October 5, 2022 at 7:06 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Chris Hill of SRS. 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 RoofersCoffeeShop. This is Heidi Ellsworth and I’m road tripping down south, actually, down to McKinney, Texas to visit with an up and coming, I mean talk about the next generation, really bringing huge things to the industry, and that is Chris Hill with SRS. Chris, welcome to the show.

Chris Hill:
Hi, Heidi. Thank you for having me on. I appreciate it.

Heidi Ellsworth:
I just have loved working with you over the last couple years. You’re doing such great things for the industry and really taking the whole industry and bringing it to a new level, when it comes to technology and digital. So maybe for those who don’t know you, why don’t introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about yourself? And then let’s talk a little bit about what is Roof Hub.

Chris Hill:
Sounds great. Yeah. Thank you for having me on and anything great that I’m working on is because I’ve been empowered by our company, SRS Distribution to go forward and think five, 10, 20 years into the future rather than manage the business of today. So it’s really something that we live by here and we’re always striving to improve.

Heidi Ellsworth:
I love that.

Chris Hill:
My background, I’ve been with SRS since I finished college. Been here for about six years in the industry. I’ve had different roles in sales enablement, marketing. I’ve worked in our different verticals. So we’re here to talk about SRS Distribution and our building materials and roofing side, but we also have trucking, pool, and landscape distribution. So we’re always getting into something new. When I started here, we were 150 locations just in roofing and now we’re pushing over 600 in all our different industries. So it’s never a boring day here at SRS.

Heidi Ellsworth:
No, I’ve been there. I know, that is so true. Well, okay. Talk about, I mean, really, was it one of the things that started all of this, when you look at all of these different markets that you’re in now, but really Roof Hub was your launching point, right?

Chris Hill:
Yeah. So it’s been around for about four years now. We started Roof Hub as an app and it started as, Okay, we’re looking around, we’re seeing distribution companies and of course, B2C companies are very digital and you can order online, you can do all your interactions without even picking up a phone for the most part, with most of these companies. And we’re starting to see B2B and our industry and distribution starting to move that way. And so we just went out to our contractors and asked them, “What is it you would want to have if we were to build an app or a platform for?” And so we took all their requests of things they said they wanted, we ranked them and prioritized them. And it was, “I want an app where I can access my invoices and track my deliveries.”

Chris Hill:
So that’s really what we started doing. And luckily we already had the infrastructure in place to do a lot of the stuff like geo tracking on our trucks and digital routing and all these different things that enabled us to push that forward into an app. So that’s where it all started in 2018. And here we are today, a few years later and you can place orders, you can view live pricing. We have integrations with multiple CRMs and measurement softwares. And so really, we always are just approaching with the customer needs in mind.

Chris Hill:
So that first survey we did to ask our contractors, “What is it you would want out of an app?” That’s the approach we always use as we develop things. We ask, we, listen, we develop it, we test it, we roll it out. We train on it, we get feedback. And it’s just a continuous loop of that. And that’s how we build it up and how we got from an invoice and delivery tracking app to where we are today.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Contractor development. I love that. I love when users are brought in to make sure that it works for their business. As you’re working with all these roofing companies over these last four years, taking it that farther, what are you hearing from them about how Roof Hub has helped them grow their business and particularly their profitability?

Chris Hill:
So we like to say that Roof Hub, it’s not everything for everyone, but there’s something in it for anyone. So it’s across the board. We have contractors that do all kinds of different work. We have just roofing contractors, we have stormers, we have national accounts, we have very, very small people that maybe work hands on themselves, or they have one crew.

Chris Hill:
So we try to incorporate as much as we possibly can that anyone could use for their business to be able to enable them. So some of the feedback we get is, “I use this to track my deliveries, and that allows me to send my crew out at the right time, which saves on labor costs.”

Chris Hill:
In that vein of labor is training is a big thing. So as a lot of our contractors are growing, they have to hire office staff or purchasing staff and they have to train up those people. And so a system like Roof Hub enables them to have templates built. We have AI-driven recommendations based on your ordering history that says, “Here’s your template for residential roofing. These are the shingles you typically order. These are the colors you get. And when you have this color shingle, you should use this color metal and this color, hip and ridge,” or whatever it might be.

