The great reset - Starting over?

The world is changing and so has the landscape of business. Many of us have established businesses and have needed to adapt to technological and workforce changes. In certain instances, volumes have increased as technology has bestowed a “wider reach” but this is often offset by a less prepared workforce straining our ability to increase quality output. Many of us have established legacy infrastructures that have become burdensome yet we maintain the status quo for no other reason than familiarity. Would you still be installing alongside your crew or would you entrust that to others and focus upon management and growth … or vice versa? Staffing, in theory, works great but in today’s mindset, is it still a good investment from a value perspective? And then there is all that “stuff” you’ve acquired which takes up valuable real estate but it’s “my stuff” and I may need it one day … but never do. Most of us have experienced these scenarios.

For me, my faith has been eroded in hiring as I have experienced an increasingly complex change in values residing in the current mindset from which we draw. Many of these values significantly conflict with my own. Do I remain entrenched in my vision of quality or do I reexamine the definition altogether? I’m too old and tired to install again as it has already taken a toll of my body. I still see enormous opportunity in this field because it’s challenging, varied and abundant. A small operation is appealing but it is also limiting as it’s not hard to hit your threshold and limit your earnings. A larger business is good for the ego and pocket book (at times) until things go sideways and you are faced with pruning your operation and those who work for you. This is soul crushing especially if you are compassionate to start with.

So let’s clear the slate and give you a chance to start again equipped with just two things … your knowledge and experience. These are your most valuable tools … now deploy them.

This will be interesting

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Seems like as the quantity goes up the quality starts getting less and less, and with technology changing how we do business, interact with the customer, and make our lives easier, were slowly declining in many ways whenever you look at the long game.
Whenever quality workmanship goes out the window with the average available worker, yet that behavior is defended as one thing or another, eventually, what we used to call terrible work from lazy people becomes the industry accepted standard across the board.
If I have to sacrifice quality for quantity then I’ve forgotten how Ive been blessed by not accepting less than the standards I’ve set at a personal level no matter what. Whenever we lose site of certain aspects of life for ourselves then it’s time to step away from it all. In the end most customers won’t remember a year down the road the extra mile we ran or the lost sleep to accommodate the last minute changes the night before.
They will everyone remember when that little extra stopped taking place or the level of quality falls off the rail. Most of what we do never gets noticed, it’s when we don’t do those things that hurt.

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An admirable set of standards. My question is premised upon “today vs then” and how you would reestablish your business to meet today’s challenges? Which path would you take to operate in this business and why? The same one or another based on what you have learned already? I am not asking for a response from a position of regret, but rather a choice based on gathered wisdom.

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I know you won’t like my answer but here goes anyway. It seems like you are complicating a very simple scenario, but maybe it just depends on the locale you or others are working in and also depends on how big of a company you are trying to create. I wouldn’t dream of trying to run 30-50 employees. We average around 17 employees, which for us and in our area seems to be the sweet spot. We did $3 million last year and I would be happy to keep it right there forever. We hire good young men with no experience and figure that we will be training them for 2-3 years before they become totally proficient. We look for kids that have played high school sports and have good character. They tear off for a time then we put a coil nailer in their hands, supervised by at least one of our long term employees. We have excellent retention, many of our guys have been with us longer than 10 years. We do not hire experienced roofers as they would just leapfrog our hardworking young men and create bad morale. Our trainees know they have opportunity to move into better and higher paying positions and they are motivated. When our more experienced piece workers are training new roofers they get to claim all the squares of the slow newbies they are taking time out to train while newbies make $18 per hr. To learn the trade. This has worked very well for us but I know all areas are different.

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How would you determine when an employee switches from hourly to piece work? Is it their choice to switch and are they not then subcontractors? Why not just pay them a higher hourly rate? I’m curious because I’ve never considered such a hybrid model but I can see how it can work. Seems quite brilliant to me.

We rely heavily upon subcontractors and it’s enough to run you out of the business. For every sub that runs their operation like a good business, there are 10 who are simply incompetent and can’t use a calculator let alone manage a team. There is so much work that they can cycle through contractors and get paid insane rates because the market is desperate.

Your response was quite insightful.

Thank you.

The great reset means we are all going out of business, no more ownership of private property.

I don’t expect to be alive 5 years from now and I am in great health.

Turn off the tv, stop consuming corporate media & find alternates for news.

Too many people out there can’t see what is happening right in front of them.

