Midwest Roofing Contractors Association’s Annual Conference Stresses Education
The 2013 Midwest Roofing Contractors Association’s 64th Annual Conference was held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill., Oct. 23-25. Nearly 400 roofing professionals, manufacturers and suppliers embraced the opportunity to interact with industry leaders at the conference, on the trade show floor and in a variety of networking events, including the Welcome Reception, the Young Contractors Council reception, and the “My Kind of Town” Industry Night featuring Chicago-themed food and entertainment. The auction at the Welcome Reception brought in more than $43,000 for the MRCA Foundation.
The MRCA has developed a reputation for top-notch educational sessions, and this year’s conference was no exception. The keynote address was provided by Susan Annunzio, president and CEO of The Center for High Performance and an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business.
In her presentation titled “High-Performance Leadership,” sponsored by Johns Manville, Annunzio identified the characteristics of high-performing workgroups offered tips on improving performance throughout the organization. One of the most important facets of leadership is simply appreciating workers for their talents. “Treat smart people like they’re smart,” she said. “It costs nothing and it pays enormous dividends in the long run.”
“The recent annual conference in Chicago featured many outstanding educational sessions and was a huge success,” said Steve Little, president of KPost Company and the incoming MRCA president. “The keynote speaker, Susan Annunzio, taught us that managing our human assets is as important as managing our financial assets. As always, Dr. Rene Dupuis and the T&R team knocked it out of the park with reports on membrane reflectivity and water-based adhesives. And for a third consecutive year, our exhibitors stated that MRCA continues to lead all other associations in tradeshow innovation and bringing the qualified buyer to the show floor.”
The technical session on water-based adhesives showcased the association’s effort to break new ground in its study of adhesive performance. Titled “Baseline Study on Water-Based Adhesives,” the presentation was moderated by Rene Dupuis, Ph.D., of SRI, and included panelists Kevin Gwaltney of Diamond Roofing, Thomas Taylor of GAF and Joe Schwetz of Sika Sarnafil.
DuPuis updated attendees on the results of the study of water-based adhesives designed to determine the fundamental weight loss behavior of the drying adhesive material under different temperature and humidity conditions, as well as its rate of rehydration. “The MRCA Technical and Research committee began to look at this, and we realized no data exists in the public domain on basic dry-down properties of water-based bonding adhesives,” he said.
He detailed the testing protocol and reviewed the data from some initial rounds of testing. In some cases, samples in hot, humid conditions took longer to dry than samples in cold, damp conditions. “Hot, humid weather is just as bad as cold, damp weather,” DuPuis said.
Gwaltney, the current MRCA Technical and Research Committee chair, detailed some case studies to document real-world results. “In reality, contractors have found that the product is complex and not well understood,” he said. Gwaltney advocated a team approach, urging manufacturers, suppliers and contractors to work together to formulate, distribute and install these adhesives correctly for a successful application.
Schwetz detailed methods for proper storage and application of water-based adhesive products, emphasizing their temperature constraints. “Water-based adhesives can freeze,” he cautioned. “Winter shipping must be done in heated vans.”
MRCA Names 2014 Officers and Directors
The Midwest Roofing Contractors Association (MRCA) announced its 2014 officers and directors at its 2013 Annual Conference. The 2014 officers include MRCA President Steve Little of KPost Company, Dallas; First Vice President Larry Marshall of L. Marshall Inc., Glenview, Ill.; Treasurer/Second Vice President Bob Schenkel of CL Schust Company, Ft. Wayne, Ind.; Secretary Mark Langer of Langer Roofing, Milwaukee; and Chairman of the Board Michael Miller of Henry C. Smither Roofing Co., Indianapolis.
MRCA’s 2014 directors are Terry Buss of E.D. Chase; Kevin Gwaltney of Diamond Roofing; James Huntington of AAA Roofing Co. Inc.; Adam Paris of Tecta America Kentucky; Greg Sprague of Sprague Roofing Co.; Randy Adams of R. Adams Roofing Inc.; Phil Diederich of Waukegan Roofing Co. Inc.; Mark Gwaltney of Diamond Roofing; Kelly Lea of KPost Company; Bill Seibert of Fisher Roofing of Kearney; Andy Wray of Wray Roofing; Scott Erickson of Weathercraft Co. of North Platte; and Fred Haines of Roofmasters Roofing & Sheet Metal Co Inc.
“As your MRCA president and fellow contractor, I am excited to lead MRCA in 2014,” said Little. “We have assembled a great executive team, board of directors, T&R Committee, advisory committees, and a great staff led by Executive Director Louise Ristau. This team will continue to modernize MRCA for today’s business environment. As MRCA Past President Randy Adams stated when he took the helm in 2011, ‘Any changes at MRCA will only take place in principle-centered ways. We will respect the past, but we must operate in the world we have today.’” For more information, visit www.mrca.org.
