October 24, 2022 at 6:33 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following is the transcript of an live interview with Brad Messer of ABC Supply. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast.

 

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Roofing Road Trips with Heidi. Explore the roofing industry through the eyes of a long-term professional within the trade. Listen for insights, interviews, and exciting news in the roofing industry today.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Hello and welcome to another Roofing Road Trips from Roofer’s Coffee Shop. This is Heidi Ellsworth and I am road tripping to meet with Brad Messer, the South Central District Manager with ABC Supply. I am so excited to talk about what’s happening with ABC Supply. Brad, welcome to the show.

Brad Messer:

Thank you, Heidi. Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here and I look forward to talking about everything we got going on at ABC.

Heidi Ellsworth:

So much. So before we get started, can you go ahead and introduce yourself? Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing, your position, and also a little bit about your roofing history.

Brad Messer:

You got it. Absolutely. So currently I am the South Central District Manager for ABC Supply. I oversee 18 branches in Illinois and Missouri and make sure our teams are doing everything we can do to serve the professional contractor and make it easy for them to do their jobs. So I got into this industry, oh man, I was probably 15, 16 years old. Started working for a roofer locally in North Central Illinois if you will. And worked for those guys through high school into college. Came home on the weekends to try to fill my pockets to go back to school. Right?

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right. Right.

Brad Messer:

I was a biology major in college and somehow decided that the roofing industry was my calling. So I went here in a sales capacity and have overseen three different locations throughout Michigan and Indiana prior to becoming the district manager here.

Heidi Ellsworth:

I love it.

Brad Messer:

That’s it. Kind of grew up with it, right?

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. That’s a great story. And we always joke and say once you’re in roofing, you never leave roofing and it’s really true.

Brad Messer:

It’s absolutely the truth.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. I love it. Well, tell us a little bit about ABC Supply. Everyone knows ABC Supply, but I’m always learning something new. So share a little bit with us, kind of what’s happening with ABC Supply right now and a little bit of the history.

Brad Messer:

Yeah. So ABC Supply, we are the largest wholesaler of roofing in the United States and one of the nation’s largest wholesale distributors of select exterior and interior building products. So right now we have 840 locations in, or more than 840 locations actually, in 49 states. So contractors can benefit from the local support at the branch level as well as our strength in being a national company. So for us, it’s an exciting time. We’re celebrating 40 years of ABC Supply.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Wow.

Brad Messer:

40 years ago that Ken Hendricks started this great company.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Brad Messer:

1982 we got it going.

Heidi Ellsworth:

It’s kind of scary to say this, but that’s what year I graduated from high school. So I just had my 40 year anniversary too, or reunion. And so that is so cool to know that ABC Supply has been around that long and has made such a huge difference in the roofing industry. And one of the areas that we’re working with you and we have it all over Roofer’s Coffee Shop, everybody’s talking about it, is really technology. Technology that is so important to our industry to make it better, that we can respect, professionalism. So can you talk to us about the tech solutions that ABC’s supplying to make contractors jobs easier?

Brad Messer:

Yeah. For sure. Let’s talk about that for a minute. So Heidi, I’ve been in this industry now for 20 ish years, maybe a little more than that if you count the high school stuff, and think about what technology meant back then is a whole lot different than what technology looks like today. Right?

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yes.

Brad Messer:

So our contractors are different. Back then we didn’t even have cell phones. Right? It was you might have had a Nextel where you beeped somebody to tell them to go pick up two more bundles of shingles so we could finish this job. That’s kind of about where it went, right?

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Brad Messer:

So at this point, technology is a part of our everyday life and part of our everyday business for the roofer. And we have introduced my ABC Supply as an online tool available to help our customers. So it helps contractors do more on the go and it’s packed with features that kind of make their job easier. So what are some of the things you can do on there? A contractor can place an order on there. So they can access and manage their account from anywhere, anytime with quick online ordering, either mobilely or on a desktop. They can also view delivery information. So they can find out when their load’s going out, when it’s going to be there, when it’s scheduled, and if it has been delivered and see the photos of that.

And then, there’s a lot of other companies out there that we have integrated with my ABC Supply to allow it easier for the contractor to put it as part of their everyday business. So to name a few of those, GAF Quick Measure. You can order a roof report in under an hour and you can feed it from GAF Quick Measure right into ABC Supply. You can also use things such as Eagle View. Everybody knows what that is at this point in the industry, but you can pull that aerial report, it can automatically flow into my ABC Supply, and you can submit an order in just a couple of clicks. And then another one being HOVER. The 3D modeling that they have to look at the side of a house and to be able to estimate siding jobs is, man, we’ve come a long ways in technology. Right?

