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Kevin Carfa - The Transformation Into a Digital Organization - PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION

Kevin Carfa - The Transformation Into a Digital Organization - PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION
September 14, 2023 at 12:00 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Kevin Carfa from SRS Distribution. 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.

Hello and welcome to another Roofing Road Trips from Roofers Coffee Shop. This is Heidi Ellsworth and one of our favorite topics, technology. We love technology, so we wanted to get together with the experts in technology, and that's our friends at SRS and Roof Hub. So we invited Kevin Carfa to come visit with us about what's happening out there in the world of roofing technology. Kevin, welcome to the show.

Kevin Carfa: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me on.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Oh, I love it. This is one of my favorite topics. I love to talk about new stuff, technology. In fact, we just had a podcast on AI, so there is so much happening. So before we dive into it, why don't you introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about SRS and Roof hub.

Kevin Carfa: Absolutely. Kevin Carfa. I'm with SRS, like you said. Roof Hub is somewhat synonymous with our digital platform, that's really what we've created here. And I think we'll get into it more, it's this digital ecosystem that we've created, not only to take orders for roofing, but to really service that customer in any way they need help digitally. So I've been with the company here for about half a year coming onto a year, and it's been incredible. Incredible just diving into this industry and just really learning what we do, learning how a digital solution can help really transform this area that's been around for so long. It's been great.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah. So, okay. I have to ask, what did you do before coming into the roofing world?

Kevin Carfa: Absolutely. I've been in digital my entire career, but it's taken a different path, I'd say, than potentially other people here in roofing. I've been in retail, actually just came from Papa John's where we were selling billions of dollars of pizza online. But the great thing is there's common threads. Guess what, just like you want to know, where's my truck, I have customers saying, "Where the heck is my pizza?" Or you've got a catalog, tens or hundreds of thousands of products deep, similar in retail. We had similar things. And so it's been great to see, at the end of the day, you have customers, they have digital needs states and you're trying to build technology and experiences to meet those.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, to help them grow their business.

Kevin Carfa: Exactly.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: It makes so much sense. Okay, so since you came from, I love that, Papa John's, where's my roof? Where's my pizza? Since you've been in the industry now a little over six months, I love this with new eyes, what are you seeing about contractor adoption of technology into their businesses?

Kevin Carfa: Absolutely. It's one that when I came in, the first thing I wanted to do was start talking to some customers. Let's understand where they are on that maturity curve when it comes to digital adoption. And I think, we in the roofing business here, we're getting our feet wet in what digital truly means. Sometimes it's even an exercise of definitions. It's something an IT exercise, it's something a digital transformation initiative and so I think what I'm realizing is there's a lot of appetite out there. And don't get me wrong, I think there's still folks out there who, guess what, they've been doing incredibly well, growing their business the same way they've been for the last couple of decades. And so the great thing is we'll realize that technology is not going to come in and completely, I'd say revolutionizing the industry overnight.

There's going to be a path that we have to take. There's going to be a lot of change management on that path too, and change management, that can be put in the negative connotation, but really just taking people along on the journey to show them a lot of times something like digital, it can be really just an efficiency gain for them to grow their business faster. How can I utilize my resources differently, where maybe somebody who was taking notes and scheduling trucks out can now be focused a little bit more on lead generation and selling. So it's going to be a really neat journey here. The great thing is, I didn't join at the beginning, this industry has been on this journey for a while, so I get to come in, see where we are, and then just help us move forward.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: And bring some of your experience from other industries, which I think is always so important. One of the things that we've seen too, is that really the roofing companies that are adopting technology really do have a differentiator. They're a little bit further along when it comes to being competitive. What are you seeing along that lines?

