Richard Tooley, owner of Kansas City-based Elite Roof Systems, explains how his roofing company is setting up a new program to award a free commercial roof to a regional nonprofit later this year. In the episode, Tooley explains the motivations and steps involved in setting up this type of program, which could potentially be adopted by other contractors, as well.
A complete transcript of this podcast is available below. For more information, contact: Elite Roof Systems, (913) 258-5607, www.eliteroofsystems.com
Ben DuBose: Richard, good morning. How are you?
Richard Tooley: Good morning. I’m doing great.
BD: Thank you for taking some time with us. As far as today’s shows, we’re going to be talking about a new program that Elite Roof Systems has put together to give back to the community. Before we get to that, though, I want to give you a chance, Richard, to tell people a little bit about yourself, your position, your bio, and also about your company, Elite Roof Systems. I mentioned you're based in Kansas City, Kansas, but beyond that, give people some information about what it is that you guys do.
RT: We’ve been in business here since 2008. We basically work with building owners and properly managers to try and solve two of the top complaints that we hear all the time, which is roof leaks and high-budget concerns. We do a very in-depth roof inspection process. We document everything to make sure that the building owner knows or the property manager knows everything about their roof system. We do a lot of coating systems. We do single ply, we do Duro-Last single ply. We’ve been here since 2008. We moved into our new building in October last year. We were growing so we had to get a bigger facility.
BD: How did this idea come about as far as what you're doing? As background, Elite Roof Systems is giving a free commercial roof to a nonprofit. I believe the contest wraps up later this year and will be installed early in 2021. How did this idea come about? To me, you did this in 2020 with such a negative downturn for businesses. I’m sure a lot of people would greatly appreciate it. Where did this idea originate from for you guys?
RT: I’ve always liked to give back. I’ve always liked to donate and help people out. Anytime we install a roof for a church, we always give a percentage back as a charitable donation to the church. We’ve had a couple churches that we’ve done some free work for. I just always like to be a part of the community and try to help give back as much as possible. I kind of figured this might be a great year to start a program.
Our business has not really slowed down this year. In fact, we’ve been accelerating and getting busier. We initially lost some jobs whenever this first happened, from the scare factor of COVID-19. But we’ve — most of those have come back already, under contract again and will be installed or were already installed. I thought, let’s just give away a free roof. What’s it going to hurt? Let’s get the manufacturers involved. We’ll provide all the labor and everything. We reached out to some of our suppliers, and we’ve had — some of them have reached back out and said, “Yes, we’re definitely in.” Some of them have said, “No, with the COVID and everything, we can’t do it right now.”
We figured, well, whatever assistance we don’t get, we’ll just cover the difference. The roof is basically up to 10,000 square feet. It’s for non-profits who are in need of a roof. We promote a system called ExpandoThane, which is an expandable polyurea system with a silicone topcoat. And that silicone topcoat could be one of several different brands, whoever wants to participate in this program. It will have anywhere from a 15- to 20-year warranty on the roof system.
BD: What are the steps, when it comes to setting all of this up? Talk about the partnerships that you need. I know, for example, you’ve got the single-ply manufacturer, you’ve got potentially a coatings manufacturer, roofing suppliers. What are all the parts that you guys are having to put together to set this up?
RT: Well, since this is the very first time we’ve ever done this, we’re kind of winging it right now. But we figured we don’t have —. We’re working on an application. The first thing we have to do is we came out with a “name the program” contest that we put all over social media. We came up with all kinds of names that all pretty much involve Santa Claus or Christmas because it’s a free roof for Christmas. Our initial thought was “An Elite Roof for Christmas.”
Then we thought, well, let’s get the community involved, so we put it out all over social media. First we have to name it. We figured, well, that will take a little while to name it. During that time, it will give us some time to come up with an application process and come up with some questions for these nonprofits. We’re going to post that on our website. It’ll most likely be like eliteroofsystems.com/freeroofgiveaway or something, application. We don’t know. Or you can go to our website and then there will be a button. We don’t have it there yet, but we’re working on it. We figure as soon as we get the name, we can start promoting it more.
But by Thanksgiving, we really want to have things kind of wrapping up to a point — so we’re going to have to hustle — to a point where we’ve got a bunch of applicants to choose from. Then we want to narrow it down from Thanksgiving to right around mid-December to maybe three to five finalists. Then we want to personally go visit those people. At some point we have to go get on the roof, we have to inspect it and make sure that it’s a good candidate for one of our systems.
Then we figured, somewhere during — like I said, this is brand-new, so we’re kind of winging it — we figured, somewhere during the week of Christmas we’ll announce the winner. Then we’ll get a hold of them and let them know, and then roof will be installed the first quarter of 2021, weather permitting, whenever that allows.
BD: To continue with the theme of feedback, you mentioned posting it on social media, getting a lot of interactions as far as the name and what to call the program. What are the types of things that you've heard so far? Is there a lot of excitement about this program? For our audience listening — largely of contractors, applicator, installers — I’m guessing some will and perhaps should see it as an opportunity, since certainly a positive for you guys getting your brand out to the community beyond the benefits of giving back. It could be good for your business down the road, based on the exposure. What are the things that you've heard as far as feedback on social media, perhaps the media itself. What type of response have you gotten in the early going?
