A Friendly Chat with Rob Winkle, the Next WSRCA President
by Marc Dodson, editor
Rob Winkle is about to step into the role as the 46th president of the Western States Roofing Contractors Association (WSRCA). A dedicated contractor member and officer on the Board of Directors, Winkle plans to carry on with the success that his predecessors have achieved. This past year he served as the WSRCA’s senior vice president and treasurer, and he has been a contributing factor in the association’s recent success with growing membership and increasing member benefits. Winkle will take the torch from current president Leo Ibarra and continue to focus on membership, education, and industry alliances.
Winkle has a long and diverse relationship with the roofing industry, having started in the trade over 40 years ago with his twin brother, Ron. When the two young boys were just 11 years old, they would carry shingles up a ladder for their older brother, Richard, who was working as a roofing contractor in Palm Springs, California. “As is often the case, we started on the weekends, then that turned into weeks, and we eventually made it into a career after graduating high school,” said Winkle. Richard still maintains a roofing company, and the two younger brothers worked for him up until 1990. As anyone can attest to, working with family can be challenging, and it was the best choice for everyone when the twins went their own way. Five years ago, the duo started their own company, Roof Asset Management, Inc., in Thousand Palms, California. The two companies still work together regularly, as Roof Asset Management sprays all of the polyurethane roofs for Richard’s company.
When Roof Asset Management started out, the two brothers were shingling the roofs themselves. Their first idea was to build a foam truck with the intention of being a small maintenance or consulting company. However, their phones kept ringing with people wanting Roof Asset Management to do their entire roofs. “We were in Georgia getting our truck fully rigged up, and while we were there we got a call for our first job,” said Winkle. It was a job unlike most firsts, for it was a seven-building $250,000 shingle project. “It made us seriously rethink the direction of our company.”
After hiring a few old-school shinglers who had worked with the Winkles in the 1980s, Roof Asset Management hit the ground running and has been incredibly successful ever since. “Those first seven months in business we did $3 million in work,” expressed Winkle. “Roofing professionals from all over the valley were showing up on our doorstep looking to be a part of our company.” Rob serves as CFO while his brother, Ron, is the CEO. “We currently have 50 employees, and truthfully, they’re all family,” said Winkle.
Roof Asset Management’s mainstay is homeowners associations, as well as residential and commercial restoration. The company waterproofs a small percentage of balcony decks, as two-story homes in the desert are rare. New construction is few and far between for Roof Asset Management. Situated just 20 miles from downtown Palm Springs, Thousand Palms has a very small circumference, and for the most part, Winkle’s company stays in the valley. Recently, they have ventured down towards San Diego, California, for some commercial restoration projects, and they also travel throughout Central and Southern California for existing clients.
Roof Asset Management is an expert in polyurethane foam and acrylic coating, as well both clay and concrete tile resets. These resets are an involved process, which includes pulling the tile up, putting down new underlayment, and resetting the tile. “Out in the desert, the sun really cooks the underlayment, lowering the lifespan,” explained Winkle. Roof Asset Management installs more tile than asphalt shingles, and they have seen an increase in composite shingle reroof projects.
Western Roofing (WR): What are the main problems on the job that you encounter regularly?
Winkle: There’s always a problem with the heat of the summer. Production goes way down and your crew takes a lot of breaks. Their health is the most important, so it’s the nature of the beast. Some people think it’s crazy to open a roofing business in the desert, where it doesn’t rain. Our other business plan was to sell ice in Alaska, but we don’t like the cold. Since we work for a lot of homeowners associations, our day has to start at 6:00 a.m., which can be a challenge in the summer heat. Additionally, many of our contracts have us working from October to May, while homeowners are out of town. This is good for the homeowners and ourselves, because we’re not a nuisance to them and we’re able to work more efficiently and clean up before they get back. Sometimes there are concerts in the summer, which disallow us from parking our company vehicles near the event. It’s a sleepy, charming town, so the challenges are few and far between.
WR: What are your plans for the future?
Winkle: As for our business goals, we might open a couple more shops. We’re probably as big as we want to be right now, in the desert. We remain busy so that our employees can rely on us for steady work. We do have a solar license, and we might eventually start installing solar. Currently, we work for several solar companies, doing their waterproofing. Our solar company is turnkey, so we’d do everything. That’s a work in progress.
WR: Is your family involved in the industry?
Winkle: My wife of 30 years has been very supportive of my roofing career, but she herself is in the resort industry. My son, Taylor, is the office manager, and Ron’s wife, Michelle, does the company’s accounting. I also have a wonderful stepdaughter, Brianna.
WR: Do you have any hobbies or activities?
Winkle: As a true desert resident, I love golf. It’s practically a requirement.
WR: What makes the WSRCA unique?
Winkle: The members and all the people involved in the WSRCA are truly a family. From the board members to the staff, the organization as a whole is made up of people who truly care about the roofing industry and want to raise the bar. We have people who have risen up the ranks to become president, then when their term is over they continue to serve in other capacities. That shows how much WSRCA members and officers care about the organization and the industry. There are very few organizations that have people who have moved through the top leadership and have come back to mentor and serve with no prize in the end. They are simply serving from their heart.
WR: What problems or concerns are we facing in the West that are unique to this part of the country?
