I had a great chat with Dennis Ryan recently. Ryan is the president of Waterproofing Associates, a commercial-industrial roofing and waterproofing contractor headquartered in Mountain View, Calif. He is also the current president of the Western States Roofing Contractors Association (WSRCA).

I interviewed Dennis for the cover story of our June issue, and throughout the interview he stressed the importance of always thinking for the long term. Ryan believes long-term thinking ensures top-quality workmanship and provides other benefits, including great referrals from clients and an energized workforce with minimal turnover. The attitude is perfectly suited for the roofing and waterproofing industry, which places a premium on doing things right the first time.

“You’re going to have your bumps in the road and you’re going to have your mistakes, but part of the long-term thinking is if we make a mistake, we fix it. We make it right,” Ryan said. “People remember that. If something is not right, we just take the time, the energy and the resources and we fix it.”

Fixing a problem might sting in the short run, but it will pay off in the long run, according to Ryan. Looking back at his 40 years in the industry, he sees proof that long-term thinking not only puts business decisions in perspective — it drives people to keep learning and growing.

He sums up the commitment to continual improvement as a “never arrive” attitude. Ryan believes people who think that they’ve arrived — that they’ve reached the pinnacle of their profession — are making a crucial mistake. “You do that and you’re finished,” he said. “You’re done. You’re not going to keep up with that cutting edge.”

“Never arrive” has become something of a company motto at Waterproofing Associates, and when someone falters, the toughest criticism one can level is to say, “I see symptoms of arriving here.”

On his birthday last year, Ryan’s sons presented him with a gift that now hangs in his office: the original hammer he used in 1974 on his first roofing job back in Yonkers, N.Y. It’s framed below a brass plate that reads “Never Arrive.”

“I think they get it,” Ryan said. “Keep after it — never arrive.”