The roofing industry continued to show its resiliency in a COVID-19 world by executing the first virtual International Roofing Expo (IRE) March 2-4. 

Roofing contractors and industry stakeholders from around North America participated in the virtual event, which featured engaging speakers, panel discussions, education forums and social networking opportunities — all digitally. The event also featured a virtual exhibit hall that allowed attendees to check out a searchable database of virtual exhibitors as well as a product directory organized by product types. 

It’s all a precursor to the IRE’s in-person event happening Aug. 10-12 in Las Vegas, which was pushed back from February due to health and safety concerns. National Roofing Contractors Association CEO Reid Ribble kicked off the event with a live presentation that highlighted the roofing industry’s perseverance through uncertain times.

Reflecting on a year of pandemic-related changes, Ribble emphasized the importance of remaining essential to the American economy. He said residential and institutional roofing actually saw increases in work, though he expects commercial roofing will continue to see “softness” as small businesses like restaurants and retail continue to struggle. He warned pricing may become an issue for the industry as the country deals with inflation caused by the various stimulation efforts.

True to form, Ribble remained optimistic, noting the simple truth that everyone needs a roof, and those who strive to better themselves — such as through the NRCA’s training programs or with the IRE — are building up the industry.

“We don’t just build roofs, and as building company owners, you don’t just sell the roof and provide the services, you are a dream builder,” he said. “This is really what you do as roofing company owners, as roofing workers, as industry experts, you are dream builders and you are helping the next generation of roofing company owners and roofing workers to find, realize and capture their own version of the American dream.”

Continuing Education

The thirst for knowledge in the roofing industry doesn’t stop, and was not slowed down by the transition to a virtual event. Dozens of contractors, consultants and roofing pros from around the industry presented virtual sessions on a wide variety of topics influencing business today. 

Ryan Groth, founder of Sales Transformation Group, broke down comparisons between predictable and unpredictable companies using data sets, and explained how contractors can modify their sales strategies to get the growth they desire.

“Predictable companies can forecast and hit their targets consistently. And it’s a lot of fun to watch,” Groth explained. “Unpredictable companies are afraid to innovate, awful at delegating and often afraid to change.”

Josey Parks, CEO of J Wales Home Solutions and Cognitive Contractor, also discussed the need for incorporating technology and using it to not just generate leads, but identify quality leads that specific companies are likely to convert to sales.  

“There's a lot of companies still doing round-robin (sales process),” he said. “There's no thought to it, they don't really look at the lead. There’s a lot of ways to get higher closing percentages by changing how you even assign leads.” 

He said contractors should have a renewed focus on automating processes in their respective markets to better serve customers cluttered with competitive messaging. 

"It's up to you to give them a great experience and leverage technology that can cut through the noise. Speak to them in their language that will resonate the most," Parks said. “The way they want to get the information is how they should get it, period.”

Social Enterprise

As the Virtual Edition of IRE is proof of, the COVID-19 pandemic is still affecting the roofing industry. The closing live session of the event was a panel discussion addressing current legal issues related to COVID-19 for roofing professionals. Viewers joined Trent Cotney of Cotney Attorneys & Consultants and a panel including John Kenney of Cotney Attorneys & Consultants, Ken Kelly of Kelly Roofing and Michelle Boykin of Rackley Roofing Co. Inc. as they discussed navigating COVID-related issues.

“Increased material costs — it is affecting every roofing contractor out there,” said Cotney. “We have a lot of contractors that are locked into material prices but haven’t taken into account things like this, and if you’re on a longer duration project … you’ve got some exposure there.”

Despite the virtual environment, IRE attendees also networked, scheduled meetings and joined some special social events, including a virtual poker night sponsored by National Women in Roofing. 

Kelly, the 2019 RC Residential Roofing Contractor of the Year, took first place in the inaugural event. The interactive fun connected players from around the country on a private poker platform with a live dealer through Zoom.

“It’s funny, I’ve played poker maybe a dozen times in my life!” Kelly said. “That was much more fun than I expected. For the last year we’ve all been doing virtual things … none of them were as fun as this was. We got to interact and it was the closest I’ve felt to seeing my friends since COVID started.”

Attendees also got a glimpse of two of Cirque du Soleil’s must-see Las Vegas shows, “Mystère” and “O,” presented by Visit Las Vegas.

Honors and Awards

The NRCA and the Roofing Alliance also conducted annual business and issued awards during the virtual event. Highlights included seven winners of the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards for outstanding on-the-job performance and workmanship.

Arturo Lopez, foreman with Stiles Roofing Inc., Lebanon, Mo., received the Best of the Best Award, and the annual Gold Circle Award winners were: Douglass Colony Group Inc., of Commerce City, Colo., for the Sie Welcome Center at Denver Art Museum; F.J.A Christiansen Roofing Co. Inc., of Milwaukee, for the St. Stanislaus Bell Tower; and CFE Inc. for safety preparedness and performance.

The NRCA named its 2021-22 slate of officers and directors, and they looked a lot like the 2020 group. 

Most officers and directors will remain unchanged after the executive committee and board of directors approved a rare measure to keep the same leadership in place amidst a national crisis. Rod Petrick, president of Ridgeworth Roofing Co. Inc., Frankfort, Ill., remains NRCA chairman of the board; Kyle Thomas, vice president of Thomas Roofing, Mobile, Ala., remains chairman of the board-elect.