Kevin Carfa: Yeah, the neat thing about being in the seat I am, especially with SRS, is that we get to see some aggregate trends. So anecdotally, I think we've all seen exactly what you said there. You talk to the individuals and you see those who are adopting digital are just behaving differently, potentially growing more. And guess what, in aggregate, those same hypotheses are holding true, is the customers who we deal with that are more digitally inclined, we do see that they're growing faster. End of the day, that's what we want. We want to enable them and enable their growth. And again, there's some selfish piece for us. Do we see them buying less from us versus our analog customer, again, that's an attrition in churn reduction. And so I think on both sides, digital is going to be this enabler of efficiency. It's going to be a way that customers are going to be able to, not only buy different, but really digital in this space is going to be how are they measuring differently? How are they integrating their CRMs? What does project management look like?

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah.

Kevin Carfa: And I think we'll get into it a little bit here in just a second is, the interconnectivity between all of them. So when you think about, you'll probably hear me say ecosystem too many times today, it's not one platform, one piece of technology, or one company that's going to be able to get us where we need to be, it's going to be this concept of total ecosystem. And man, when you really think about what it's going to take, it's also just going to take some pretty strong focus from, I'd say key players in each company, and having a champion.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah.

Kevin Carfa: That's going to be such a big piece of digital adoption is, all right, who is that champion? Because always multiple solutions to any problem, and this is just a problem we're trying to solve here at the end of the day, so if you can have somebody who's really dedicated to that, I think it's really just going to be able to accelerate your growth and your [inaudible 00:06:28].

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, I agree, 100%. And I do want to get to that because when you think about for how many years contractors have been adopting different types of technologies, right? It's been a while. And so they end up with all of these apps and they end up with all these different software programs and all these different things, and one day they go, wait a minute, they're not talking to each other. We have too many. We're paying for some we don't even use anymore, so really doing that audit of your technology and your apps I think is so important. What are you seeing when you're working with your contractors, getting them into Roof Hub, how's that integration going and how that audit of the apps basically?

Kevin Carfa: Yeah, you said the keyword there and its integration. Quite frankly, coming into this industry, I didn't realize the importance of integrated solutions. And again, looking at my past, I've been in places where integrations have been incredibly important. Think about those old EDI connections for data pipelines in the retail space. Guess what, we've got some similar stuff here. And that's one thing that you said, everybody has multiple apps that are all purpose-built for different things, but when they're not talking to each other, it almost becomes an operational burden because now ... again, maybe coming back to the procure side as a distributor, if you're having to key an order into an estimating tool that then gets keyed into a CRM so you can deploy a crew, and then gets keyed into a purchasing tool with a distributor. And guess what, if those three talk to each other, that could be one action and then feeds to each other.

So really when you think about the importance of integrations, that is such a key player in who's going to win in this industry, who's going to be able to grow, and who's going to be able to outpace their competitors. And that's not just for the roofer, it's really the manufacturer, the distributor, the technology partner. Each one of those, you have your piece that you're going to be the expert in. You have your piece that you know you're going to win in, but then it's going to be strategic decisions on, all right, where else in this industry do we see gaps and how can we just help build those gaps because you can't always build the best solution. Unfortunately, that's just [inaudible 00:08:42] case. The person who builds the best drone measurement tool is probably not going to build the best CRM.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Right.

Kevin Carfa: But guess what, you're going to have pieces of each one of those that you do incredibly well. And so these strategic integrations are such a key part to growth here.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: It is. It's what we hear about every single day, partnerships, channel partners, and how they're all working together to start communicating. This changed so much in the last couple years because it used to be, oh no, we're not working with them. And now it's like, oh yeah, we have an open API, we want to talk, we want to get your information there. But as you're talking to the contractors out there, the contractors who are either using Roof Hub or maybe are not, how do they start going about building their own tech stack or understanding the integrations? It just seems like there's so many choices.

