Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Kent Gardner from SRS. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Welcome to Roofing Road Trips with Heidi. Explore the roofing industry through the eyes of a long-term professional within the trade. Listen for insights, interviews, and exciting news in the roofing industry today.
Welcome to another Roofing Road Trips from Roofer's coffee shop. This is Heidi Ellsworth and I am road tripping southeast to go visit with my friend Kent Gardner at SRS. Kent, thank you so much for being on the show today.
Kent Gardner: Hey, good afternoon. I'm pretty excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: This is one of my favorite podcasts of the year. We always get to hear what is SRS doing at IRE and I'm telling you, a lot, it is pretty ... You are all are very amazing.
Kent Gardner: No, we're excited. This year's going to be the biggest and the best. We've got the IRE here in our neck of the woods, so our headquarters is there in McKinney, Texas, so having it here in Dallas is our home turf so we're really excited to kick off the IRE and have a lot of fun like we usually do.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: It's going to be great. Before we get into all the great stuff, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your role with SRS.
Kent Gardner: Sure. My name is Kent Gardner. I've been with SRS now for almost a year. In two weeks, it'll be a full year, but I've been in the industry for 20. The first person I ever worked with or worked for was Dan Tinker 20 years ago, and then we went our separate ways while we both stayed in the industry and he started this neat little company called SRS that has turned into one of the best, if not the best, roofing distributors in the industry. I'm excited. I'm the president of the Building Products Group and so just excited to be here and looking forward to what 2023 may bring.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Wow, Kent, congratulations. I know we met at NRCA meetings last fall, and so much has happened in the last year and as president, I just want to say congratulations.
Kent Gardner: Thank you, thank you. It's a great team and it's just an honor to be a part of SRS and this wonderful industry. Thanks for having me again.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: It's so great. You know what, I do have to ask, so you've been in the industry for 20 years. Give us a little bit of history.
Kent Gardner: Well, sure. I worked for one of the competitors, one of those folks that had been around for quite some time actually since the late 20s so when Dan and I first worked together, we worked at the same company.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Okay.
Kent Gardner: When he departed and went to set up this neat little SRS experience, I was still with that organization and I was there for almost 16, 17 years, took a break and was a CEO for a company that distributed Ag supplies to the American family farmer.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Oh.
Kent Gardner: After two year sabbatical, I came back into the roofing industry and have now been placed in the position of president for Dan at SRS.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: That's great. No one leave really leaves the roofing industry.
Kent Gardner: That's right. There's no departure from roofing once it gets in your blood. I used to, when I first started, people would say that and I didn't quite understand it. Right now, I got to tell you, life without being in the roofing industry is not worth living, so ...
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, I love that. That's awesome.
Okay, well let's start with IRE. Give us the big picture of the highlights of what we can expect next week. People will be listening to this during IRE. What should people be looking for from SRS and what should they be involved with during IRE?
Kent Gardner: It's going to be big, it's going to be bold, and it's going to be the best ever for sure. We've got three separate booths. We've got our daily parking lot XTV tailgate parties that go on throughout the entire event. We've got a huge concert at Gilley's that includes remarks from President Bush, performances by Ray Wiley Hubbard, Darius Rucker, and then even Eric Church is going to be out there, so we're going to really, really make money, have fun and give back and utilize that concert environment to do so. We're excited. The three booths are really dedicated to innovation and what we're trying to do for the customer to ensure their success. One of the booths is tied to the American Dream and how we connect more with our contractors. The one I'm really excited about is the Latino contractor booth.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yes. Yeah, the Para Latinos, I work with Julissa a lot. I'm just so excited for this. In fact, last year I wanted to be there and see it, and I actually got COVID during IRE last year. This year I'm like first timer. I'm really excited to spend some time in the lounge, out at the XTV. Tell us a little bit about the Para Latino Lounge and what's going to be happening in there.
Kent Gardner: We're really excited. Last year, it was just kind of a concept and we didn't know if it would be successful or not. They set up a small little booth there on the IRE floor and it just got flooded with tens of hundreds of people, if not a few thousand of folks to come in. It was really exciting. It was a big hit. You mentioned Julissa, she's one of the most dynamic leaders in the industry, in my humble opinion ...
