According to the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, change is the only constant. But Kent Tolley, vice president of Quality Tile Roofing Inc., Boise, Idaho, and NRCA's new president, might have made Heraclitus second guess himself. When asked how Kent has changed during the years, his co-workers, friends and family unanimously say: "He hasn't."
Those who work with Kent and know him personally describe him as capable, smart, considerate and, above all, steady. Undoubtedly, these traits—combined with decades of roofing industry experience dating back to Kent's childhood—will serve him well during the coming year as NRCA president.
A roofing history
Kent was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, to Garry and Darlene Tolley. Garry worked for roofing manufacturing companies in Idaho and Southern California and moved the family to Boise when a former customer, Boyd Hughes, asked Garry to manage his recently purchased roofing company, Rutledge Bros. Garry agreed and eventually bought the company, which became Tolley-Hughes Roofing & Sheet Metal.
Kent began working for the company at a young age.
"At 12 or 13, I began cleaning trucks and sweeping the yard, and I couldn't wait to drive the forklift," Kent says. "At that time in Idaho, you could drive when you were 14, so I started driving trucks loaded with gravel and cleaning out the roofing trash from the backs of the trucks."
Kent continued to work for the company during summers when school was not in session.
"I installed shingles with roofing crews and worked with built-up roofing crews and the sheet metal shop," he says. "I discovered roofing crews are made up of great people—hardworking, honest people who will do anything for you."
Kent also was able to do some estimating and project management during that time.
"It was nice to come to work and always encounter something new—different job sites, different challenges," Kent says. "It was fun to travel and work in different areas. I gained hands-on knowledge of roof systems, working with crews, and bidding projects and following them through to completion."
After graduating from high school, Kent studied finance at Brigham Young University—Idaho, Rexburg, where he met his wife, JoAnna. They married in 1977, and Kent transferred to Boise State University. Kent and JoAnna had their first son, Jared, in 1979.
In the early 1980s, Garry became partial owner of another roofing company—Quality Tile Roofing.
"I started Quality Tile Roofing in 1974 with my twin brother," says Pat Large, Quality Tile Roofing's owner and president. "We manufactured concrete roof tile, but there was such a limited market for it in Idaho that we had to get into the installation aspect of it, as well. I had a degree in business but no roofing knowledge, so I sold 51 percent of the company to Garry, and he basically mentored me."
Kent briefly worked for Quality Tile Roofing while in Boise. The family then moved to Arizona, where Kent worked for Universal Roofing in Phoenix and eventually opened and managed the company's Tucson, Ariz., branch. Kent and JoAnna had a daughter, Rachael, in 1983 and son, Michael, in 1985.
During the late 1980s, Universal Roofing and Bryant Roofing, Anaheim, Calif., joined to form a new company, Bryant-Universal Roofing Inc., based in Anaheim. At the time, it was the largest roofing company in the U.S. After the merger, the Tolley family moved to Southern California, and Kent worked at the company's headquarters.
The family moved back to Boise during the early 1990s when Garry and Darlene retired, and Kent and his three brothers and sister took over ownership of Tolley-Hughes Roofing & Sheet Metal. In 2002, they closed the company, and Kent returned to Quality Tile Roofing, where he became the company's vice president.
Quality Tile Roofing works primarily in the northwest U.S. The company has expanded to include about 10 related companies, including Modern Roofing, Boise; Architectural Metalworks, Boise; Boise Ironworks; and CPM Inc., Boise, a custom machining, manufacturing and welding facility, among others. Combined, the companies have an average of 100 to 150 employees.
Garry and Darlene came out of retirement in 2006 and worked at Architectural Metalworks until this past March, when they re-entered retirement.
A new window
Kent's association involvement began with the Western States Roofing Contractors Association (WSRCA).
"Tolley-Hughes Roofing & Sheet Metal was fairly active in WSRCA, so I attended some of the conventions," Kent says. "That opened up a whole new window of industry involvement because you learn things from other contractors who you are not necessarily competing with.
"I started attending the NRCA convention more than 20 years ago," Kent continues. "It was a lot bigger than WSRCA's, but I experienced the same thing: You can come up with all these good ideas. I would go into a session and think, 'Wow, I can incorporate this idea into my company.' I always liked that."
