Jack the roofer never turned up for his graduation ceremony. He had other things that were more important.
There are many things that Jack does that are not conventional. He is a bit of an OUTLIER. Who stashes a hard earned Engineering Degree in the back of a closet and starts a new career carrying roof tiles as a roofing labourer?
Jack did. The 1999 Sydney hailstorm was the turning point.
The challenge of repairing leaking roofs is the lack of suitable training. Jack had excellent training under the tradesmen he worked under. But this was in roof installation work. When he started playing the roof repair game – there was no trainer around. So, Jack had to learn everything from FIRST PRINCIPLES.
This was pioneering work.
Switching careers demands an intentional process of un-learning and opening up to learning things that are completely unknown. This is ‘ego destroying’.
That is why it took over a decade of mistakes before Jack got wise enough to have a roofing business that started to thrive.
Comfort in remaining at a certain level of success is the ‘killer’ of growth. Now in his mid sixties, Jack had to negotiate another cross road.
Languish, pull the plug, business sale or the unthinkable?
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”
When there are thousands of hail damage roofs in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney in 1999 (and a shortage of roofers), demand exceeds supply. There was no need for any sales and marketing during that hectic period.
Every boom is followed by a bust.
And when the roofing bust came, every roofer in Sydney was looking for work. But, there was little work to go around.
When the phones stopped ringing, Jack was introduced to what a business is all about.
It doesn’t matter how good you are…if no one knows about your skill, there is nowhere to apply your expertise.
The Roofing Professionals had BRAND marketing that was shared by two separate companies – and while this type of exposure had some measure of success, it was not working much during the bust.
Was the marketing broken?
There is always an “implied” message behind any branding promotion.
The Roofing Professionals was set up to be a brand. And this had enough value to entice potential business owners to actually pay money for. Initially 4 separate business owners bought into the brand.
Why was the brand strong enough to be worth those dollars?
There is an implied message that Professionals know what they are doing and are also willing to put “skin in the Game”. They back up their skill confidence with performance guarantees.
This implied message can be a big factor in any decision over a multitude of options.
The difference between real professionals and nominal ones is this: They deliver on their promises.
And it is equally important to be specific on what the promise is. Otherwise the delivery will not fit the expectation.
The majority hide behind the BLAME game. It is always someone else.
Product guarantee has been (and still is) the ‘elephant in the room’ for the Australian building industry. The industry knows that quality is an issue – but don’t want to do anything about it. That is why there are many government regulations to force building contractors to include warranties and insurances in their product offerings.
Short life cycles of builders have been used to circumvent the need to fulfil warranties that may be needed many years after product delivery.
Naturally, when Jack suggested that the Roofing Professionals should be ‘upfront’ on roofing guarantees, there was push back from the incumbents.
But Jack thought that if his business was to be around for a long time, then long duration warranties should be built into the business model. He persisted and Roof repair warranties became the up front commitment. Not just an implied byproduct.
Everyone seem to think that playing in a ‘big pond’ yields the best opportunities. Jack was no exception and initially chose to operate in the general roofing industry.
He soon learnt that the ‘big fish in a small pond’ scene was more fun to play in. In the typical Kevin Kelly ‘Thousand true fans’ style, the ‘long tail’ was more suited to small players
And Jack was happy to be ‘small’ – and stay in the happy world.
The big commercial style of roofing work has big dollars against them – but they proved counterproductive. And just putting up new roofs in a super competitive segment turned out to be a ‘rinse and repeat’ rut – without diversity of complex learning.
Initially, Jack felt that the roof repair scene was just too much trouble. But that was because he had little expertise in the intricacies of leaking roofs. He began his roofing career having little idea of how to fix leaking roofs.
Working hard like every other roofer in Sydney on general roofing work is just – HARD. But working smart on challenging roof repair work offered a pivot. And the pivotal moment for Jack was when his roofers remarked one day:
Why is 80% of our work becoming just repairing other roofer’s stuff-ups?
While Jack is probably not the smartest kid on the block – he was smart enough to pick up on this nuance in Sydney’s roofing industry..
Have you ever had those periods in your life when you were in the flow and every challenge became an exciting obstacle to overcome? And this was the reward for getting to the next level.
This is what happened to Jack and his guys at The Roofing Professionals Westside. They tried things. Some worked and others were just rubbish. Then things started to work and they felt that they were almost invincible because they were operating at a completely different level to their past lives.
