My plan for this column, the last of 2020, was to call out some of the best things about the year for the roofing industry. The first item on the list was simple: It’s almost over!
It seems the roofing industry, despite all the challenges we face year after year, always proves its resiliency. Few businesses are recession proof, but roofing seems to do better than most. Being a key part of providing shelter, a basic human need, roof contracting has always been an “essential” trade. Therefore, in 2020, the roofing industry was broadly recognized as such so roofing work was able to continue in most jurisdictions after quickly adapting to working in a pandemic world. This alone may have been the best thing for roofing in 2020.
Perhaps the second-best thing that happened in 2020 were the lessons learned. As part of adapting to a COVID-19 world, roofing contractors had to learn new business systems for estimating, selling and finding more work. Many of these new methods employed existing technologies that we simply had not deployed.
The expectations of the roofing consumer changed during 2020. In the pre-pandemic world of roofing sales and estimating, the consumer expected you to show up. Not just once, but sometimes two, three, or more times before a signature hit a contract. The expectation now, and for the foreseeable future, is not only that it’s okay to not show up, but in some cases, it’s actually preferred.
When I say, “show up,” in this context, I mean physically show up in your awesome-looking wrapped truck with the ladder on the rack. Roofing contractors discovered that they still had to show up, but only showing up virtually became acceptable. The job of developing the technologies that worked for consumers was performed by the tech vendors and contractors working quickly to adapt and improve on existing solutions. As a result, we have reports of roofing contractors selling and completing projects with no physical contact outside the crew performing the work.
Is 2020 going to mark the end of human contact in the roofing sales and estimating fields? I doubt that. There’s still a lot of value to relationships, and face-to-face is difficult to beat, even with today’s technologies.
I believe what 2020 has done will have the effect of greatly reducing the need for face-to-face contact. Once a relationship (trust) is established, the routine work of order placement and fulfillment will typically be done on the phone and/or online.
Just for fun, let me share a few more “silver lining” items you may not have considered. All that mileage you did not pile up visiting potential customers in 2020 is money in your bank. And the gas you did use was cheaper (accounting for inflation) than it was in 1974, the year I started in this business.
The time you saved on the road was time you were able to focus on your own education and training. Smart roofing contractors were able to improve their business and production systems this year like never before, just by having the time to focus on them.
After a few hours considering all the possibilities, I found more to be thankful for than I could list in this column. We’re all blessed to be in an industry that is not only essential, but important, resilient, and here to stay.