When he took the job five-plus years ago, NRCA CEO Reid Ribble never could have imagined what he or the industry was in for. But with six years in Congress and almost 30 years as a roofer himself, few people were better equipped to help navigate the industry through those turbulent times.
Now, as he prepares to retire from his position in May, Ribble sat down with Roofing & Exteriors to offer his perspective on why the industry has triumphed amid ongoing challenges— and how contractors can continue to thrive.
What most impressed you about the roofing industry during your time with NRCA?
What really showed up during COVID is that the mettle of this industry was really tested when confronted with crisis. We were hit with two major crises: the advent of COVID and the resultant supply chain disruption. What we saw was an extraordinarily resilient industry that could skillfully navigate these problems.
Certainly, it was as a challenge, but you have to be impressed with how skilled these business men and women navigated those challenges. The level of communication just really got dialed up. We saw members talking in multistate jurisdictions, calling friends they knew via NRCA. With that kind of cooperation, they were able to satisfy the demand that was out there in a way that consumers expected. They’ve really learned how to cooperate with each other in a different way. And they began to lean on each other and stand together. It was fun to watch.
What do you feel was your biggest accomplishment?
I would have to say it was the launching of our ProCertification program. Prior, to that, the only way to get certification was predominantly through a manufacturer. But that really had nothing to do with the actual worker installing the roof. When competing in such a tight labor market we needed a better way. The idea that we’re now professionaly certifying roofers is something new and exciting. It’s a very well thought out program driven by our members and developed by our members that’s changing the face of roofing. What this will ultimately do is take the fear away from consumers when they hire a contractor. So, we’re completely changing the dynamic of training and that certification now goes with the worker.
Where would you say the industry has made the biggest improvement?
The collaborative manner in which the industry is working together. Just look at our Roofing Day in DC. To have 300 roofing professionals across the supply chain all coming together to go to Congress and advocate for the things that matter for the whole industry. That collaborative manner is probably the most single biggest improvement in the last 5 years. I mean all these national associations are now talking together once a month and we have regular meetings with our affiliates. The whole industry is working much better together.
On that note, I have to say how impressed I am with the number of hours our members volunteer to make everyone’s life so much better. We have 300 members who regularly come to committee meetings. They’re out there making a sustainable roofing industry that benefits virtually every company. They don’t have to do that. They’re just a great group of folks who are profoundly generous.
Where would you say the industry still has a lot of work left to do?
The biggest existential threat to roofing is workforce related. We have to change the reputation of this industry. We have to do a better job retaining and training workers—and that’s across the board. Manufacturers cannot find labor. Contractors cannot find labor. We believe our certification and training programs are one effort. But it requires a Herculean effort over many years to begin to change the perceptions out there. If someone has a successful roofing job, they don’t say anything. But if there’s a problem, they tell 20 people. ProCertification is probably the biggest thing that will take us there.
What parting advice would you leave for roofers?
Just get engaged at every level you can. It’s your livelihood it’s your company. Being around other successful roofing company can lift you up and there’s no better place to do that than with a national association, because you’re often networking with people who aren’t in a competitive situation with you. When you get involved at the national level, your ability to share best practices and do that kind of peer-to-peer networking is exponentially larger.