Editor’s Note: ABC Supply Co. recently celebrated its 35th year in business serving roofing contractors across the country. Committed to co-founders Ken and Diane Hendricks’ mission to provide the resources roofing contractors needed to help their businesses become successful — while treating them with the respect they deserve, what started more than three decades ago with just a handful of stores in the Midwest has grown to more than 700 locations across the United States.
Roofing Contractor helps them mark the occasion with the following collection of thoughts and perspectives from some of ABC Supply Co.’s longest-serving associates. The information and images were collected and provided by ABC Supply Co.
When ABC Supply was founded in 1982, the company had three locations, a United States Postage Stamp cost 20 cents and the first mass-produced cellphone was years away from market. Fast forward 35 years and ABC Supply has more than 700 locations and technology has advanced in more ways than anyone can count.
To highlight many of the changes and innovations that have taken place at ABC Supply and in the roofing industry in the past three decades, we sat down with four past Ken Hendricks Award winners and longtime ABC Supply associates who experienced the evolution of the industry over the years first-hand: Pat Keeney, Jeff Ploch, Frank Novascone and Tom Wills.
Q: As the industry has evolved over the years, so have contractors’ responsibilities. How have you seen contractors’ roles change?
Ploch: I’m in the Midwest and years ago many contractors in our area didn’t work in the winter. Today, they’re working yearlong. They also tend to take on more roles than they did in the past. They’ve become marketing guys, they’re running crews, estimating, working with insurance companies and keeping track of the books.
Keeney: There are so many more codes and regulations today than there were 35 years ago, so contractors spend a lot of time making sure their crews comply with them.
Q: While change is inevitable, there are some things that have stayed the same over the years. What about contractors or the industry hasn’t changed since the early 1980s?
Keeney: One thing that hasn’t changed is that contractors still have an incredibly strong work ethic.
Ploch: This is still a people business. Contractors still want to buy from people who care about their businesses. They want to do business with people they can rely on, who will be there to provide answers to their questions.
Novascone: Contractors continue to demand and deserve respect. One of the biggest ways we can demonstrate respect is by being a good partner to our customers and delivering products on time. Contractors’ time is still one of their most precious resources.
Q: From technology and product advancements to regulations and labor, contractors have faced a lot of challenges in the past 35 years. What are some of the biggest challenges they face today, and how do you help them navigate those challenges?
Ploch: Time is still one of the biggest challenges contractors face. My team tries to help give contractors back some time by offering services like the Freedom Programs and ABC Connect. A second challenge contractors frequently face, especially in the past few years, is finding good labor. One of the ways we try to help contractors with their labor shortages is by being a network for them to find subcontractors. We all need to continue to talk to young people in high school about the opportunities in this industry.
Novascone: There are so many more products out there today than there were 35 years ago, and contractors are trying to keep up with all of the product information. The ABC Supply team can be a resource for contractors, and we’ll take time to walk contractors through the information they need ahead of a sales pitch. Our solution centers can also serve as a good base camp for educating contractors and their customers. And if contractors are short on time or need a hand, our associates can step in and meet their customers at our solution centers to show them product samples and answer questions. After the meeting, the contractor will also receive a full summary of the meeting from the associate.
Q: Part of ABC Supply’s founding principle is to give contractors the products and services they need to build their businesses. What are some of the big moves ABC Supply has made over the years that have helped contractors better tackle their projects?
Keeney: The diversity of products offered at ABC Supply has dramatically changed. What once was mostly viewed as a roofing supply house is now a one-stop shop for exterior building products, tools and accessories thanks to the creation of the ABC Catalog. Another big change has been with technology. Programs like ABC Connect make our customers’ jobs easier and, in my opinion, have helped us continue to strengthen our relationships with contractors.
Wills: Our trackable delivery service really changed the delivery experience for our contractors, which is crucial when considering that we deliver the majority of our products to the jobsite. Not only can we help contractors plan by letting them know within a 30-minute window when products will arrive, but we have equipment that allows us to deliver products to the right spot on a jobsite, like a roof rather than to the side of the street, which is what we had to do 30 years ago.
Q: You’ve all been associates of ABC Supply for decades. Why is ABC Supply a special place to work?
Keeney: Even though ABC Supply has grown over the years, each branch still feels like a mom-and-pop shop, and every associate has a direct investment in their location’s success.
Ploch: We’re a people-first company and everyone here feels like family, and they feel like they can make a difference. We also consider our customers and vendors to be part of our family, and we know everyone by name.
Novascone: This company has given me the tools I need to be successful, but it hasn’t limited how I use them to succeed. There was a time before ABC Supply when I considered different career paths. Now I can’t ever imagine working someplace else.
Wills: I joined ABC Supply in 1984 when it had just 13 stores, so I feel like I was a part of building something. We’ve always been a family-oriented company, and it’d be pretty hard to ever leave my family.
Visit abcsupply.com to learn more about the company’s history and the ways they’re helping today’s contractors better run and grow their businesses.