"Dedication" is one of the first words that springs to mind when hearing George Denton's co-workers talk about him. Denton, superintendent for the service division at Supreme Systems Inc., Dallas, works not only in all types of weather but also at all times of day.
"George is the first one here and last to leave," says Craig Rainey, service manager for Supreme Systems. "He comes in on weekends and after hours when we've got tornadoes, hurricanes and hail. He comes to work every day giving 110 percent."
That dedication is part of the reason Denton recently won Professional Roofing's annual Best of the Best Award, an extension of The Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress' Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards co-sponsored by OMG Roofing Products Inc., Agawam, Mass.
"George Denton has excelled in many positions during the 16 years he has worked for Supreme Systems, and in every role he demonstrated an extraordinary work ethic and overall commitment to customer satisfaction," says Josh Kelly, vice president and general manager of OMG Roofing Products and a member of the MVP Task Force. "He started in a service truck and worked his way up to superintendent of the maintenance department. Whether managing hailstorm response or coordinating rooftop service, George always is dependable, efficient and ready to help. He has the attitude and commitment we all picture when we consider the best of the best in our industry."
A Dallas native, Denton refers to his entry into the roofing industry as a "fluke deal." When he was about 20 years old, he started working a variety of labor jobs in construction.
"I had friends who were installing shingles on a home and needed people to carry the shingles up to the roof," Denton says. "I had two guys I carried for, and I was paid a quarter per bundle."
Through that job, Denton started installing shingles. He then met a roofing contractor through a friend and became a laborer at a commercial roofing company. His willingness to learn presented him with opportunities.
"I didn't know anything about commercial roofing, but I knew all about hard labor," Denton says. "I was on the tear-off crew and cleanup crew and observed roof mechanics doing their jobs. I approached my supervisor and told him I would like to learn how to be a roof mechanic. He said once I finished my main job each day, he would start teaching me. I began to pick it up pretty quickly, and before I knew it, I was no longer on the tear-off crew."
Denton enjoyed the work and moved around to several large commercial roofing companies in Dallas.
"Back then, it was not uncommon to go from one company to the next on the same day, but those days are gone," he says. "At that time, I was trying to find some stability and thought I had found it at another company. I was there almost four years, but during that time I kept hearing about Supreme Systems."
Denton's wife, Liz, worked as a receptionist at Supreme Systems, and a few months later, Denton headed to the company because Supreme Systems wanted to hire a service technician.
"I had been working in the roofing industry for years," Denton said. "I had never been a service tech, but I had installed all types of roof systems, so I thought I'd try it. I came to Supreme Systems and really liked it."
As the company evolved, Denton received more opportunities.
"It was a time of growth for the company," he says. "We were trying to add crews, and there was a lot of work for service and maintenance. Eventually, I got the opportunity to advance and do what I love to do."
After working in operations for a couple years, Denton started estimating jobs for the company. Although he enjoyed it, his passion was in operations.
"I did estimating for a while and was pretty good at it, but, eventually, I was able to get back into operations because I like working with the construction part of the roofing business," Denton says. "I believe my work in estimating contributed to my growth in operations. I've been in this position for several years and still sometimes give my customers estimates."
Denton says he was attracted to Supreme Systems because it is the "ultimate in roofing."
"Everything before this was like my training ground," he says. "This is the real deal. We specialize in everything. The owners have treated me like gold since the day I walked in, and to this day, they treat me the same. They're the kind of people who make you want to work for them."
Tim Rainey, president of Supreme Systems, says he has seen Denton grow into his current role.
"He's matured and grown with the organization," Rainey says. "Supreme Systems started at zero and was built over 23 years, and George has been part of it for the past 16 plus years. George grew with it all, from working as a foreman to organizing crews in the service department."
Denton's typical day starts when he gets to work at 5:30 a.m. The day offers a wide variety of tasks, including meeting with his crews; discussing projects with his foremen; helping estimators with labor; and visiting customers, among other tasks.
"I'm kind of a hybrid," he says. "I do administrative work, some estimating and a whole lot of operations."
Additionally, every Monday morning, Supreme Systems has a companywide safety meeting at 6 a.m.
"It is mandatory for every person," Denton says. "We do surprise safety visits, which keep crews on their toes. Safety is critical to us."
Safety is not the only challenge the company faces. Growing competition regarding service also can be challenging.