RT: We’re hearing from a lot of people that this is going to be a really good thing that we’re doing. “Great program.” “I wish more companies would do stuff like this.” We’re hearing mostly all positive feedback. I haven’t heard anything negative. So I reached out to our team. I reached out to all of our manufacturers. I reached out to anybody in my contact list that I could think of and said, “Hey, what do you think about this?” and everybody said the same thing. “That is a great idea. It could bring a lot of business to your business by doing this.”
But more importantly, I’m not doing it for that. I’m doing it to give back and to help. That’s just the kind of person that I am. I like to help people. But we are — as soon as we come up with the name — we are going to get the media involved. We know several people at the TV and radio stations and stuff. We’re going to get the media involved and start trying to promote this as much as possible.
BD: What’s the time table moving forward? You already alluded to the Christmas factor. But when is the deadline to apply? And then what are the steps after that? I think you mentioned interviews for maybe three or so of the finalists. How do you whittle it down from whatever the initial applications are to the final three or five, however many it is, for you to actually interview? What’s the time table moving forward?
RT: I think we’re probably going to have an application deadline of Thanksgiving. We’re probably going to have to shut it down right after that, somewhere right after that. Because within two weeks of there, we’re going to be narrowing it down. So we’re going to have applications to go through. The plan is to assemble a team of about three to five people. It may be people — maybe one person from our company, but mostly it’s from outside. We want an unbiased view. Somebody has to pick, other than me or somebody here. Somewhere right around Thanksgiving we’re going to have a cutoff date, and then we’re going to have to start thumbing through and going through all the applications to figure out who’s in need and who’s not.
I’ve already had two nonprofits reach out to me that heard about it on Facebook. And I know for a fact don’t need it, they don’t need any financial help. We’re looking for people that do need financial help. The ones that just, there’s no way in the world they could ever afford to put a roof on, but they really need a roof. There’s a lot of organizations out there. In fact, I even purchased a mailing list last week of all the nonprofits in the Kansas City metro. I think there was about 500 of them on the list, roughly, give or take 15. So there’s quite a few out there. We even thought about, if we don’t get enough interest, we’ll just send them a letter and say, “Hey, are you interested in a free roof? Apply.”
BD: How important is the 2020 factor in all of this? From my perspective, our industry, coatings applicators, have not been affected nearly as much as some others because, of course, coatings applicators are better prepared to do work in the current COVID climate. You know, you guys are already familiar with the PPE. Many of these projects can be done outside. Maybe people are more willing to do work during 2020 anyway because if a building isn’t being used as much, then that might be the time to do maintenance that you’ve been deferring for reasons of perhaps not wanting to be seen as an impediment to the people using the building, the facility, whatever it may be.
While your business is good this year, I think it’s a common theme in our industry — for a lot of nonprofits that you could conceivably be installing for, that may not be the case. Is that something that perhaps you take into account when you’re trying to determine who’s going to ultimately get this roof? Is it a big motivation for the program, the fact that you can give back in a year that, from a business perspective, has been pretty harsh for a lot of people?
RT: Yes. I think that it would just be, just a great opportunity to help somebody that has — they’re nonprofit, they’re in business to help others, obviously they’re a nonprofit. They may be in a situation where it’s do or die, or they may also be in a situation where a government program is going to shut them down if the roof doesn’t stop leaking and they don’t have the money. They don’t have the donations. Donations are down this year. We hear that across the board. We hear it from our church. Everybody’s struggling through this, especially the nonprofits because the people just aren’t donating like they used to.
I think it’s a great year to start this. I mean, I would have started it anyway because I was talking about this last Christmas, about doing it this year and trying to put all the pieces together. Then COVID hit in February, and then we just kind of thought, Well, let’s proceed with it.
BD: Have there been any lessons learned already as far as a contractor listening is considering doing this themselves? Is there any advice that you have so far, or is it too early in the process to really know?
RT: It’s a little too early. Like I mentioned, this is our first ever. I don't know if you want to call it a first annual, because we’ve talked about doing this two times a year, once every Christmas and maybe once, I don't know, maybe around the 4th of July. We’re not sure what that program would look like. But we figured let’s get through this first one, let’s see how it goes, because like I said, I like to give back. I’m always looking to help businesses. I know whenever I looked into this, the first thing I did was Google “free commercial roof giveaway,” and I found a couple companies out there, and I reached out to them to ask them a few questions. But I never got a response back from anybody. So I was kind of on my own. I’m still trying to figure out what questions do I ask a nonprofit. What probing questions do I ask for the application? It’s definitely a work in progress, and we’re hoping to figure it out here real quick.
BD: Richard, before we sign off, for anyone listening who may be interested in learning more about the program, reaching out to you guys, any further inquires, how can our listeners learn more about your company or the program?
RT: Well, our company is Elite Roof Systems. Our website is www.eliteroofsystems.com. They can always call me on my cell phone, which is (913) 634-7788, and my email address is email@example.com. I’m always available to talk about anything.
BD: Richard, I assume that we can check back with you in a few months to update our listeners on how everything’s going, right?
RT: Yes, we will be doing video of the whole process, and we’ll be posting on our website and all over social media as the process goes on.
BD: Excellent. Sounds good. Like I said, we’d love to have you back on the podcast to update how this thing continues to progress. Hopefully reaches a positive conclusion later this year and early in 2021.