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Focus - On top of roofing relationships

image Bernard Boling, Owner Boling Roofs and Sheet Metal, Kyle, TX

AUSTIN - How would you describe the state of the construction industry in general terms? Austin is booming! I think it’s booming all over the state.







How has Boling Roofs and Sheet Metal benefited from this “boom?”
    We’ve been growing, especially in the last four years.  It’s just been non-stop.

Have you had slowdowns in the past? If yes, how did you handle them?
    We did experience slowdowns during the drought, and there was also a sort of economic downturn from 2009-2011. We were a young company and smaller during that time, so it was a great trial by fire.
    When I started in the roofing industry in ’94, a metal roofer was hard to find. It’s not that way anymore. That is a good thing. To survive economic downturns, we branched out into other services.
What factors are driving Austin’s thriving construction economy?
    I think things are set up in Texas better than other places. Central Texas is a place that is friendly and open to people and businesses starting out.
    There are also a lot of people trying to work. Texas is a ranching, working state. Anytime you have people connected to the land, willing to work with their hands, it goes a long way.  It affects everyone’s attitude.

Specifically, how has the economy affected Boling Roofs and Sheet Metal and how you conduct business?
    We’ve had to expand our number of employees and crews and get more certifications because we have expanded our services.
    Also, I’m now working in the role of an owner mostly. I’ve had to step out of installing full roofs myself, and I’m directing others. It is a different viewpoint, but it’s a good problem.

What are the “hot button” issues in the roofing industry?
    When there’s a lot of construction going on, and you are waiting on other trades to finish their part, scheduling gets hard, and I worry about over commitment.
    I try to treat everybody with respect. You have to constantly be working toward quality and integrity: quality, integrity, and timeliness. Start with achieving those and you don’t have problems.
    Rain is a big deal, too. You get better at predicting the weather than the weatherman.

What have been the major changes in the roofing industry in recent years?
    Mainly, the popularity of metal roofing and also the rise of the TPO flat roof system. No particular type of roof is the “go-to” roof anymore as shingles and modified once were.

What is the most significant challenge your industry faces?
    Mine is, again, scheduling issues.
    But more broadly, if a tradesman doesn’t honor their commitments it makes construction workers in general look bad.  People develop low opinions of trades.
    What it comes down to are relationships. That’s a short sentence, kind of a cliché, but achieving it is a daily process.

What are some of the cost increases roofers are incurring now?
    Shingles keep going up; metal goes up more slowly. Labor and insurance costs have gone up, too.
    You always have fluctuations, and once they go up, they don’t come down.

How are you dealing with these challenges?
    You bid the cost into the job.
    I think people understand. I have great relationships with my suppliers, and that helps.  We get the job done regardless.

What is on the horizon for the roofing industry? Are there changes in technology, codes, ordinances, and laws forthcoming?
    I think there are going to be changes, but I don’t know exactly what.
    Austin has built up a lot and continues to grow.  That affects laws and codes and the people already here, including the people in construction.  I think that also gives us opportunities as well.

What are the rewards of the industry?
    There’s always a lot to learn in roofing – new techniques and materials - it changes and challenges you.
    Roofing is exciting! It’s about helping people. We’re not first responders, but when a tree falls on someone’s house, it’s important to them to find someone to help them and to be quick about it.
    It’s also a big deal when you can solve a problem for someone such as a builder or homeowner.

What are keys to being successful in the roofing industry?
    Growing as a person and working on relationships and communication with my customers and the people I work with every day.
    Roofing is essentially taking something challenging and working through it. I’ve seen a lot, but I don’t think I’ve seen it all.
    Roofers deal with weather, physics, and logistics. But for me, it’s definitely been learning how to work with people, get agreements and work through the disagreements.

    Boling Roofs and Sheet Metal specializes in custom metal and roofing. They serve Central Texas, North Texas, and Oklahoma. - ke

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Kim Estes austineditor@constructionnews.net