Strengthen Construction Supply Chains Through Technology and Relationship Building

In the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic threw much of the construction industry into disarray, with projects going on hiatus and some businesses going under. And while the majority of the industry adjusted to new safety regulations and got back to business, the metal industry wasn’t spared. The virus caused metal mills across the country to close down or dramatically diminished their capacity, which caused supply chain shortages that are still being worked out today. Fortunately, Isaiah Industries President Todd Miller says technology and relationship building are two ways for contractors to get back on track.

In this episode of the Mobile Workforce Podcast, Todd explains how technology solutions are helping contractors build better relationships with the suppliers as well as providing support for their sales and manufacturing processes. He also shares ways in which customers benefit from technologies like visualization software and artificial intelligence, and why the silver lining of the pandemic is how it’s led to companies thinking outside the box.

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Develop strong supply chain relationships. While roofing contractors often think about the materials needed for projects, they forget about the people providing them with those supplies. But remember, networking and building relationships with suppliers is important. Not only are these key business relationships, they can provide support with product knowledge and suggest alternatives if certain items get discontinued.
  2. Improve productivity with technology solutions. Building products manufacturers have been late adopters of technology, but that’s turning around thanks to satellite visualization software and artificial intelligence. Today, workers can leverage this tech to measure buildings for things like roofing materials, siding and windows. On top of that, software can determine what products need to be ordered and connect to supplier databases, which streamlines communications and facilitates faster ordering.
  3. Technology can also boost sales presentations. Todd raves over modern softwares that can revamp home improvement pitches, especially when being conducted remotely. He emphasizes that virtual presentations means more prospective customers can be reached since distance is not a factor. Not only does this increase the number of sales meetings, it means contractors can sell more jobs. Post-pandemic, expect the use of technology to boost sales to continue.

 

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Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

Hello, and welcome to the Mobile Workforce Podcast. I am your host, Mike Merrill. I appreciate the opportunity to sit down with you today and especially with our distinguished guest, Mr. Todd Miller, who is the president of Isaiah Industries. Todd is highly regarded in the roofing and manufacturing space, and one of the suppliers and providers of technology solutions and more advanced systems for roofing that roofers are enjoying today. So, Todd, grateful to have you on today and excited for the conversation.

Todd Miller:

Thanks so much. I’m really looking forward to today and appreciate the opportunity.

Mike Merrill:

You bet. I guess, first off, before we get too deep into the conversation, just wanted to ask, are there any associations or affiliations that you’re proud of or that your organization contributes to?

Todd Miller:

Yeah. So as you mentioned, we’re a manufacturer of metal roofing and metal building materials. So the two trade associations that I’ve been heavily involved with over the years, and I am very proud of the work that both of them do. One is Metal Roofing Alliance. Metal Roofing Alliance is more an educational organization that’s geared toward homeowners to help educate them about the benefits and other attributes of metal roofing. So that’s metalroofing.com, and then there’s also Metal Construction Association or MCA, which is metalconstruction.org. That’s much more of a technical organization. They get involved with a lot of the code issues, looking at testing of different systems and so forth, and they do some market development also, but another great organization over the years. So Metal Roofing Alliance and Metal Construction Association.

Mike Merrill:

Awesome. Well, that’s great. I know for us, those affiliations with different organizations that do such good work are an important part of our business, and it gives us opportunities to rub shoulders and compare best practices with other vendors in our space. So good to hear that you’re involved and plugged in to those things, and I think… Were you on a board before, or chair, or different levels of involvement?

Todd Miller:

Sure. So both of those organizations, I’ve been on the board, and Metal Construction Association, I chaired for a couple years. I did my stint there as well, but yeah, you’re right. There is so much. One of the things that I think I learned early on in my career was… especially in this little niche we call metal roofing, we really can’t look at each other as our competition. I think that even goes for contractors in their local markets. The lion’s share of the market is still other materials, and so if you can be together, you can be stronger together. As the saying goes, a rising tide raises all ships. So a strong believer in companies working together for the betterment of all and the betterment of their industry.

