Prelude – The Series
During 2004, this column was dedicated to explaining the components of the metal retrofit roofing market. This year we will devote this column space to explaining “The Business of Metal Roofing”. This will involve looking at the three main elements of this business – Owner, Contractor, and Manufacturer.
The building owner is necessary because that is where the need for a product starts. If the owner does not need a roof, or does not think that a metal roof is his best choice, there is no need to have a contractor or manufacturer. Many times we all get too caught up in our own worlds consisting of advertising, personnel, payables, payroll, suppliers, etc. to remember that we have an obligation to the building owner to listen to his needs and satisfy his requests. Remember the old saying, “Nothing happens until something is sold”? While sales of our products and services are not the only important aspect in the business of metal roofing, we cannot showcase the others until a building owner agrees to purchase a metal roof as part of his roof renovation or new building plans.
The metal roofing contractor is the necessary link between the owner’s needs and the manufacturer’s ability to produce metal roofing products. An owner requesting a metal roof and a manufacturer with product in his yard does not complete the purchasing cycle. There must be an informed and organized contractor to analyze the owner’s needs and determine the right mix of products, labor, and administration necessary to satisfy that need. While many contractors believe that an ability to physically install a metal roof makes them a good contractor, it is necessary to add to that requirement the capacity to provide financial stability, licensing, bonding, labor management, equipment procurement, sales & marketing, etc. All of these elements are necessary in order for the contractor to be in a position to satisfy the owner’s metal roofing needs. Over half of this series of six (6) articles will be devoted to what it takes to have a successful metal roof contracting business.
The last, but certainly not least, of the elements of the metal roofing business is the manufacturer. While the metal panel manufacturer is the most noticed manufacturer, there are multiple other manufacturers that make up this group. Screws, insulation, roof clips, caulk, ventilation devices, and paint, make up a few of the manufacturers that make products that support this portion of the business. Collectively, they are the manufacturers that will be referred to in this article series. They provide the contractors the necessary products needed to solve the owners metal roofing needs.
Now, the business cycle is complete. The need (owner), the service (contractor), and the products (manufacturer) are in place for a business to exist. Now let’s break these elements down and investigate each component.
Part 1: Commitment to Metal
Before anything can be sold, there must first be a need. Before anything can be sold, there must first be an assurance that a certain product can satisfy that need. In the metal roofing market, the challenge is to convince the building owner that his roofing needs can be best satisfied by a metal roofing system. That conclusion requires a commitment on behalf of the building owner that can only come after the owner is educated on the benefits of having a metal roof. Not only educated, but enthusiastically educated! The owner has no objection to be informed of a roof system that will satisfy his needs better than other alternatives. But, he wants to get this information in an enthusiastic and committed manner. Who wants to hear about something as mundane as roofing in a mundane manner? Do not ask the owner to endure such a presentation. He will provide the commitment to using a metal roof in the contractor and manufacturer are committed to this market and show enthusiasm in their presentations.
Before either the contractor or manufacturer can provide presentations that will induce owner approval of a metal roofing system, they must first be committed to the metal roof market themselves. I am not talking about a “trial balloon” commitment, but, rather, a Jim Valvano “never, ever give up” commitment. Let’s discuss the differences of the two.
In the trial balloon scenario, the contractor or manufacturer enters the market in a tentative and calculated manner. They justify this approach by saying that it makes “good business sense”. What they are really saying is that they are not sure that this market is right for them and that they will enter it in a manner to calculate what manner of enthusiasm it might deserve. This attitude is immediately transparent to the owner. He, in turn, asks himself the question, “why should I feel committed to this type of roof system, if they are not more committed themselves”? The resultant sales are mediocre, at best, for the contractor or manufacturer, and they fulfill their self-professed prophecy that this might not be a good market for them. This is a self-defeating cycle that dooms either the contractor or manufacturer to failure. Nobody wins and the metal roofing market is a little less well-off.
On the other hand, a full commitment for either the contractor or manufacturer can yield very satisfactory results. In February 1993 my son and I attended a NC State and UNC basketball game in Reynolds Coliseum. We witnessed Jim Valvano enter the gym with the help of his wife, Pam, on one side and a cane on the other. When presented the microphone, however, his enthusiasm for life made it possible for him to move around the gym and give his legendary “Don’t ever, ever give up” speech. His commitment and enthusiasm for life filled us all with the same. There was not a dry eye and we were all forever changed for the good. In less than three months, the cancer had taken his life, but his enthusiasm for it will never die. That is the type of enthusiasm and associated commitment that needs to be involved with any successful venture. While it does not guarantee success, it is necessary for any appreciable measure of success to be accomplished. In my own career, I have witnessed many great successes as well as a few devastating failures in the business of metal roofing. I have never, however, lost my enthusiasm and commitment for the metal roofing market.
A metal roofing system is the most cost effective roof system available on the market today. This is a known fact that can be proven by accepted life-cycle-costing methods. An owner that needs a replacement or new roof wants the best and most cost effective roof on his building. The products necessary to provide well engineered metal roofing systems have been available in the market for well over 70 years, with many reputable and sound manufacturers available to provide such products. There are thousands of contractors throughout the United States that are capable to provide the contracting services necessary to solve the owners roofing needs with these manufactured products. If the contractor is committed and enthusiastic, he will be successful. He needs a committed and enthusiastic manufacturer to assist him in this venture.
Be committed – Be successful!!
For more information about the many aspects of a metal roof marketing, design, installation, troubleshooting, etc., contact Chuck Howard with Metal Roof Consultants (MRC) at (919) 465-1762. You can also get information about MRC at their website, www.metalroofconsultants.net.