Nestled in the rolling hills that dot the desert terrain throughout southern Arizona, the JW Marriott Starr Resort in Tucson stands out for its size and natural beauty amid the cacti-covered topography. It provided the perfect backdrop, learning space and intimate setting for roofing contractors and other industry experts, distributors and manufacturers to showcase their best business practices and open their minds to new ways of working — both of which have fast become the hallmark of Roofing Contractor’s Best of Success conference for the last 12 years.
The 13th annual event drew hundreds of roofing professionals from around North America for an intensive, two-day-long information filled experience that can change your roofing business for the better.
The speaker lineup showcased dynamic contractors, consultants and industry leaders with one goal: Share what they know and present it in a way that encourages progress and uplifts the roofing industry to the next level.
Roofing Contractor Publisher Jill Bloom kicked off the event reminding attendees about the goal behind it: Bringing the roofing industry together in a non-trade show environment where roofing professionals from across the continent can draw on each other’s experiences and learn first-hand how to improve their businesses.
“Whether you’re here for the first time, or the 13th … take advantage of this unique opportunity to share ideas with your peers and follow up after the event to see how the changes you implemented are working,” she said in her opening remarks.
Much like Best of Success 2015 in Phoenix, this year’s event drew many roofing contractors from west of the Mississippi River, but was still a draw to roofers from Maine to Miami. That included roofers impacted by the devastating hurricane season in southern and western Florida.
“We were worried there for a bit, but we made it out all right, all things considered,” said perennial event attendee Scott Biederman, owner of Southern Coatings, Inc., located in Pompano Beach, Fla. “There’s enough going on here (at the conference) that’s too good to pass up.”
After asking for a show of hands for first-time attendees — and again seeing the majority in the converted ballroom with arms raised — Bloom assured the crowd that there are probably more similarities between contractors in the room than differences, regardless of their service offerings and markets.
Since the first Best of Success in Myrtle Beach in 2003, nearly 4,000 roofing contractors have attended the two-day conference and heard presentations from more than 270 speakers that shared their expertise and stories of success and failure.
The atmosphere in Tucson was no different for veteran attendees or first-timers.
“Hearing people’s successes and difficulties was very relieving and comforting,” said Stephanie Marcelle, a controller at V&R Roofing in Tacoma, Wash., after attending her first conference.
“I learned of some areas we can improve on and also it was nice to hear of the things we were doing that were working well for others.”
Highlights from day one included presentations on a wide variety of topics ranging from branding tactics and digital marketing strategies to managing millennials and increased marijuana legalization efforts in many states.
A special panel discussion featuring three roofing contractors from the baby boomer generation and three millennials sparked several conversations about technology, the increasing importance of tracking and using of data, and maintaining a personal touch with clients.
Panel moderator David Harrison explained that in conclusion, the blending of the two worlds in today’s modern workplace inside and outside of the roofing industry comes down to leadership.
“Leadership is helping people overcome the fear of change,” he said. “When you think about it, the hard part anytime you ask someone to change is that you’re bringing discomfort, unfamiliarity and a lot of other things into the equation. There’s a lot of differences between management and leadership and millennials are part of our culture. We’ve got to make it a great part of our culture.”
Day one’s formal sessions culminated with RC’s announcement of the Residential and Commercial Contractors of the Year — the annual acknowledgement of roofing companies from around the country that exhibit industry best practices and uphold high standards for employee and customer care.
“We’re deeply honored to receive this reward and humbled,” said KPost President Steve Little upon accepting the award and commemorative trophy from RC Publisher Jill Bloom. “In every aspect we try to give back and (this) … shows that when you give back to the industry it will come back tenfold.”
Following the awards, the group gathered for a networking and social event with music and refreshments.
An energetic group of speakers followed day one with presentations on how to handle your company’s online reputation and using data and referrals to expand revenue streams. Sessions also included how to build an advisory board of non-roofing professionals, and how to integrate drones into a progressive business plan.
Former U.S. Congressman Reid Ribble, the relatively new CEO of the National Roofing Contractors Association, got the crowd fired up by urging attendees to be passionate and unapologetic about their chosen profession. The former roofing contractor from Wisconsin also implored them to get actively involved with a sense of urgency because he strongly believes now’s the time for the different voices within the industry to speak loudly together so that policymakers will pay attention.
Currently, the perception of roofers on Capitol Hill is pretty negative, he said, with most assuming they hire as many illegal immigrants as possible, pay them under the table and profiteer from customers.
“That’s what they think about you. And that’s what I had to fight against the whole time I was there because you’re not that way, and the industry is not that way,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to do there, that if it’s done the right way we can change policy.”
Of the hundreds of roofing contractors from across North America that came to the desert, many were again first-time attendees who said they left with a better appreciation for their field and their place in the industry.
“The conference itself was the was the single greatest flood of information I have ever had in one day,” said Matt Gutierrez, a first time attendee from SHELL Roofing Solutions in Chino, Calif. “It blew away all of the aggressive classes I had ever taken in college and the lessons I learned immediately benefitted me on the first day back to work. It gave me a different kind of drive to be a better businessman and roofer.”
The tradition of bringing together the best and brightest in the roofing industry to a friendly, non-competitive environment where contractors can learn and excel continues to be a chief goal for the entire Roofing Contractor team. Plans are in the works for the 14th annual Best of Success conference in the fall of 2018. As of this publication date, an official location has not been released. Check back with Roofing Contractor’s print edition and Best of Success topic regularly for updates, or visit www.BestofSuccessConference.com.