Kevin Carfa: Absolutely and there are. And that's where I think really doing an audit of what are the problems, what are the friction points I'm truly trying to solve. The worst thing you could actually do in a digital transformation is build something or integrate with something for the sake of checking a box. I'm not saying everybody's doing that, not saying nobody's doing that. But guess what, the worst thing you want to do is just say, I see my competitor over here, or I hear there's a piece of technology over here and let's check the box and do it. These have to be done for strategic reasons. And so I'd say when you have this wealth of opportunity out there in terms of vendors and partners and what have you, you really have to start with, all right, what's the business problem that I'm trying to solve? And guess what? I tell my team this every single time when we're trying to solve problems, there's always multiple solutions to any problem.

So really getting those mapped out, really understanding the landscape incredibly well, and sometimes this next part's a pretty tough exercise, but you really do have to build a map of that ecosystem in the customer journey. So for our contractors, the customers are those homeowners, but it's also their internal customer, it's their sales folks who are doing the lead generation and they're going and they're doing whatever activity that looks like. You have to have a very solid understanding of your customer journey. So I've always found that building experiences and building, I'd say platforms that are truly customer first with, gosh, a sole focus on the customer experience, those are going to be the ones that truly win. I think, gosh, not to throw darts at a different industry here, but look at rental cars.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah.

Kevin Carfa: I hate saying it, but I could probably count on maybe one finger the amount of times that I've really enjoyed getting a rental car out of here. And then you just think about what's happened and how that industry has been somewhat disrupted with the company that took a very customer first approach. Even look at something like an Uber. Again, maybe look at Uber five years ago, I don't know, but when they said, all right, what is the customer and how can we build something around that because end of the day you're solving the same problem. I'm traveling and I need to get from point A to point B. Same thing will happen in our industry. And so if you do it and you say, let me put that customer hat on for a second and let me actually understand what is their need state, what is their problem, and then let me actually build solutions that are going to solve that, rather than saying, you know what I need a CRM that does X, Y, Z, that has these integrations because I listened to Kevin say, I need this.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, exactly.

Kevin Carfa: Not necessarily the case.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: No, and I agree with you, it's really looking at what you need for your business. We did a full app audit last year just to like do we need these? Does it make sense? How do they work together? Do they need to work together? Sometimes they don't have to and sometimes it's just its own thing. And so I think that's important. I also think it's really important, at least this is what I found in our own experience, but I've seen it a lot with roofing companies, is that it cannot just be the owner, it can't just be the CFO, it really needs to be a group function within the company. I love it, at one point we had one app and we're like, oh, nobody's using this. And we were like, well, we better just double check with everybody and it ended up one person was using it all the time. So what do you recommend from a technology culture within a company and really making sure that that goes all the way out to the field and up onto the roof?

Kevin Carfa: Yeah, I'd say one thing that's going to be really interesting for the industry is organizationally, how do we center activities that are digital. Is it that we have a series of stakeholders? So we may have operational and a sales group, we have a technology group, we have a financial group that are all coming together. Guess what, there's going to be at some point a single person or potentially a single agency or platform, things like that. And so when you look at platform of the future, we already know number one, it's going to be integrated. I think nobody's going to be able to build that perfect thing that does absolutely everything you need. And so with this integrated solution, there's a lot of pieces that go into it. Partnerships, there's commercial terms, there's integrations, there's all these things, so you really need that champion. And again, I think other industries have gone through this, some are a decade ago, some have been going through it a little bit more recently, but you're going to need those digital natives that are going to be able to be that point person for you.

The great thing is, I think the way the industry's been moving and how collaborative it's become recently, you'll be able to get pretty dang far with somebody who's been there. And again, it depends on your organization. It might be somebody in a sales role who sees the need and raise their hand and takes a stretch project, it might be your CTO. One of my favorite things coming out of COVID was it was an emoji or a chart or something, it said, "Okay, what caused the digital transformation at your company, was it the CEO, was it the CMO, was it the CTO, or was it COVID?"

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I love that.

Kevin Carfa: It's true though, when you really think about, all right, what's going to cause our customers and ourselves to make ourselves push forward into digital, into technology and just embrace it even more. Sometimes it's not even your own company and sometimes it's not market pressure, sometimes it's just the greater macro environment that is going to cause you to do these things. So I do think really understanding that, taking an introspective look at your company and saying, what do we think we need to be successful?

