In my more active days in the wholesale supply space of the roofing industry, I managed or helped managers manage a group of truck drivers, boom truck operators, and warehouse workers of all types. As a manager, I didn’t do a lot of preaching, but there were two topics on which I did: safety being number one. 

As a topic of discussion when it comes to folks responsible for operating heavy products and machinery, safety is a given. The people I worked for and most of the people I worked with were passionate about safety. It was a given that we would all do our level best to prevent any type of damage or injury completing our daily tasks.

There was another item I kept in focus constantly and could be accused of preaching about by any branch or logistics manager within earshot: recruiting. My message was that in good times or bad, if we were hiring or not, we were always “in the market” for talent.

Believe it or not, it was often difficult selling managers on this concept. They were too busy working on sales or reviewing the numbers; too busy with just about anything to stop to speak with a promising recruit if the need for their services was not imminent. I would plead with managers to build a bench of talent, if only on paper. Build a list of promising people who might fit into their team and stay in touch with them — for years, if necessary.

Can you imagine someone coming to work in your shop after they have waited a couple of years to get the call? I think you would both be excited when that day finally comes.

This may sound like a downright foolish way of thinking. The world has been turned upside down by COVID-19 and we live in a world of ongoing uncertainty. You may be wondering where your next job is coming from or you may not have had much of a slowdown in your work. Regardless, uncertainty is going to fade away and business is going to be even more brisk than we enjoyed over the past decade.

Think about it — pre-COVID-19 we were in a huge deficit for roofing workers. Our skilled roofers were retiring every year as we struggled to replace them. Statistically we were falling behind. Post-COVID-19 we have the potential to be in even worse shape as the retiring roofers are still retiring. Some workers that were in the trade may have left in search of other employment options.

And guess what: if work slows down it will only go into the “pent-up demand” file. It will not go away. The opportunities for roofing work will just be delayed and, as we have seen in the past, will come back without notice. If you want to prevail when that happens, you simply must build your bench. Now.

I firmly believe the best roofing contractors are the ones who employ the best, most talented workers. You may focus on sales and keep your eyes on the numbers, but you will not succeed long-term if you do not remain committed to recruiting and keeping the best talent available.