There is an Arabic proverb that says: "When a door opens not to your knock, consider your reputation." After spending a day with Nelson Braddy, president and chief executive officer of King of Texas Roofing Co. LP, Dallas, it is clear his reputation opens many doors. More than a dozen people used the same three words to describe him: honest, fair and wise.
"When people ask where I work," says Jose Valdez, safety director for King of Texas Roofing, "I say I work for a good, honorable man."
Braddy's co-workers, colleagues and family members hold him in high esteem and have the utmost respect for him. He has worked hard and diligently throughout his life to achieve success for his family and everyone around him. And despite many challenges, he's always maintained a high level of integrity. The respect he has for others is returned tenfold.
"His respect for people and their lives and what they have to do to maintain their personal lives is admirable," says MaryAnne Doss, King of Texas Roofing's office manager. "I have the utmost respect for him, professionally and personally. He doesn't sacrifice people to achieve a bottom line."
Building a reputation
In 1971, Braddy graduated from Drexel University, Philadelphia, with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. Achieving the degree wasn't easy for him; he almost didn't make it through. During the middle of the second year, he came "close to hanging it up."
"It wasn't like I was fooling around," Braddy says. "I was working my behind off, but I wasn't getting anywhere. I remember having a real heavy load one semester—atomic physics, differential equations—some real humdinger courses. I took too many in one semester, and it just about killed me. I wasn't the brightest bulb in the box, but I got through."
The effort paid off. After graduation, he obtained an engineering position at SKF USA Inc., Lansdale, Pa., a subsidiary of SKF Group, a world leader in manufacturing roller bearings. After that, he joined INA Bearing Co., headquartered in Herzogenaurach, Germany, and for seven years, he traveled the world as a liaison between INA Bearing customers and the company's engineering department.
"It was a neat job and a lot of fun when I was single," Braddy says. "I got to travel all over the world."
Building a family
The bachelor life soon came to an end after meeting his wife, Jaclyn, on a blind date while Jaclyn was attending Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa. Set up by friends on a double date, Jaclyn says after their first meeting Braddy came to visit her at school every two weeks for more than three years. However, Jaclyn says her husband, whom she affectionately refers to as "Brad," a nickname to decipher him from Braddy's father who shared the same given name, has a different account of the interaction.
"Back then at Penn State, we had three men to one lady. He loves to say I needed a date," Jaclyn says with a laugh. "I don't think so."
Regardless of who likes whom more, "Brad" and Jaclyn will celebrate their 40-year wedding anniversary in August.
Building a company
After Braddy and Jaclyn's daughter, Kelly, was born, Braddy re-examined his professional life and sought one with less travel.
Jaclyn's father, Robert King, had been in the roofing business since World War II and owned a roofing company, R.W. King Inc., Erie, Pa. When Braddy's father-in-law was considering retirement, the two talked one day about Braddy coming into the business. Braddy eventually left INA Bearing to work with his father-in-law, and the two worked together for seven years. Braddy quickly learned having an engineering degree is an asset in the roofing industry.
"It served me well and continues to serve me well, especially working with architects and engineers the way we do," he says. "And it helps me work out a problem using logical reasoning."
Because R.W. King was located in the western rust belt of Pennsylvania, opportunities for expansion were somewhat limited. Braddy had the opportunity to do some bid work in Texas through a general contractor friend, and R.W. King subsequently was awarded the Dallas airport contract for reroofing the terminals at DFW. Once in Texas, the company began to receive more work in the Dallas area, and for seven years Braddy commuted between Texas and Pennsylvania.
"I went from not wanting to travel anymore to traveling even more!" Braddy says. "It became obvious I had to make a decision about what I wanted to do and where I wanted to live."
At the time, single-ply roof systems were just beginning to catch on in Texas. In Pennsylvania, single-ply was the most common roof system, so Braddy had a lot of experience to bring to Texas. In 1987, R.W. King was liquidated and the Braddy family moved to Texas, where Braddy started his own company, King of Texas Roofing, carrying on his father-in-law's name.
During the early 1990s, Braddy came close to hanging it up again and almost closed his company's doors. The savings and loan and oil businesses cratered, and the U.S.' economy was suffering. For days, the company's telephone wouldn't ring. Braddy says he remembers checking the telephone line to be sure it still worked.
"A lot of guys went out of business through no fault of their own," he says. "We hunkered down for about three years, and there were times I couldn't cash my paycheck because if I did, that meant others couldn't cash their paychecks."
