The Honorable Reid Ribble gives a lot of speeches – admittedly too many to count over the years since he entered public life as an elected official and then head of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA). Yet as he approaches retirement later this year, he said he expects the keynote address he'll deliver to kick-off the 2022 International Roofing Expo to feel different.
“It will be about a life’s worth of lessons,” Ribble explained. “I’m 66 years old, and I’ve had an interesting life that I think a lot of people can relate to because there will be a lot of roofing contractors in the room and I spent 35 years of my professional life as a roofing contractor.”
Many of them will be able to relate to the lessons learned on the rooftop, warehouse and during negotiations over the kitchen or board room table. And he promises to reflect on some of those stories during his time on stage, sponsored by Malarkey Roofing Products.
There will be lessons learned working in the roofing business, from his father, and other professionals and interesting people he’s met through a multi-faceted career. He said he chose wisely from valuable experiences that just stuck with him over time and that began to shape who he is.
He said the lessons will be centered on charity, hard work, honesty and ethics, and that he hopes to put it in a way that gives everyone in the audience a takeaway to go home with. He’ll be satisfied if there’s at least one thing that resonates and can be applied immediately to a roofing contractor’s business life, relationships with their spouses and kids, or to the employees that they work with.
That, he says, will maybe help them be a little bit better at what they do, be a little bit better as a person. And hopefully avoid some of the mistakes he made while learning those lessons.
While there’s a long list of accomplishments he could tout over the past five years — including the unprecedented ProCertification program and the roofing industry’s unified approach to political action — that won’t be part of the experience. He also promised to keep the content of the speech fresh and current, recognizing many in the audience have heard him before.
“It’s going to be about 95% new material. But I think storytelling is one of the most effective means of communication out there because it becomes immediately relatable,” he said. “It’s at the heart of good public speaking, and you have to find a way to weave in a story that people will find engaging and interesting. Otherwise it becomes an intellectual exercise.”
Although he’ll have many “new” stories to share, some of the keynote’s major themes will be consistent with the messaging he’s pushed ever since becoming head of the NRCA.
“I was trying to create a new direction for the roofing industry and a different way of thinking about ourselves, each other and about what we do,” Ribble said. “So there are these common themes of taking pride in what you do; becoming the best you can be; and recognizing that people don’t leave companies, they leave bosses. So how can you be a better boss to the employees that you draw?”
While he won’t wade too far into the “swamp,” Ribble also said he plans to share perspectives he learned as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. It’s from there he said he gained a new perspective of the roofing industry and some of the systemic changes that needed to be made for it to remain relevant and thrive in a new era of commerce shaped by globalization and technological advancement.
Like much of the business world, roofing is in the midst of transformational change, Ribble said. But he wants to remind the industry that people won’t know about it unless the roofers doing the work and the others supporting them speak up first.
“We’ve always talked down to people that work with their hands, and that’s always bothered me. That working with your hands was somehow less than someone who necessarily worked with their mind, was a lawyer, doctor or whatever. I never understood that. Every doctor or lawyer went to a school that was roofed by a professional roofer and were kept in the dry by the skills of that worker.”