Taylor noted that regulations for VOCs can vary depending on location, and he urged contractors to be aware of the legal ramifications of the products they are using. Attendees were provided a list of adhesive VOC regulations broken down on a state-by-state basis. “It’s a very confusing regulatory environment,” Taylor said.
The theme of codes that varied from state to state was picked up by the Presidents’ Forum, which was moderated by Randy Adams of R. Adams Roofing Inc. Panelists included Heidi Ellsworth of EagleView Technologies, John McLaughlin of Allied Building Products, Chris Salazar of Karnak Corporation, Bob Wamboldt of Johns Manville and Todd Homa of Polyglass U.S.A.
When Adams asked panelists how the industry could ensure contractors had the correct information on codes and proper installation, Salazar pointed to VOC regulations as an example and urged contractors to contact manufacturers for help. “We do this for a living,” he said. “We know which codes affect our products, and we’re here to help.”
Homa agreed. “Call us,” he said. “We all have large technical departments, and we’re here to help you.”
McLaughlin noted that distributors can be a resource and local branches often provide seminars. “We have a dedicated team to keep us up to speed,” he said. “We rely on the manufacturers to help us help you.”
Ellsworth pointed to the important role of industry associations, including the MRCA, in conducting research and bringing information to contractors. “It’s critical to be involved,” she said.
The wide-ranging session also touched on other industry trends, including new technology, social media, and cool, vegetative and solar roofing systems. It also focused on the difficulty in finding and retaining qualified workers. Wamboldt pointed to the importance of proper training in employee retention. “We have to show them a career path,” he said.
Panelists agreed that the industry has to do a better job of reaching out and spreading the word about its benefits to prospective employees, including women. “This industry is one where people really take care of each other, and I think that’s what women want,” Ellsworth said. “We need to communicate to more people — men and women — how great this industry is.”
Getting Serious About Safety
Having an effective safety program in place isn’t just about complying with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) — it’s about making sure all employees are safe on the jobsite and return home to their families each and every night. That was the message of the panel discussion titled “Building Your Own Safety Plan,” which featured panelists Kelly Lea of KPost Company, Jayne Williams of KPost Company, Andy Wray of Wray Roofing and Rod Petrick of Ridgeworth Roofing Co. Moderated by MRCA Legal Counsel Gary Auman, the participants shared lessons learned and discussed key steps for creating successful safety programs.
The panelists stressed the importance of developing a safety plan that is specific to each company and referenced on a regular basis. Implementing a standard, “store-bought” program simply to comply with the law is not enough. “If it’s going to be a living document, it has to be something that I write up and am intimately involved in,” Wray explained.
According to the panelists, being personally involved in creating, teaching and enforcing a company’s safety program ensures that all employees understand it — which is essential to its success. “From day one, when it was decided that I would be safety director, I approached it with an emotional leadership. I’m not going to be responsible for anyone dying,” Williams said. “It must be personal and about your company. You can only expect people to follow what they understand.”
All panelists agreed that a well-developed, company-specific safety program is worth every penny to protect both workers and the company’s reputation. “Look at it not as a cost, but as a company investment,” Petrick said. “Once your company believes in that safety culture, it becomes an investment to be better.”
In an intriguing session titled “Managing Across Generations at Work,” Karen Cates, Ph.D., Kellogg School of Management, focused on the benefits of having multiple generations in the field and how roofing contractors can proactively manage their different personalities and work styles.
Cates began by introducing the generational cohorts — Baby Boomers (born 1947-62), Generation X (born 1963-78), Generation Y or Millennials (born 1979-94), and Linksters (born 1995-2010) — and explaining the unique characteristics of each group. She then said that the key to effectively managing the different generations is taking time to learn and fully understand the inherent values, ideas and expectations that each one brings to the workplace. For example, Baby Boomers usually expect respect, Generation X expects recognition, and Millennials expect acceptance. These different attitudes toward work require very different and unique methods of management.
Cates acknowledged that generational differences are very real and must be addressed in order to avoid generational conflict in a diverse workplace. She recommended that managers discuss employees’ expectations up front, identify ways to remove barriers and streamline work processes.
Cates stressed that generational diversity can be positive for any company as long as it is appropriately recognized and managed. “Managing generations can be difficult, but the upside is not only good for employees, it’s good for business,” she said.
The MRCA honored two of its members with awards during the conference. Rod Petrick, president of Ridgeworth Roofing in Frankfort, Ill., received the James Q. McCawley Award — the association’s highest honor — for his outstanding contributions to MRCA and the roofing industry. Petrick, the 2008 MRCA president, also served on the board for several years and was president of the MRCA Foundation Board.
The MRCA Impact Award was presented to Showalter Roofing Service Inc. of Naperville, Ill. The Impact Award recognizes an MRCA member company for helping to improve the lives of others through philanthropy or community service. Showalter Roofing was recognized for its work at Camp Paradise, a facility in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula dedicated to improving relationships between fathers and their children.
The MRCA’s 65th Annual Conference will be held Dec. 9-12, 2014 at the Gaylord Texan Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. For more information, visit www.mrca.org.