Mike Merrill:

I love that. I love that approach to things. That’s something that we try and do here as well. So great for you. So as far as your background with Isaiah Industries, can you tell us a little bit how that got started and maybe a little bit how you arrived where you’re at today?

Todd Miller:

Sure. So I was born into it. My father had worked for Alcoa Building Products back in the 1970s, left Alcoa in 1980 to start this company. So I was working here summers during high school and college, and that type of stuff. When I came out of college, I was looking at a lot of different opportunities out there. At the end of the day, I’m like, “There’s a business sitting over here that I already know and I already understand. I don’t have to learn. I can hit the ground running.” So my dad was good enough to let me come into the business. He wasn’t sure that that was really the right thing to do, but I think it worked out okay.

But back in the early years, our business has morphed a lot. So in the early ’80s, we were national suppliers to Pizza Hut and Dairy Queen, IHOP, 7/11, Dunkin’ Donuts. All those brightly colored roofs you remember from Americana and traveling down the highway with your parents. Those were a lot of the products we were making, and that was really fueled our business in the early ’80s. But as an example, in the early ’80s, Pizza Hut was building 400 stores here. By about 1988, they were closing about 200 stores a year.

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

Todd Miller:

So we saw that that commercial business wasn’t always going to be something that we could depend upon, and the interesting thing was there were a few contractors out there selling one of our product lines residentially. There were a couple of guys in Texas, and California, and Pennsylvania. So when I got out of college, came into the business full time, I just went out and started spending tons of time with those guys, trying to learn what they were doing, how they were doing it, and then we set about setting up other contractors across the country selling residential metal roofing. 

So we really were pioneers in this in terms of manufactured products. I mean, there were always sheet metal guys out there who would put a sheet metal roof on your home. But as far as manufactured products, we were really a pioneer, and it was just a real blessing to get to know folks who had pioneered all this, and to learn from them, and then to go out and spread it across the country. So today, our company, 90% of what we do is manufacture residential metal roofing. We get involved with… We enjoy working with churches. For us, we see that as very missional and something we enjoy doing. So we do some of that. We do some multifamily, a little bit of light commercial, but the vast majority is reroofing of single-family homes.

Mike Merrill:

Interesting. So basically, you’ve come up with a cure for shingles with metal roofing. Is that what I’m hearing?

Todd Miller:

A cure for shingles. Hey, I may have to steal that line.

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. I’m the king of the dad jokes. So that tracks.

Todd Miller:

I relinquish my title. Good job.

Mike Merrill:

Good to know. I’ll give you my FedEx account. You can send the trophy my way.

Todd Miller:

There you go. There you go.

Mike Merrill:

So that. Yeah, it is actually fascinating. I know where I live, even residential areas, again, you’re seeing a lot more homes getting reroofed. Rather than the traditional three-tab shingles or even architectural, they’re going metal, and we’re seeing solar. I mean, it’s just a major infrastructure upgrade even in residentials. So it’s interesting to hear you are seeing the same thing.

Todd Miller:

Yeah. It really is, and so we have seen the market share of metal in the residential arena go from about 2% maybe 20 years ago up to 13%, 14% today, which when you consider the size of the market, that’s pretty significant.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

Todd Miller:

Metal has also, at this point… Well, a few years ago, surpassed tile as the number two most used product.

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

Todd Miller:

So metal is the second most used, what we call steep slope roofing material. So with the largest being asphalt shingles, of course.

Mike Merrill:

Interesting. So I guess to get to the topic of the conversation we wanted to have today, let’s talk about the relationship between a supplier like yourself and the contractors. I know today… I mean, I just saw the other day. At Home Depot, plywood was like 48 bucks a sheet or I mean, just unbelievable for 7/16ths OSB.

Todd Miller:

Yeah.

Mike Merrill:

Nuts, right?

Todd Miller:

Yeah.

Mike Merrill:

So when prices are up like that and everybody is busier than ever, it feels like those relationships would be more critical than ever for companies to continue and keeping up with their workload.

Todd Miller:

Yeah. I really think they are, and that’s one of the things. So metal has not been immune to price changes here recently as well. We’ve suffered a lot as an industry from COVID. A lot of the metal mills either shut down or had their capacity diminished because of the virus. So metal became short in supply because as we know, the building industry stayed very robust. A year ago, we all didn’t know that would be the case.

