A Rich journey

NRCA President Rich Nugent sets his sails for a successful year

  • Nugent (right) with brothers Bill (left) and James (middle)
  • Nugent (middle) with Nations Roof co-partners Ron Werowinski (left) and James Nugent
  • Nugent with his mom, Mary
  • Nugent (in the white shirt) during a regatta sailboat race
  • NRCA Senior Vice President Lindy Ryan

There are many ways to define success, and the definitions vary as much as the people defining it. Business owners may define success in terms of profitability or industry connections. Others define success as doing what you love or raising children. In Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem "The Meaning of Success," he says success is "to laugh often and much and earn the respect of intelligent people. …" For NRCA President Rich Nugent, both apply.

"He absolutely is successful in whatever he sets out to do," says Heather Varco, Nugent's daughter. "He's led me through my whole life and taught me how to be responsible, have a good work ethic and how to be a great parent to my kids."

This month, Nugent begins his one-year term as NRCA president. As he embarks on his journey to lead the organization through a prosperous 2014-15 year, he says his 40 years of business experience are his main asset.

"I treasure all the industry relationships and friends I've made during the years; they are incredibly valuable," Nugent says. "But my experience in business really is what I bring to a position like this. Having managed 2,700 people at General Roofing and 900 at Nations Roof has prepared me well for the job."

In the beginning

Before Nugent opened his company, Nations Roof LLC, Lithia Springs, Ga., he worked at his father's general construction business, Tuckahoe Metal Works, Yonkers, N.Y. Family is Nugent's greatest passion, and it was his family who ultimately brought him into the roofing industry.

"The biggest turning point in my life was 37 years ago when my older brother Larry passed away," Nugent says. "That's how I ended up in the construction industry, so had that not happened, I doubt I would be sitting here today."

After his brother died in a car accident, Nugent's father "couldn't bring himself to return to work," so Nugent stepped in to help with his father's business. Nugent soon learned he wanted to focus on commercial roofing.

"I wanted something more specialized," he says. "I quickly learned there was more opportunity in commercial roofing."

It wasn't long before Nugent and his brother James transformed the general contracting business that began on a sun porch into Tuckahoe Metal & Roofing, one of the largest commercial roofing companies in the New York metropolitan area.

Getting down to business

In 2001, Nugent and his brother consolidated Tuckahoe Metal & Roofing into General Roofing Services, Pompano Beach, Fla., the first "rollup" company in the roofing industry with 19 NRCA member companies. After running the local company in New York for one year, Nugent was asked to oversee 14 companies in the Midwest and Northeast regions. The same year, he was elected to General Roofing Services' board of directors. General Roofing Services provided Nugent with first-hand experience managing multiple roofing companies, and under his leadership, his regions became the most successful, representing $140 million of the $300 million in revenue for the organization.

In late 2002, General Roofing Services' board of directors voted Nugent chief executive officer (CEO). In 2004, his success with strategic accounts and national service led the organization to a successful sale of the company to Republic Financial Corp., Aurora, Colo., a private investment firm. James Nugent accounts his brother's success to a never-ending quest for personal growth.

"Rich's greatest accomplishment is his own personal growth that never ends," James Nugent says. "He'll always continue to grow because he's never satisfied; he'll always be involved in something. Our companies didn't sell themselves. He doesn't sit back and wait for sales. He gets out there and networks with people and always brings something back for the business and himself."

Not one for sitting around long, soon after his noncompete clause expired later in 2004, Nugent, his brother James and co-partner Ron Werowinski started Nations Roof in Bridgeport, Conn. The partners created and implemented a business plan that focuses on controlled growth in market segments that are difficult to reach while being profitable. Through the plan, the company soon began expanding and hiring employees in Connecticut, New York and Wisconsin.

"I never imagined I'd be the CEO of a company such as Nations Roof," Nugent says. "I never imagined this kind of success in the industry. We just kept opening new locations."