Heidi J. Ellsworth: I agree.
Kent Gardner: ... in addition to being Latino. She's really worked hard to engage with the contractor base to support their business, help them find the market and support the market from an ownership standpoint, in addition to the labor that's provided by that community. Between engagement, activation, support and then helping them grow their business, it's just been a real home run for us. Since Julissa has taken over, we've changed our website a little bit. If you are Latino and need to see things in the Spanish language, it's available to you. We have all of our credit applications, we have all of our documents and support of how to train and facilitate and improve contracting out there with the Latino contractors, we've got that in place. Then most importantly, we're just trying to connect with that community and show them that we, above all, first and foremost, 100% support that contractor group.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah. It's really walking the talk. When you make it so accessible, so inclusive, and have this great space, not just on the IRE, not just once a year, but on your website, and I know all the events that Julissa does across the country. It's impressive.
Kent Gardner: I'll tell you, so you bring up a couple good points. This isn't like a one time, we just thought we'd try to interact and say that we're supporting the Latino contract because as you know, it's 20% of America's population and it's probably over 50% of the labor that supports our industry. Within that labor's a lot of strong men and women that want to be leaders, want to know how to run a great business, and we want to be that resource and support those folks. To your point, Julissa's not just at IRE and done. We have a lot of sponsorship support through our manufacturing support partners, specifically CertainTeed has helped us out quite a bit. Julissa, I don't know if it's every week, but I got to tell you, maybe 48 out of 52 weeks out of the year, she's out and about in the field with that contractor group making sure they know their home to do businesses with us.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, yeah. It's been so impressive. I love the fact that there's the Para Latino Lounge on the show floor, but then you also have your XTV Tailgater and Tuesday night is set aside special for the Para Latinos. That's going to be really fun, too.
Kent Gardner: We're excited about that. We've been using that XTV. Typically, we drive it around to specific events at the branches, and we also go to a lot of sporting events and things like that but we've really started to utilize it for specific customer segments. When it ties to the Latino customer group, we want to show them that we want to dedicate not just our words, not just the segment that is Julissa, but our resources, our assets and everything to make sure that we honor and respect that community and continue to support them as they continue to grow and build their businesses.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah. Everyone who's listening to this, that is Tuesday night at five o'clock out at the XTV. It's going to be for the Para Latinos Happy Hour special get together.
Then I do have to say, we're so excited, Kent, and this is kind of going to be announced right after IRE, but we are going to be mapping the travels of the XTV on Roofer's Coffee Shop this year. People will be able to come in anytime and see, and I know you have two, where they're at.
Kent Gardner: That's right. That's fun that you say that because that XTV, as I mentioned earlier, I was one of the competitors against SRS. I got to tell you, of all the cool things that SRS does or had had done when I was competing against SRS, the one thing that was just like, "Ugh, man. I can't believe they have that," was the XTV. As a result of that and the way that we honestly just drive the tires right off of that thing throughout the country throughout the year, we had had to expand and get a second one because there's just not enough to go around. I'm not so sure we won't have a third at some point in the future.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: I love it. I love it. I'm excited for Wednesday night at the XTV, or I should say Wednesday afternoon, because Megan Ellsworth is going to be performing at the XTV, who is my daughter and also our producer at Rivers Coffee Shop. Thank you for having our singer-songwriter on out at the party.
Kent Gardner: I'll tell you, I'd like to say it's a favor and it's not because she's very, very good. We're excited to have her out there. I understand the relationship, but we're excited to have strong talent like that to be a part of the XTV environment. It's going to be fun, it's going to be awesome.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: That's going to be great. The XTV, as everyone knows, it's open all during the show hours. Megan's going to be playing Wednesday at three. Like we said, we have the Para Latinos special party Tuesday at five, but it's open the whole time and one of the favorite places to go hang out.
Let's talk about the big event and what SRS does with Raise the Roof Foundation is phenomenal. You started us off with the concert and what we're going to be raising, but maybe talk just a little bit about Raise the Roof and how important all this fundraising is and the charities that it's going to help benefit.