Chris Hill:
So it takes a lot of the guesswork out and it allows… We have some contractors say, “I can hire someone and on day one, they can be ordering materials without making any mistakes, because it’s all just sitting there waiting for them and telling them here’s what you typically order. Here’s what you should have on a roofing order.” So you don’t forget some of your fasteners. You don’t forget some of those ancillary products that you sometimes miss.

Chris Hill:
And then on top of that are integrations with EagleView and GAF QuickMeasure allow them to just pull in a report and auto-populate all their quantities and their waste factors. So it takes from having to know all the products, know which ones to order, which colors to order, what quantities based off measurement. It just takes all that away and allows you to go in, open up a template, pull in a report, click Order. And it’s a 10 process into 30 seconds.

Heidi Ellsworth:
And I loved what you said, too, because we talk about profitability, but really labor with the crunch we have with getting skilled labor and making most of the labor that we do have, the employees and building that culture, technology is so important to speed things up. And I love that, “I know when my crew needs to be there, because I know when the materials are going to be there.” That’s powerful.

Chris Hill:
Yeah, absolutely. And it helps with retention of labor, too, because does that crew, if they’re getting paid by square and they’re sitting around for 30 minutes waiting for materials or there’s improper quantities, so someone’s having to make a run and they’re waiting, do they want to work for that roofer that there’s a problem on every other job? Or do they want to work for the contractor who has everything dialed in, the crew shows up the materials are there, everything’s there that they need. They can knock that roof out just as fast as they can work without any lag time. They’re going to want to keep working for you. Rather than that friction created by wasted time if they’re getting paid by square, which yeah, it’s different for everyone, but that’s a scenario I’ve seen.

Heidi Ellsworth:
And technology is such a driver of good culture. I mean, with the next generations coming in and just being where contractors are so aware of that, it’s growing this culture of, “Yeah, let’s do it the right way.”

Chris Hill:
Absolutely. And I think the transparency in technology is also something great. So transparency is something that’s one of our cultural tenets is we share all the information with all of our people, every branch knows how every other branch is doing. We get to see each other’s P&Ls. And so part of what we do is try to expose our data and be transparent with our customers so they can see where the truck is at and they can see that it’s exactly what corner of which two streets it’s on and that the ETA is in 25 minutes. And we’re able to expose that to our contractors, to give them more information. So it’s not a black box of, “Where’s my stuff? And what’s on the truck? And what’s my pricing?” We try to share all of that, to reduce the number of phone calls you have to make, reduce the amount of questions that are bouncing around in your head.

Chris Hill:
And then on top of that, we can have multiple users inside of Roof Hub and expose what you want them to see. So you can have salespeople that are able to see pricing so they can build estimates, but maybe they can’t place an order because you want to reserve that for your purchasing person. Or you have a back office staff that can see your accounts payable, but no one else in the company can see that. So we expose as much as we can to you, and then you get to decide how you want to expose that within your organization to empower your teams to perform both.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah. Oh, I love that. That’s so important. And getting rid of that duplicate entry, really being able to have everybody seen the same thing with that transparency.

Heidi Ellsworth:
So one of the questions I think a lot of contractors have, and I know I have, Chris, because having our own tech stack, our own softwares that we use here at RoofersCoffeeShop, it’s always like, “Well, how is this going to integrate into it? How do we make this all work?” So what is some of your advice to contractors when they’re saying, “We really want to use Roof Hub, but we’re just not sure how it’s going to work with all with everything we already have?”

Chris Hill:
That’s a great question. We’ll oftentimes start with taking an inventory of what they use. So do you use nothing? Great. Let’s start here, right? Download the app and we’ll get you up and running in no time and you can semi-Manage your business through Roof Hub. If you’re not using other technologies, I mean, you have your live pricing so you can look at your different products, we can help you build templates. You can create an estimate out of that, you can turn that estimate into an order. You can track that order for your delivery, and then you can view the invoice and pay your bills.

Chris Hill:
So it takes you from the very beginning to the end of the process with your distributor. But if you’re using other technology, then we look at, okay, how do our integrations work? Do you have a CRM? You mentioned double entry earlier. We want to avoid that at all costs. So we integrate with certain CRMs. Right now we have AccuLynx, GiddyUp and JobProgress are live, with more to come in the future. But the goal of that is we know that you run your business, or at least most of your business, through that CRM. And so we don’t want you to have to do some of it in your CRM and some of it inside of Roof Hub. So what we do is expose everything that it’s possible for that CRM system to ingest, we expose that to them.

