Hundreds of roofing contractors and industry professionals from around the country returned to the Omni Frisco at the Star just outside Dallas for Roofing Contractor’s 19th annual Best of Success conference last month.
The unique, two-day conference returned to the site of the Dallas Cowboys headquarters with a lineup of speakers and special events geared to help roofing contractors in any market close the year strong and start building momentum for 2024. The speakers also continued a long-standing tradition of Best of Success; roofers willing to share their wins and losses with authenticity.
“I always encourage our speakers to not just speak to our audience, but to tell their stories,” said RC Publisher Jill Bloom.
She reminded the roughly 500 in attendance that she started Best of Success in South Carolina in 2004 with just 75 roofing contractors. Bloom then dedicated the conference to former Diamond Roofing President Kevin Gwaltney, who died earlier in 2023 after battling cancer. She spoke about Gwaltney’s authenticity and how he displayed it on the Best of Success stage 10 years ago when sharing his challenges upon taking over the family business after his father’s unexpected death.
“Kevin shared his very personal story … and I know it had an impact,” she said. “He made me realize that the relationships in this industry are unlike anything I had ever experienced.”
Other highlights from the opening day included presentations by Scott Mullins, owner of Legacy Restoration, who discussed building a roofing company with purpose and vision; RC Legal Insights Expert Trent Cotney, partner with Adams and Reese, walked attendees through recent trends in business contracts, and how to prepare a roofing company for sale.
Peter Horch, president and CEO of Horch Roofing in Maine, talked about how giving back to his community in various ways over the years led to unexpected success and immense personal fulfillment. He also shared the valuable lessons learned and tools he now has in place after a local nonprofit he’s now part of was bilked of more than $4 million by a staffer.
RC Young Gun alumnus Zach Wallick, owner of Kairos Roofing, detailed his journey through personal and professional struggles before leaving the family business on a leap of faith for his own venture. Wallick became emotional several times expressing his heartfelt thanks to his father Gregg – seated just a few rows into the audience – for his unwavering love, support and mentorship. He left the crowd stunned and applauding as he announced the recent sale of his roofing company after just four years in business.
The attendees also witnessed a first-hand crash course about artificial intelligence in the roofing space. Christian Madsen, CEO of Madsen Roofing & Waterproofing; Madsen’s Director of Service and Business Development Elizabeth Sanford; and Ben LeDonni, of BNP Engage, discussed the practical uses of AI, and how the long-time commercial roofing company found efficiencies through a pilot project implemented last fall.
The group demonstrated in real time how effective their system could create conversational information to share with roofing customers and prospects alike. Using the technology led to immediate time savings in communications and marketing, but there’s more untapped power in data-capture capabilities, with proper human guidance, Madsen said.
“You still have to think. You can’t just push a button and let it go,” he said. “There are tremendous data transfer capabilities and what we learned was there was so many other ways to use it.”
The wonder and authenticity continued on the conference’s second day, led off by National Roofing Contractors Association CEO McKay Daniels, who accentuated his annual NRCA update with a heartfelt reflection. The NRCA continues to combat the industry’s workforce problems with a comprehensive training strategy that starts with career technical education at the high school level. From there, he explained they can move on to the NRCA’s TRAC online program, its Qualified Trainer Program and ultimately ProCertification.
Daniels said getting through to teenagers and young adults is a space roofing has pushed into by participating in programs like SkillsUSA for the first time.
“We’ve fallen flat and been negligent,” he said. “We’ve been playing catchup.”
Daniels also said the NRCA was playing catchup in response to another industry-wide issue that’s often unseen and unspoken: suicide. The suicide rate among the construction trades is roughly three times higher than other professions, and it hit home at the NRCA last August with the loss of Board Member John Embow, president of Grove Roofing Services in Buffalo.
“This is happening in our industry,” Daniels said, pushing back emotions while describing his late friend, and pledging to start and industry-wide conversation. “We’re playing catchup, but we’re going to do it in a hurry and bend this curve down.”
Garen Armstrong, executive director of Shamrock Roofing in Kansas City, Mo., kept the authenticity going with a touching recount of his survival story and comeback from a heart infection that nearly took his life – twice. Armstrong detailed his journey through six complex surgeries, including a heart transplant that enabled him to grow his roofing company into a Midwest powerhouse.
Other highlights included a sobering overview of the political landscape heading into a critical election year by long-time roofing lobbyist Craig Brightup, of the Brightup Group; South African immigrant Kirt Linington’s success story and driving Stronghouse Solutions following an acquisition with private equity; and a close look at the meaningful mistakes the team at BFARR Contracting in Florida made and learned from while starting their roofing company from scratch.