In the late 1990s, Kent was asked to serve on NRCA's board of directors. He accepted and also became involved with many NRCA committees, including its Technical Service, Contractor Management, Government Relations and Internet/Electronic Communications committees.
"The more I became involved, the more interest I developed in NRCA," Kent says. "For the time you put into NRCA, you get back personal and business benefits. I've had a good experience, and that's why I've stayed with it."
In addition to his initial board of directors term from 1999-2003, Kent served on the board from 2005-06 and 2008-10 and as an NRCA vice president from 2003-04 and 2006-08. He was NRCA's senior vice president from 2010-11.
"NRCA helps you become a better businessperson," Kent says. "It provides education for your field employees—technical information, certified roofing torch applicator training, insurance resources, etc. It provides information about the building codes and standards contractors need to know. NRCA's there to support your business and provide information to help you manage your company better. It has a strong presence in Washington, D.C. It's just a good investment to be an NRCA member."
"There's so much a company can learn from NRCA, but you have to get involved to do it," Large says. "I attribute most of Quality Tile Roofing's success to our involvement with trade associations."
James Shephard, Quality Tile Roofing's foreman, also thinks NRCA has benefited the company.
"It helps out big-time because we get to see what the world's about and what's going on," Shephard says. "I've been here a long time, and I've seen the changes in the industry. We don't want to get left behind."
Kent is looking forward to his new role as NRCA's leader.
"My first thought when I was approached about it several years ago was: I'm honored to do it," Kent says. "I hold it in high regard, and I want to give other people an opportunity to learn the same things I've learned from NRCA.
"I look at it as a responsibility to represent the association's members," he continues. "I'd like to see us get through the tough economy and take this time when people are moving a little slower to get stronger."
Garry is proud of his son's new role.
"It is a great honor to be in this position—to have others recognize he has something to offer," Garry says. "Kent's always been a leader. He brings people together."
A challenge ahead
With the roofing industry facing increased government regulation and struggling to emerge from a poor economy, Kent faces a challenging year, as did his predecessor, former NRCA President Allen Lancaster, president of Metalcrafts Inc., Savannah, Ga.
"Allen is a tremendous leader, and I've learned a lot from him," Kent says. "He is dedicated to watching out for roofing contractors' best interests. His dedication to follow-through and looking out for others has impressed me. I want to follow his leadership and build on that."
Kent plans to focus on various ongoing roofing industry issues during his presidency.
"The most important issue right now is the need for intervention regarding government overregulation and the burden it puts on contractors," Kent says. "I think this was the greatest challenge Allen faced during his term, as well. A lot of new regulations have been issued—the cranes standard and changes to the International Green Construction Code (IGCC), for example—and Allen was at the forefront looking for the best way to protect contractors and keep them informed so they were prepared and able to train their employees.
"I especially am concerned about the IGCC," Kent continues. "I want to make sure we do all we can to make it easy for contractors to understand the code and influence the regulation as much as we can to not negatively affect contractors. Also, I'd like us to continue to build on our Washington, D.C., influence and make sure we're aware of regulations and what's going on."
Kent also expresses concern about another ongoing issue: improving the image of professional roofing contractors.
"It's a highly technical and professional industry, and there are many successful roofing contractors—small and large," he says. "However, that is not always how we are perceived."
To address increased government regulation and help improve the industry's image, Kent emphasizes the importance of keeping NRCA member contractors informed about building code issues.
"It's a changing market right now, and it's an exciting time to be in the roofing industry because there are many new technologies emerging," Kent says. "At the same time, there's a broad spectrum of codes—some calling for more insulation, certain types of membranes and systems, and a certain percentage of recycled content. We need to be aware of those codes and continue to have a strong technical presence."
Kent also says increasing NRCA's educational offerings and training efforts is necessary to achieve a more professional image and comply with regulations.
"Businesses are as strong as their employees, so we need to have highly trained field personnel, supervisors, estimators, project managers, etc., and provide resources through NRCA for contractors to conduct that training," he says. "A contractor's professionalism involves the entire company, so NRCA also must reach out to and represent businesses' employees."
One way Kent plans to increase training efforts is by adapting and updating existing programs.
"With online training available, NRCA's educational offerings are much stronger than they used to be," he says. "However, a lot of the digital programs are dated. There are safety topics in the videos that have to be completely redone. I'd like to see us update some of those digital programs."