When someone places a pile crap in the middle of your path, you can step in it, you can choose to study it, or you can walk around it. If you step in it, you’ll curse high heaven but the smell will wear off after time. If you study it, you risk it becoming your destination. By walking around it, you have accepted it’s just another pile of crap.

Axiom, what we are all experiencing is just another pile of crap albeit a different form. It also smells worse because its the product of a toxic diet.

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I typed this up, last night and decided not to post it. I was in the office, figuring a skylight replacement and thought I would see what was going on. I decided to post it.
In the 80’s 90’s and 2000’s, I knew pretty much every roofing company in my area. I was in every phone book within 100 miles. Today, I’ve scaled back to about 50 miles because every bank teller, has decided that at 22yrs old, they can start a roofing company, with no experience, just by hiring roofers to work for them. I find the biggest seller we use is bidding a roof on the spot, with a simple brochure of the past 30yrs of projects. Very rare are the new tech companies, bidding on the spot. As a roofer of over 30yrs, I bid at least 9 out of 10 on the spot. The new tech centered guys, seem to want to leave and email the bid. I’m closing their jobs, before they figure them. If it’s a complicated drawing I’ll settle to email it, but if I have to sit for 30 minutes in the comfort of my dodge, I’ll do it while everything I just saw is hot in my mind.

The teenagers, that used to call looking for a job in the summer, have gone away. I trained many kids, during 2 summers to be installers. Those days are few. When i run an ad for an installer, I get 100’s of apps looking for a sales position.

I had a call last week. The guy told me he had bid against me on a project and we had won the bid. I found it odd. I don’t call people like that. He told me his name and I didn’t recognize it. Who could. In the past 20yrs, my market went from about 10 companies to probably 100 or more. His call was trying to find out what my team and I were doing to sell jobs that he thought he had wrapped up. The old days of the roofing companies in town, being friendly and us all shaking hands at the supply house Christmas party, are gone. If you disclose your sales tactics or advertisement to the new generation, they will eat you up.

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Agree about selling jobs right on the spot.
And a much higher selling rate by doing so.
And after 5:00pm appointments
And Saturday morning appointments…
Your client sees you want it.
We want to bend to their schedule
Especially if we can meet husband and wife.
We always try to do that when we can.
Best if referred, both parties are there, and it is a comfortable time schedule where they are not in a rush to leave…

I agree, selling on the spot. It’s odd how many wives, make the decisions for home improvement. At my home, I am the one meeting contractors. Selling on Saturdays has been something I’ve done in the past 10yrs. I make it a point to do bids on Saturday, before noon.
This time of the year, selling after 5 is rough. It’s dark at 5:15. In Texas if both husband and wife are on the property, legally they both have to sign. I don’t get both all the time, but an email or text is good enough as a legal signature in Texas.

Ivoman,
I will attempt to respond you as well as rooferama in the same post.

I am fortunate to live in a smaller market, around 200,000 max population in our service area. There are no contractors using subs except for one large company who only pretends to be in our area and somewhat replicates the old Sears model, if any old timers remember that. I am also fortunate in that I have been involved in coaching youth sports in a condensed area within the county and know a lot of solid young men through that. Believe me there are quality men out there you just have to try a little harder to find them. Call the wrestling and football coaches from high schools in your area.

We pay hourly until a shingler is proficient and I can trust his character to not do shoddy work trying to go fast. I tell trainees to go slow putting shingles on and run to their bundles. If a shingler can’t exceed his hourly rate by piecework we allow them to stay on the clock but it has to be one or the other throughout the whole job, no banging on gravy by the piece then doing cut work on the clock. They can choose before each job how they want to work it.

Going the employee route in an area saturated with subs would be difficult and involves a lot of overhead and investment of years of time. I am lucky to be where I am and would not want to attempt to work with subs in a bigger market. Guaranteed I would be in prison for murdering some of them.

Involvement with sports is great. I was a basketball referee, from Jr. High to High school, for 25yrs until roofing and the body just couldnt compete. I met many great young men who worked for me, but as I age, so did they. I coached little league baseball, fall ball and spring. I paid for kids uniforms, gloves, bats, whatever they needed. Ive never told anyone what I did. It was secret. You are correct. Lots of good customers, maybe didnt remember my first name, but I wore that company shirt to every practice. I’ll tell you another thing, I drove that express 3500 box truck, with the company name as much as I could. Box trucks have been hands down, the best investment i ever made.