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Right.

Kevin Carfa: Because it's not always, I need to bring in a VP of digital who's going to be doing X, Y, and Z, and that's their full-time job. I could see in this industry the concept of fractional CDO. You get fractional CFOs quite a bit out there, you can probably have that concept where somebody who gets it, they understand how these interconnectivities work together, they can really look at you and build that purpose-built platform for you. Because again, it's going to change for every single contractor and customer out there. I could even see something like that really spinning up and taking hold. And again, then when we revisit this conversation in five or 10 years, probably completely different answer at that point.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, yeah. No, I agree. I agree. And we've seen so many changes in the industry from safety directors to recruitment, retention, HR has changed now with technology, training directors, there's so many more positions that just really have been forced. And I love that, what caused it COVID or the next generation. I look at Teams, people just started using Teams, yeah, it was because of COVID, but it's also because it just was part of Microsoft and it just started happening. I love this stuff, love tracking it and following it, it's really interesting. So I would love for you to talk a little bit about Roof Hub. I know you gave us a little bit of an overall at the beginning, but give us an overall and then how does Roof Hub fit? How does it fit into a roofing company, into their tech stack? How does that all work?

Kevin Carfa: Yeah, so Roof Hub, it was really launched, I'd say perfect timing. I would love to say it was intentional timing, and again, this predates me, but right around March, 2020. I think we all know what also happened around that time.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah.

Kevin Carfa: So I don't know if there's some people out there reading the tea leaves and they just read them incredibly, right, but I think that was a great time for Roof Hub to launch. At the time it launched, and it was primarily a transactional platform for the residential roofer. It gave them a place to come and it gave them to place their material orders with SRS. And again, I think when you think about Roof Hub or really think about any kind of distribution platform out there, that's going to be the first place your mind goes and it should. You are sourcing material for a job and there's a whole series of, I'd say features and capabilities that sit underneath. So you have to get that right. That's almost table stakes for a digital platform. And I do have to say, I think Roof Hub does that incredibly well. There's some key capabilities I think that we do exceptionally well. Some of the way that we're able to do every bit of localized and live pricing, even the catalog we just launched earlier this year, it's really gaining traction.

So I think there's a lot of great things on the transactional side. What almost goes overlooked is that, all right, Roof Bub is two things. Number one, and as I said, I'm going to say it a lot here, it's an ecosystem. Roof Hub has quite a bit of integration to the rest of the industry. So you mentioned the CRMs, we know that Roof Hub in its current state is what we call it a CRM directly, not necessarily, but we're integrated directly with quite a few, and I won't say quite a few, every single one of the top CRMs out there.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Wow.

Kevin Carfa: And we're integrated in what I'd say is a materially different way than even our competition. So when you think about what does Roof Hub do incredibly well, I'd say that ecosystem and just the interconnectivity between it. It took the customer first approach. Even the folks that are still with the company that predated me, they were able to go in and create these open APIs, these endless APIs that, again, if you look at other industries, they've been doing this for a while so they were able to say guess what, let's just copy and paste what they're doing. There's pride in doing that if you're doing it for the right reasons and then you're differentiating where you have, I'd say, inside your core capability. And so that's what they were able to do. So that's one of the key differentiators is really that focus on integrations and it's across measurement, and it's across lending, and it's across CRM, and all these places. So there's quite a bit you can do. And I'd say the other side of it is just the utility and convenience that you get out of it.

So can you transact and do it seamlessly with one finger, you absolutely can, but can you also get your weather updates and can you look at every single invoice in passed order, not only digitally, but at SRS a total company? You absolutely can. Can you connect into your supplier rebate program? You absolutely can. And again, I'm not saying these are things that others can't do, but when you think about what's the total value of a platform like Roof Hub, transactional capability is key. And it's number one in it's table stake. But really when you start saying, all right, what's the other types of active engagement we want to get out of customers, and by getting out of customers, I say, we want to provide to this customer. That's what they're looking for, they're looking for a platform they can do these things, do it in one place. Guess what, so many times if you can do it behind one login, that's just a win.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Oh yeah.

