2020 was a tumultuous year, full of unknowns and adjustments—some natural and others forced by the pandemic. So, what are the most important lessons learned in 2020 that we can apply to the year ahead?
Jason Joplin of GAF is committed to providing education and training for contractors through the GAF Center for the Advancement of Roofing Education (CARE). He works with contractors every day, and he shared five of the most important takeaways from the past year.
1. There's a New Labor Pool
The service industry was hit hard by the closure of restaurants, bars, hotels, and nonessential small businesses. Many companies shut their doors for good. Thousands of workers were displaced. Joplin says that this has created a swathe of people who are newly considering a career in the roofing industry.
"Contractors are realizing this is a labor pool that has incredible potential," Joplin says. "Coming from the hospitality industry, they understand customer service and have the potential to be among a contractor's best team members. It's an opportunity for those who lost their jobs to realize a new, lucrative career path."
In early 2020, GAF Roofing Academy was launched to help attract and train new candidates to pursue a career in roofing. The three-week program includes classroom and on-the-roof training to prepare new roofers to apply for full-time opportunities with contractors who are in need of qualified labor. It's a win-win, offering students a new career path and helping to address the labor shortage in the roofing industry that could be constraining some contractors' ability to grow their businesses.
2. Diversifying Your Business Is a Must
The residential and commercial roofing markets have been affected differently by the pandemic. Contractors may want to consider offering additional options to meet the changing needs of their customers.
"Commercial buildings are somewhat empty, with businesses allowing their workforce to work from home," Joplin says. "Building owners and managers are likely unwilling to invest in large capital improvement projects such as a new roof, but they may be interested in alternative solutions such as roof coatings, which can extend the life of their existing roof."
The residential market hasn't changed much, according to Joplin, but he encourages contractors to stay on the pulse of what's ahead.
"Think about what the roof and home will do for the consumer in the future besides providing waterproofing," he says. "Maybe it can help with heating or cooling, maybe it can collect rainwater in drought-stricken areas or bring energy to the home through solar solutions like GAF Energy. Contractors should be thinking about these solutions and be first to deliver that value to the homeowner."
3.Virtual Training Works
Before 2020, many webinars and online training sessions may have felt dry compared with their in-person alternatives. With the pandemic, going online has been many events' only option—forcing trainers to find new ways of making virtual sessions interactive and interesting.
"I think people learned quickly that having an in-person interaction for training isn't mandatory," Joplin says. "If I'm a contractor who needs to get my crew trained for a TPO installation, I can have them follow a virtual learning path, pass assessment tests, and then, at that point, have a brief live visit to finalize and certify the crew."
This shift is happening across the industry. In 2020, the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) moved their Qualified Trainer Conference online, along with other events that used to only be available in person. GAF created an on-demand learning portal and converted their typical in-person CARE training schedule to live webinars. Expect this hybrid blend of training to continue in 2021 and beyond.
4. Augmented Reality (AR) Is Going Mainstream
The ability to see from the perspective of a roofer working a job, even though you're sitting miles away, is a game-changer.
Joplin compares the adoption of augmented reality to the adoption of drone technology: "Drones seemed to happen overnight in our industry. As solutions rapidly become more affordable, AR is going to take off and become something we use every day in roofing businesses," he says.
5. Remote Selling Is Here to Stay
Many homeowners are not comfortable having a salesperson in their home at this time, pushing contractors to shift to virtual appointments and contracts. Fortunately, GAF offers contractors GAF Project, a subscription-based digital tool that handles every phase of the transaction. From obtaining measurements using GAF QuickMeasure, giving virtual sales presentations, and collecting e-signatures, contractors have everything they need to navigate virtual sales and project management.
Joplin explains that these solutions are developed with contractor feedback: "We have copious amounts of contractor feedback when we develop these types of solutions. We listen to our contractors through focus groups and advisory boards to ensure that we are delivering solutions that will work for them."
As we enter 2021, it's worth considering how 2020's changes will affect the future. Contractors can feel confident that they have a partner in GAF who supports them with the tools they need for success. Whether through training, technology, or business operations best practices, the experts at GAF are here to help.