As part of our State of the Industry survey, we asked an open-ended question of our contractor participants: “What advice would you give a roofing contractor in order to ensure they have a profitable and successful future in the industry?”

As part of our State of the Industry survey, we asked an open-ended question of our contractor participants: “What advice would you give a roofing contractor in order to ensure they have a profitable and successful future in the industry?”

A surprisingly high number of respondents (332 out of 437) had some words of advice for their fellow contractors. Many stressed the importance of fiscal discipline and accurate estimating. “Know your costs,” was a common response, as was, “Do not lower prices to increase sales.”

“Cut expenses and watch every nickel,” counseled one contractor. Another said, “Charge enough to make money and be able to do the job right.”

Making sure bids were accurate and timely and reflected the most up-to-date material costs was a common theme. “Be careful with what you are bidding,” answered one contractor. “Find out how much the cost of roofing materials will be at the time the project is ready for a roof.” “Be careful,” cautioned another. “Check and recheck; make sure vendors will hold pricing till job starts.”

“Look at all your expenses carefully and find out where you can save money,” commented one contractor. “Examine the versatility of workers and office staff and see where you can match skills more effectively, so you can delegate more and spend more time on sales; spend more time on analysis of your marketing efforts and spend more money on specific target marketing; look for upgrades and add-ons that can provide more profit on jobs.”

Many survey respondents urged contractors to focus on key people, beginning with customers and employees. “Build relationships with customers, suppliers, employees, and even the competitors you respect,” said one contractor.

“Stay in human contact with your suppliers, insurers, bond people, etc., so that when times are especially tight they have a face to go with the business,” said another. “It goes a long way.”

Other contractors stressed the basics: quality workmanship and being fair and honest with the customer were the most common topics of responses in the survey. “Do the best job possible,” stressed several respondents. Others had comments in a similar vein, such as, “Be a pioneer; don’t sell price, sell quality,” and, “Customer satisfaction cannot be overstated.”

“Treat every job as your own property,” said one respondent. “Don’t take shortcuts; callbacks will kill you.”

“Win with reputation and quality workmanship,” advised another contractor. “If a company lives by the price, they'll die by price because their margins will be too tight.”

One contractor summed up the keys to success this way: “Be honest and thorough, guarantee your work, and always follow through on your guarantee. Rely on good word-of-mouth as your number one advertisement. Treat your help good; roofing is hard work and a happy employee will be more interested in making a water-tight product. Always use a distributor that is willing to work with you and is interested in making your work as stress-free as possible. Do your jobs to the best of your skills so that even on rainy nights you can sleep well. Always leave a clean jobsite. Learn from everyone, even your grunts - sometimes they can teach you.”

Another was more succinct. His advice? “Pray and work smart.”

For more on the survey results, see the February issue of Roofing Contractor or visit www.roofingcontractor.com/CDA/Articles/Feature_Article/BNP_GUID_9-5-2006_A_10000000000000522082.