Back to the Future

As the calendar flips to mark the start of a new year, it is traditionally a good time to take a step back and contemplate the future. This often means focusing on setting goals — both for yourself and for your business. 

That topic must have been top of mind for many of the authors who contributed to this issue, as the articles can serve as a road map when planning for the year ahead. 

This issue is chock full of great business management advice, beginning with personnel. In her column, business consultant Diane Helbig urges business owners to think of their business like a football team, making sure the right people are in the right positions. 

Once the lineup is set, the team needs systems in place to guarantee success. Caroline Trautman points out that proper record-keeping procedures can be the key to prevailing in a dispute, and she offers tips on procedures to safeguard your company. 

Success also hinges on finding new business, so marketing is always essential. Heidi J. Ellsworth and Karen L. Edwards detail the importance of developing an overall marketing plan — and outline ways to get started. 

Others tackled the task of identifying potential problems facing the industry. Jared Blum believes Congress and extreme weather will pose the biggest challenges to the roofing industry in 2019. Tom Hutchinson looks at roof failures in new construction using metal studs, while Justin Koscher points to more robust building codes as a valuable tool to protect communities from severe weather events — and help them bounce back. Trent Cotney explores the jobsite of the future — which is already here, in the form of high-tech tools including geofencing, building information modeling (BIM) and smart contracts. The same technology that helps people count their steps can now help companies determine who is on the jobsite, record their work, calculate their pay and automatically trigger the next task to be performed. It’s a Brave New World. 

There will be lots of new technology to explore at this year’s International Roofing Expo in Nashville, and I hope to see you there. It’s a great place to network and hone the strategies you are working on to help improve your business. 

There might not be any products there to help me with my annual goal to lose some weight, but at least I have Josie the Wonder Dog to make sure I get around the block a few times every day.

Here’s wishing that 2019 brings you much happiness and success. 

Weather, Congress Among Variables Likely to Affect Industry in the Year Ahead

As we move forward in 2019, the roofing industry can expect to be influenced by two sometimes out-of-control, difficult to predict forces: the weather and the United States Congress. Add to the equation a shifting economic outlook, as well as uncertain immigration policies, and you have a potentially toxic mix that makes any projection difficult. But there are some constants in the current environment that can help guide strategies for the roofing industry, and here’s our take on what to expect as this decade winds to a close.

There may be some limited success in tackling immigration reform, but don’t expect enough change to mitigate the labor shortage experienced by roofing companies. The Trump-promised wall has yet to be built, but actions to slow illegal immigration have been somewhat successful. The roofing industry has pressed for immigration reform; experts estimate that worker shortages account for up to 20 percent in lost roofing business each year, and sensible immigration reform could help end those shortages. The Center for Construction Research and Training, or CPWR, points out that in some construction occupations, including roofing, more than half of the workers are of Hispanic origin. So, the roofing industry certainly has a compelling case to be made for reform. 

Balancing the demand for secure borders against the need for additional workers has so far failed to produce meaningful legislation. Given the intense disagreement on how to move forward, 2019 will most likely be another year of bipartisan gridlock on this issue. The encouraging news comes from two areas of activity: innovations that promote ease of roofing installation, and industry efforts to certify roofing workers and increase the prestige of working in the trades. These efforts may help to recoup some of the business that has been lost because of the labor shortage, but only rational immigration reform will help to meet the unmet demand.

The weather may, in fact, be more predictable than the lawmakers who just assembled on Capitol Hill. Late in November of this past year, the Federal Government released the National Climate Assessment, the fourth comprehensive look at climate-change impacts on the United States since 2000. The Congressionally mandated thousand-page report delivered a sobering warning about the impact of climate change on the United States and its economy, detailing hownatural disasters are becoming more commonplace throughout the country and predicting that they may become much worse. 

While some may challenge the reality of long-term climate change, statistics tell us that short-term increases in cataclysmic weather events are an indisputable fact of life. And a temporary lull in these disasters cannot be taken as a sign of a change in weather patterns. For instance, as of early August this past year, the Tropical Meteorology Team at Colorado State University downgraded the forecast for the rest of the year, until November 1, from      “slightly above average Atlantic hurricane season” to less than anticipated. They were correct, for a while. No hurricanes formed in the Atlantic during the rest of August, making it the first season in five years without a storm of hurricane magnitude. But just as forecasters were declaring victory over unpredictable nature, Hurricane Florence delivered a pounding to the Carolinas in early September, and in October Hurricane Michael devastated much of the Florida panhandle. The erratic weather patterns did not stop at the end of the hurricane season: an early December storm dumped as much as a foot of snow on parts of the Carolinas that rarely see that much during an entire winter. So much for the predicted respite from extreme weather conditions.

The difficult-to-predict weather is creating one certainty for the roofing industry: customers will increasingly be looking for durable materials and systems that can withstand weather extremes. Additionally, the focus is turning to anticipating destructive weather and mitigating its potential impact by creating resilient structures. ERA has just produced its first annual report, “Building Resilience: The Roofing Perspective.” We anticipate updating this product each year to help provide the roofing industry with the latest approaches to creating resilient roofing systems. 

Unpredictable labor markets and unpredictable weather patterns are defining the “new normal” for our industry and will no doubt be part of our reality in 2019. But based on past performance, there’s at least one certainty we can count on: the roofing industry will come out ahead in the face of these challenges, providing our customers with innovative products and superior service and providing our employees with a work environment that ensures a secure future.

About the Author: Jared Blum is the executive director of the EPDM Roofing Association (ERA), www.epdmroofs.org, and serves as chair of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute.