate sponsors. “Best of Success would not be possible without the support of its sponsors,” she said. “I’d like to thank them all: 3C Network, 3M, ABC Supply, AccuLynx, Allied Building Products, Atlas Roofing, Black Rhino, Bosch, CARE, CertainTeed, EagleView Technologies, Equipter, GAF, GenFlex Roofing Systems, Hunter Panels, IKO Manufacturing, Johns Manville, Karnak Corp., Hailmap.com, National Roofing Partners, Owens Corning, Pictometry, Polyglass, Qual-Craft Industries, RIDGID, TAMKO Building Products, Tapco Roofing Products, and the United Association of Storm Restoration Contractors. We’re thrilled to have their support, and we hope to see everyone next year.”
At press time, Bloom and the Roofing Contractorteam were finalizing the details on next year’s event. For more information about the 2013 Best of Success conference, visit www.bestofsuccessconference.com.
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