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Brad Messer:

A contractor can use my ABC Supply in a number of other ways. They can create templates. So if they typically are tied to a certain manufacturer and they’re registering warranties with a certain manufacturer, our sales guys can go out, sit with them, create the template that has all the parts and pieces with their selected manufacturer for a warranted job. So they can pull that aerial report, they can feed it right into that, and they can say, “Hey. This is a platinum job or a golden pledge job,” and they can submit it to us and we’re off and running with just a few clicks.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Nice. Yeah.

Brad Messer:

So they can see all those order details like I mentioned earlier. And I think the best ones for that is the fact that they can retrieve delivery photos. They can make sure that the products have arrived on their job site so they know when their crew, either employees or subcontractors show up the next day, they’re ready to go. In terms of billing, some of these contractors don’t have a deep office staff and sometimes they’re also the accountant. So the ability for them to, if it’s midnight and they want to jump on and check their bill or they want to jump on and look at their account, they can do any of these things 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

And they could even set different access levels for different people within their organization. So they can set access levels for a subcontractor who maybe can only see the delivery photo. They can set access just to the billing for their accountant or whoever it is that does their books. Right?

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right.

Brad Messer:

So what I really think this does, Heidi, is it gives them back time.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Brad Messer:

Right? None of us have an abundance of time these days. The world just keeps getting busier, things move faster, we’re on the go, and this gives them back time and allows them to access to us when it fits their schedule. All of this-

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yes. There’s late at night or early morning, that’s the thing is that during the day, these small companies are working out in the field. It’s hard. But with having this app, they can also do it from their trucks.

Brad Messer:

Absolutely. You can do it at a desktop, you can do it at a laptop, you can do it on an iPad, you can do it on whatever device it is that you have. Every mobile device out there can do it. I would urge people to check it out. I would urge the contractors to go on and check it out if they haven’t. And our sales guys, shame on them if they haven’t got them hooked up already, but-

Heidi Ellsworth:

That’s right.

Brad Messer:

They can access that at myabcsupply.com or download it on the Google Play or the App store. And the app is called ABC Supply.

Heidi Ellsworth:

I love it. I love it. Okay. I love this and I love what you’re talking about. The salespeople are all working with them. So what are some of the benefits you’ve seen from my ABC Supply in your district?

Brad Messer:

I think the biggest thing, and I kind of touched on it very generally earlier, is our contractors can get things done a lot quicker. So some of the bigger benefits for us are we may get more face time with them because now they don’t have to sit down and place orders and they don’t have to sit down and segregate themselves from the world to submit us an order. So we get more face time with them if we’re still fortunate or it allows them to have more time with the ones that they do this for, their friends and their family.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. Which is so important. I know. Balance. Some Balance is so good. And speaking of that, so beyond the technology, what are some of the services you offer that make it easy for contractors to operate their business and get some of that family time and balance?

Brad Messer:

Yeah. So years ago, we standardized our delivery system. Our customer service delivery system or as we refer to it in the branch as the CSDS. We love acronyms here at ABC Supply. So-

Heidi Ellsworth:

Don’t we call.

Brad Messer:

Yeah. We know the importance of maintaining a schedule and delivering an order complete and we’re going to deliver the order within 30 minutes of the scheduled time that we gave you and we’re going to double check all orders before they leave our yard and if we can’t ship it, somebody should be reaching out to you to let you know we’re short on drip edge or we’re short on stuff flashing or whatever it is that we can’t get done to complete this order fully, we’re going to let you know. We’re going to reach out, we’re going to double check that thing, and really, it’s sometimes a triple check or quadruple check before this thing leaves the yard to make sure everything’s accurate. There is nothing more frustrating for a contractor than us not having the stuff there when we told them it was going to be there so they can start the job.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. Yeah. No. And with labor and everything that’s going on, you need to have everything there so you can get started. Now you also have some other services that are also helping in that area, like express pickup.