Currently, Nations Roof has 900 employees in 16 locations across the U.S., with the most recent openings in Seattle in 2013 and Houston in 2014. Although the company averages opening one new branch each year, Nugent is cautious before venturing into another location.

"It's conceivable we'll open a branch every year," he says. "We could open more and be opportunistic, but I'd rather go slow and give each opening branch a lot of attention."

Leading the team

Each Nations Roof location has its own managerial structure—president, managers, etc.—so despite its size, Nations Roof employees enjoy the perks of working for a small company.

"I feel we're a close-knit group," says Sue Kimball, Nations Roof's corporate controller. "I've been with Nations Roof since 2007, so I've seen all the offices grow phenomenally. But everybody knows and cares about each other. Each office is small, so it's like working for a small company but with big company benefits."

Kimball believes Nugent's success with managing people comes from not backing down from finding solutions and his positive attitude that remains constant even when situations get tough.

"He's got that personality; he's a motivator," she says. "He has a positive attitude, and that positive attitude tells us: ‘We'll get through this. If we focus, we'll get through this and things will get far better.' That positive attitude rubs off. He's also not afraid of working through a problem. If you bring a problem to him, he'll think it through; he's methodical. He has natural leadership qualities."

In addition to his unwavering positive outlook and analytical problem-solving skills, Werowinski says Nugent sincerely cares for his employees and their livelihoods.

"Rich is an honest and fair man," he says. "Every employee and their families are important to him."

Kimball believes Nugent never makes a business decision without contemplating how it will affect his employees.

"It seems it's always on his mind all the people depending on him," she says. "So when he makes decisions, he's thinking about them. He cares deeply about us and the company."

Nugent accounts part of his management success to always making sure everyone knows what is expected of them.

"My management style is all about setting clear expectations, clear measurement and clear accountability," Nugent says. "It works for me in business; it works for me in life; and I'm sure it'll work for me at NRCA."

Getting involved

In 1988, Nugent joined NRCA and has been active in the association for many years, serving on the Education Resource Committee, Government Relations Committee, Membership Committee, Safety Regulatory and Compliance Task Force, and the Work Force Committee. He also has chaired the Industry Advisory Board, PAC Advisory Committee, Performance Technology Task Force and the Photovoltaic Committee.

In addition, he served as an NRCA director from 2004-07 and 2011-12, was vice president from 2009-11 and 2012-13, and most recently he served as senior vice president from 2013-14.

"If you want to get ahead in this industry, you can't do it without a trade association that will give you the tools to excel or the peers NRCA has," Nugent says. "I've spent 40 years in the business, and I still learn something every single day I'm around NRCA staff or NRCA peers. It is an important part of the growth of my business, and getting involved in the organization is the least I can do for an industry I have counted on my whole career."

Driving membership value

Nugent has heard a lot of excuses from roofing contractors for not joining NRCA, but he doesn't believe any of them have any merit.

"I've heard everything from ‘it's just for big contractors' to ‘I get all the information anyway,'" Nugent says. "NRCA is fighting the battles every roofing contractor is involved in every day—from lawsuits against federal agencies to building codes—everything we do, NRCA is fighting for us on Capitol Hill. I couldn't even imagine not supporting this organization."

Nugent shares NRCA Immediate Past President Nelson Braddy's passion for recruiting members and plans to continue seeking Braddy's goal to reach 4,500 members.

"Nelson was strong on member recruitment, and I will continue to work on that," Nugent says. "We may not have reached his goal of 4,500 members, but we haven't given up, and we'll get there."

Asked how he plans to achieve this goal, Nugent says: "I plan to focus on continuing to drive membership value to our members and prospective members. We have a lot of ideas in development, and we're working with NRCA staff to review the products and services we provide, such as getting rid of old materials, updating publications and getting into the digital world, so we make NRCA the place to go to for everything a professional roofing contractor needs to be successful, including leads and opportunities for disaster situations when there's a hurricane, tornado, etc. NRCA needs to be the place people turn to for making safe choices so their needs are met during and following a disaster. We're working on many programs to drive membership value. It's not one thing."