Mike Merrill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Todd Miller:

So what we’re seeing is shortages out there. Delays. I don’t think metal has anywhere near the issues that for some reason, the lumber industry does. We’re not seeing that kind of increase of those kinds of shortages, but can’t say that we’re immune to it either, and so a lot of folks are asking me, Todd as a contractor, “How do I protect myself during these price increases and these shortages?” I always have a number of things to suggest, but really, the number one is make sure you’ve got tight supply chain relationships. Realistically, I don’t know that contractors… Most contractors have often thought in terms of supply chain because generally speaking, products were fairly available. Sometimes they would even have two or three sources of products.

Mike Merrill:

Right.

Todd Miller:

Then, of course, when the big boxes came on the scene, that opened up a whole new avenue of them to purchase their materials. But now, with things tightening up, I’m saying, “You got to know who that supply chain is and start to make sure that relationship is tight.” I had a contractor call me the other day. A fairly large asphalt shingle contractor out of Denver. He’s genuinely concerned. He’s on allocation from his shingle suppliers. He’s seeing shortages. He’s seeing products being discontinued, colors being discontinued. He said, “If we have a bad storm market this year in any of the hail areas,” he said, “I’m genuinely concerned where I’m going to get product from.” So he had reached out to us because he wanted to talk to metal guys and composite guys, and build his supply chain with those products as well as alternatives to asphalt shingles. I thought, “Kudos to you.” That’s really forward-thinking and was a great move on his part, I thought.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s brilliant. Really, I think in a lot of… and especially when you’re involving insurance companies and other things, a roof… You don’t think too much about it until it starts leaking, so. But once it does, it’s more critical than anything to get that repair before more damage, and more money are lost, and more…

Todd Miller:

You have to do something. Yeah, that’s absolutely right. So, yeah. So these are certainly interesting times.  

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s great. So in most parts of business, communication is always key. So wh at role are technology solutions and systems playing in having this more efficient communication and collaboration?

Todd Miller:

Yeah. It’s pretty neat because I think that building products manufacturers have always had the reputation of being pretty late adapters in terms of technology and not really knowing even what technology would be of benefit to our customers. So to that extent, I got to put a dig on manufacturers of building materials because we haven’t been the best, but the point is it’s getting much better. One of the areas that we certainly saw it originally was the use of satellite imagery to measure buildings for roofing materials. They can even measure siding and windows, and so a lot of manufacturers have been very proactive in terms of building relationships with some of the satellite imagery companies, and then making sure that their contractors were keyed into that as well

Then, of course, the satellite imagery companies have been saying, “Well, what’s the next step?” So the next step has been for them to build databases of products made by the various manufacturers, which requires the manufacturer to be involved, to have that database built of their products so that it facilitates ordering. So you can’t not only measure the roof, the software can go ahead and tell you all the products it’s going to take to build that roof as an example. Some of them also now will actually place that order direct with your supplier.

Now, here in the metal roofing industry, I mean, that’s been very, very helpful because many of our products have to be… especially if you’re dealing in the vertical seam products, standing seam type products, those are all custom lengths. So the ability to pull those satellite measurements to help you quote the job and even build the order is extremely helpful. It’s funny when satellite measurements first started coming out. I mean, I was the guy sitting there that’s like, “I don’t know if I trust this. How do I know this is accurate?”

Mike Merrill:

Right.

Todd Miller:

Frankly, in the early years, there were issues. Generally, today, I would trust that satellite measurement over most guys with a tape measure.

Mike Merrill:

Interesting.

Todd Miller:

They really are amazingly accurate. So we use them pretty regularly to even do custom-length panels and things like that. So that was I think the foray maybe of tech, if you will, and the ability to use it to help better serve contractors was through that measuring and ordering piece.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love that. I grew up in the industry as well, and I remember back in the day when it was paper blueprints. If all the sets were lent out, you may have to pull the ladder out and drive 30 miles to the project, and get up on the roof, and pull a tape, and… I mean, that on a steep pitched roof. That’s not always either a safe or easy task. So amazing advancements in so many different ways in technology.