"When I came to Supreme Systems, many other companies didn't have service departments," Denton says. "But through the years, people have discovered there are a lot of opportunities in service and maintenance. People want more than just reroofing; they want to maintain their roof systems. A lot of roofing companies have realized that, so now almost every one offers some type of roof system maintenance.
"It brings a lot of competition in service, but one of our advantages is our people," he continues. "Almost all my service techs have been working here a long time and been brought up through the ranks. We all learn together."
The economy also has been a challenge.
"The market is competitive," Denton says. "Everything is so expensive. It's tougher to get work, so communication is important. If we can communicate to customers what they need and they understand it, they're more liable to have the work done because they know it is necessary.
"I think more people are taking better care of their roof systems because they're trying to get them to last longer," he continues. "That's beneficial to the service department. We can provide options to renovate and add additional years of life to their roof systems."
When it comes to customers, communication is key, Denton says.
"If a customer calls and has an issue, it is important to listen, do your homework and do the right thing," Denton says.
"We go the extra mile because happy customers come back. We don't have too many conflicts, but when we do, we work to keep customers happy."
In fact, Denton wants to be able to dedicate even more time to his customers in the future.
"I have relationships with a lot of them, and though I get to speak with them, I typically see the jobs and don't always see the customers," he says. "I have people in place who eventually will run the operations end of our department for me so I can spend more time with customers. But I always see myself being involved with the operations part of our service department."
Tim Rainey describes Denton's interactions with his customers as "personal."
"It's not just a customer, it's a relationship," Rainey says. "If there is a change in plans, he calls to let the customer know, and I think that's one reason why he's a success."
Setting an example
Interacting with crew members also is an important part of Denton's job, so when he hires crew members, he considers various factors.
"I look at their experience and references," he says. "If a position is for a foreman, lead man or helper, I look for roofing skills. I also look for clerical skills if it's for a foreman; those skills are so important because you can't make the customer happy without documentation. They also need to be clean-cut and have good manners."
Denton believes his crew members respect him.
"I've worked right beside my crews," Denton says. "Sometimes, I'll go 'all in' and work with them. I think they find I'm a hard worker, have been in the trenches and have been where they are.
"I try to be fair," he continues. "I want them to like working here. I try to treat them in a manner that makes them want to work for me. I respect them, so they respect me. We are a family."
Craig Rainey says the crew's respect stems from Denton's honesty and hard work.
"George leads by example," he says. "He's not going to ask anyone to do anything he hasn't done. He expects a lot from his guys and is not afraid to tell it like it is, but he'll also help them out."
Matt Mowrer, project manager and estimator for Supreme Systems, says Denton's close relationships with his crew members don't affect Denton's decisions.
"He's in tight with his guys," Mowrer says. "But he's going to do what he thinks is right. They won't be able to manipulate him or change his way of thinking when it comes to customer satisfaction."
Tim Rainey attributes Denton's accomplishments in part to his relationships with his crew members.
"He's successful because of the relationships he has with his crews," he says. "He's grown up with them, works beside them and knows them personally. We're a family-oriented business, and he adjusts accordingly to their family needs. They're not just employees."
Jeff Sterrett, Supreme Systems' chief financial officer, likens Denton to a father figure for his crews.
They look up to him and respect him," Sterrett says. "He's walked in their shoes, so he knows what they go through every day. He's demanding but respectfully so, and he gets a lot out of his guys."
Denton plays a special role at Supreme Systems, coordinating help when natural disasters strike.
"I am the guy who handles the 24/7 emergency pager system," Denton says. "I have handled it for so many years and gradually built my experience with it. In emergency situations, people don't want to talk to five people—they want to talk to one person. It's a customer service thing."
The day before Hurricane Ike hit Houston Sept. 12, 2008, Denton and other Supreme Systems employees gathered supplies of gas, cash, food, materials and more to prepare.
After the hurricane hit and calls started coming in, Denton had crews ready to go immediately. He created a grid of the Houston area so Supreme Systems could hit each location where help was needed; he coordinated the temporary repairs for more than 60 locations.
Additionally, when major retail stores in Brady, Texas, and Brownwood, Texas, were damaged by tornadoes in May 2009 at 10 p.m., Denton was called and immediately dispatched crews, who arrived at the sites at 12:30 a.m. to assess damage and make temporary repairs. By 3 a.m., more crews and materials arrived at the sites. By 9 a.m., there was no water penetrating the roof systems on either facility.