In addition to driving NRCA membership value, Nugent plans to continue Braddy's efforts to keep NRCA in a solid financial position.

"Nelson has a lot of great accomplishments," Nugent says. "But I think the one that stands out is his management of NRCA's budget and finances. Through Nelson, we have the budget under control. All the things Nelson started I believe in; I have been right by his side. I will continue to build on NRCA's financial strength and strategic plan so we add more products and services to provide a greater value proposition to current and prospective members."

Industry challenges

Looking ahead, Nugent believes the roofing industry landscape won't be the same.

"I think the roofing industry is going to have a different look," Nugent says. "I think we're going to see a lot more large contractors and a lot more small contractors; the middle is going to be a hard place to be. And to break through from the small to the large is going to be extremely difficult for financial, insurance and regulatory reasons. The regulatory environment in the roofing industry is the worst it's ever been, which is not a good thing for trades and why I'm focused on it."

According to Werowinski, Nugent has a knack for looking ahead and predicting trends.

"Rich always is thinking into the future," Werowinski says. "He doesn't just solve a problem for now, he solves it forever if he can, so I know NRCA is in good hands."

In addition to membership value and business challenges, Nugent believes the industry will need to continue to manage technical issues.

"I think from a material point of view, we are constantly finding out later the unintended consequences of things, such as vapor retarders, lightweight structural concrete or LEED points," says Nugent. "All these things look great when we look at them individually, but we constantly learn later there's an unintended consequence to each of them. For example, the idea of an R-value is wonderful until the roof collapses in places where there's a heavy load because the snow doesn't melt. These types of things are the technical challenges we're going to face. I believe NRCA is on top of all these issues, and I'll make sure we continue to be on top of them."

According to Mike Johannes, president of Nations Roof East and New England, Nugent has a great comprehension of the challenges facing the roofing industry and small-sized roofing contracting companies.

"Rich is a solid contractor who understands small-sized businesses and how politics make it hard for them to succeed in the U.S.," Johannes says. "He will carry the message about allowing small businesses to be successful and will represent NRCA well on all issues. He will be a solid representative for NRCA in his travels."

Managing the travel

One of the most challenging aspects of being an NRCA president is managing the travel that inherently comes with the position. NRCA presidents travel often, including several international trips, to represent NRCA at meetings, events and trade shows, as well as fulfilling speaking engagements that provide industry updates.

"The hardest part about being an NRCA president is the amount of travel," Nugent says. "I already travel extensively for Nations Roof; I had 97 flights last year alone. So I think through good planning and time management, I can coordinate what I have to do for my job with what I have to do in my role as president. I also have great regional and local managers and staff who all support me in this, so I think Nations Roof is in a good position."

According to Kimball, traveling is second-nature for Nugent.

"Rich has had to travel ever since I met him in 2000," she says. "So he knows how to manage his business from the road. And once you've got that down, you can pretty much work from anywhere."

James Nugent says his brother has worked to build a skilled and talented management team at Nations Roof, who are prepared to fill any void that may occur in his brother's absence.

"One of Rich's management qualities is surrounding himself with good people," he says. "So the additional travel involved for NRCA won't be a problem."

Sailing ahead

When Nugent isn't traveling on behalf of NRCA or for Nations Roof, you'll find him on a sailboat on the ocean or skiing.

"I love the water," Nugent says. "I'll never be away from it unless I go skiing, which, I guess, still is water."

Nugent is an avid skier and has skied all over the world. Since his early twenties, he also has raced large sailboats.

"His adventurous side probably is my favorite side to him," Varco says. "We recently were in Chile and went heleskiing. He always wants to go skiing or race sailboats. He's a go-getter."

Nugent often races in regatta sailboat races where, for example, the crew leaves Newport, R.I., on a Friday and rotates members around the clock until they reach Bermuda in three to four days. The Newport to Bermuda route is one Nugent has sailed four times.

Nugent also participates in buoy or marks sailboat racing. Buoy races involve accumulating points by racing to designated points during the day and returning to the dock at the end of the day, and then continuing the races the following day.