Todd Miller:

Even then, you were still wondering, “Did they build the building to match the plan?”

Mike Merrill:

That’s right. Yeah, or, “That feels like an 8/12. That’s not a 6/12 either.”

Todd Miller:

Yeah.

Mike Merrill:

But yeah, it’s interesting how many advancements we’ve had. I have to wonder. What does drone technology do to affect some of these things as well?

Todd Miller:

So that’s been huge as well. So most contractors at this point have a drone, and they’re using them for roof inspections. They’re using them to go out and capture images to bring back into the home to show the property owner, the homeowner, whoever. “Hey, here’s what’s going on on your roof.” It’s also taken us… Another thing that this all has done is partly safety too. I mean, no longer does that salesperson have to climb up on that roof, which opens you up to a whole new broad group of possible participants in our industry. People who previously said, “Yeah. Roofing interests me, but the same way I’m going to climb up on a roof.” Well, they don’t have to anymore. So drone imagery has been great.

The other great thing that I think was one of the early parts of tech coming into our industry was, of course, visualization software, and so visualization software. A lot of manufacturers have it now, and a lot of contractors, if they tap into the right manufacturer, can actually bring that visualization software directly over to their websites. But that allows the customer to upload a photo, and to play around with different products and colors, and that type of thing. 

Now, we’re getting into the next stage of that. I know our company is working with our supplier on visualization, and our next area is going to be using artificial intelligence so that… It used to be if you wanted to bring in a picture of your house, you had to go in there and pick all the corner points of the roof and tell it where the roof was, and then it would put the product on there. Well, with AI, it automatically does that masking and figures out, “Hey, here’s roof,” figures the right angle, that type of thing. So we’re really excited about bringing that into this as well, which is the cutting edge right now in terms of visualization type things.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. It makes me think as you’re talking about all these advancements. It surely has impacted the sales process also because now, if you’ve got these tools as a sales option instead of the old paper, flip decks, or…

Todd Miller:

Yeah.

Mike Merrill:

Then, we had PowerPoints, and now we’re just in a whole different world. So what impact have you seen that have on the sales process?

Todd Miller:

So one of the things that we’re really excited about right now is there’s a platform called Ingage, which is I-N-G-A-G-E. I think there’s some others out there, but I’m really smitten by Ingage right now. But Ingage is working with manufacturers like us to develop very interactive sales presentations. So yes, you’re exactly right. The old way of having a home improvement guy come to your house, he’d brought out the huge three-ring binder, and he’d flip through pages, and every once in a while, you’d catch a glimpse that his script was on the backside, so you knew he was reading through you.

But the cool thing about these new interactive presentations, which of course are typically done on tablets or something, is that they are not so linear. So one of the things you always ran into, if you were doing a flip chart type or just a straight PowerPoint presentation, was the customer would ask you a question, and you’d have to say, “Oh, well, we’ll get to that in a second. Just hold on. We’ll get to it. I promise,” or else you risk having to go down that rabbit trail, and then go down it again when the deck slide showed that. But these new ones, you can flip in and out. They aren’t linear. So if the consumer gets emotional about a particular topic, you can go there rather than delay that emotion and try to come back to it later on.

So I’m just incredibly excited about that, and we’re seeing a lot of manufacturers get on board with that type of an interactive presentation. Also, of course, one of the things that we’ve seen happen so much since COVID is a lot of contractors are doing virtual presentations rather than going into the consumer’s home. So this type of presentation lends itself extremely well to a virtual presentation as well.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I almost can’t even imagine going all the way back, rewinding the tape to the ’90s and the early 2000s when I was out there swinging the hammer. It’s just a whole different world in every way virtually, and digitally, and technologically.

Todd Miller:

Yeah. It is very exciting stuff, and we love the fact that… Again, we’ve seen that metamorphosis from measuring software and things like that to the visualization, and now to the actual sales presentation and bringing that all together in a way that helps contractors sell more jobs or sell more jobs professionally, or helps the property owner be more involved and emotional about what they’re buying. One of the things that we talk a lot about in sales is most customers buy rather emotionally, but they still got to have the logical end of things for it all to make sense.

