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Hello and thanks for tuning in to the very first episode of Roof Connections. This is a bi-monthly show discussing facility maintenance topics, for anyone who works or has interest in facility maintenance. My name is David Huval and I’ll be your host. Today I’m joined by three of the founding employees of RoofConnect, the largest national commercial roofing services provider in America, specializing in emergency commercial roofing repairs, maintenance, and reroofing, but also performing specialty projects that require nationwide service.
I’m joined today by:
David Workman, President & CEO
Eric Harrison, VP of Technical Services
Teresa Barnhill, Contractor Coordinator
Today we’re going to discuss the creation and development of RoofConnect, and how they became the largest national commercial roofing services provider in America.
It seems a lot of people I’ve met in the roofing industry over the last 10 years got into this industry after being in another trade, or not thinking they were going to make a career out of it. Talk a little about what makes people change their minds about working in the roofing industry.
DW: When I first got into the roofing industry, the last thing I wanted to do was be in the roofing industry. I worked with a manufacturer’s rep, doing auto CAD drafting, but I wasn’t a very good auto CAD drafter. From the day I started, it was amazing to see the opportunities in this business and to see how important a commercial roof is to a property. It is what protects the contents of the building. It is what protects the people in the building. It is a major expense to the building owner. Then I learned, at the time, there was a lack of professionalism in the industry of people that were trained to communicate with people, let them know what was going on with their property, to be truthful to them. I told everyone that I ever brought into the industry, you’ll probably be in this industry for a long time. The industry has evolved to technology that people have to utilize in the field. We need more laborers, who can make a good living in the industry today. We are doing a better job of that today through training programs, like the NRCA’s Pro-Certification. It is a great industry for someone to build a career for themselves and their family.
EH: I will echo what David said. Once someone gets in the roofing industry, they rarely get out. I got in 17 years ago, started with David with a different company. Funny story, David and his wife were teaching a young married couple’s Sunday School class, my wife and I were young married at the time, and I was complaining about my job one day at a Sunday school dinner. David asked what I did, and I told him I worked in accounting for an auto lender. Completely different from the roofing industry. David said well I have an opening, maybe you can come work for me. About six weeks later, I was working for David. At the time, I had no idea how long I would be in, I just knew I wanted out of the job I was in. I’ve been here for 17 years now.
TB: I was a stay-at-home mom for 7 years when I reached out to David. He was just looking for some temporary help when he hired me, and now I’ve been here 15 years.
DH: I have a similar story. I went to school for marketing. Worked for a couple of years right out of school for a promotional products company and wanted to move to the Dallas area for the job market. I couldn’t find anything that interested me in the design field, so I opened up more to marketing and got a job with a roofing company, and 10 years later I’m still here.
Let’s switch over and talk more about RoofConnect now. RoofConnect is coming up on its 20th anniversary, ending up the best year that we’ve had. Tell the audience a little bit about the idea of how RoofConnect came to be.
DW: This has been an amazing ride at RoofConnect. We are in the midst of our best year yet. We are actually having a celebration today for reaching $100 million in revenue. It has been quite rewarding. When Teresa, Eric, and I joined RoofConnect, we were hitting $30,000 annual revenue. Coming from the other company we were with, we were national but not really. It was a roll-up organization where all the companies were owned by one private equity group. It did not really support working with national clients like the RoofConnect model does. I approached RoofConnect which had been formed by a group of individual roofing contractors, with our book of business, and since they were just going to market, they were interested. We sat around the office, nervous as we could be, for about three months while we tried to get corporate agreements from the clients we brought with us, to get them added as RoofConnect clients. My hair was dark then, and it became grey in about three months. We finally had a natural disaster that drove a lot of business, and we went from a $30,000 company to a $10 million company in six months. With that came a lot of growing pains on the back end of the business. Teresa was a big part of that. We moved our corporate office from California to Arkansas. I had the opportunity to take over as President in 2006, and became an owner in 2010. Moving it here was one of the biggest pieces of the evolution. From a napkin concept that began at an NRCA meeting, where owners said we don’t want to be a part of this roll-up group, we want to be a part of a group where we can maintain our company and identity, but still have the opportunity to work with national accounts, federal and local government accounts. It hasn’t always been easy, but with the employees we have now, we are blowing the roofing industry wide open today.
EH: Just to echo some of the things David said. When I started with David, way back in 2002, I had no idea what the commercial roofing industry was about, the volume, dollar amounts that are possible. We did $10 million that first year and we were sky-high. I remember the day we got our first million-dollar day, a perfect storm of contracts all coming in on the same day. You couldn’t scrape us off the ceiling we were so excited. Now, it is like every day it seems like… not really, but every week is good. It has been such an explosion in growth, I just had no idea we would ever do this.
DH: Especially over the last 2 years it seems we have got the right people in place; we have really hit our stride.