Brad Messer:

For sure. Express pickup, we just kind of kicked that off and think of it like any retail establishment in the world coming out of COVID. Everybody has one available now. My wife will call me on the way home and say, “Hey. Can you stop by Target?” Back in the day, maybe I didn’t want to do that.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Brad Messer:

I didn’t want to go in. I just wanted to go home. My day was over. And now I’m like, “Hey. You know what? It ain’t so bad to pull in. Show the associate my phone, they throw it in the back of my car, and I’m out of there.” Right?

Heidi Ellsworth:

So nice.

Brad Messer:

So think of express pickup like that. The contractor or a subcontractor, if given access from the contractor, can send us their order electronically, we’ll get it ready, and we’ll let them know when it is ready. So when they show up, we’re loading it and getting them out of there. There’s no waiting. Right.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. That, I think, is so important because we’re all used to it. We’re doing it in our normal lives. So of course we want it in our business life, right?

Brad Messer:

Yeah. Why would you not, right?

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. Exactly. Now, okay. So I have some history in the industry and I’ve done a lot of rewards programs before with contractors, but I know you do some amazing stuff helping with the manufacturer reward support. Tell us about that.

Brad Messer:

So manufacturer reward support at ABC Supply, for me, what it’s always meant was we’re going to make it easy. Right? Back to that make it easy promise we have. We are going to simplify this thing for you. So we went to the manufacturers years ago and said, “You guys all have these programs and we want to offer the in between for the manufacturer and the contractor. We’re going to submit their submittals on their behalf.” So for the manufacturer, it gives them the benefit of knowing we have it thoroughly sent to them and everything is there that they need to process these rewards. And for the contractor, I remember as a sales rep, when I was a sales rep 17 years ago in this industry, it was pen and paper and it was paper invoices and I offered it as a service to my contractors that, “Hey. I’ll help you process these rewards.”

So I’ll print off the perspective invoices, I’ll fill out the little sheet, and we will mail this in and you will get your credit card in the mail to give you the money for the things that you were buying from somewhere anyway. Might been up, right? Well now we’ve taken that and we’ve made it digital. So contractors can enroll by contacting their local ABC Supply branch or sales rep or by signing up through my ABC Supply. And for them it increases their profitability, takes the workload off of them by communicating with the vendors they have on what they purchased.

Heidi Ellsworth:

It makes so much sense. I was working for a roofing company back in the day and piles of invoices that we were going through trying to fill out those little forms like you’re talking about. Brilliant. What a huge service for the roofing contractors out there. And in your district, you’re working with these contractors every day. What are they saying about all these great services?

Brad Messer:

They love it. How can you not love, “I’m placing my order and money shows up in my rewards account on the manufacturer’s behalf.”

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Brad Messer:

That’s awesome.

Heidi Ellsworth:

It’s beautiful.

Brad Messer:

And for their subcontractors to have the comfort of knowing that things have been delivered or to be able to come in and get in and out of our locations, I pride myself on that. We pride ourselves on that and our people want to make sure that they make it happen. I think it’s very critical in this industry, especially in these times, to allow the labor force to get back on the job site as soon as they possibly can.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. Oh yeah.

Brad Messer:

So you got to come and get something, we got to get them gone.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Brad Messer:

ABC Supply becomes our own little Roofer’s Coffee Shop at times and we love that. So you are more than welcome to come in the branch anytime. You can give us an order in any fashion you want to give it to us. We don’t care if you send a carrier pigeon with the order. We’re taking it and we’re going to make it happen.

Heidi Ellsworth:

That’s great.

Brad Messer:

So we don’t want to lose the personal touch and we don’t want people to take it that way. But all of these things, when people have the time, they can come in and hang out with us. When they don’t have the time and they’re busy and they got to go, we know when we get an express pickup order, it’s critical, we got to get it ready, and we got to get them out of here.

Heidi Ellsworth:

That makes so much sense. And like we said earlier, everyone is used to doing it in their personal life. Now they are expecting it in the business and you’re delivering. That’s just excellent. ABC has been doing some amazing programs for many years and to help contractors grow their business. The freedom programs, you guys were groundbreaking with all of that. So talk a little bit about that and what’s happening.

Brad Messer:

Yeah. So freedom programs, at one point in time, were simply job site signs or even magnets that a contractor can put on their truck to let people know who they are. Times have changed a little, right? Things are much more digital at this point and we’re revamping some of those freedom programs to bring them into the next era of contractors. So some of that stuff is in the works right now and we’re not quite ready to roll it out, but we got some great stuff coming on that front, kind of revamping those things. But if a contractor doesn’t have means to help in website development or doesn’t know, “Where do I go to get logoed shirts or logoed gear and logo pen and paper,” if that’s what they want, we can connect them with the people for the startup contractor to get some of those things off the ground.