Additionally, Kent plans to continue to look for ways to increase NRCA membership; monitor the solar industry and consider how the roofing industry can continue to be part of the solar movement; and work more closely with manufacturers and NRCA's association partners.
"The industry is a big partnership among contractors, manufacturers, architects, engineers, roof consultants, etc.," he says. "I think everyone brings a stake to the table, and we need to work together to further where we're going. NRCA is the industry's leading voice, but we need to work with our partners. I'd also like to make sure we work closely with other associations, whether they're regional, state or local associations. They all bring value, and we should support each other."
Overall, Kent has high hopes for the roofing industry during the coming year and beyond.
"This year, we're going to start revisiting NRCA's strategic plan to decide what works and try to look at future trends," he says. "NRCA looks out for contractors by looking out for the future and trends that emerge, and I like to think we've got contractors' backs covered; if something comes up, we will be able to respond quickly.
"I'm optimistic about the future; I think the economy will come back strong, and I think we have an industry of strong members—an industry I'd like to see continue to grow," Kent continues. "I see NRCA as part of that—a strong resource and industry voice."
In the meantime
Although Kent will be traveling more during his presidency, operations will continue as usual at Quality Tile Roofing. Kent and Quality Tile Roofing employees say his increased absence will be noticeable but manageable.
"I think his absence will affect us—it has to," Shephard says. "It's a team deal, and I can't see how this won't change it a little bit. But it's a good thing, too, because we get firsthand information from the industry."
Kent's work days vary, and he plays numerous roles, including estimator and project manager. He also helps negotiate insurance and bonding and review financials.
"I try to be hands-on as much as possible and work with our foremen and superintendents on projects," Kent says. "I like to get a view of what's going on throughout the whole company."
During the next year, he plans to rely on e-mail and telephone to stay in touch when he travels. And he doesn't foresee any problems the staff will be unable to handle.
"We have a lot of extremely qualified people within the company," Kent says. "I plan on getting things done as I travel, too—I'll take my computer, and I can do a lot of work remotely."
Kevin Johnson, Quality Tile Roofing's safety director, agrees with Kent.
"We have good communication through e-mail and telephone, and Kent always returns your call," Johnson says. "He takes care of what he has to do before he leaves, and he always makes sure everybody understands what they need to do."
According to Large, Kent's organizational skills will ease the transition.
"His absence certainly will have an effect, but Kent is so well-organized and his computer skills are so incredible that he manages his work load extremely well," Large says.
Although Kent will be missed, his co-workers unanimously agree he will serve NRCA well.
"His abilities are absolute," Large says. "He's well-rounded in every aspect of the roofing business."
Evelyn Ruth Large, Quality Tile Roofing's accountant, sums up her feelings about Kent in one word: "Excellence."
She continues: "He will do anything you ask him to do, and he's good at everything."
Garry also speaks highly of Kent's leadership abilities.
"Kent is organized and able to delegate," Garry says. "He likes people, and he doesn't get angry. He made a comment one time: 'It takes two people to argue, and I'm not going to be one of them.' He lets his opinions be known but doesn't lose his composure."
Even though Kent's schedule will be more frenzied, serving as NRCA president is an opportunity nobody wants him to pass up.
"We'll pick it up and run with it, and we'll lasso Kent in every once in a while," says Bill Asbury, Quality Tile Roofing's vice president and Kent's friend since grammar school. "He's worked hard for this moment."
Pat Large agrees: "I support him in this 100 percent, and I think he'll make one of the finest presidents NRCA has ever had."
Where the heart is
In addition to Kent's co-workers, there is another group of people who will be especially aware of his increased absence during the next year: his family.
"This was a joint decision with my wife, and she is fully supportive," Kent says. "We both look at it as a great opportunity."
The decision was easier to make because Kent and JoAnna's children are grown and live on their own.
Jared lives in Denver; Rachael is married and lives in Seattle; and Michael, who just graduated from Brigham Young University—Idaho in April, has an internship in New Jersey.
"If we had younger children, it would be difficult to do this," Kent says. "But they're all on their own and successful. It's good to see them succeeding, and they still call all the time. We stay in touch."
The Tolley family always has been tight-knit.
