So you are at a party, and the conversations starts, “What do you do?” After you respond, “I’m in the roofing business,” you become their personal roof consultant. Everyone involved in this industry, no matter their role, has been asked by a friend, neighbor or casual acquaintance for advice on their roofing project. Everybody has a roof. Everybody needs a roof. Everyone has seen roofing work underway. But those who aren’t directly involved in the roofing industry often don’t know how complex a project might be or the consequence of the many choices faced in completing a roofing project. So you tell this new friend your recommendation, and I am sure it was not the cheapest option but a “you get what you pay for” option.

Let’s take the previous lesson and put it into our everyday business and focus on better educating our customers. Lay out the options to homeowners for shingles (or tiles, metal, shakes, etc.) and underlayments. Get samples of several products and present them as systems — not just standalone products. For commercial buildings, show them the insulation, cover board, fastening and membrane options. Print out product data sheets from the manufacturers’ websites. Many manufacturers and distributors can assist in even better presentation of data and samples. Discuss warranty options up front and make sure all costs are known — or at least identified as “to be determined.” This education of function and performance will diffuse the focus on price.

The recent hailstorms in my local area and some very personal experience in helping out several friends and neighbors understand their insurance claims have given me particular insight into a growing problem in our industry — we are not doing our best. Whether a manufacturer, contractor, distributor or roof consultant, we all offer “Good, Better and Best” options. However, all too often our knee-jerk reaction has been to go with the “Good” option as a means to secure the work instead of matching the “Best” option for the building need. Too many homes are being re-roofed in 15-pound felt and cheap shingle options because of the excuse, “that’s all my insurance company gave me.” Too many commercial buildings are being reroofed in 45-mil TPO because “we were working with last year’s budget numbers.” Nothing wrong with these functional roofs, but are we really serving our customers’ needs?

The vast majority of re-roofing projects are for owners who value the contents and the overall worth of the building. Manufacturers offer several high-end options and “beyond the code” products to respond to these owners that, when educated about the choices, will opt for the “Better” and “Best” options. Premium steep-slope roofing products with equivalent underlayment options need to be installed on high-end homes. Multi-ply bituminous or thick single-ply options need to be specified for most commercial buildings. The roof system performance and life span needs to be matched to the value, contents, and intended long-term use of the structure — not just today’s available funds. Everyone in the industry has to band together and sell “Value” over “Price.”

 Challenge yourself and your organizations to do a better job of educating customers on the choices and selling the best value. Accomplishing both efforts will only enhance our collective reputation. Here’s to doing your best roofing work in 2013. AR+W