Kevin Carfa: I don't have to remember seven passwords that expire every 12 days. And that alone sometimes is just a win. So when you say focus on customer experience, it's even down to how do I log in? How long do I hold that login? And as I have integrated solutions across the ecosystem, how do I make sure that I don't have to make you log in again? So it's been really great to see what was already built and then the path that we're taking it.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: That's awesome. Just to make it easy, we're moving too fast, it needs to be easy. I say that every single day with what we do too, we got to make it easy for everybody because there's enough difficult out there without us adding to it.

Kevin Carfa: I've got somebody on my team, and I love the way that she said it. It was not only do you need the platform that can do everything, all the bells and whistles, sometimes you just need it to work. And if you take half of that out and it just works and you feel good about it, guess what, that's going to be the ultimate win. We watch customer satisfaction scoring across the entire experience. So not only do we want to see growth in purchasing, but guess what, we want you to feel good about it. We want you to feel like it was valuable to you found efficiencies by doing it. And again, some of that is taking what other industries have been able to do, the way they've been able to measure their digital businesses. End of the day, these are customers and these are just need states that we're trying to meet for them.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I love it. I love it. That is so cool. Okay, so how can contractors get started with Roof Hub? What's the journey?

Kevin Carfa: Definitely. So I'd say first go to RoofHub.pro, that's going to be our website. And there's really two paths there, if you're already a customer of SRS it's pretty easy to go in there and just register on Roof Hub. If you're not, you can go in, you can sign up. And again, pretty easy path there, we wanted to make sure it's as easy as possible for you guys to do that. So yeah, just hit RoofHub.pro, go to your browser, open that up, and that's going to be the first step to get there.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Great. And then you have support and help for the contractors is if they get in there and they do have questions because you know some of us are a little bit more challenged than others.

Kevin Carfa: Absolutely, we do. Yeah. And quite frankly, that's an area that we're just looking to accelerate into this year. We've got a lot of folks behind the scenes that you can certainly get in contact with. And quite frankly, even everybody out in the field, that's one thing we pride ourselves on is service at every single layer at SRS and our digital service as well. You can go walk into a branch and you can get some pretty incredible digital service from those guys, and guess what, if you can't figure it out or they can't figure it out, they know the right person to call, they know the right email to go to, and we've got dedicated teams on that digital support side as well.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: It makes such a difference. It makes such a difference. Kevin, I just have to say, welcome to roofing. This is great.

Kevin Carfa: Thank you. Thank you. It's been incredible. Incredible, I guess what, seven and a half months now and look forward to the next seven and a half years plus. So I'm really excited for it.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Well, you know what they say, once in roofing, you never leave roofing. So the pizza world has lost out.

Kevin Carfa: I've heard that I think about 10 times since joining roofing now. You're not the first to say it and I don't think you'll be the last to say it.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Nope, we all say it because we all stay here forever. So that is great. Well, I do want to let everyone know out there that all this information on Roof Hub and some great articles from SRS on technology are available, of course, on Roofers Coffee shop, Metal Coffee Shop, and Coatings Coffee Shop. So go to the SRS directory and the Roof Hub directory on any of those sites and find out more, get involved, and see how this technology can help your business grow because that's what matters. Kevin, once again, thank you so much for being here today.

Kevin Carfa: Thank you, Heidi.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Thank you and thank all of you for being on this podcast. We want to bring you the information that will help grow your business every single day, find you the right contacts, do the networking. We appreciate you so much. Be sure to check out all of our podcasts under the read list and watch navigation under Roofing Road Trips. And on your favorite podcast channel be sure to subscribe and set those 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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