Kent Gardner: Raise the Roof is spectacular. As you think through the worker of today, and not just the worker of today, but all workers. People want to realize that they're doing business with somebody that has a cause, that they're doing business with folks that really want to give back to the community. Our mission statement is not three paragraphs with 1000 words. It's make money, have fun and give back, and that give back really does mean something.
When it comes to the Raise the Roof Foundation, it's been in existence for about 10 years. We've donated over 12 million throughout the community to different veteran organizations to first responders, military families, disaster relief, children and families that are in crisis. You name it, if there's some sort of area that needs some level of support, we have such a large foundation to support them that we can really provide great support in the communities that we provide building materials to. It's been wonderful. It's been great. That night, it is going to be very, very fun. Of course, we talked about having George Bush, he's going to be a part of it.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yes. So cool.
Kent Gardner: So exciting, especially in Texas to get him here. He's got a long laundry list of people that would like to have him come and present, and it did not take too much arm twisting for George Bush to come out and see our concept.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Wow. That is so cool. Who are some of the charities this year. I know in the past you've focused on National Women in Roofing and the Roofing Alliance and the veterans, all the time veterans. Anything particularly special this year?
Kent Gardner: Yeah, there's two specifically. It's the George W. Bush Center for Military Service Initiatives, which is really just helping soldiers transitioning from being in the military into the workforce. Then the second one is called Hiring Our Heroes, which is a veteran organization. We really are tied to the veteran community. I'm a veteran myself. I served in the US Army.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Thank you.
Kent Gardner: It's really exciting to see how dedicated and focused we are, as we mentioned earlier, to the Latino community, but to multiple different communities and the veteran community is one that we really like to support.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah. I love it. Thank you for your service. I think we need to always say that every single time. What I've seen and just having been at the SRS campus and seeing what you have with all of the veterans who work for SRS is very impressive. Again, you really support those who are coming to work for you every time, have them stand up and I'm always impressed. It's great.
Kent Gardner: What's interesting about that, it's not for show. When you walk into our organization, our auditorium where we do the training, where we host contractors, vendors, do training within our organization, it's the Veterans Auditorium. In that auditorium is all of the veterans' names that work here at SRS or the Heritage family of companies are located in the back. If you were in the Army, your name is on a plaque. If you were in the Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, you name it. If you served and you are a part of that tight-knit community, you're recognized within this organization. We're not patronizing anybody when we say we really do have a home for the veterans. They work very, very hard. Not that other folks, but they work extremely hard. This environment that SRS and Dan Tinker in particular has created is a perfect match for them.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, it's so great. Speaking of the different communities, I have to say, National Women in Roofing Day is Sunday before IRE and SRS is a diamond sponsor and has been from the very beginning. I can remember walking up to Dan and he says, "Of course, Heidi. Of course we're going to do this." Then you donated from the concert last year or the year before to diversity scholarships into the REAL Roofing. You are going to be highlighted from the very beginning to the very end of IRE.
Kent Gardner: That's just it. We've been around since 2008. You don't do it by mistake, being as successful as we've become. It's a very inclusive culture. It's a very fast-paced culture. Whether you're a man or a woman, whatever your ethnicity is, regardless of that, we've welcomed all and we support all of the contractor bases that represent those communities. As a result of that, the story from 2008 to today is just, it won't be replicated. It can't be.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah. No, it is amazing. We're actually going to be, and you may not even know this, Kent, but we're going to be out at the campus on Monday morning with RT3, Roofing Technology Think Tank, and we're going to actually be out there as a group, too. You have opened your doors in so many different ways. It's just phenomenal. Beyond IRE, any special initiatives? I know we just talked about the XTV, but any special initiatives or anything you'd like to mention for the rest of 2023?
