Roofing contractors are entrepreneurs at heart, and many had a gut check in 2020 that put their business spirit to the test as the new year began. Fitting that Feb. 13-20 is National Entrepreneurship Week, which celebrates entrepreneurial businesses across the country — including the roofing community. 

We’ve shared how roofing contractors are adopting the Entrepreneurial Operating System® — EOS — as a new way of doing business. It’s among the educational resources available to members of the Owens Corning Roofing Contractor Network, which aims to help entrepreneurial roofing contractors navigate not only working in the business, but working on it.

Sue Hawkes, CEO of YESS! is a certified EOS Implementer®, author and coach. In coordination with National Entrepreneurship Week, she shared some insights from her work with entrepreneurs and members of the network.

RC: What is an EOS and how can it help roofing contractors? 

Sue Hawkes: EOS is a comprehensive and holistic system that helps entrepreneurs apply a set of business tools and a proven process to synchronize their business and achieve results. Simply stated, an EOS can help entrepreneurs — including roofers — connect with the reason they started a business in the first place. These reasons include doing the work they love, working with people they enjoy, earning appropriate compensation and making a difference while still having time to pursue other life passions.

RC: What are the foundational pillars of EOS?

SH: EOS is built around helping entrepreneurs achieve three objectives: “Vision, Traction® and Healthy.”

Vision is all about getting everyone at the company on the same page with regards to where the company is heading and the process for getting there.

Traction® helps entrepreneurs apply discipline, focus and accountability to achieve the vision.

Healthy — While most entrepreneurs are great leaders, being a good team player can be harder. The “healthy” component draws on the community of the business to function as a team — ultimately delivering a system that is more than the sum of its parts.

RC: What are some defining characteristics of an entrepreneur?

SH: There is a quiz for that — you can check it out on the YESS! website. But here are just a few quick indicators that you might be an entrepreneur:

  • High comfort with risk
  • Persistent — a "no" is just fuel in the gas tank to get to a "yes"
  • View problems as opportunities
  • Idea generator — 2,000 ideas a day
  • Inpatient, driven, competitive, indecisive, embrace conflict, change agent . . .

RC: What differentiates an entrepreneur from a business owner?

SH: There are business owners and entrepreneurs — they are two different types of people and both are needed in business. While some people walk into a place and want to fit in, entrepreneurs want to change the place. They are highly intuitive, trust their gut, and are born rule breakers. Although highly charismatic and independent, they can also be perceived as intimidating. 

Entrepreneurs see an opportunity and want to seize it. They are a catalytic force that creates something out of nothing. A business owner takes an existing thing and makes it better. The combination of both personalities works well — that’s where the “healthy” aspect of EOS comes into play. 

RC: What are five challenges all entrepreneurs face?

SH: The entrepreneur doesn’t face the challenges alone. It’s really all about the concept of a team that helps entrepreneurs grow. They are the party starters people want to be around. Attend an Owens Corning Platinum meeting and you’ll get a concept of how the team can come together. But back to the entrepreneurial challenges . . . Here are some common hurdles:

  1. Control. Entrepreneurs know what to do, but can struggle to get there. They may feel like the business has them and not the other way around.
  2. Profits. Many entrepreneurs are not realizing the profits they could be earning. They’re working too hard. They’re doing what they love but not selling and scaling to afford the life they want.
  3. People. Entrepreneurs don’t like managing people. During our training we focus on how to cultivate listening, align and find a clear path to achieve what needs to be done. This requires clear communication.
  4. People hit the ceiling. Entrepreneurs can grow the company to a certain level but then plateau at a certain place or revenue. A goal of EOS is to push through this plateau get to a new level of simplicity.
  5. Discipline. Entrepreneurs’ high energy means they can be attracted to the “flavor of the month.” They are likely to attend workshops, read every book and embrace new models. This enthusiasm can make it hard to build discipline, which is the foundation of everything.

RC: How can entrepreneurial roofers balance their love of the business with growth?

SH: That’s the million-dollar question and a lot comes down to learning how to delegate. Entrepreneurs are highly confident, skilled and often do too much. They don’t do well when it comes to delegating. But if entrepreneurs don’t empower people who are stronger in other ways, nothing can be achieved beyond their capacity. A client told me EOS is a leadership development program disguised as an operating system. The ego loves being good at things and entrepreneurs need to access the great people around them who can fill spots that are not the entrepreneur’s area of strength. In corporate America, we tend to hire the wrong way — hiring people more like us. But success is like working a puzzle and entrepreneurs need to look for the other puzzle parts that fill missing areas.

RC: Have events of the past year made burnout a bigger challenge?

SH: Burnout has always been an issue, but Zoom meetings and pivoting in so many areas has affected everyone’s life. I’m inspired by the resilience, ingenuity and care people have demonstrated — the response has been heroic and gives us all hope for humanity.

RC: How can entrepreneurs combat burnout?

SH: Entrepreneurs must work in the business while also working on it. Weekly or bi-weekly clarity breaks are essential. Sit down with a notebook and pen, preferably not at work and just write. Let your brain relax and go on a tangent, writing about: How can I be better? What problem is weighing on my mind? I equate this exercise to the proverbial ideas that arise in the shower. 

You have to make space in order to find the space to create. Did you ever notice that when you’re doing the things you’re great at, you never get tired? But when you’re burned out, it’s because you’re doing a lot of things you’re not good at or you don’t enjoy. Overcoming this type of burnout means surrounding yourself with people who can complement you or can tell you to step away from it all to renew. People are always better after some time off. 

Renewal requires developing practices. I help entrepreneurs figure out how to renew and create an intentional life. They might be overweight, stressed, or not sleeping. It’s essential to consider: what’s your life after work? Do you ever get away? This can be a real challenge for businesses that work for long peak seasons — like roofing.

RC: Any examples of entrepreneurs embracing a healthy approach to growth?

SH: Sure — a client made the decision to grow profitability, not top-line revenue. In doing so, this business is learning to enjoy the ride — and reaping results. They decided not to get bigger for bigger’s sake and had the best year they ever had. For example, instead of powering through with higher growth goals, they took a retreat and enjoyed the success they had.

Prior to this epiphany, they were scaling, scaling, scaling but not having any fun. It was a lightbulb moment for leadership to realize they weren’t going for growth but were going to become more efficient and instead grow into the good model they’d created. This conscious realization has been a game changer. They will actually exceed their top line next year, and there is so much more joy. That’s an example of a conscious choice. Growing top line revenue is for pride; but profitability is for peace. Entrepreneurs need to ask how they want to design the amount of profit they make with time to care for their family, health, and the non-work things they enjoy. Think about how your business serves your life — if that’s not happening, something is off track. Most entrepreneurs put all of themselves in the business. 

RC: What differentiates roofers from other entrepreneurs?

SH: There is such a symbiotic community of support between Owens Corning and roofers. Roofers are incredibly proud and extremely hard workers. They seek to bring an honor and dignity to the statement, “We are roofers.” They view their hard work as helping take care of homes and make sure families are safe and secure. Roofers are good, honest, quality people and that’s a huge thing because for those outside the business, the perception can be, it’s just a guy in a truck. There’s an elevation of how they think of what they do and how they go to the market with that mindset. Without exception, every client I work with in the roofing industry has said something that reflects this spirit of generosity. For example, “My best day was when an employee sent his kid to college.” It’s all about how this business gives back to the people they’re working with. All of my roofing clients are doing the Roof Deployment Project and they’re so excited when the roof donation is made.