Elevating Roofing Excellence by Investing in Field Leadership

Fri, Feb 09, 2024 at 2:55PM

John Kenney, CPRC, CEO, Cotney Consulting

John KennyThe landscape of the roofing industry is dynamic and challenging and as a contractor, you cannot overlook the significance of incorporating robust field leadership on your team. As the industry grapples with skilled labor shortages and other uncertainties, the role of foremen and field leaders becomes increasingly vital. These pivotal figures are more than just workers: they are the linchpins of project success and efficiency, bridging the gap between the actual work and strategic management. Their influence extends beyond immediate tasks to impact project timelines, quality and overall success. However, despite their critical role, our industry faces a widening gap in skilled field leadership. Fueling this shortfall is an aging workforce, dwindling interest among younger generations and a noticeable gap in skills transfer. Addressing this issue is not just necessary, it’s an urgent priority for the future of the roofing industry.

Field leaders play a crucial role in navigating the industry’s complexities. They are at the forefront of managing the technical aspects of roofing projects and the workforce to accomplish these tasks. Among their significant challenges are managing demanding project schedules and dealing with the industry’s skill and labor shortages. Often, these leaders find themselves in a delicate balancing act, torn between hands-on project execution and the management of their teams. This juggling act can lead to burnout and decreased project efficiency, underscoring the need for a more strategic and balanced approach to field leadership.

Despite the critical nature of their role, the training and support field leaders receive is often inadequate. There is a substantial need for investment in both technical and soft skills training. Such training can lead to significantly better project outcomes and enhanced team morale. Initiatives focusing on leadership, time management and conflict resolution can empower field leaders to manage their teams more effectively, improving overall project performance.

Developing critical skills in field leaders is essential for the overall success of projects. These skills include leadership and team coordination, resource planning and effective management. Enhancing these skills leads to improved productivity and better communication within teams. For example, a field leader skilled in resource planning is better equipped to anticipate and mitigate potential delays, keeping projects on track and within budget.

Empowering field leaders requires a deliberate and comprehensive strategy. Companies must allocate time and resources for the training and development of these leaders, including formal training programs and opportunities for on-the-job learning. Additionally, a focus on strategic resource planning can help minimize delays related to resources, while mentorship programs can play a crucial role in facilitating skill development among field leaders.

Soft skills, especially communication, are vital for effective field leadership. Good communication skills can vastly improve team dynamics and the outcomes of projects. Furthermore, mentorship is critical in developing new leaders in the field. By pairing experienced leaders with those who are less experienced, companies can create an environment conducive to knowledge transfer and professional growth.

A company-wide approach is necessary to enhance field leadership. This approach should include organizational support for training programs and creating a culture that values and invests in its leaders. Building a sustainable talent pipeline for the future also involves attracting and retaining younger workers by providing them with a clear path for growth and development within the field.

Our industry’s future hinges on the strength and skills of its field leaders. These individuals are the driving force behind the successful completion of projects, client satisfaction and, ultimately, the reputation and profitability of the business. However, the rapid pace of change in the industry, driven by technological advancements and evolving customer expectations, adds another layer of complexity to the already challenging role of these leaders. Roofing companies must adapt their strategies to address these challenges and leverage them as opportunities for growth and differentiation in a competitive market.

One of the critical areas where field leaders can make a substantial impact is the adoption and implementation of new technologies. The roofing industry is experiencing a wave of technological innovation, from advanced materials to digital tools for project management and customer interaction, along with the advancement of AI and robotics. Field leaders who integrate these technologies into their workflows can significantly enhance efficiency, accuracy and client engagement. Training programs should also encompass technological proficiency, ensuring that field leaders are equipped to navigate and leverage these advancements effectively.

Another vital aspect is fostering a culture of safety and quality. In an industry where the risks are high, field leaders play a crucial role in enforcing safety protocols and ensuring adherence to quality standards. Their ability to lead by example, educate teams about best practices and maintain a vigilant eye on compliance matters are all essential for minimizing accidents and upholding the company’s reputation for quality workmanship.

Sustainability and eco-friendly practices are becoming increasingly important in the roofing industry. Consumers and regulatory bodies alike are demanding greener, more sustainable building practices. Field leaders who understand and advocate for eco-friendly materials and methods can position their companies as industry leaders in sustainability, opening doors to new market opportunities and customer segments.

The human element of field leadership cannot be understated. Roofing projects are stressful, involving tight deadlines and complex coordination of resources and personnel. Field leaders who excel in people management, conflict resolution and motivation can maintain high team morale and productivity. Their ability to manage and inspire their teams is as critical as their technical skills.

Finally, the role of field leaders extends beyond the immediate scope of project management. They are ambassadors of the company’s values and culture. Their interactions with clients, suppliers and the broader community shape the public perception of the company. Investing in personal and professional development enhances their capacity to lead effectively and elevates the company’s image in the industry.

With the right blend of training, support and empowerment, these leaders are poised to drive significant advancements and innovations, making their role increasingly central as the industry evolves. Focusing on nurturing and empowering field leaders is more than a tactical move, it represents a deep investment in the very fabric of our industry’s future. By prioritizing employee growth and development, companies are fostering a culture of excellence and customer satisfaction that transcends individual projects, setting themselves up for enduring success and gaining a competitive edge. Roofing contractors who embrace this strategy, dedicate resources and attention to cultivating their field leaders, ensure sustained growth and stability for their businesses and establish themselves as leaders for innovation and progress.


John Kenney, CPRC has over 50 years of experience in the roofing industry. He started his career by working as a roofing apprentice at a family business in the Northeast and worked his way up to operating multiple Top 100 Roofing Contractors. As CEO, John is intimately familiar with all aspects of roofing production, estimating and operations. During his tenure in the industry, John ran business units associated with delivering excellent workmanship and unparalleled customer service while ensuring his company’s strong net profits before joining Cotney Consulting Group. If you would like any further information on this or another subject, you can contact John at jkenney@cotneyconsulting.com.

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