DW: David, it all starts with service. And that is what we do so well. We’ve developed a great service team. We aren’t perfect, but we are really good at what we do. We try to get better every day. Striving for 1% improvement every day in our operations. The reason we are there is because we have been able to deliver for our customers. No one wants to do $10 million or $50 million and not deliver for your customers, I think it is clear as we have grown, we have been able to scale and still take care of our customers. That is the thing I’m most proud of. I think anybody you talk to in the industry will tell you; RoofConnect is not perfect, but they are going to strive to be as perfect as possible. That is the reward you get. Not the money, but the fact that your customers depend on you and trust you. That is what makes it exciting.
DH: You don’t get there if you don’t retain your customers.
EH: I think we adapt really well. When you deal with the types of customers that we have, wide variety from national accounts to schools to federal government, and all the sectors that come with those groups, each one has their own standards that you have to abide by, and we have a team that adapts really well to what those standards are.
DW: To echo what Eric said, you’ve got people on our team who have been working together 15-18 years, we have several employees over the 10-year mark. What I tell customers is what you get with RoofConnect is a process with what we do from service to reroofing, but it is also knowledge. Knowledge in the industry, knowledge of the contractors, and their capabilities. The flexibility only comes in a company like ours, from the partners we have, that we don’t own.
DH: As a Contractor Coordinator, Teresa, tell us what you’ve experienced from the growing pains.
TB: Just being able to meet the customer’s needs, making sure we get there when we need to be, making sure the contractors are on board with us to make sure the customer is taken care of first. We’re trying to make two people happy. To make sure the contractor is getting good, valuable work, that they want, and making sure the customer is taken care of. To me, one of the greatest compliments we can get is when we work with a customer and maybe that person leaves and goes to another company. Then they call us and say “hey, I worked with you here, and I want to do for this new company what you did for me there.”
EH: One thing Teresa has done very well over the last few years, we had a really good network of contractors and really good coverage. But we had these odd-ball pockets with no coverage. It isn’t really a problem until there is an emergency situation. Or if there is a situation where the contractor that would normally service a location can’t get there for some reason. Teresa has done a great job of identifying those pockets and making sure we have coverage there. That has been a big help. Even though it is not something you deal with every day, it is a big relief when that day happens and we know we have it covered.
DW: And it usually only happens Monday – Friday, 8-5, right? NO! Almost always on the weekends or at 3 am. That is the thing that makes us so valuable. All of us have had that phone call in the middle of the night from a client needing a response. Even though we (David, Eric, Teresa) don’t take all those calls anymore, we know how to handle those, how to teach other people how to handle them.
DH: RoofConnect has seen great success over the years. How has RoofConnect changed over the years, and what makes you stand apart from other national contractors?
EH: It is a unique model, and that is what we recognized when the opportunity first came up to work for RoofConnect. If someone isn’t performing, it gives us the opportunity to replace them or have that tough conversation with them. It happens rarer and rarer these days. What makes us successful I believe is our culture. We have a great culture. Everyone is excited to work together. Everybody knows what the goal is, they know how we will accomplish the goal. We share in our successes, it doesn’t matter who accomplishes a task, who gets a “bell ringer”, everybody celebrates it. We are really cohesive as a team. Everyone buys into the vision and the mission and to what we need to do to accomplish those things.
DW: I’m smiling and laughing because of the laughter I hear in the hallway. I think that speaks to our good culture. You can talk about having a good culture, and then you can actually have a good culture. The unique thing about our culture is it didn’t happen overnight. Culture happens when people come together with a common goal and work together. It is hard to establish a culture. This is a real team. You can see it and feel it. I think this is the most rewarding time in my career, knowing that we have a team like this that will work together. That’s where the people become the most important part. We are a people business. We depend on great contractors that deliver the product that we are out selling for them. From the time the phone rings till a project is completed, it is the people here making sure it gets done.
DH: That leads into my last question. I was going to ask what it is about the culture that has made you stay here, but you’ve already answered that. Do you have any other comments about the culture?
TB: I think we’re just a family. We win together or we learn together. You hate to say you lost something, but with every loss there is a lesson learned, and an opportunity to improve. We just put our heads together and work together.
DH: I think it easy to say that you work for a company that is like family, but RoofConnect takes that a step further. The connection, communication process here. Like you said, sharing the wins. The bell ringer emails every day, I get 25-30 emails, everyone cheering everyone on.
DW: Let’s talk about the bell ringer for a minute. We put the bell out in the lobby, and it seemed maybe a little cheesy at first. But the thing about it, is anyone in this company can ring the bell at any time. The only requirement is they have to send out an email letting everyone know why they rang the bell. We rang the bell last week because we improved an operational process. That excites me. We have to keep doing that. We ring the bell for lots of different reasons. For lunch sometimes. You ring the bell and get 25-30 emails of “that’s awesome!” or “great job!”
DH: For someone who works remotely, it is beneficial for me to see the wins we are getting. I’m not in the office every day.
That wraps up our first podcast. Thank you everyone for joining us. If you have any questions or topics you would like for us to cover, send an email to [email protected]. Be sure to give us a listen and like on iTunes or Spotify and share it on social media. Until next time.