So as an example, in our industry, I always tell people that after people have this metal roof installed, the thing that they tell everyone about is how beautiful it is. But by the same token, when they go to work and they’re standing around the coffee pot, they’re not telling people they paid $80,000 for a roof because it was pretty. They’re telling them, “Hey, I bought it because it’s sustainable. It’s energy efficient.” All these types of things. So these new presentations just offer this great marriage of emotion with logic to guide the consumer to the right decision for them, and we know as salespeople, sometimes that decision isn’t going to be our product, and that’s cool, but we have some great tools now because of technology to help them make the right decision.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love that, and I think just going back to a couple of comments you made earlier, the fact that we’re doing it safer and more efficiently, we’re not wasting fuel, and time, and resources, and again, risking people being in unsafe environments just to get an estimate together or just to go and double-check something. Then, we can do it digitally. We don’t have to drive to their house. There’s so many efficiencies gained that ultimately in the end, the consumer wins, the supplier wins, the contractor wins. It’s a beautiful thing.

Todd Miller:

Yeah. I agree, and one of the things that we have seen with some of the contractors who have adopted doing virtual presentations, video conferencing type presentations with property owners is some of them are saying, “I’m never going to go back. I’m always going to do it this way.” Just a good example you touched on. I mean, it used to be if a sales person was doing a professional presentation of a product, if he was really lucky, they might be able to do three presentations a day, but probably no more than two. I mean, they almost had to be right next door if you’re going to do more than two. Well, now, someone can sit and do virtual presentations five, six, seven, eight a day and be doing them 200 miles away, 300 miles away to increase the footprint of that business also. So I really see virtual presentations as a great way for companies to expand, expand their businesses.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, and in between those presentations, they’re able to zip out 15 emails, put a quote together, answer a couple of voicemails, send some texts out. So everything else is more efficient too.

Todd Miller:

You add this with some of the tech we talked about as far as taking measurements and converting them into quotes. I mean, a lot of times now, that doesn’t have to be done by the salesperson. That can be done by an administrative type person who just knows that software extremely well. So it, again, takes that plate off the sales person, lets the sales person do what they do really well, which is sell.

Mike Merrill:

I love that. So what does a contractor do to make sure that they’re aligning with a supplier that can help them best leverage these types of technologies and ultimately sell more efficiently and effectively?

Todd Miller:

I think that one of the things that we are seeing is for many years, the trend would be for you to have a manufacturer, a distributor, and a contractor, and very little opportunity for the two ends, the contractor and the manufacturer, to connect. I’m really seeing that change. So even if there is still a distributor involved, the manufacturer and the contractor have a relationship as well and know the power of that relationship. So I think the big thing for contractors is don’t be afraid to think, “Okay. Well, I’d buy this product from this distributor, and I can’t ever talk to anyone else.” Don’t be afraid to get some connections made with that manufacturer so that you know what tools they are offering, what tech they are offering. You know what’s coming next around the pike.

Especially, so many manufacturers too are doing webinars and educational type things. We as a manufacturer crave that relationship with contractors. So don’t think… I think the big thing for a contractor is don’t think that just your immediate supplier who is probably a wholesaler, a distributor, a two-stepper, don’t think you can’t go beyond them to build your relationships as well. It doesn’t eliminate the distributor, but it makes your business more effective by having that relationship upstream.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s great advice. So one other point I wanted to touch on. Like a lot of different product upgrades, so to speak. I mean, I’ll call it an upgrade because I think it certainly is.

Todd Miller:

Sure.

Mike Merrill:

What return on investment that an end consumer could expect to receive from going metal instead of asphalt or barrel tile, clay, some other options?

Todd Miller:

So one of the things I will always train a contractor if they’re thinking of… Maybe they’re a roofing contractor, and they do a lot of shingle, and they want to get involved in metal. I always tell them, “Well, here’s the way to start that. Make sure that whoever does your appointment setting, whoever that person is on the phone taking calls or going outbound, responding to emails, and things, have them ask this very simple question. ‘Mr. Jones, Mrs. Jones, how long do you intend to live in your home?’ If that homeowner says anything that sounds like 10 years or more or, ‘They’re going to carry me out,’ then you come back and say, ‘Oh, wow. That’s great. I think when you called us, you are talking about maybe an asphalt shingle roof. We have some products that we also find homeowners who are staying in their homes long-term, they really gravitate towards some of these other products. Is it okay if we bring those to your home as well?'”