There is a concept called ‘OPPORTUNITY COST’. And also a related concept called ‘SUNK COSTS’.
Focus is the key to mastery. Shining objects are distractions. Yet, the shining objects glint of treasure. And that is why Jack got mesmerised with saying YES to everything. Until it started to get in the way.
Trying to please everyone meant the cost of pissing himself off.
They say that ‘Less is More’. But saying is not believing.
One ‘belonging’ at a time, Jack let go. The big jobs (that got in the way of the small interesting roof repair jobs) were tidied up and never to be returned to again. Teams of roof installers were ‘let go’. Shop lease let to expire. Jack said NO to a lot of traditional roofing work – and even said No to answering his phone. And Jack re-organised his work to allow him to work from home.
All to bet on a future in the ‘long tail’ of roof repairs.
And it worked!
An ‘intergenerational’ team allows for transfer of culture and skills amongst its members. Jack had attracted Gen X and Gen Y into the roof repair team who were keen to make things happen. But skill transfer comes with some costs. Roofers joined the team, learnt some of the important basics – then left to become their own bosses.
However, ultimate skill takes patience and time to acquire. No one else seemed to be able to grasp this requirement before they left.
How to create clones of Jack?.
Easy in theory – but it practice, it was looking like an impossibility.
True knowledge appears when one is able to teach the subject successfully. Jack discovered that there were massive gaps in his knowledge and skill when he tried to train his roofers. Staying at his comfortable level was like living in an echo chamber where Jack was just happy to believe in his own BS.
To move up to the next level of skill, required killing his ego. Only then could he move up.
Most business plans have an EXIT component. Create, build, add value, and finally sell.
The other Roofing Professionals business in Sydney had executed on its exit plan. And it was time for Jack to do the same.
When a day ends, life hasn’t finished. Even though darkness descents, this period is meant for rest, rejuvenation and growth. Then another day begins.
Just as when an athlete crosses the finish line, it means another round of training and another competition.
For Jack, selling his business meant the end of continuity for his clients. He had promised them years of warranty coverage. How was this to be fulfilled?
Our enduring religions have a way of keeping the promise alive. The gospel is spread by its prophets.
Jack’s solution to keeping his promises was to create continuity by growing the next generation of independant prophets who carry the business into the future.
To keep his promises, Jack had more work to do…
Jack came up with an idea.
What if he offered the cream of his employees the chance to do something BIG and enduring for their futures? A chance to start their own businesses to become Jack’s prophets…
The last few decades of exponential growth on this planet has been facilitated by one phenomenon.
The NETWORK EFFECT
The railway. Phones. Faxes. Social Media. Uber. Airbnb.
The Network effect created all this. Connection is the business of the future.
So Jack told his new business partners that the new roofing business had to be built for the future. And using the phenomenon of the Network effect was essential.
Multitudes of cars parked up under utilised. And they all have drivers who know how to drive (although you can argue that the ability to drive lies on a spectrum). Uber was born and overtook the taxi industry.
The rise of the GIG economy is paralleled by the the independant contractor growth in the building industry. So, thousands of independant roofing operators – who know how to roof (also on a spectrum). And most of them scratching for work.
Makes for an opportunity to apply the Uber model to the roof repair industry?
“If you think driving is a complex skill – try fixing tricky roof leaks”.
If it was easy, then it would have been done. The big difference between drivers and roofers is the skill level that is required to perform the required tasks – with minimum feedback.
Drivers get instant feedback if they wander off their lane, cut another off, overspeed and disobey traffic rules.
Roofers do not. Their work is not usually critiqued by their peers. So, they can get away with unskilled roof repair work without the critical ‘feedback’ loop.
And the result is BAD culture combined with underperforming skills.
It is a cesspool of roofers to try to draw from. This is the obstacle to duplicating the Uber model across to roof repairs.
“Get to know the territory – before the main force moves in”.Jack’s new business venture (in partnership with the right individuals), is to scout the Building Industry for the viability of using the Uber Model. Starting with the roof repair segment (which he knows in intimate detail), it will be a long JOURNEY.
First, The ROOFING PORTAL.
Now that you know the real story ABOUT US.
You may also want to know about the regulatory stuff.
Much like an FAQ, it is just a click to expand each section. It may not be as exciting as our story – but it may be the final pieces of the puzzle that you need to make your decision about Jack and what he is trying to do.
And whether to support him or not.
Or, you can easily continue your journey with us to The Roofing Portal by booking an appointment below:
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