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Roofing Contractors: Why NOW is a Good Time to Fail. (Failure as a Crucial Stage in Business)

Roofing contractors know that failing in business is never an option: or is it? While things may look dark, read on to see why now is a good time to fail. We look at what the coronavirus can teach us. And we discuss a valuable technique to approach business in uncertain times.

If your work focuses on commercial real estate (CRE), you may be particularly hard hit. Sectors like retail and office space have suffered the most from the pandemic. The ripple effects of this will be felt downstream by contractors for a long time to come.

Back in April 2024, the NRCA reported that 52% of roofing contractors were affected by COVID-related cancellations and decreased bid activity. And little has changed.

If your answer is yes to any of these questions, this article will give you a set of Next Steps to get you through these tough times.

Is your business one of more than half the roofing businesses in America that have been hit by COVID-19? Does being dependent on federal benefits make you feel like you’ve failed?
And, do you have trouble sleeping at night, knowing they’re not going to last forever?

Dealing with uncertainty: What we can learn from the coronavirus

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What experts were worried about from the start has come to pass. The coronavirus has mutated into more virulent strains that make infection more likely.

What may get lost in the telling is that there would have been hundreds of other mutations that didn’t succeed. In other words, changes to the virus that went wrong. Alterations that made it weaker and less able to survive. Because viruses mutate all the time – it’s their survival strategy. Just think of the common cold. It changes every year, so we can never vaccinate against it.

Thomas Edison is famous for designing 10,000 light bulbs before getting to the one “mutation” that worked.
The roofers who have survived, and even thrived, in the pandemic are those with management systems in the cloud. And ones using satellite imagery to generate bids without physical site inspections.

They made changes to their operations that may have been tough at first. But the payoff was greater than they could have imagined.

Doing nothing is seldom a strategy that pays in the long run. And a series of “failures” can be just a process of reaching the right solution.

Make productive use of downtime

You may never get another more valid opportunity to work on your business instead of in it. This makes now the perfect time to think about changes and improvements. What is it that will bullet-proof your business going forward?

Source: Businessmen Planning Business Strategy While Holding Puzzle Pieces,.. Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty Free Image. Image 47284342. (

Don’t be disheartened if you don’t immediately know the answers. Dr. W. Edwards Deming revolutionized management thinking by explaining that learning is a cyclical process. His model explains that failure is a crucial component of success. This is as long as we limit the potential damage and commit to learning from it.
Known as the PDSA Cycle (Plan-Do-Study-Act,) he developed a process for continual improvement. It’s a process you can easily apply to your roofing business.

The PDSA Cycle: Planning to succeed but also to fail

Deming’s PDSA cycle has four stages that continually lead into each other in a never-ending cycle; Plan, Do, Study, Act. A full cycle should never extend beyond three months.


The planning stage is about understanding your problem and its context. Specifically:

  • What is causing what you’re seeing?
  • How is your experience telling you to respond to it?
  • How will you measure improvement?

To learn more about the trends emerging in your industry, consult trade publications and the websites of professional associations like the NRCA.

Look to gain a broader knowledge of upstream industries like the property sector. Deloitte has released their 2024 CRE Outlook Report and the joint PWC and Urban Land Institute’s 2024 “Emerging Trends in Real Estate” includes residential trends.


The doing stage of PDSA is where you implement the possible solutions. This is done incrementally and individually. Making more than one change at a time might leave you not knowing which change has resulted in what effect.


The studying stage is about understanding the effects of the changes you’ve implemented. The whole PDSA cycle shouldn’t last longer than 12 weeks, so the improvements you plan should show results in a relatively short period. If you didn’t give thought in the planning stage to when and how improvement should look, you might not adequately complete the study stage.


In the acting stage, you act on your findings. You should permanently incorporate the changes that work and disengage the ones that don’t. Regardless, you move back to the planning stage afterward to start with your next improvement.

Winning roofers fall forward

Running the PDSA Cycle will eventually become second nature to you. Remember that it is as much about finding out what doesn’t work as it is about what does. It’s all about failing forward.
Top tip: You will find plenty of free PDSA templates available on the internet. Choose one with quite detailed prompts and modify it to suit your business.

But, there are 3 fails you MUST avoid

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As much as we are suggesting you try something new, there are a few “mutations” you should not be trying;

Activities that compromise compliance

Always ensure that any changes you make to operating procedures are compliant. No desire to experiment can ever be an excuse for putting your workforce and clients at risk.

Illegal activities

Compliance extends to legal requirements, including keeping your reporting affairs in order with state and federal regulatory authorities and the IRS.

Activities that are not insured

Ensure that your insurance coverage adequately and appropriately covers any new activities. It is also worth checking with your broker that you are covered for any new risks due to COVID.

TIP: In this field of industry, it is highly recommended to refer to where they make online resources available for business-owners, one of which is an article discussing Guidelines for Roofers Insurance

Don’t be a dinosaur!

The dinosaurs died out because they failed to evolve to changing conditions. Don’t be a dinosaur! Use your pandemic downtime wisely to bullet-proof your business for a post-pandemic world. The emerging trends show that, while some sectors may be permanently in decline, other new areas are rising. Be sure you are positioned to take advantage of any opportunities that may come your way.

About Suzan Vega