Although Nugent has fallen out of boats, lived through boating accidents and even capsized smaller boats, he says continuing to march the march every day is what leads to a wall full of sailing trophies and the success of any endeavor.

"If you do the same thing and just march 20 miles a day, you'll get to your destination or goal a lot easier than if you try to march 200 miles a day," Nugent says. "I really believe that philosophy is true, and that's what NRCA needs to do. It needs to have a plan and march those 20 miles a day until we get to our goals, and we're well on our way."

Well on his way

Nugent has a knack for achieving success in whatever he takes on—whether it's building a successful business or raising the sails to win a race. His particularly keen business sense will lend itself well to his presidential term.

"It's not unlike running a business," Nugent says. "There is some vision involved, and I think I have some vision. And I think I also can be a smart president who has a steady hand on the tiller."

Through his continued diligence, hard work, dedication and commitment to the industry and its people, there is no doubt NRCA President Nugent will succeed in reaching his goals during the next year and lead NRCA through continued success.

"I am humbled to be in this position, and I will do all I can to advance the association along the line of being a world-class trade association with a voice in Washington, D.C., and with great products and services for our members," Nugent asserts. "They got me, so I'm going to give it everything I have.

"And then I'm going sailing."

Chrystine Elle Hanus is Professional Roofing's associate editor and NRCA's director of communications.

The Lighter Side

What is your favorite word?
I have three: Yes, I can.

What is your favorite sound?
Ocean waves

What sound do you hate?
Screaming kids on airplanes

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

What is your favorite quality in a person?

What do you fear?
The future of the U.S. for the people I leave behind

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear when you arrive at the pearly gates?
What took you so long?

Do you have a favorite food?
My mom's roasted pork in sauerkraut

What are your pet peeves?
I'm a Virgo, so that means I have zero tolerance for being in a disorganized environment—I stack magazines in doctors' offices. I also have zero tolerance for dirt.

Next In Line

Lindy Ryan, president of Tecta America Southeast LLC, Sanford, Fla., joined NRCA in 1996 to learn more about the roofing industry. After a few years, she decided to get involved.

"It had to do with wanting to give to an industry that I was representing," Ryan says. "I realized I was part of something much bigger than my individual business."

Since 2002, Ryan has served on many committees and task forces, including the Membership Committee, Manual Update Committee, Government Relations Committee, Respirable Materials Task Force and Work Force Committee, and says one of her most rewarding NRCA accomplishments was serving as chairwoman for the Health and Safety Committee.

"We tackled a number of topics that required some hard work," she says. "Sometimes we as a group forget the heavy lifting happens at the committee level."

Adding to her notable NRCA accomplishments, this year Ryan is serving as NRCA's senior vice president and is next in line to be NRCA's president, the first woman to hold the position, for 2015-16.

"It's an honor to be able to contribute to our industry on this level," Ryan says. "I look forward to the coming year and being able to support Rich Nugent in his role as NRCA president."

According to Ryan, one of the most important issues facing the industry is the workforce.

"With a declining workforce and the difficulty we have with hiring field talent, I think we have a long-term issue ahead of us," she says. "It is one of the factors that many NRCA members deal with day in and day out; they struggle with how to attract employees."

One of the ways Ryan hopes to alleviate the workforce issue is to enhance and improve the roofing industry's image to make it an attractive career choice.

"To be able to attract talented people, we need to promote the roofing industry as a good option for a lucrative, viable career," Ryan says. "Roofing isn't typically the first choice people think of when exploring career options, so I believe it is up to us to educate and inform."

To accomplish this, Ryan believes everyone in the roofing industry must become engaged and involved with NRCA, at least on some level.

"I recognize people within the roofing industry come from all walks of life; their points of view are important and help NRCA come up with resolutions to the issues at hand," she says. "Involvement is the key."

For articles related to this topic, see:
"A man of integrity," June 2013 issue
"Natural-born leader," June 2012 issue
"Steady as a rock," June 2011 issue



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