"Our favorite thing to do is go boating and water ski with the family," JoAnna says. "We go to Lucky Peak and other places and take our boat. It's what everyone loves—it solidifies our family."
The family also loves to travel.
"When our kids were younger, we took them many places: Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, several places in Europe," Kent says. "JoAnna and I like to see new beaches and meet new people. Whenever we travel, we like to see local things and get a feel for the areas—not just the tourist traps. We once rented a car in Germany and drove through different towns and planned our own trip—we had a great time."
JoAnna plans to join Kent on some of his trips during the next year, including one to Beijing for the China Roofing & Waterproofing 2011 trade show this summer.
"I want to involve JoAnna as much as possible," Kent says. "She definitely won't be able to come on every trip with me, but she'll come when she can or has an interest."
Kent's biggest passion is having a strong family and marriage.
"Marrying JoAnna was a wonderful move in my life," he says. "She supports me, and she's quick-witted—she has a great sense of humor, as do my kids."
JoAnna says: "He's perfect, even after all these years. We grew up together, and it just gets better with age. We've been best friends for years."
Even though it is going to be a busy year, JoAnna is used to roofing being integrated into their lives.
"I know this town by what roofs Kent's installed," she says. "I'm excited for the year because I really like getting to know people. And I'm excited for him—this is a once in a lifetime experience."
A perfect fit
In times of turmoil, it is comforting to have a steadfast leader. And based on all accounts, Kent is a perfect fit for the job.
"Kent is solid. He's sort of that rock in the middle of the stream," says Brian Hulsey, Quality Tile Roofing's company superintendent.
Kent also brings a deep knowledge of the roofing industry to his new role.
"I think I understand the industry from loading trucks all the way to running a business and running different branches and operations," he says. "I've worked for small companies and large companies, and I think I can bring strengths from those perspectives. I can understand people's trials and share in their successes.
"I like the saying, 'We've got your back covered,'" Kent continues. "In other words, we're looking out for you. As NRCA president, I want to give members as much information as we can and let them know we are doing everything we can to look out for their best interests and help them succeed."
When I asked people how Kent has changed since they have known him, I was told, among other things: "He's a pretty even-keeled guy"; "He's been good at everything since I've known him"; and "I don't think he's changed at all."
However, it's safe to say he will help change the industry.
Man on deck
Asked what his goals are for the upcoming year, Bruce McCrory, co-owner and secretary/treasurer of Kiker Corp., Mobile, Ala., and NRCA's new senior vice president, says: "My first duty is to assist Kent Tolley and our membership."
Based on his long history of industry and NRCA involvement, Bruce undoubtedly will prove to be a great asset to both.
Kiker opened in 1976, and the company joined NRCA in 1981. Bruce attended his first NRCA convention more than 25 years ago and has been involved with the association since, serving on committees since 1993.
Bruce was on NRCA's board of directors from 1998-99 and 2004-09 and served as a vice president from 2006-07 and 2007-08. He also has served as a director of The Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress and president of the National Roofing Legal Resource Center.
"I want to continue NRCA's efforts toward removing unnecessary burdens of government regulations," he says. "Also, though we currently are in a weak economy, we need to continue training workers in productivity and workplace safety practices."
Bruce also plans to focus on developing best business practices; providing educational opportunities for all membership tiers; continuing to address technical issues; establishing an industry presence for building code issues; developing solid expertise regarding energy and "green" issues; and continuing membership growth.
Bruce is confident his company will continue to run smoothly in spite of his increased absence.
"We have an excellent team at Kiker, and I have the utmost confidence in their abilities to run things while I am traveling for NRCA," he says. "I covered for my brother, Don McCrory, when he served as NRCA's senior vice president and president, so now it is his turn to do likewise, and he is looking forward to it.
"My wife, Pat, also works in our office, so she knows what is involved and realizes she is married to roofing and NRCA," Bruce continues. "Our daughter, Mary Lee, is grown, so our house is an 'empty nest' except for our beagle, Maddy."
Although he will need to spend more time away from the coast traveling for NRCA, Bruce says he is looking forward to his upcoming term.
"Business and technical expertise, learning opportunities and legal knowledge are just a few things I have gained through my NRCA involvement. However, the most important thing it has given me is lifelong friends—friends I can depend on. It doesn't get any better than that."
Ashley St. John is Professional Roofing's associate editor.