Kent Gardner: I think for us, we're really trying to stay in tune with and stay in front of the digital landscape that is really not just taken roofing by storm, but has taken really the world by storm. As a result of that, we're really excited to, one of the booths that we have is really tied to innovation and our Roof Hub platform in support of the contractor. We really want to get some input and have discussions with the contractors to ensure that what we have in place supports their needs today, but most importantly, what we need to do from an innovation standpoint to ensure that we stay in front of what they need in the future.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Great. I know the Roof Hub booth is going to be rocking. Everybody is trying to figure that out, the technology, getting it, incorporating it into their businesses, and you all are making it so easy.
Kent Gardner: You know what? That's what Roof Roof Hub is. It's really an intuitive software in support of the contractors that we support. As a result of that, we have to have their feedback. We didn't think we could go build a platform independent of that feedback so as a result, we have this booth set up so that we can get that contractor discussion and communication going to make sure that we're addressing their needs of today intuitively through our system as well as addressing what they need in the future. Really excited about that one.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Really. That is awesome. I'm just so excited for next week. This is going to be great. Anything else that everybody should know about?
Kent Gardner: Yeah, so 2023 is going to be vastly different than 2021 and 2022. I think it's going to be a year where SRS and our strengths are more well suited to support the contractor base. We have a unique culture and a unique philosophy, so we want the market leaders that are connected with both the vendors and the contractors to run their business. We're not centrally managed. We're there to support the contractors where they work, so if you have a business that's in California, then we understand that market and that leader is specifically in place because he understands that market right there with you. If you're in Dallas, Kansas City. You name it, wherever you are, our business is uniquely supported to support your business in 2023, especially with material availability becoming more prevalent in the new year.
Then I think finally, the thing I'd to mention is I'd like to get everybody out to the concert. We, on average, raise anywhere from $225,000 to $550,000 to the charities and different groups that need that support. This year is already sold out, but I think I could find you a ticket or two to get in there. Come out and support it because what we do for cause is very important to the industry. It makes us more than just a materials distributor, it makes us a trusted advisor and a trusted partner. We just want to get your support and make sure that you have fun when you're doing it.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, that is so great. I want to encourage everybody, go out on that. You can find SRS and everything that they're doing, of course on Roofer's Coffee Shop in their directory. Like I said, after IRE, we're going to start having maps on there where the XTV is. In the meantime, you can just register, there are free passes to get into the trade show. I know Julissa is putting them out there. We're putting them out there. If you can sign up, stop by the booth and see if there's any tickets left for the concert. It's going to be great.
Again, I just want to emphasize the Para Latinos Lounge. For everyone out there, please invite the crews and invite everyone you can think of around who can come and be a part of this because we want it to be so inclusive. And that's because of what you all are doing, Kent. Thank you.
Kent Gardner: You're welcome. We're excited to have you. As I mentioned, we've got the three booths, one dedicated to innovation. There's another one dedicated to the American Dream that really ties into some of the things we do outside of roofing in support of our contractors, whether it's the Las Vegas bowl that we support in Las Vegas for the Bowl Season with college football, Texas A&M University. There's a handful of different things that we do, so that's going to be on display.
That Para Latinos booth, it is probably going to be wall-to-wall, shoulder to shoulder because we are putting the energy and effort into it that we didn't realize was going to be required until last year when we had that booth. Please come out and see us and know that we're dedicated to that segment as well as all of the segments within the industry and looking forward to seeing you.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: I love it. I love it. Kent, thank you so much for taking time out to get on this podcast so everybody can hear what's going to happen. We appreciate you and SRS so much. Thank you.
Kent Gardner: Thanks, Heidi. I appreciate it.
Heidi J. Ellsworth: Thank you. And thank you everyone for listening. Again, please check out the SRS on Directories on Roofer's Coffee Shop. There's one for a Roof Hub, there's SRS, there's Para Latinos, there's the XTV. All kinds of information out there that you can get. Great stuff, not only at IRE but for the full year.
Thank you all for listening and be sure to check out all of our podcasts under the Read Listen Watch initiative under Roofing Road Trips or on your favorite podcast channel. Be sure to subscribe and get notifications so you don't miss a single episode. We'll be seeing you next time on Roofing Road Trips.
Make sure to subscribe to our channel and leave a review. Thanks for listening. This has been Roofing Road Trips with Heidi from the rooferscoffeeshop.com.
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