Madsen Roofing & Waterproofing Director of Service and Business Development Elizabeth Sanford, Ben LeDonni of BNP Engage, and Madsen's CEO Christian Madsen discussed the practical uses of AI in roofing.
New to Best of Success this year, RC welcomed the Latinos en Roofing group for a special gathering before the official welcome party.
Roughly 50 Latino roofing contractors listened to presentations in Spanish, expressing a passion for learning how to improve themselves as businesspeople, while finding the right resources to grow their companies.
"The Latino community, they are hard workers but they don't know how to make a business," said organizer Amparo Sancen, owner of Sancen Contracting in Richardson, Texas. "That's why we are here, to bring the knowledge, the training, on how they can run their business."
Presentations ranged from exit planning to sales tactics. Sancen said she was happy for such a strong turnout and hopes to draw more attendees in the future.
Members of the RC team, and Greg Bloom, Beacon's vice president of National and Strategic Accounts, with members of Latinos en Roofing.
Two roofing contractors considered among the best in the country were named RC’s Contractors of the Year. Greenwood Industries of Worcester, Mass., was named 2023 Commercial Contractor of the Year, while Indianapolis, Ind.-based Bone Dry Roofing was awarded 2023 Residential Contractor of the Year at the conclusion of the first day. Each winner was selected among dozens of well-qualified nominations submitted throughout the year.
Founded in 1993, Greenwood Industries has nine locations throughout the Northeast. Staying true to founder Dave Klein’s idea of working on “any type” of roofing project helped Greenwood earn jobs, as did its commitment to union-oriented projects. That flexibility led to more commercial roofing opportunities and a steady pool of trained workers that helped propel revenue to $218 million last year, placing in the top 10 of RC’s 2023 Top 100 list.
Upon accepting the award, Klein reflected on how his parents taught him determination and integrity, and thanked COO Matt Brown for his vision, leadership and friendship over the years.
"This achievement is the culmination of years of relentless work and a shared vision with everyone who works at Greenwood," said Klein. "We have a truly exceptional team. I may be the one accepting this award, but it belongs to everyone at Greenwood."
Founded in 1993 by Gene Judd in his Speedway, Ind. garage, Bone Dry Roofing earned $65,000 in revenue in its first year. Building upon a reputation of excellent customer service and high-quality work, it capitalized on a 2006 hailstorm in Indianapolis that gave the company entry into adjacent markets in Ohio and Kentucky. It continues to grow through a strategic plan calling for acquisitions as well as establishing an in-house training program.
In 2022, the company reported $121.6 million in revenue, earning the 18th spot on RC’s 2023 Top 100 list. Aside from roofing, the company has diversified into gutters, siding, drywall, painting, masonry, heating and cooling, and, most recently, establishing Bone Dry Solar.
Judd called receiving the award "humbling and surprising," and said his success boiled down to having good people in his company, including the families that support his employees.
"I've been blessed. Bone Dry has been blessed over the years with a ton of great people in the organization past and present, so I want to recognize all their hard work and effort they put into taking care of our customers and doing it the right way and doing it the Bone Dry way," Judd said.
John Kiesel (left), president of Imagine Technology Group and Division 7 Roofing, was named the 2023 RT3 Innovator of the Year. He received the award alongside Ryan Resides, Division 7’s vice president of sales and estimating.
The Roofing Technology Think Tank (RT3) presented John Kiesel, president of Imagine Technology Group, with the 2023 Innovator of the Year Award. The honor highlights a roofing professional who advocates for the advancement of technology in the industry and/or has contributed to product development in areas like production, safety, client service, employee recruitment and environmental impact.
"It's been a four or five year journey," said Kiesel, who also serves as president of Division 7 Roofing in Galena, Ohio. "It's really rewarding to see the industry starting to change and move over a bit to 'how do you improve roofing?'"
Along with Ryan Resides, Division 7’s vice president of sales and estimating, Kiesel developed Advanced Imagery with Optelos, a cloud-based imagery software that uses drone-captured imagery to create detailed 3D models of rooftops for customers. The program allows for virtual reality integration that can transport building owners and managers to the roof without having to leave their office.
Kiesel joins an elite group of roofing professionals who have received the award since its inception in 2019. These include Curtis Sutton, president of Rackley Roofing in Carthage, Tenn. (2019); Scott Riopelle, owner and CEO of Denver-based Interstate Roofing (2020); Ken Kelly, former president of Kelly Roofing in Bonita Springs, Fla. (2021); and Joe Hoffman, CEO of Hoffman Weber Construction New Brighton, Minn., and Roofle (2022).