Chris Hill:
So an example would be we map your products that are in your CRM to our products at our branches, which enables you to see live pricing. So you can build your estimates inside of your CRM instead of having to do it inside of Roof Hub. You can place direct orders. So whether that’s a direct integration where it feeds into our system or you click Email and it sends out, and then we key that order on our end, you can do that with placing orders. We push delivery tracking into some of our CRM partners as well, so you don’t have to go do that in Roof Hub. You can do it right inside in your CRM. We push invoices into there, so you can have all your information in one spot.

Chris Hill:
So we started Roof Hub with all of this in mind and built everything on open APIs so that we allow someone to have the benefit of everything that is inside of Roof Hub, but use it inside of their own system so that you don’t have to deal with multiple logins. I know that’s a pain point for probably every single person in the working world today, even in personal lives, how many logins do you think you have? Like 60, 70, across all your apps and everything. So we’re trying to reduce that. Let’s make everyone’s life easier at work.

Heidi Ellsworth:
I love that.

Chris Hill:
And give you one thing where you can do all your stuff.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah, it is. It’s so frustrating. So many logins and so many different systems and how do they all integrate and come together? And so the fact that you’re being so transparent and really serving that up to help the contractors. I hear it every single day, huge pain point out there. And they want software and programs that work for their business, and Roof Hub was totally built around that. So it makes so much sense. I have to say, Chris, on this, even my husband can order off Amazon. So I keep thinking that we should be able to be ordering all materials online. Just it’s the future of how we buy.

Chris Hill:
Yeah, it absolutely is. We built Roof Hub, I mean, it’s called Roof Hub, right? So it’s built for roofing, it’s built for residential roofing.but we know that the trend is exactly what you said. One day, everyone’s going to order everything online that might not be for two, five, 20 years, however long it is, but we want to be ready for it when our customers are, and we want to enable them to do that before it’s a must. And so building out a product catalog is one of the big enhancements we’re doing right now so that you can order siding and commercial and lumber and everything. And we’re making it very easy to find, where it’ll be a more Amazon-like experience, where you have product images and you can search by keyword and do all these great things.

Chris Hill:
Because the big goal is anything we sell in any branch can now be bought online.

Heidi Ellsworth:
That’s awesome.

Chris Hill:
And it takes some time to get there, but we want to make it an easy process for anyone that wants to do that, to be able to do that. And anyone who wants to do it the old school way and call in or text their rep or whatever, that’s possible too. And you know what? All those orders go into Roof Hub, as well. So if you don’t place your order through Roof Hub, you can still track it in Roof Hub, and you can still find your invoices in Roof Hub. It’s not an exclusive system. Everything talks back and forth.

Heidi Ellsworth:
That’s excellent. That’s excellent. And I was out one of the grand openings up in, on Washington, in Tacoma, of one of your siding distributors.

Chris Hill:
Yep.

Heidi Ellsworth:
And so I know that SRS is doing a lot of really cool stuff with the whole exterior of the building and beyond.

Chris Hill:
Yeah. We talked about Heritage Landscape Supply Group. Heritage Pool Supply Group, our other one. So we’ve got eCommerce systems over there, as well, that are continuously being enhanced and developed. And they use the same processes that we do of listening to feedback, building it, rolling it, out training, getting more feedback. And I mean, I’ll tell you Roof Hub, we do a release every two weeks.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Wow.

Chris Hill:
So it’s not always major enhancements, but every two weeks we have things that we know we want to tweak or make it a little bit better. Or we got feedback on this, that or the other. We put it into a list, we prioritize it. And we always have 50 to a hundred things that we’re actively working on and we release them in bite size chunks every two weeks.

Heidi Ellsworth:
And you have a lot of your developers right there in the headquarters. I mean, I walked through your area and that I think is really amazing, too, because now they can be talking to everybody else who are actually out in the field or they can be out in the field. It just seems like a great combination.

Chris Hill:
Yeah, it is. I’m glad you brought that up. Our corporate office, our first floor is our auditorium and our cafe and all that, but then the other half, the whole thing is our innovation. And innovation is not IT at our company. We have IT on the second floor and they’re those awesome people that help you when you can’t remember your password or they get your computer back up and running or fix your phone or whatever it is, that stuff that keeps the lights on and keeps us fast and agile and responsive to our customers. But then separate from IT, we have our innovation team, which is more of our developers and the ones that are building apps and working on Roof Hub and enhancing things. So our IT keeps our company running, whereas our innovation team gets our company prepared for what’s to come one, two, three, five years down the pipeline.