A man of integrity, he kept his troubles to himself. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that Braddy told Jaclyn about not cashing his paychecks; his family was completely unaware about the company's financial troubles.
"We had no idea," Kelly says. "He still took us out, and I went to a nice school."
In the spring of 1992, Braddy realized he couldn't continue living that way and decided he'd close King of Texas Roofing's doors if business didn't pick up by the end of the quarter. That spring, Dallas experienced record-breaking amounts of tornadoes and hailstorms, and his business went from not having any work to not being able to hire enough workers. The telephone didn't stop ringing for 10 years.
"When I look back on those times, I realize it wasn't really how smart I was, it was sheer luck," Braddy says. "I was within three months of getting out of the business, and by the grace of God we survived."
Building a leader
Sheer luck or not, 21 years later, King of Texas Roofing has more than 100 employees and a branch in Houston. The company is well-known in the roofing industry, and Braddy's peers have selected him to lead NRCA through 2013-14. Braddy's company joined the association in 1984 when his company was in danger of being sued.
"Somebody told me to call NRCA because the dispute was about a material issue," he says. "It turns out it was a common material issue in the business, but I wasn't aware of it. The technical staff walked me through it, and after that, I immediately joined NRCA and got involved in committee work."
Braddy has served on several committees, including the Manual Update Committee and Management Education and Work Force Committee, and has chaired the PAC Advisory Committee, NRCA Retirement Program Committee and National Roofing Foundation. During 2007-08 and 2010-11, he served on the board of directors. During 2008-12, he served as a vice president on the Executive Committee and was senior vice president during 2012-13.
"NRCA has given me the opportunity to give something back to the industry that's been good to me," Braddy says. "Being able to work with others who have the same goals as me, some of them competitors, is a great experience. To be able to put the competition aside and put something together that benefits the industry is rewarding."
His appreciation for NRCA has developed into a passion for recruiting members. He's won NRCA's Charlie Raymond Award, the most prestigious membership recruitment award NRCA bestows, twice—in 2010 and again in 2012. He attributes his recruitment success to simply asking people to join.
"The first thing I ask is: 'How can you make a career in the roofing industry and not want to participate in NRCA?'" he explains. "Then, I suggest they try it for a year and see. And if that still doesn't work, I tell them their competitor is a member, and that usually works every time."
Building future leaders
Even though Braddy has been in the industry for 30 years, he says he still walks away from an NRCA meeting thinking: "Wow, I didn't know that." He believes everyone always has something to learn, and if someone expresses a desire to learn, he offers full support.
"He's big on education and supports his employees," Doss says. "If you make the effort, he'll support you in every way, including tuition, for you to go to school."
Braddy feels so strongly about education and helping those willing to learn, in 2002, he established the Nelson R. Braddy and Jaclyn R. Braddy endowed scholarship at Drexel University, his alma mater. Unlike scholarships that have a minimum GPA requirement, the Braddys' $10,000 annual scholarship has a maximum 2.75 GPA requirement.
Braddy explains: "That was me. I want the scholarship to be for a kid who really wants it. The kid may not be the smartest, so he or she is struggling to get by and make it. And he or she has had to work hard to get to the third year."
In addition to offering formal training and education, Braddy never hesitates to share his knowledge.
"His door is always open," says Jennifer Gonzalez, repair and maintenance manager at King of Texas Roofing. "When I first started working here, I probably asked the same question several different ways, but he acted like it was the first time I was asking the question. He's always willing to teach."
Paul Woznuck, project manager for King of Texas Roofing, agrees.
"Nelson is a teacher," Wozuck says. "If you don't understand something or are stuck on something, he takes the time to help. He's good about showing people how things work."
One of Braddy's goals as NRCA president is to raise the level of professionalism in the industry. He recalls reading a 1993 Time magazine article titled "Roofers from Hell" and vowing to do what he could to change that image of the industry.
"It's always the bad guy who gets into the article, the one who owns a pesticide company and sticks a magnetic 'roofing' sign on his truck after a hailstorm comes through," Braddy says. "What we do is complicated. People understand an electrical system is complicated, and they know to hire a professional electrician. Now, we need to get them to realize they need to hire professional roofing contractors to install their roof systems."
Promoting professionalism in the industry is included in NRCA's strategic plan for the coming year. To this end, Braddy plans to review the standards for becoming an NRCA member and begin guiding the association down a path of becoming a professional association rather than a trade association.
"In Canada, there are standards that must be met before you can become a member of their regional roofing associations," Braddy explains. "I would like to guide us in that direction."