That’s good stuff. Not sure how many jobs came my way as a result but I did find a lot of quality employees, and continue to. I also know the lazy kids from practice so I know not to hire them!

Damn, how hard is residential roofing? You’d figure if you were truly a pro, you’d have some established set of instructions set down and followed to the T by the workers.

I recall back in the 80’s we had a local company with the name of “AA Aardvark Roofing”. What a bizarre name for any company, let alone a roofing business? That’s when I learned of the Yellow Pages and it all suddenly clicked. Funny. I also recall how damned expensive it was to buy a decent sized ad in the book and that’s why I’ve knocked on several thousand doors looking for business. Come to think of it, the door knocking was also cutting edge but the new generation was never keen to steal that sales tactic!

In our draw area of approximately 2 million, the shifting face of this business is catering to a millennial driven market. Pre-packaged, delivered to your doorstep and add water. Face to face is a pretty cumbersome concept, partially due to paranoia amongst the seniors and social reclusiveness amongst a surprising number of younger homeowners.

If I was to do it again and start from new, equipped with what I know now, I’d build the SOB as fast as I could and sell in 5 years! Maybe it would save me from back pain?

Sounds like you have a great business!

Yeah, residential roofing is hard and we truly are trying to be be more professional and model ourselves against something like … the nail business! Expecting us to establish instructions is silly when none us have ever read any. We tried whipping the crews to boost production, but as they were unwilling to have that perk docked from their pay, we decided to drop the program.

We’re trying here!

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LOL. Still remember me, eh? Disregarding a profession like nails, which seems to have nothing to do with roofing, is a bad idea, as I’ve proved before and I’ll prove again.

Nails is a small business simulation. It gives you a taste of all there is to offer in a larger scale business.

When I did nails, I was the absolute best - I can say that because I saw what others were and weren’t doing.

My processes for each client was bespoke, but they all worked on the same simple principals, which were EASILY teachable in simple steps to other nail techs. These steps may seem simple, but they were curated by heavy scientific research and experience. Some techs followed it, but most didn’t. They relied on what their eyes saw, which doesn’t explain certain phenomenon’s. They too fell prey to not listening to people who know what they are talking about.

It is the same story in the food industry. Key facts are VERY easy to teach. And if you can teach it correctly, you’ll avoid a lot of headaches and stomachaches.

It is also the same in the roofing industry. What sets the good roofing companies from the bad ones are a handful of steps and key principals. Finding good help is simply a problem of the manager’s ability to teach, not the worker.

Here’s another you don’t know, the nail business is one of the most profitable business in terms of capital and overhead invested. Often the profit margins are 100-300% over overhead.

Thanks for the tips. In my mind, and I may be off, a smaller market offers little protection for those jumping around between crews and/or contractors, as you risk getting a bad name. A large market offers convenient anonymity and many roofers/crews cycle through crews/contractors like crazy. We are a heavily slanted “subtrade” market where you can literally fog a glass and get top rate simply due to the desperation contractors have to find crews.

I see there to be great benefits in being a legitimate employee worker over a cash only maverick on a crew as you earn legitimacy in the workforce. By this I mean you can show pay stubs and apply for a loan to buy things like … a car, or a house or a credit card or …! That sort of outlook is a stretch for the transient minds we encounter within our region. There is such a demand for roofers if only they would recognize it as a “noble trade” not unlike electricians or plumbers, as an example. Our business suffers from bad marketing to younger folks.

I will say the “system” you employ is clever and I congratulate you for your patience and willingness to give young folks a glimpse into a great trade and enduring career.

Ivoman,
You are spot on about smaller markets and accountability associated with, although many companies in our area will hire any other companies retreads when things are busy just to get more jobs done. I can’t accept credit for being clever though because our area is almost completely comprised of companies with employees and the subcontractor model barely exists here, even in neighboring markets with populations of 3-400,000. The main thing we do different is we almost never hire experienced roofers. We hire athletic and, hopefully, high character young men and teach them the trade. It would ruin morale to hire someone intending to train them and then hire experienced roofers, leaving our new hires on the tear off crew. We want them to always know there is upward mobility for them and they are only temporary as the low man on the totem pole. It is a business model somewhat unique even in our area and I do know that it wouldn’t work in most markets. I’m grateful to be where I’m at and I respect people making a good living in bigger markets. I don’t think I could do it.

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