The Power of Plan B

With close to 50 years of industry experience under his belt, it is true to say that Rob Haddock has witnessed his fair share of events in his time. A metal roof consultant, author, speaker, inventor and the founder of Colorado Springs-based business S-5!, Rob has experienced first-hand the not-uncommon regional ebbs and flows that the construction industry in the United States periodically goes through, as well as some of the more significant events of modern times, such as the housing crash of 2008/2009. What has come since, however, in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic has been of a scale that the likes of even Rob had never seen before.

“The housing crash was, at the time, one of the more traumatic things that I have seen, as it impacted the whole country and was so inclusive. But the pandemic and the global magnitude of it has initiated a shaking and created challenges that we – as an industry – have never seen the equivalent of,” Rob explains. Said challenges include higher raw materials and goods prices, supply chain backlogs, increased lead times, shipping delays and labor shortages. Meanwhile, with lockdowns and other restrictions forcing many companies to suspend or shut down production for various lengths of time, the result has been an increase in demand meeting with a decrease in supply.

Despite all of the above, however, Rob’s (now global) business – like a number of others – actually found itself growing throughout the last two years, and as he goes on to note, this was a result of being mentally resourceful, willing to innovate, and always having a ‘Plan B’. “When the pandemic first hit and all travel came to a halt, that had an immediate impact on us, as ours is a company that thrives on moving around both domestically and internationally, meeting customers and channel partners, attending trade shows and so on. Almost immediately, we shifted the way we went-to-market. We turned to video conferences and educational webinars to engage our customers. We spent our time and resources developing our digital marketing means – by introducing a more user-friendly website with revamped content, an online resource and training center, and a host of other web-based tools – which proved to be incredibly beneficial.”

In terms of raw material sourcing and costs, Rob and his company have responded to these challenges in several ways, not least of all by maintaining the long-lasting relationships it enjoys with its key suppliers. “In my experience, it all begins with transparency and being able to have good honest conversations,” Rob states. “We have been very candid all along with our existing vendors about the need to seek alternative sources during these difficult times, and to their credit, we have found many who are more than happy to aid us in finding, qualifying and onboarding additional raw materials suppliers.

“A further important step that we have taken is to invest in ways of doing things more expediently and more efficiently, delivering cost savings for not only ourselves but our customers as

well. During the last year or so, we have endured raw material cost increases of around 30 percent, yet I am pleased to say that by offsetting increased costs with more efficient processes, on average we have only found ourselves passing along a six percent increase on our goods to our customers.”

What all the above actions point to is the sheer importance of having a Plan B in place and executing it swiftly. “I personally cannot speak highly enough of that,” Rob affirms. “We have all heard of the term Murphy’s Law, which states that ‘if anything can go wrong, it will.’ Well, the way I see it is, having a Plan B allows you to cheat Murphy out of his due! Even when things are going smoothly with one’s Plan A, there will always be twists and turns in the road, and all manner of external forces that can impact your business. What a well-thought-out Plan B allows you to do is pivot your activities and operations in rapid fashion, meaning whatever life throws at you, you don’t lose the momentum you had going for you.”

While the worst years of the pandemic are, hopefully, now behind us, the world still faces a fluid and rapidly changing future, and one that is certain to be filled with the unexpected. “A few months ago, listening to the experts and our peers within the construction industry, the predictions were to see moderate growth year-over-year both across the United States and globally in coming months,” Rob notes. “This was to pick up as more restrictions ease, manufacturing facilities ramp up production, and supply begins to catch up with demand. The result later this year would be an easing in raw materials prices, perhaps in Q3 or Q4 2022. Then, (case in point) the crisis in Ukraine happened!

“Whatever wildcards may be dealt, my philosophy will remain the same. Having a strong Plan B in place, is a huge stress-saver and puts us all in a better place to handle anything that comes our way with a level head!”

Interviewee – Rob Haddock, Director of Metal Roof Advisory Group, CEO/Founder of S-5!