"You need to know the right people to call," Denton says. "I have suppliers who are prepared to meet us and open their businesses for us at any time. You always prefer for an emergency to happen during the day when everyone is around, but, sometimes, it comes at midnight."
Denton says preparedness is key when handling such situations.
"We stock our warehouse with a certain amount of product and have suppliers working with us, and it works well," he says. "Being prepared is a key factor to handling an emergency. Everyone knows who is on call and has to be prepared. A big part of it is communicating."
Denton's concern for others isn't limited to the Supreme Systems office. He also donates his time when he is not working. He is involved at his church, Fielder Road Baptist Church, Arlington, Texas.
"After Hurricane Katrina, people who had no place to live came to Dallas," he says. "They needed lodging, food and transportation. We did what we could and rallied other church members to help.
In church, it never really ends, whether it is a natural disaster or a young family down on its luck."
Denton also has a soft spot for animals and has been involved with rescuing, fostering and finding homes for stray animals.
"I love animals," Denton says. "I started bringing stray animals home when I was a kid. I rescued some strays off Supreme Systems' property; I have one at home and placed several others in homes. It's nothing special—I just see an animal in distress and try to help it. I hate to see animals hurt."
Denton also has been involved with Supreme Systems' annual holiday project, supporting the Brian Holland Memorial Adopt-a-Family program, which matches impoverished families with individual or group sponsors to provide for their tangible needs at Christmas. Supreme Systems adopts several families each year, and Denton helps purchase gifts and delivers them to the families.
When he's not working or volunteering, Denton often can be found enjoying the outdoors.
"Fishing is my No. 1 thing," he says. "I love the outdoors and camping. If I were on vacation, I wouldn't be going anywhere fancy—I would go to one of my favorite fishing holes."
Denton also enjoys spending time with his family. His three children—George, Amanda and Jennifer—live in Texas, and his four-month-old grandson, Nicholas, now is a main focus.
He sees such activities taking up his time when he retires.
"I plan to spend lots of time with my grandkids, taking them fishing and camping," he says. "I'm looking forward to it. Maybe by then I'll have more grandkids!"
"I was surprised, honored and proud of the accomplishment," Denton says about winning the Best of the Best Award. "The pleasure is all mine, and I'm proud to be part of the Supreme Systems team."
And he is no stranger to recognition. He also recently won the RoofConnect Key Link Award for going above and beyond job demands. RoofConnect is a professional roofing trade organization consisting of more than 60 independent commercial roofing companies throughout the U.S. It focuses on emergency roof system repairs, maintenance and reroofing and also performs specialty projects that require nationwide labor availability.
"To be a good roofing company, you need good managers and superintendents," Craig Rainey says. "Working for Supreme Systems takes a lot of overtime, hard work and dedication, and George fits it to a tee."
Tim Rainey agrees Denton is dedicated to his job.
"That position is 24/7, so he's getting e-mails or calls that come in after hours," he says. "He's in the office about 50 hours per week, and there is no telling how much he does from home."
Tim Rainey emphasizes the challenges faced daily by superintendents such as Denton and the need to recognize their skills.
"What these guys do is not something you can explain," he says. "When they get up in the morning, they're thinking about what they need to do that day or what they forgot to do yesterday. They have to make decisions first thing in the morning about sending guys home; they have to make those calls, and it affects many people."
Sterrett also appreciates Denton's hard work.
"He's honest, proactive, loyal, diligent—he just gets the job done," Sterrett says. "You can always count on George. His relationships with customers are sincere and genuine, and he has a sweet spirit. He's a great guy to be around, and people like doing business with him."
Denton's wife, Liz, has seen him grow through the years.
"He's matured, becoming wise," she says. "He's come a long way, and he's impressed me a lot. He's still down to earth and remembers what it's like to be out there with his guys in the field."
Denton's hard work has helped make him irreplaceable.
"He is vital to our department and company as a whole," Craig Rainey says. "Supreme Systems definitely would not be what it is without George."
Krista Reisdorf is Professional Roofing's director of online communications.
The Best of the Best Award
The Best of the Best Award was presented during NRCA's 124th Annual Convention in Las Vegas Feb. 14-18. The award recognizes an MVP Award winner who makes extraordinary contributions to the roofing industry and community. The Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress' MVP Task Force evaluates each MVP Award winner and tallies points based on MVP Award criteria, including on-the-job performance, recruiting new workers, community service and other noteworthy contributions.