Surveys and reports are great ways for roofing distributors to determine what types of services and expectations customers have of them. But other times, it pays to hear it straight from the source.

RSP’s sister publication, Roofing Contractor, speaks with roofing contractors on a regular basis. As such, it has amassed responses from some of the top companies in the nation through interviews and questionnaires.

Whether it’s working together to find solutions or finding ways to enrich the communities they serve, here are some of the expectations and desires contractors keep in mind when working with a distributor.

A Partnership and Communication

At the end of the day, the relationship between contractor and distributor is a transactional one. Those distributors that go above and beyond, however, are the ones that contractors seek out.

“They not only provide us with amazing products, they have also partnered with us on community projects such as Roof Deployment and No Roof Left Behind programs,” said Michael Dier, owner of Watkins Construction & Roofing in Mississippi. “This is where we give free roofs to a deserving family that we’ve gotten to know. Those are the types of relationships that make what we do more than just a job.  They move mountains to support us in any way possible.  We could not grow at the rate we are without these strategic partnerships.”

Eddie Prchal, CEO at Gunner Roofing in Connecticut, said they like to work hand in hand with their distributors and suppliers to talk about business decisions, new markets, and streamlined integrations.

“We only choose to use the very best products that are currently on the market,” said Prchal. “It goes into that genuine relationship that we foster with them by only wanting the best for their house. To get into specifics, we are talking pricing, options, and durability to name a few. With that, any product that we use, any manufacturer we use, is the best out there and you will not be able to find better.”

Many contractors expressed expectations about effective communication, saying they desire a two-way street when it comes to connecting about orders and pricing. It’s a sentiment many contractors shared in RC’s 2023 State of the Industry report, where “cost” and “customer service” were among the most-cited reasons for switching to a different distributor.

“Communication at all levels of both organizations and making sure the partnership is going both ways. Understanding needs and abilities in a timely manner to keep from having surprises that could impact either party,” said Scott Mullins, CEO of Legacy Restoration in Minneapolis.

Robby and Jaycee Wilkerson, co-owners of Sustainable Roofing in Texas, are happy when their distributor partners work with them to recognize days like World Environment Day and Earth Day, and support efforts to give back to the community.CJ McConaughy_mug.jpg

“We love to offer ventilation upgrades or a free solar fan as a giveaway through our supplier … and our distributor,” the couple said.

When projects were delayed due to material shortages, CJ McConaghy, co-owner, Three Tree Roofing in Washington, said communication about price adjustments and material shipments were crucial for keeping customers happy.

“We have a great relationship with our suppliers and material manufacturers,” McConaghy said. “We made sure we kept all of our customers in the loop, so they understood our delays in their projects. Being honest with our customers made everyone understand the situation.”

James Freeman, CEO of P.J. Fitzpatrick in Delaware, was succinct in what he expects to see: “Relationships built on trust, transparency and common vision.”

Other contractors were just as blunt about what they hope to see from their distributors.

“Keep the materials coming!” said Brandon Wegner, CEO, Wegner Roofing and Solar Corporation.

Variety and Flexibility

While some contractors stay loyal to distributors, others like to keep their options open. In the 2023 State of the Industry report, 57% of contactor respondents said they had switched distributors, citing “availability of products” as the principal reason.

“Finding strategic vendors/partners is fundamental. At the same time, you want to make sure to stay diversified,” said Roberto Alamo, owner/president of Honest Abe Roofing. “Everyone at the company needs to be adaptable to be successful during challenging times.

“We have established long-lasting relationships with local, honest, and reliable partners that have become an extension of our team that we couldn’t do business without.”

Having a variety of products is becoming more important than ever for distributors, with more roofing contractors branching out into windows, siding, gutters and solar. Even if a customer isn’t solely purchasing from one vendor, they aren’t afraid of branching out if a distributor can meet their needs.

Eric Suess, vice president of Raincoat Roofing in Illinois, said his company installs nearly every type of roofing system available, so they like to work with multiple distributors to ultimately serve their customers.

“To single out one, two, or three best [suppliers] is not the way we look at it,” he said. “We have numerous arrows in our quiver and each roof, and each customer has their own demands. We find our best success is when we draw the arrow out of the quiver that best matches the specific job needs.”

Success Stories

When the supply chain took a nosedive due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of contractors were left reeling from material shortages and price increases. It was a make or break moment for many roofing companies. By following the advice outlined above, distributors helped contractors stay in business, and they were all the more grateful for it.

“Our roof supplier … is our biggest ally. During the pandemic there was a time we were buying sheets of plywood for $55 a sheet at Home Depot,” said Mike and John Halliday, co-owners of Halliday Brothers Contracting in Arizona. “[Our supplier] kept their prices as low as possible even when it was hard to get supplies. We would not be where we are without them.”

Sean O’Reilly, COO of SmartRoof in Virginia, said despite tough challenges, his company appreciated their distributor partners working with them to figure out solutions.

“Other than limited colors, our suppliers did a great job of working with us to keep things going,” he said.

Going back to the point of being partners, Aaron Langham, owner of Quality Construction and Restoration LLC in Texas, said working with suppliers and distributors is part of what enabled him to work on projects in more than 15 states.

“Our success in the construction industry and ability to provide the level of service that we do to our clients is made possible by having a phenomenal relationship with [our distributor],” Langham said. “[They are] able to provide us building material at any location nationally and they make it a priority to get us exactly what we need without delay.”