Heidi Ellsworth:
That’s excellent. Wow. So innovative. And I’m no pun, but I mean, that it is so in innovative. So, okay. Let’s talk about the reality that we know, even though the roofing industry has come so far in the last couple years. I mean, it’s just so amazing. I mean, COVID just really helped super speed innovation and technology and the use of it. But what are you finding with adoption and engagement of Roof Hub with roofing companies? And how much further do we have to go to really get the technology to be the core of the industry?

Chris Hill:
We have nothing but runway ahead of us, I would say. But you’re right, we’ve come extremely far in the last few years. It’s wild. And part of evidence of that is you look out and you see when something is a new industry, it’s highly fragmented. And I mean, how many roofing-related or construction-related technologies are popping up every day now? There’s just hundreds and hundreds of options and it’s crazy to see and they start off very niche. So many of them are created by a roofer that’s like, “I can’t find exactly what it is that I need out there. So I’m going to get with a developer and I’m going to make it.” And there’s so many of those out there and some of them, that becomes their primary business over time, they move out of their roofing company or sell off or split their time or whatever, but you can see it’s just everywhere.

Chris Hill:
There’s all kinds of CRMs and measurement softwares and estimating softwares and takeoff. And there’s so much out there. So it’s cool to see it coming. It’s a little bit overwhelming. And I think especially for a roofing contractor, it’s very overwhelming because they’re spending 99% of their time working on their business and they don’t have a whole lot of time to decipher all the stuff that’s out there and all the different technology companies that are coming at them. So that’s part of what we try to do, is vet everything that’s out there and partner with really, really high quality, reputable companies that are contractor and customer focus so that we can cut through some of that noise. Not to say that the vast majority of apps and technologies out there, they’re not noise, there’s just so much that no one has time to evaluate all of that.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah. I agree. There’s so many things and sometimes it’s coming into the market with no context either. So really, you’re right. To be able to have you and the innovation team really look through what is out there and what’s really helping the contractors is a huge benefit.

Chris Hill:
And I mean, we have a handful of integrations, but I want a hundred. We’re at six right now or whatever, but there’s so much more we can be doing. And so that’s a huge focus of ours and where we’ll be looking. But I think I went off on a tangent.

Chris Hill:
You asked about adoption. And I said, “We have nothing but runway,” and then I got carried away on that runway. But I think adoption up until now has been fantastic. So if we look back a year or so ago, we measure a million different stats like any other company, but one of the main focuses since right now our primary focus on Roof Hub is residential roofing, is looking at how many squares we have going digitally. So if we look back at, let’s say January of 2021, so about a year and a half ago, we were doing six, 7% of our squares were going through digital channels. Today, we’re up closer to 15%.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Wow.

Chris Hill:
Yeah. So it’s been a pretty big lift. And a lot of it has been recently because we’ve really, really hyper focused on getting feedback from our customers. Inside of our app, we ask for feedback. We ask for feedback through the digital sales specialist team, which is my team. And they’re out there visiting with contractors, riding along with our territory managers, hosting events, attending trade shows. So they’re the eyes and ears that bring all this information out from the field, into the innovation team, watch that development process, ensure it’s the right thing that’s being developed. And then take that, test it, roll it out. Usually we’ll roll it out internally first and have all our employees smell check it and click through and do more testing. Even further. And then we’ll roll it out to the customers.

Chris Hill:
And again, it’s just an endless cycle. Get their feedback. “Hey, do you like this new tool?”

Chris Hill:
“Yeah. This, this and this is great, but I hate this thing.”

Chris Hill:
“Okay. Why do you hate that?” Let’s take it back. Let’s redevelop it and let’s roll it back out. So that’s why we’re able to make changes and roll out enhancements every two weeks, because there’s so much more that everyone could be doing. And so we’re just doing the maximum amount that we can. And with how fast technology moves, it’s never enough.

