As I was saying…

An industry for outliers?

In his wonderful book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell argues success is more attributable to opportunities and cultural influences than it is simply to working hard or being smart. Bill Gates, he says, is smart, to be sure, but never would have succeeded had he not had virtually unlimited access to high-end computers as a teenager. And the right time to be born if you were to become a leader in computer technology appears to be 1954 or 1955, making you neither too young nor too old to be part of the technological revolution.

Gladwell also argues—with compelling evidence—that hockey players born in January or February are much more likely to succeed than those born in November or December. Why? Because the age cut-off for junior hockey programs is Dec. 31; children born on Jan. 1 are playing with and against those who may be nearly a full year younger. They are identified as gifted early on and thereby benefit from more practice, better coaching and all sorts of positive reinforcement.

So do Gladwell's conclusions apply to the roofing industry? I think so.

The industry is full of companies that started in the early 1980s tied—either by accident or design—to the emergence of single-ply roofing technology. Some roofing companies, reared on and married to older technologies, resisted change and failed. Others embraced change and succeeded. Still others found a middle ground, never quite deciding whether the change was real.