You get your answer, and if they answer affirmatively, “Well, yeah, that probably makes sense,” then you suddenly have maybe not flipped that lead from asphalt into metal, but at least you’ve nudged the door open a little bit for metal, and so that’s… I forget where we started with this question, but that’s always my advice as far as how you start to build metal into your business as a contractor.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. If it’s 10 years or more, then it sounds like there’s extra value and a reason why. What would that value be possibly, and what are some of the reasons they’d want to go that way?

Todd Miller:

Right. So the metal roofs out today, and there’s a wide range of them in terms of product qualities, but even the lower ones are certainly easily a 35 to 40-year roof. Nice thing about metal roofs is you can usually extend their lives by repainting them at some point, if you want. So it’s not necessarily 35 years and it’s shot. You can probably paint it and get an extra 15, 20 years out of it. So I think the longevity, the sustainability is a big one. Energy efficiency is another big one. We typically hear from homeowners that they save about 20% on their summer utility costs with a metal roof.

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

Todd Miller:

That’s because the metal uses reflective pigments in the paint, and we also take advantage of some thermal breaks and air gaps to keep heat out of the home and keep it out of the attics. So we reduce the AC load and the AC cost. Then, you also have some consumers who rightfully so really care about our environment. So they like the fact that a metal roof is made from recycled material. They like the fact that at the end of its useful life, a metal roof is 100% recyclable. Virtually, all other roofing materials are eventually going to end up in a landfill. I mean, that’s just the hard reality. so metal, of course, is 100% recyclable.

Then, I think the final thing is what they can do in terms of the design and the look of their home. I mean, most houses, you look at them, probably 60% of the house is roof. Yet, we tend a roof with the same materials that all of our neighbors do. So you can individualize, characterize a house, get that curb appeal up, which everyone cares about today. Thanks to HGTV. Everyone cares about what their house looks like, and so we can really help them design it in a way that makes it more appealing to them or appealing to others and probably adds value to it in that process also.

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. Well, this has been a very fun and insightful conversation. I’ve learned some things about metal roofs today, and some of the technologies that they can leverage, and also enhancements in my utility bill reduction strategy. It’s great and useful information I think for our listeners. So before we wrap up, I just had a couple of questions to end on, and I just wanted to ask you more on a personal level if that’s okay.

Todd Miller:

Sure.

Mike Merrill:

What’s something that you are grateful for in your professional life that you’ve learned over your career?

Todd Miller:

Oh, well, I think absolutely that not being afraid to build relationships with who one would think are my competitors. So that’s happened a lot through those trade associations. I mean, those are folks who, yeah, I’ve learned a lot from. Just the other day, I had a competitor. I was in a pinch for some metal, and I went to a competitor. I said, “Hey, you don’t happen to have any of this?” Today, I placed a PO for 8,000 pounds of metal from him that he did happen to have.

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

Todd Miller:

So I think that that willingness to realize that your competitors can be your friends and you’re not working together in a nefarious way, but you’re working together for the good of your businesses and the good of the industry.

Mike Merrill:

I love that. That’s great advice for any of our listeners, I’m sure. What about, is there a skill, or a superpower, or something that you’ve learned to embody and enjoy as a trait over your career that you could share with others?

Todd Miller:

Well, the thing that comes to mind when you asked me that, and I can’t say that I know exactly what caused this, but I’ve been blessed with a tremendously loyal team. We have about 55 team members, and our average length of employment across the company is I think around 17 years at this point.

Mike Merrill:

Oh my goodness.

