For this edition of the Fast 5, Charles Antis, founder and CEO of Antis Roofing & Waterproofing, spoke with Roofing & Exteriors at the International Roofing Expo about his secret to ensuring safety on the roof, how to combat the ever-changing market and the story that still to this day fuels his company's purpose.
Fast 5 is a Q&A series featuring the insights and expertise of construction industry experts. Here's what Antis had to say.
What training programs can roofers implement in their business to ensure safety?
Antis: Safety is everything. You can't do good quality work without safety, and vice versa. So it's important that you employ those OSHA training programs—the 12-hour, the 24-hour—and it's also essential that you get involved with the NRCA and the ProCertification program.
When you train your employees to get the details correct, part of that is doing it safely. We have to make it safe, and we have to do it right.
Every day, we'll have nearly 40 jobsites underway, with a few guys on one site and a few on another—so, how do we know that they're all safe? In truth, they won't be. They'll take chances unless you get to know them.
How do you suggest getting to know your crews and helping them value safety on the roof?
Antis: I look at our market in Irvine, California, and we have primarily Hispanic, first-generation immigrant labor. Nationally, that's the breakdown for more than 50% of companies, but in our market, it's nearly 100%. If I want my people and their families to be protected and safe, I need to get to know them.
So, we listen to our people. I know that most of my team members grew up and lived in central Mexico. I took them each to breakfast, I got to know their stories, and I got to understand what drives them.
We also had an employee event recently with a dunk tank, and I got in there, I was teasing the employees, and they were dunking me. I was in there for 10 rounds; I wanted my team members to know that I'm all in with them.
But that's why I know we're going to be safe on our roofs—because we know our people, and they know we care. Share your stories, and you can build a safe, strong culture.
As we look forward to the next year, what are the challenges you're seeing in the roofing and construction market that businesses will have to face?
Antis: There's massive uncertainty about change, constantly. We see disruptions in the supply chain; we see other businesses completely folding or having to reinvent themselves.
We see this as one of the most dynamic change periods in our lifetimes. We're going to see change upon change. We're going to see some of the labor challenges answered by technology. I believe that, eventually, we will see a massive lift in pay.
But I think this year, the question with the supply chain interruption in particular is, "Will it get worse or get better?" And in my opinion, through this change, we're learning how to cope. As the supply chain learns how to cope, people will keep hoarding in the meantime. They aren't hoarding because they want to, but because they need to order extra material to keep up with business. I see that leveling out.
How do you encourage others to stay optimistic even in the face of uncertainty?
Antis: I'm optimistic, but the only way I can drive my team is to be confident while teaching a change mentality. The way you do that is with purpose. We donate Habitat (for Humanity) roofs, we donate Ronald McDonald House roofs, we deliver food for food banks, and we hold blood drives. If you hold your team together, you can be adaptive.
That's my No. 1 strategy: be together and encourage your team to try new things. That means failing is no longer a bad word; "fail fun, fail fast" means you go out there, and you try, and you realize, "Hey, this didn't work so well, but look what we learned!"
What are some other ways that owners can support their employees?
Antis: A long time ago, I had a hard time in my business being heard because I always had this deep need to fill causes. When somebody came to me with a leaky roof, I couldn't deny them just because they didn't have the money to pay. At first, that was something I was ashamed of and would keep from the team members, but eventually, it became known because I decided to share the story about why I donate roofs.
Most roofers donate roofs, but we don't want to talk about it. And 32 years ago, when I started my business, I got a call from a woman who had leaks in every room. I was excited, but the next day when I drove out to her house, I noticed that the homes were getting smaller and smaller, more disheveled, and when I turned on the street where her home would be, I just saw dead grass and this box home.
I was disappointed, but I still knocked on the door, and then three things happened that I'll never forget. First, a middle-aged woman answered the door with a tired expression, and I didn't know what to say. And while I was trying to think of what to say, I was hit with a wave of mildew like I'd never encountered. I started trying to think of what to say so I could leave, but as I was doing that, I felt a tug at my finger, and I looked down to see this little 6-year-old girl with an ear-to-ear smile, and she pulled me inside.
I couldn't deny this little girl. She pulled me into this undersized hallway and then into her room. That's when I looked down beneath the My Little Pony poster and saw the moldy mattress where she slept.
That was a moment I'll never forget because I was frozen. I had a mortgage payment I needed to make in two weeks, I didn't have the money to help this family. I wanted to bring in work for the business, but when the mom came back into the room, I ultimately said, "I'm going to take care of your roof."
I didn't even know if I could make it happen. I didn't have any employees yet. But that week, I rounded up five volunteers, and we went back that weekend to give her a new roof.
I didn't tell that story for 20 years. But afterward, whenever I ran into one of those volunteers or one of the six siblings who were living in that home, it was truly a moment. And that culture of caring is what we still have at Antis today.
We know why we exist—to keep families safe and dry. And when you know why you exist, you bring purpose into your company. There's power in that. Once my employees heard that story, they started telling their stories. We started understanding one another. When you do that, it gives you the ability to adapt and move into the future.
We keep it going through massive gives. When you start to have an impact like that, it gives you wings, and it gives everyone at your company wings.
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