Commercial roofing contractors are always looking for an edge when it comes to saving their clients money and improving the lifecycle of a roof. Those that are in the spray foam segment of the roofing industry often get to do both. That and a heavy focus on quality customer service is part of what sets PUFF, Inc. apart from the competition in Virginia.
RC recently caught up with its president, Bonnie Strickler, to ask the following.
RC: WHEN WAS YOUR COMPANY FOUNDED AND HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START IN ROOFING?
BS: PUFF, Inc. was founded and incorporated in 1970. I began working at the company in the 1980s as a “girl Friday” – in other words, someone who helped with anything that needed doing. There were only two or three employees back then. Over time, I learned the spray foam industry, worked my way up at the company and ended up running it for several years. Eventually, I purchased it from the former owner.
RC: WHEN DID YOU START WORKING WITH SPRAY FOAM?
BS: The founder of the company originally began in cold storage and some commercial insulation work. At the time, spray foam roofing wasn’t as popular as it is today. However, the founder was one of the earliest to get involved in it. When I began to run the company, I continued the trend and it’s become the majority of our business today.
RC: HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR PEOPLE SAFE?
BS: We created a safety program before many of our professional peers had one, and it’s still a high priority for us today. We orient and train all new employees on safety at the onset of their employment. This training must be completed before they are allowed to set foot on a jobsite. We also have controls in place to ensure all the protocols are followed on the job and incentivize our employees to follow the safety guidelines. Safety training is repeated regularly with toolbox talks, annual refresher courses and the like.
We haven’t won any awards for safety per se, but there really aren’t any to win in the spray foam industry for safety anyhow. Because we do a lot of government work, safety is also very important to our customer.
RC: HOW ELSE DO YOU CONTINUE TO EDUCATE AND TRAIN EMPLOYEES?
BS: We provide on-the-job training for all members of our crews. I will say that most of our employees have been with us 20-plus years. There are not a lot of newbies at PUFF, Inc.
RC: HOW DO YOU ENSURE QUALITY WORKMANSHIP?
BS: We have been spoiled at PUFF because we have many long-term employees with exceptional skills and substantial industry experience. They have been around so long doing excellent work that the only way they know how to do things is the right way. We are not the typical contractor in this regard. There’s just not a lot of turnover here and we are extremely grateful for that.
RC: HOW DO YOU BUILD RELATIONSHIPS WITH CUSTOMERS?
BS: Maintaining excellent relationships with customers is a priority for us as the vast majority of our business comes through referrals and repeat business. We always welcome new customers, but they just aren’t as common for us. I attribute the continued repeat business to us always prioritizing the quality of the work. I feel our success in this department is why satisfied customers keep coming back to PUFF. We do employ a salesperson, but we find he spends a lot of his time estimating new projects for existing customers rather than trying to knock down new doors.
RC: WHAT ARE THE KEY CHALLENGES IN YOUR MARKET?
BS: We deal with a few challenges. Sometimes end users do not understand the benefits of spray foam roofing over other options. So even when spray foam is ideal for a building, some of the competing conventional roofers will take advantage of a customer’s lack of knowledge and tell them, “You don’t want that spray foam crap.” We believe they do this because they themselves can’t install it, so they resort to these negative selling tactics.
Weather is a challenge as well. We are operating in areas with seasons and spray foam roofing can be weather-sensitive compared to other commercial roofing systems, specifically in terms of what weather conditions you can install it under.
RC: HOW HAS INVOLVEMENT WITH THE SPRAY POLYURETHANE FOAM ALLIANCE (SPFA) HELPED YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS?
BS: There is no question that the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance has been integral to our success as a company, as well as to my success personally. I attended my very first SprayFoam Convention & Expo in San Antonio 40 years ago and haven’t stopped going since. The wealth of information that the alliance and convention provide helped put us where we are, hands down. The SPFA gave me the opportunity, so many years ago as a newbie, to meet key industry players and to jump right in and interact and learn from them. I’ve been able to lean on them all along whenever I’ve had questions or needed guidance.
RC: ANY ADVICE FOR OTHER ROOFING CONTRACTORS?
BS: I would advise spray foam contractors to always purchase top-quality materials and to follow best practices in installation. This will optimize the performance of the material as well as its lifespan. Additionally, aim to always be professional and to offer the best customer service you can.