Change is for the better

NRCA continues to adapt for the betterment of the industry

Where has the time gone? Five years ago, I walked into NRCA’s headquarters ready to embrace new challenges in life. After running my small roofing company in Wisconsin and then serving six years in the U.S. House of Representatives, I was excited for the opportunity.

When NRCA’s longtime CEO Bill Good retired and I took over the reins, I wanted to find out where the industry thought NRCA should focus. As I discussed this with staff, I asked NRCA’s Vice President of Enterprise Risk Management and Executive Education Tom Shanahan to work with me to develop a new strategic plan. It was not as important to me to lead the organization where I thought it should go; rather, I wanted to discover where members thought NRCA should go. It was a journey that changed the association’s direction dramatically.

During many months, we had discussions with NRCA’s Executive Committee, board of directors and members at large as well as industry stakeholders from the design, manufacturing and distribution communities. This process of stakeholder engagement ultimately resulted in casting a new vision for NRCA and the supporting activities to accomplish it.

Our vision statement reads: “Since 1886, the National Roofing Contractors Association has been the home for generations of entrepreneurial craftsmen and enterprises who shelter and protect America’s families and businesses and each other. Our vision is the recognition of our members as professionals and to unite the industry to that purpose.”

The vision statement includes NRCA’s legacy (since 1886, the National Roofing Contractors Association); who NRCA represents (generations of entrepreneurial craftsman and enterprises); what those members do (shelter and protect America’s families, businesses and each other); and NRCA’s long-term vision (the recognition of our members as professionals and to unite the industry to that purpose).

We determined the strategic plan should last 10 years to signal the commitment the association has to this vision.

The vision statement has, in many ways, been NRCA’s north star. If we ever felt lost or unsure of ourselves, our committees, volunteer leaders and staff referred to this statement to make sure we were headed in the right direction. The strategic plan has been printed on a large poster board and is displayed in my office. I see it every day. And our entire team is committed to making sure it doesn’t end up on a shelf somewhere collecting dust.

Although having the plan visible to NRCA staff is crucial, it’s equally important for NRCA member volunteers to be aware of it. Every committee meeting starts with a review of its objective and the question: “Does the work we are about to do fit into this vision for the association and roofing industry?” I’ve been involved in too many strategy sessions in my life that went nowhere. But I am dedicated to the execution of this plan, and it’s working.

The industry is communicating better now than at any time in my nearly four decades in it. I have calls regularly with my counterparts around the U.S. and the world. Our teams get together via video conference calls monthly. We seek areas of agreement to move the industry forward, and we extend grace when parochial interests set us apart. NRCA is not executing perfectly, but we are trying harder than ever to do things the right way. Unifying an entire industry is tough, messy work. But it is rewarding.

Since COVID-19 hit our shores, it seems we are more connected and distant at the same time. And because most everyone at the staff level has been working remotely because of restrictions in the Chicago area, we don’t see each other as much. And when we join virtual meetings, we are focused on the work and not keeping people too long. So it can seem as though the emphasis of working on implementation can feel less important. It’s not.

Proper execution is a journey, and sometimes we feel lost as we get caught up in the work of the moment. It’s also a journey that doesn’t necessarily go in a straight line. We zig and zag through life and work all the time. Learning, growing, improving and sometimes making mistakes along the way. But wow, what an adventure!

We make mistakes despite our best intentions, and we continue to move forward. Now, five years later, my time as CEO will soon come to an end and new leadership will take over June 1. New plans will be made. New adventures await. But I have a suspicion: The idea of a more unified industry that raises the bar of professionalism will continue. Good ideas like that always do.


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