Rae July recently celebrated seven years of working in the roofing industry. What started as an administrative job to re-enter the workforce became a career with Chinook Roofing & Gutters, which has grown to 120 employees and jumped from a $5 million to $23 million revenue company since July started.
Not only does July serve in sales and estimating, she was appointed to the board of trustees for the company’s Employee Share Ownership Trust and is an active member of National Women in Roofing.
RC: How long have you been in the roofing industry and how did you get your start?
RJ: I was a stay-at-home mom who needed a job so I can get back into the workforce. My first position in the roofing industry was an admin position and it was only supposed to be my stepping stone to something greater. I always imagined that based on my educational background I needed to be in corporate America, but after three months in the industry and realizing on my drive home from work that all I looked at were roofs, I knew this is where I needed to be.
After one year of being in the admin position, I was approached by the CEO of our company, John Patterson, who asked me what I wanted to do at the company. I replied that I wanted him to teach me everything he knows and, deep down inside, when I said that I never thought he’d take me seriously. His response to me was, “Good, we start on Monday!”
RC: What types of work does your company do?
RJ: We do residential (new construction single family, new construction and reroofing multifamily), commercial (new construction and reroofing), waterproofing, commercial maintenance and gutters.
RC: What are the big challenges in your particular market and how is the company addressing them?
RJ: The big challenge recently is labor. We have the work but not enough people to get the work done. We’ve been addressing the problem by changing our recruitment tactics. We offer potential employees a package of value that includes a 401(k) (company matches 4%), full medical, dental and vision and of course our stock ownership program. We’ve also been working on putting together a comprehensive training program so that we can not only recruit seasoned talent but also recruit and train new talent providing them with the training needed to perform in the field.
RC: How has your company changed in recent years? Have you implemented any new technology or programs that have helped your business be more productive/profitable?
RJ: We’ve diversified our work from just doing residential to adding commercial and waterproofing divisions. We’ve also made the decision to no longer do single family residential reroofs. Our market is far too saturated with that type of business, and we felt like our strengths are in other areas.
A few of the game-changing software we’ve implemented are FCS, CompanyCam, BlueBeam, Netsuite and Full Clarity. In fact, we’re in the process of fully transitioning all areas of our business to operate through Netsuite and Full Clarity. These new implementations have and will definitely increase our productivity and profitability.
RC: Do you see your age as an advantage or disadvantage in this business? Why or why not?
RJ: I’m still considered to be new to the industry so when I’m engaging with an industry veteran, I’m sometimes challenged to prove that I know what I’m doing. I always welcome the challenge because the training and mentorship I’ve been given in my career has taught me not only be humble but also to never be afraid to ask a question.
A couple years ago, our CEO and I went to meet with a customer. We sat down and the customer started addressing our CEO and asking him questions about who we are and our business and how we can serve them. Our CEO graciously said to the customer, “This isn’t my meeting, it’s Rae’s, and I’m just here for support. Feel free to direct all of your questions to her.” In that moment I knew that he respected and trusted me enough to spearhead the meeting and that’s what I did. He also wanted to send the message to the customer that while I was young and a woman, I had earned my seat at the table.
RC: Are you involved in any trade associations, youth contractor councils, professional organizations that you’d like to highlight?
RJ: Yes, I’m currently a board member of National Women in Roofing (NWiR) where I co-chair the diversity, equity and inclusion committee. I’m also co-chair of the local Seattle Chapter of NWiR. In addition, I’m also a board member of Rebuilding Together South Sound where I serve on the education committee. Being a member of NWiR has had a positive impact on my career and has helped my self-confidence. I’ve made lifelong friends and have built and continue to build relationships all across the industry.
RC: What’s next? What are your future plans for the business?
RJ: I’m just excited to be part of the company’s growth. We are on a major growth trajectory and being part of that will keep me very busy over the next few years.