Heidi Ellsworth:

That’s great. That’s great. What other services are you helping contractors grow their business?

Brad Messer:

So one that I think is a huge help to our contractors is our customer financial services department. That group of individuals, and most companies, Heidi, you might refer to this as the credit department. Right?

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Brad Messer:

They’re the ones with the big X up. Just picture that big X that says, “No you can’t.” We don’t call it a credit department because they truly are offering a financial service to our branches and our contractors. So another acronym, our CFS department, gives our contractor customers convenient access to lines of credit and the terms they need to be competitive in the marketplace. And it really gives them the opportunity to increase their credit line to accommodate maybe a larger job. We can set up a job account for them and track all those purchases that are specific to that job. And maybe it’s outside of their normal credit limit, but we’re willing to do those things and work with them to help them get the job done.

Our experts can also provide access to the financial information and perspective they need to grow their businesses, such as, “How can you benchmark me against a similar contractor in terms of their financial ratio?” Which can help them. If they’re talking to a financial advisor or an accountant, it gives them the confidence to go out there and do different things within their business. So that department’s not here to say, “No,” we’re here to say, “How?” Right? We’re here to say, “Yes. How do we get it done, how do we make it happen, and how can you keep your business out there chasing this work?”

Heidi Ellsworth:

That’s excellent. And that’s a really hard part of business too. It’s hard to ask for credit increases. It’s hard to sometimes have those discussions, but by making it that simple. I love calling it customer financial services instead of the credit department. That’s nice. I like it. Okay. When we’re talking about all the tools that make contractors jobs easier, and we’ve gone through all that, I would love to, and you’ve been with ABC Supply for a long time and there’s just such a strong culture. So why is making it easy, like we’ve been talking about this whole podcast, why is making it easy so important to ABC Supply and to you, Brad?

Brad Messer:

Well, from my roots, being in the industry when I was younger, I know how important it is and how critical it is. If we didn’t get that job done, sometimes we weren’t getting paid. Right?

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right.

Brad Messer:

So we have to make it easy for our contractors. I used to joke with my guys when I ran the North side indie branch, the way that we can become the best for our contractor is if we become almost ninja like, very self-like. Nobody knows we were there. They show up, the materials are there with a nice, neat bow on them, the contractor looks professional, and they’re off and running. So sometimes if we can be more invisible and just make it happen, it’s great for the contractor. I think with ABC Supply, Heidi, we’re unique in our space. Listen, we are still independently owned, we’re the only company in this space that was started by a roofing contractor, and for me, I truly believe we’re building something that’s here for 100 years.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. Definitely.

Brad Messer:

And then some. Right? I want my kid, kid, kid to have an opportunity to be at ABC Supply if they so choose. And-

Heidi Ellsworth:

Love that.

Brad Messer:

Really what making it easy means for the contractor, in my opinion, and why it’s so important I touched on already, but in my opinion, I think we take that concierge approach with our contractors to build the service platform that fits their business. When you go to that concierge desk at a hotel, I want you to think of ABC Supply in that same limelight. We don’t want to put customers or contractors, roofers, siders, window installers, we don’t want to put those people in a box and we assume, “Oh, it should be done this way.” We want to understand their business and know how we can help make it happen. And I think part of the way we make it easy as well, Heidi, is our people.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Brad Messer:

I could come on here for as long as you want me to and talk about the incredible associates that we have at ABC Supply. Right? Heidi, you’ve seen these folks on job sites.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Oh yeah. I know so many. Yes.

Brad Messer:

You’ve seen our roof loader up on a 14, 12 stacking shingles in the two man rooftop load market doing it the right way, making sure everything’s secured, they’re tied off, we’re keeping the contractor safe, keeping ourselves safe, and we’re getting it done. It’s amazing. From our inside people to our DSMs to our warehouse folks to our outside sales associates, every individual at our branches are a team, they work together, and they’re really just there to make it easy and they understand the importance of why we do what we do.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right. And the relationships I see between the ABC Supply associates and the roofing contractors, you see it all the time at the shows, online. It’s just very obvious. At Roofers Coffee Shop, we have our core values that we are very focused on, and I know you do too. So share some of those because I think that wraps itself all the way around everything we’ve been talking about.

