Choosing our roofing contractor

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Tony OlsenSometimes the Construction Marketing ideals are put to a real test because our household needs to purchase the services for which I purport to be a marketing guru.  It is one thing to suggest how businesses in this industry should behave to discover and attract business; it is quite another to actually need to purchase the services.

So it is with the new roof for our house.

In our family, like most, my wife makes most of the key decisions.  She decided we needed a new roof.  Then she decided that I would pay for the work with my own funds.  The two objectives, of course, could result in something of a clash and marital discord if I didn’t understand her thinking and my own abilities in the household.  If I am paying, then, even if she thinks the work needs to be done, I’ll decide when, and who, will do the job.

Nevertheless, my strong-willed spouse can certainly communicate her intentions, and she called a few roofing contractors for quotes.  They dutifully provided their observations that (a) we need a new roof NOW, and (b) that they offer the best, cheapest, highest quality service.

Last summer, I put all of these observations to the test when I checked my own criteria for roofing contractors.  My normal practice:  Check the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA) membership directory, cross-check against the Better Business Bureau ratings, and then call in perhaps three contractors who have near perfect BBB ratings and who are association members.

The association membership is a no-brainer for me.  Our business has belonged to the GOHBA since just after I started publishing for the construction industry about two decades ago.  The association has a motto, “Be a member — do business with a member,” and over the years plenty of members have done business with us.  This invites some reciprocation.  It also is rational. Fly-by-night and scuzzy businesses don’t join this association.

I can’t remember how I made the original short-list selection, but out of the contractors surveyed last year, Tony Olsen Enterprises is the only business I would consider this year.  The reason:  Sales representative Wes Govenlock turned out to be the only person who actually put on safety gear, got a ladder, and actually climbed on our roof to inspect before quoting the work.  And he totally disarmed me (and my wife) by saying:  ”You don’t need a new roof.”

We agreed to do some maintenance repairs.  These were completed successfully.  I put the matter out of my mind.  But my wife insisted:  ”We need a new roof” (and you are paying for it).

I’m rational.  If I can hold off paying for a new roof, I will.  However, I don’t want a leaking roof.  But I didn’t bother shopping around this time.  I used Tony Olsen’s online form and set up an appointment for another roof inspection, prepared to pay an inspection fee simply to satisfy myself about the need for the roof.

Wes showed up again, took a quick look at the exterior, and in the inverse line of everyone else in the business, said:  ”I still don’t think you need a new roof.  Yours probably has at least another three years.  If it were my house I wouldn’t do it.”

Still he gathered his safety gear and climbed on the roof, taking measurements and photos.  When he climbed down, he sent me photos by email (from his smartphone, within his truck) and prepared an estimate.  ”No need to pay an inspection fee,” he said.  ”There is some wear on the front of the roof, but the rear is perfect.  Yours is nowhere near as bad as your neighbour’s, which should be done now.”

He then added, “If you call in your order at the end of this season, we’ll do the work next year, but these prices will hold.”

I looked at the estimate.  Higher than the others, indeed.  (I had given things away a bit, I suppose by saying I wouldn’t work with the others who had called and estimated.)  But not that much higher.  My wife noted that the things that were listed as “extras” were included in the price.  The estimate included a 50-year-warranty, with the much more meaningful “20 year transferability to a new owner” provision.  (I mean, we aren’t going to actually live in the house for 50 years, are we?)  This extended warranty, however, is $500 extra.  The difference from others, however, is that Wes built it into the quote and we could remove it and lower our price rather than see it as an add-on.  So no sense of hidden surprises here.

Now I’m not a typical consumer and our family doesn’t follow all of the conventions when it comes to marketing and purchase decisions.  Most people in the neighbourhood are using another, reputable contractor (it seems), who provides an incredible list of “previous customers” in its marketing materials and relatively competitive pricing.  This contractor, however, is not a GOHBA member, and while it has a solid BBB rating, the BBB also reports there are several complaints (probably because of volume rather than anything else.)  I can’t quarrel with the other contractor’s success and maybe I would have gone with the crowd if it weren’t for my GOHBA membership.

But then, in the world of roofing contractors who quote the work and say it needs to be done right away without actually getting up and inspecting the roof, who would you trust?  The one who actually inspects the roof, says the work isn’t really needed, and belongs to a relevant association where you have loads of trust, solid business relationships, and have had a proven 100 per cent success track record.

For me, this is a no-brainer.  How would it work for you?

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