Next month’s issue of Roofing Contractor brings you up to date on many of the latest technologies being pressed into service for the roofing industry. Our editors need computers just to keep up with all the innovations, they’re coming so fast.

It’s always been great fun to observe new technologies, and it’s especially fun to see how roofing contractors have used them to improve their businesses. As amazing as all the technological advances are, it’s even more amazing to see just how fast they make their way into the mainstream of our businesses and our lives. Not only fast, but affordable.

The affordable aspect is very interesting to me in that it makes scale a bit less of a factor in businesses as competitive as roof contracting. Back in the days when most roofing contractors ran their own delivery trucks on residential roofing jobs and operated high-production machinery on commercial jobs, it took quite a bit of capital (and risk) to be a serious competitor.

As the supply chain changed, every roofing contractor didn’t need to haul every square to the job, and in many places hauling tear-off has become a task relegated to specialists. As the equipment required for installing built-up roofing gave way to rollers, torches and heat welders, the playing field began to level out. The lines began to blur between small-time, but talented and hard-working, roofing contractors and the larger operators.

Thirty years ago, when computing was in its infancy, it was very expensive for a roofing company to own and operate the kind of sophisticated systems it took to mechanize the estimating process and balance the books. The personal computer started to change that, and today many computing solutions are scalable such that even the smallest operators can take advantage of some of the most sophisticated tools on the planet.

I believe this technology gap will continue to narrow, which may allow smaller roofing contractors to operate as inexpensively and efficiently as the large ones.

So with a supportive supply chain behind you and the best technology to power your enterprise along with the knowledge and drive needed to succeed, what’s to stop you from quickly ramping up and competing with the big boys? Operating capital and people. Capital is just a commodity, and despite its elusive nature, it’s the simpler of the two.

In spite of some incredible advances in technology, people still make the difference in roofing work. Not just the people needed to do the hands-on labor of installing roofing systems, but the people who perform the sales, estimating and administrative tasks. All these folks may have better tools than their fathers did, but they remain critical factors for the successful roof-contracting operation.

The message here is simple. It will always be important to keep up with the latest technologies in a competitive business such as roofing. It will always take a certain amount of capital. But to really succeed you must surround yourself with the very best people you can find; train them well, keep them on task and remain focused on motivating them to reach higher so that they advance themselves along with your business objectives.