Todd Miller:

I’ve got tons of folks who have been here 20, 25 years, 30 years. In fact, the first employee my dad ever hired is still working here 40 years ago. So I don’t know what it is, but I can say that I’m incredibly grateful and feel incredibly blessed by the loyalty of our team, and that really… Our customers are the ones who benefit from that because our customers know that they’ve got years of experience here. So if they have questions or they have problems, they can get those things taken care of because they’ve got skilled, knowledgeable folks here who can do it.

Mike Merrill:

Wow, that’s wonderful. Thank you for sharing that. What about maybe a challenge you’ve overcome over the years or something that was really difficult and you worked your way through? What was it maybe, and what did you learn? 

Todd Miller:

Oh, goodness. I think one of the challenges has been that as a small manufacturer, we always had to look like a much larger company because realistically, I mean, here we are, this little metal guy, and the guys we’re selling against are the Owens Cornings, and the CertainTeeds, and the GAFs of the world. We’re not only selling against them. We’re selling at a much, much higher price. So I just think that one of our biggest challenges has always been helping our business to be as professional as it possibly can be, realizing who it is that we’re competing with.

Now, another way we have done that though is by being very personal in what we do. Everyone who comes to our company with interest of any sort gets a personal response from me. I had someone the other day say, “Well, I know what I got from you was just an automated email.” I was very pleased to go back to him and say, “I don’t use automated email. What you got was really an email for me.” So we take a very personalized approach to business as well that I think also helps to differentiate us from some of the behemoths out there that we compete with, which are great companies and do very well what they do. I just think being smaller, and more nimble, and having our great team here, we’re able to take things a step further a lot of times.

Mike Merrill:

Wow, I love that personal touch. Good for you.

Todd Miller:

Yeah, we enjoy it.

Mike Merrill:

It obviously served you well.

Todd Miller:

We enjoy it.

Mike Merrill:

All right. The last thing, so what… If there was one takeaway that you wanted our listeners to come away with from the conversation, what would that be?

Todd Miller:

Okay. So I’m going to tell a story on myself. This was probably, I’m guessing, about 1989. I got someone who called me on the phone. They were doing a survey. I don’t know who it was. It doesn’t make any difference, but the question they asked me was, “I’m sure you’ve heard, Todd, about this thing called the internet.” “Yeah. Yeah, I know a little bit. I’ve got a prodigy account or something where I could dial up.” They said, “What do you think the internet is going to bring to your company in the future?” I thought about it a second. I thought, “We’re a manufacturer. We bring metal in. We crunch it up. We put it in boxes. We send it to people.” I’m thinking, “I don’t know possibly what the internet is ever going to do for us.” So that’s what I told them.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

Todd Miller:

Of course, in hindsight, nothing has changed has changed our business more than the internet then partly because people could find us and we could be known. So I guess the big thing I’d like to encourage folks as a takeaway is there are so many opportunities out there to use today’s great technology in your business. Don’t be afraid of it. Make sure that you’re using it to its fullest. I mean, the things that you folks do, helping to track people, and track time, and all those types of things that you folks help people with. I mean, that is just really valuable stuff that saves someone time and also brings greater efficiency into what you’re doing. We got to face it. I mean, everyone talks about it. The labor market being tight for skilled trades is not exactly loose for white collar trades either.

Mike Merrill:

Right.

Todd Miller:

One of the things we learned last year was this shortage of labor is not because of unemployment. Unemployment was suddenly 30%, and we still couldn’t get enough people or get the people that we needed in our industry. So again, using tech, using what’s available through your suppliers to stream… maybe not streamline your organization, but to make your organization more effective and more efficient. Don’t be afraid of it. That’s probably my biggest advice.

Mike Merrill:

Oh, great. That was a great way to end. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Todd. Had a great time and look forward to keeping up with you here in the future as well.

Todd Miller:

Sounds good. It’s a real pleasure. I greatly enjoyed it, and all the best to you.

Mike Merrill:

Thanks, and you as well. Thank you to the guest for joining us today on the Mobile Workforce Podcast. As always, we very much appreciate your listenership, and if you enjoyed the conversation Todd and I had today, please give us a rating and a review, and follow us on LinkedIn or on Instagram, @workmax_. Of course, those five-star ratings and reviews always help us to bring more valuable guests in on course of our goals here. We really want to help you improve not only your business, but your life.