Winkle: The biggest challenge for me, personally, is California’s legislation. While that’s unique to California, it takes up a large part of the West, and often the regulations work their way to other states. The EPA’s legislation on materials is constantly changing. For contractors, not being chemists and scientists, we have to believe that the manufacturers are sending us products that are going to perform. With more and more legislation, it is becoming harder for the manufacturers. It changes the way they make their products, and in turn changes the way we have to install them. Roofing contractors have to stay up to date on evolving regulations and changes.
WR: Does the WSRCA have any new resources for its members?
Winkle: Trent Cotney, our new legal advisor, is one of the greatest assets the WSRCA has ever received. All of his time is pro bono, and he gives without question. He comes from a roofing construction background and he truly cares about this industry. I cannot say enough about what he has brought to the table on behalf of the WSRCA. He is all in and we are so grateful for him and his team. Kenneth Klein, our new technical advisor from Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, is another wonderful asset. They have a very large operation, including waterproofing engineers, their own laboratories, structural engineers, and much more. Klein has showed a willingness to share his information with our members, and we’re excited to move forward with him.
WR: What can the WSRCA do to help the roofing contractor improve their business?
Winkle: The Industry Issues Committee is going to focus more on things that directly affect our members, such as legislation and business development. The WSRCA is changing from focusing on industry issues on the technical side and instead looking more into issues that directly relate to the bottom line of our members.
WR: Is your company experiencing a labor shortage or lack of properly trained personnel?
Winkle: The WSRCA constantly hears about this from our members, but my business isn’t a good gauge to measure the ongoing issue. We have been fortunate to have employees that we’ve been able to hold on to, and we are seeing an increase in the number of contractors in our area. Furthermore, we don’t book work then find the employees to do it. I don’t think that’s a good business practice, so we don’t do it.
WR: How is the current economy affecting the WSRCA?
Winkle: I think all associations over the past several years have been affected by the economy, but I do think the WSRCA is an outlier in the fact that we continue to grow. We are not increasing at the rate that I’d like to see, but I believe our member benefits are so great that we just need to get the word out to contractors and we will continue to expand.
WR: What is the toughest problem the WSRCA faces as an association?
Winkle: The WSRCA is always evolving, and in the 14 years I’ve been in this association, not one change has been better than another. It’s simply been an evolution of constantly improving member benefits. The presidents that have come before have each made some sort of significant contribution to moving the ball forward and making the WSRCA better. While it isn’t a challenge, it can be a big change to switch technical directors. Jim Carlson, our previous technical director, is one of the brightest guys I know. There is always some give and take when switching advisors, and I’m confident that it will be a successful transition to Klein at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger.
WR: What are some problems facing the Western roofing contractor today?
Winkle: Legislation, regulations, insurance, and labor seem to be the things that are the toughest on contractors. It’s always a moving target.
WR: How is the WSRCA helping Western roofing contractors handle government regulations and OSHA enforcements?
Winkle: The WSRCA puts out a lot of bulletins, thanks to Craig Brightup. Contractors that are not part of the WSRCA are hearing information second hand and missing lots of critical details. There is lag between new and old regulations, and it negatively affects contractors in the West that are not able to utilize the WSRCA bulletins.
WR: What does the WSRCA have to offer the roofing industry and roofing contractors?
Winkle: The list is so long. The WSRCA is the premier supplier of technical support, documents, and bulletins. The legal advice with Cotney Construction Law is a tremendous benefit that most contractors probably don’t realize is at their disposal. The WSRCA staff is readily available to guide contractors on just about any issue or topic, which includes our vast library of articles and bulletins. There is also a wide variety of drawings and specifications that members can take advantage of.
WR: What does the WSRCA offer that other local, regional, and national associations can’t?
Winkle: I belong to some local organizations, and they do a great job on a local level. But, what the WSRCA brings in totality is one of the premier places to get cutting-edge information from technical advisors and material manufacturers that you just can’t get on a local level.
WR: Why did you join the WSRCA?
Winkle: In the beginning, I joined the WSRCA to nurture growth in myself and be a part of the industry. However, my views have changed through the years. I originally thought I’d be giving something to the organization, but I have truly received more from the WSRCA than I ever could have imagined.
WR: As the new president, what are your immediate goals?
Winkle: I don’t have any lofty goals to make significant changes. Instead, I hope to carry on what those before me have started. Ibarra has put some things in place that he took from Tom Asbury, and my goal is to take the ball and keep moving it in the right direction. We all have the same goals, even though we might have different ideas on how to get there. With the WSRCA, most everyone involved has risen up in the industry in the same direction. Even when we have diversity, we’re all trying to get to the same place.
WR: What are your long-term goals?
Winkle: There are quite a few irons in the fire right now, and during my term I’d like to see those things come to fruition. One thing I’d like to focus on is the transition to our new technical advisor.
WR: Can you give any details about this year’s Davis Memorial Scholarship?
Winkle: This year we will award a number of scholarships valued at $5,000 each. It’s amazing, and it couldn’t happen without the generous support of the people who donate to the Davis Memorial Foundation. The folks who serve on the committee are tirelessly working to give out these scholarships. It’s an amazing thing to give back to people in our industry so their children to go to school.
WR: Any other comments?
Winkle: I am honored to be serving as the next president of this wonderful association.