It might seem pretty obvious that when starting any new business, you need to differentiate your company from all the other guys in that market share. It is surprising though, how many people seem to think it is easy to just start and because it is “them” that crowds of people will show up to shower them with work. If you happen to be the only act in town and what you do it trending – and you are good at what you are doing, treat people well, and your prices are tolerable – then, yes, you might make it on that mindset. That is very rarely what happens in reality, however.
A new business has a lot of pressure on it to perform, to make enough money to keep the doors open, to work through the learning curve not only on doing or selling what you do, but dealing with the inevitable customer service issues that accompany being a “newb”. Part of that realization is that you either don’t know anything, truly, or you know a lot more than you realized. Ego and paralysis are equally damning approaches to running a new business. You have to be willing to do things a little different, to set yourself apart from the herd so people will give you reviews, refer you to their friends, and best of all, come back themselves.
A roofing company usually has a lot of local competition, especially at the lower end of the size and sadly, quality scales. That is an important reason that if you are starting small, you truly need to provide above and beyond, or economical and different, or so over the top in whatever makes you different that people are willing to pay for that difference regardless of the amount. There are some niches within roofing worth exploring that are hard to find qualified people to do, and it is worth learning some extra skills to be able to offer those things to get a foot in the door of a potential customer.
One difference niche is knowing how to do traditional chalet or Tudor rolled roof. This roof laying method is extremely high ticket, and there are usually a couple or more of these type of roofs in most modest on up sized towns. The roof reminds you of a hobbit house, with the shingles rolling over the thick roof structure around the edges and under to the fascia. The cost of replacing a roof that requires this technique is usually double to triple of a regular shingle roof, and adds a day or two to the typical roof replacement. Some places this is referred to as a Swiss roof.
Another need is being able to lay architectural shingles correctly, and in pattern. Two different needs with one product, architectural shingles need to be carefully positioned to augment the strict, crisp, precise shape of the shingles. Architectural shingles are usually available in asphalt, and of a heavier weight, but newer metal shingles coated in clay are also now marketed. This high end product is durable and beautiful, but utilizes a hidden fastening system that a roofer needs trained to install correctly. Patterned roof layouts are highly popular in some areas of the country and pricing is based on the difficulty of the pattern, the overall number of bundles, and area the pattern has to be worked into because of the skill required and the extra time involved. The patterning can be simple rows of color, mixed colors, or intricate patterns created images similar to photo montage where the parts create the whole. A good eye for pattern, following a layout, and patience is important when working with any architectural roofing product.
A wide-open field for the future in roofing is environmentally conscious roofing materials. Some of the materials have been around a while, but are now being used in different manner of application to help reduce energy consumption bills and extend the life expectancy of a roof. Besides the obvious solar panels, among the more environmentally sound roofing options are cool roof, or a white roof. Highly reflective, cool roof can save 70% of summer cooling bills. Standing seam metal roof is durable, has a 50-year life, and is recyclable. Wood shingles, slate, and clay tile are all options and even better if from reclaimed or recycled materials. Corrugated metal is showing up increasingly on modern homes and businesses. Often made with recycled steel, corrugated metal is economical, efficient, can be insulated, and is cheap to repair. There are asphalt shingles now being made from reclaimed and recycled petroleum products and asphalt, as well as combinations with recycled plastic, wood, and rubber. These recycled shingle roofs tend to last nearly twice the time as regular asphalt shingles.
There are also shingles made from recycled rubber tires, taking them out of the landfill. They are durable and tough, available in a variety of colors, and can withstand weather extremes better than most other roofing materials. The last, green roof is used extensively around the world but just gaining in popularity in the US. A typical green roof consists of soil and plants with a moisture barrier and drainage. Using soil and biomass for the heat sink, these environmentally friendly roofs last 30-50 years and reduce energy use for heating and cooling by as much as 90%.
Learning a new skill set, or taking a different approach to your new roofing business can help get you free publicity with local media, gives your social media a totally new audience to reach out to, and sets you up to be an expert early on in your business. You can still handle traditional roofing repairs and materials, but adding a different type of material that is environmentally friendly, takes the time and talent of a craftsman, or is artistic can bring in big tickets and recognition you would otherwise miss competing with every other small roofer in town.