Building a trend
According to Braddy, a significant challenge for the roofing industry in the coming year is forecasting trends.
"What's scary is I don't see a trend," he says. "We've been in a holding pattern during the past few years with the economy. Nobody knows how health care reform will affect us. We don't know how immigration reform will affect us—whether it will help us or hinder us. The unknown, the lack of direction is troubling."
Despite the unknowns, Braddy is doing his best to prepare the association and industry for whatever changes may come.
"He has spent untold hours researching the new health care insurance changes," says Nathan Oswalt, project manager at King of Texas Roofing's Houston branch. "I know he will guide us through the changes well."
There is no doubt Braddy will have his hands full with many challenges during the next year. And there also is no doubt he will have a dedicated, loyal support system whenever he needs it.
In preparation for her father's presidency, Kelly closed her equipment distribution business in October 2011 to help assume some of her father's responsibilities at King of Texas Roofing while Braddy fulfills his duties as NRCA president. And Jaclyn, who is an active volunteer and serves on various boards in her community, also has cleared her schedule to help her husband.
"I plan to be absolutely 100 percent available to help him," Jaclyn says. "Whenever and wherever he'd like me to be, I absolutely will go."
In addition to a loyal family, Braddy has a dedicated staff in the office, many of whom have been with the company for more than 20 years.
"We're all long-timers here," says Jeff Newberry, project manager for King of Texas Roofing. "And that says a lot about the guy at the top."
Braddy is well-prepared and ready to lead the association through a successful year and is honored to have been given the opportunity.
"It's a great honor to be asked to serve," says Braddy. "I am honored my peers trust me enough to put me in this position, and I have an obligation to do the best job I can and promote NRCA as the place to be."
As for any final thoughts Braddy would like to share: "If you're not yet a member of NRCA, you need to join. What are you waiting for? Your competitor is here."
Chrystine Elle Hanus is Professional Roofing's associate editor and NRCA's director of communications.
On a lighter note
What is your favorite word?
What sound or noise do you love?
The Madison River in Montana
What sound or noise do you hate?
People whining. Stop whining and go fix it!
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Archaeologist in Egypt
What is your favorite quality in a person?
What is your fear?
Which season of the year do you prefer?
Fall in Wyoming
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly
What took you so long?
What is your favorite food?
Fried onion rings
What is your pet peeve?
People who do 80 percent of a task and leave the hard part for someone else to complete
Richard Nugent, chief executive officer of Nations Roof LLC, Lithia Springs, Ga., has been an NRCA member for more than three decades. He has served on many committees, including the International Relations Committee, Membership Committee, Work Force Committee, Safety Regulatory and Compliance Task Force, and Education Resource Committee.
But one of his passions is NRCA's involvement with government relations. During 2005-06 and 2009-10, he served on the Government Relations Committee, and during 2005-07, he served on the PAC Advisory Committee. He also served as chairman for the PAC Advisory Committee during 2007-09 and 2011-12.
"As contractors, we can sit at our desks helplessly with our heads in our hands or go out and try to affect change," Nugent says. "I encourage everyone in the industry to get involved with ROOFPAC, NRCA's political action committee, and start to fight for what made this a great country."
In addition to Nugent's diligent work to raise money for ROOFPAC, his involvement with NRCA is increasing. Nugent is serving as NRCA's senior vice president for 2013-14, meaning he is next in line as NRCA's president for 2014-15.
"I recognize the important role the organization plays in education, protecting and advocating for the industry," Nugent says. "This has a direct positive effect on our business, and the least I can do is give back to NRCA when they call on me."
Nugent believes the most important issue facing the industry is the government's inability to make decisions needed to get the economy moving again.
"For the near future, this is the new norm, and it could make it difficult for some contractors to survive," Nugent says. "Layer the economy onto the Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Affordable Care Act, Department of Transportation regulations and increased taxes that are not being reinvested—all this makes it difficult to succeed in any construction-related business."
Nugent is well aware NRCA President Nelson Braddy will have plenty of challenges during the next year and is prepared to shoulder the responsibilities with Braddy.
"Nelson recognizes we have some challenges, and he has already started to meet them head on," Nugent says. "My role is to embrace his vision and goals and work hard for his success."
On what being senior vice president means to him, Nugent says: "I'm proud to have this opportunity to represent so many people in our industry. Being in a leadership role is a chance to do things that can be beneficial to current and future members. I hope I can better prepare all of us for a successful future."