Read as Matt Glass talks about his career as a Roofer. Find him at www.jandjroofing.com and on his Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.
What do you do for a living?
I am a licensed contractor, in the roofing trade.
How would you describe what you do?
My job is running an entire business, in every sense of the word. We have all the pitfalls and concerns of any major business. We have around 25 crew with about 10 admin staff so while we are not large, we’re big enough to sort of “have it all.”
What’s a typical work week like?
I used to work long hours, 6 days, all that nonsense, but really, it’s not advisable and you’ll “burn the candle at both ends” and burn out if you do that. I usually get in the office at 9am and leave by 4pm. As a contractor, I spend 90% of my time at a desk. In a big city like this (LA) and when you have 5 crews running, it’s impractical to run around and be at all these jobs so you just make sure you have good foreman and a good overall supervisor and I play “coach” from the desk, fielding any major issues; but mostly, I am trying to sell more jobs. It takes a lot of fuel to feed an engine with 25 crew.
How did you get started?
I was lucky, my father was roofing and had a very small business going with a partner when I jumped in so, “family biz”.
What do you like about what you do?
You do feel that you are actually producing something. That you are actually contributing a real, tangible product to the world, rather than doing something like pushing around currency contracts until by some capitalistic feat of magic, it’s worth more. That’s not a product, that’s finding a dope and selling him something for more than you bought it for.
I like the idea that I provide good jobs for hard working Americans. That’s a good feeling.
I have relative freedom. My business won’t run itself forever, but I can leave for weeks at a time.
What do you dislike?
When I don’t sell enough and don’t have enough work for all my men.
As a contractor, I have to deal with all types of people and while I have been fairly lucky and able to avoid most, you will run across some truly psychotic and evil people and become involved with them. This is where your mettle will be tested because there is really nothing worse than being contracted to someone who is basically evil.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I pay myself a portion of the profit leftover after material, labor, and business expenses are set aside.
How much money do Roofers make?
The Q here is how much do roofers make, but I am a contractor. Roofers make $10 – 40/hr.
Contractors make anywhere from $30k to millions annually but I would say that your average roofing contractor, who maintains a good rep (costly), running on average 10 crew with 2-3 foreman in there is going to be able to make about $100 – 150k a year or more.
How much money did/do you make starting out as a Roofer?
I started out at $10/hr and I had a lot of construction experience to boot. At the time, this was decent pay, about the equivalent of $15/hr now.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
Honestly, the more education you have, the better you will do. The best contractors I know are extremely bright and some are well educated but they are few and far between. The worst contractors I know are not well educated. The part of this business that will do you in, is communications and how this can get you into, or, out of, legal trouble and most guys don’t get it.
What is most challenging about what you do?
Dealing with every kind of person out there. Some people are, let’s face it, crazy and if you don’t learn how to spot these people and avoid doing business with them, they will tear you apart.
What is most rewarding?
Building a beautiful product that your client is very happy over. It’s their home, so it’s nice to help your client fall back in love with their home.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Get a really good education, preferably majoring in business. You need to know how to run a business. Find a really good business that obviously is successful, get a job there, learn how they do it and if you can, learn as much from the boss as possible.
How much time off do you get/take?
I take every weekend, and then apart from that, maybe 3 weeks per year but as I get older I will take more time.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
Anyone can do it meaning, you don’t have to be smart. That among all the trades, roofing is the easiest. It is very competitive and the real challenge here is running a business. GCs, framers, other contractors, they want to believe that what they do requires more brains and education, but to be a good roofer, you really need to be able to run a business very well because if your prospective clients are always comparing apples and apples, what sets you apart? Why are they going to choose you over another roofer? You have to give them a reason.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
To start/own/run another business buying and managing properties which provide cash flow for retirement.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
There are few things I would trade it for. Running my own business is a dream come true.