Brad Messer:

Absolutely. So I think probably one of my favorite at ABC Supply really comes from our root. And one of my favorite core values that we have is respect.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Brad Messer:

Our founder started ABC Supply wrapped around a dream that the roofing contractor would be treated the way the roofing contractor should be treated.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yes.

Brad Messer:

He was doing this. He was a roofer. He knew what it was like to kind of be the contractor that maybe frowned upon the most. So respect is one that I love in an industry where contractors are too often underappreciated and undervalued. We treat them with that respect and love it.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. Roofing respect, the respect of the contractors, of professionalism. It’s all there. And so often people just take that for, and they don’t give them respect. So-

Brad Messer:

No they don’t. And at the end of the day, when there roofs leaking in the middle of the night, these are the people they call. They don’t respect them sometimes and typically they do, but there’s times where they don’t and then they want them to come over in the middle of the night and make magic happen for them. So man, these guys bust their tail and we’re just happy to be a part of their business.

Heidi Ellsworth:

That’s so great. Yeah. I love it.

Brad Messer:

Another one at ABC Supply that I’ve had a lot of, so many people, there’s so many stories, is opportunity. Many of our associates at ABC Supply have started in the warehouse, have started loading the roof, and they now run multimillion dollar businesses as branch managers or district managers, truck drivers, whatever it is. They all got to start somewhere. So we provide opportunity for our associates and for our contractors. I truly believe many people think the American dream may be dead. And at ABC we’ll reap value, American pride, I’m going to argue with you. I believe that we can help give our associates the chance to live the American dream and also make it a reality for our customers by making it easy.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. I love that. So true. Love it.

Brad Messer:

Yeah. And then one more I’d touch on would be they’re all fun to talk about, but I think entrepreneurial spirit. We’re always looking for a new way to improve our value to our customers and give our managers and sales folks the opportunity to run the business as if it’s truly their own and help create that customized platform for the contractor. It’s not often at ABC you say, “No. We can’t do that. We don’t do that.” It’s, “How can we do it? How can we make it happen? How can we be a part of what the contractor needs to get their job done day in and day out and be the best distributor in the country to do business with and the best place in America to work? How can we do that all in one?” Right?

Heidi Ellsworth:

I’m telling you, you’re touching my entrepreneurial heart. I love that. And I think that’s really what roofing is all about. The roofing industry is all these people like yourself, like myself, who are like we can run businesses, we can get it out there, we can work with these amazing companies, and I’ve seen it across the board and you just have articulated that spectacularly. Thank you. That was awesome.

Brad Messer:

Absolutely. Heidi, this industry it’s so fun, right?

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Brad Messer:

And there’s so much going on. It can be so challenging, but who knew that some of the best people in the world were in the roofing industry?

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Brad Messer:

Right? We get friendships, lifetime long friendships-

Heidi Ellsworth:

Oh yeah.

Brad Messer:

With some of the best salt of the earth individuals in the entire world. How can you ask for more. Right? You wake up every morning and get that Roofer’s Coffee Shop with a dose of ABC Supply.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. I know.

Brad Messer:

Oh my goodness. This is a great industry. I love it.

Heidi Ellsworth:

It is. Well, Brad, you have totally made my day. This has been an amazing podcast. I love everything from my ABC Supply to all of the great opportunities to the big thing of making it easy and how that all winds around your core values. Wow. What a great podcast. Thank you so much for being on this Roofing Road Trip. I want to have you back again.

Brad Messer:

Absolutely, Heidi. I look forward to it and we’ll stay in touch.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Perfect. Hopefully we’ll see you at all these shows that are coming up as we’re going through there because you know Roofer’s Coffee Shop will be there and so will ABC Supply with all their great stuff. Once again, Brad, thank you for being on the show.

Brad Messer:

Thanks Heidi. We’ll see you on the road.

Heidi Ellsworth:

See on the road. And we’ll see all of you on the next Roofing Road trip. Please be sure to check out all of our podcasts under read, listen, watch under the podcast. You don’t want to miss a single one. And be sure to check your podcast channel, your favorite one, and be sure to subscribe and get your notifications. And we will be seeing you next time on Roofing Road Trips.

Speaker 1:

Make sure to subscribe to our channel and leave a review. Thanks for listening. This has been Roofing Road Trips with Heidi from the rooferscoffeeshop.com.





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