Chris Hill:
So you can never just pause. It’s never done. There was an analogy in this book that our CTO recommended, and I can’t remember the name of the book, it might come to me and I’ll say it if it does, but it equated your technology or your app or platform, whatever it is that you consider it, to a theme park. You don’t build it and then walk away, “All right, we’re good to go. Theme park’s built. Awesome. Look at all these roller coasters.” You have to maintain it. You have to update it. You have to market it. You have to bring people in. You have to keep them coming back. So you don’t build it and walk away. It’s a never ending process of enhancement and monitoring. And it’s a business in itself.

Heidi Ellsworth:
I love that. I love that. That’s a great analogy, too. That is so good. Okay. So wow. Great success, great growth. The adoption is happening. The feedback from the contractors is great and I mean, you’re getting it all the time. So let’s wrap this up with how can companies get involved? How can you be a part of Roof Hub?

Chris Hill:
I love that question.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah.

Chris Hill:
I mean, it’s extremely simple. So you can go to RoofHub.pro and if you’re currently a customer of ours, all you need is an invoice and you can sign up yourself. Just needs your customer information, like your customer ID and an invoice number. And some of that information out the invoice.

Chris Hill:
You don’t have an invoice with you, if you’re not a customer, there’s a button that says I’m interested in Roof Hub. You just click on that, someone from my team calls you. You can also go to SRSDistribution.com under the Resources tab, there’s a Roof Hub page if you wanted to read a little bit more.

Chris Hill:
But yeah, very straightforward. We’re very hands on and we try to make sure that everyone is set up in the way that will most benefit their business.

Chris Hill:
So an example of that is we’ve opened up a new role and hired someone in to be our digital onboarding specialist and his name’s Justin. He reaches out to every new contractor or every new user that signs up for Roof Hub and he’ll send them an email and then he’ll follow up with a call and make sure that their profile is set up properly. Do they need help building templates? Do they want to schedule a deep dive demo with one of our digital sales specialists, and that way we’re getting them off on the right foot from the beginning. And he does that by learning about their business-

Heidi Ellsworth:
Smart.

Chris Hill:
… and by understanding what they do and what they need, we can tailor our solutions to that rather than the other way around. Make technology work for you, don’t work for the technology.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Right. And now the contractor has somebody who they’ve met, who’ve helped onboard them and that they can always reach back out to. Because I have to say I love technology, but it does get frustrating when you can’t reach somebody.

Chris Hill:
Absolutely.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Because you’re just stymied. So that’s brilliant. I love that. And I know you have this training throughout the whole, so all the branches can help. So wherever you’re at, if you either are a customer at SRS or if you’re not, just reach out. Because, Chris, you’ve done a great job moving this throughout the entire organization.

Chris Hill:
Thank you. Yeah. And we never want to remove the human touch from this. We all say it we’re in a relationship business and it’s the truth. So the goal of technology is not to take the personal touch away, it’s to take all the monotonous minutia out of it. I don’t want to have to call someone to ask them to send me an invoice or ask how long it’s going to be till my materials show up. You can do all that from the palm of your hand in your phone and then call your territory manager when you want to talk about how to grow your business or what products they recommend for certain types of jobs. So it’s that high importance, high touch stuff. And we get all the nitty gritty details out the way. Just open that up with transparency and access and allow the person to person interactions to be important interactions, every time.

Heidi Ellsworth:
I love it. That is so smart. And I do want to tell everyone out there that Roof Hub also has its own directory on RoofersCoffeeShop. So to get information, just search, go to the directory, find the Roof Hub’s going to be on one the first or second page, and you can get all the information there just on Roof Hub, which I love. I love that. Just that targeted information that will help. Also. We have a lot of articles, there’s some great videos, not to mention this podcast. So thank you, Chris. Thank you so much for all this great information.

Chris Hill:
Yeah. Thank you so much for having me on, Heidi. I really appreciate it. And thank you on behalf of SRS Distribution for everything you guys do with us.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Oh, we love it. We love working with you all and I’m really proud to know what you all are doing to really keep growing the industry, bringing that professionalism up to the next level. And you’re doing it every day, so thank you.

Heidi Ellsworth:
You can get all the information you want on Roof Hub on RoofersCoffeeShop, in the directory. So go check that out. You can also find all of the podcasts that we are doing weekly, sometimes twice a week now, under the Read, Listen, Watch navigation at RoofersCoffeeShop.com. Look for Roofing Road Trips and don’t miss a single episode. Be sure to subscribe and hit notifications so you don’t miss a single episode. Thank you so much for being here and we will see 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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