Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Ron Lloyd from Kokua Roofing. You can read the interview below, listen to the podcast.
Speaker 1: Welcome to Stories from the Roof, from rooferscoffeeshop.com, where we tell the stories of roofing professionals from around the globe.
Heidi Ellsworth: Hello and welcome to Stories from the Roof. This is a very special podcast series. This is all about roofing contractors. My name is Heidi Ellsworth. I've been in the roofing industry for almost 30 years, but I have not really been on the roof. We're going to talk to some men and women in this series who really are putting roofs on, taking care of homeowners and building owners every single day, and showing real roofing respect. Today, I would like to welcome my friend from Hawaii, an amazing roofing professional with Ron Lloyd with Kokua Roofing. Ron, welcome to the show.
Ron Lloyd: Thank you, Heidi. I'm happy to be here.
Heidi Ellsworth: I'm so happy to have you, and I'm really excited to hear your story too. I've heard it a couple times when we've been sitting together. I've been hearing all the things you've done and the amazing companies you have. Today, we're going to be able to highlight that and I'm really excited for that. Okay. So we're just going to ask some questions and we're going to be asking these same questions for every Stories from the Roof, so we're going to be able to hear some really interesting stuff. Let's start out with, Ron, if you could please introduce yourself, your name, your company, years in the roofing industry, your overall specialties.
Ron Lloyd: Okay. So my name is Ron Lloyd. I am with Kokua Roofing in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. I have been in business for almost 46 years, and I know I look much too young to be that far along.
Heidi Ellsworth: You do. Much too young for that.
Ron Lloyd: I started when I was eight. No, I started almost 46 years ago. I had lost a job with the government-funded program and we were told that we were going to be laid off, and so I went and answered an ad in a local newspaper, said, "Help wanted. No experience, $3 an hour," and I went and applied and they hired me and I started my roofing career and it started in Salt Lake City, Utah. I worked for a local company there for a number of years and then decided I wanted to try it on my own. I've been doing it with my own business now for 28 years. Yeah, 28 years.
Heidi Ellsworth: That is amazing. Tell us a little bit, I know you have roofing companies in Utah and in Hawaii, and you're still running all of that. How is that working?
Ron Lloyd: Yeah, yeah. We started the company in Utah and one of our biggest accounts was the Mormon church. I put roofs on churches all over the Western US and then it expanded throughout the Midwest and even some in the deep South, and Hawaii came available if we wanted to come all the way over here to work on some jobs, and we said, "Sure, why not? Let's try it. Hawaii in the winter. You bet."
I came over and I liked it and just planted some seeds in my head that maybe I would end up here one day, and so, we commuted back and forth for many years and then I moved over here in earnest almost 20 years ago, but I still maintain the company in Utah, and my business partner Max and my son Travis, run that entity over there. I'm pretty hands-off on that side and they like it that way, but yeah, it's been a good run. I get up really early because of the time difference. I'm talking to my admin on the mainland early in the morning, so I'm usually up at 4:00 AM at the computer.
Heidi Ellsworth: Wow. Wow. There's something about that though. Getting up early in the morning, seeing the sunrise. I like that.
Ron Lloyd: Oh, I do too, but about three o'clock this afternoon, I will be dead.
Heidi Ellsworth: That's the time to kick off. I agree. I work the same way. You already started out that you saw this ad and you went and applied for a job. Tell us about that first job when you got into roofing. Who was it with, and where did you start?
Ron Lloyd: Well, it was a company located at that time in Salt Lake City. They've moved to another location north, but they were a manufacturer that made roofing tile and also installed it. The name of their company is Bartile, and they've been in business... Oh my gosh, 80 or 90 years. I learned from a guy named Bruce who was a retired Coast Guard veteran, and he taught me how to roof.
I spent two years learning and then they gave me a crew to run and all steep slope. We didn't do any flat at all, and mainly tile because they were a tile manufacturer, but we did do some shingles and I worked there for almost 17 years and it was a good run. When I left, it was just time to leave and I went into business-
Heidi Ellsworth: Well, don't you-
Ron Lloyd: Go ahead.
Heidi Ellsworth: I was going to say, don't you think a lot of people when they work in the industry like that, they look at it and say, "I can do that. I can have my own company."
Ron Lloyd: Right. Yeah. Well, it was a family owned business and it still is, and I wasn't family, so I knew that eventually, I was going to be a racehorse they couldn't run anymore, and they just put me out to pasture. We left on good terms and they're still in business, and actually, we buy product from them now.
Heidi Ellsworth: I love it.
Ron Lloyd: It went full circle, I guess.
Heidi Ellsworth: That's cool. So Bruce, right, taught you roofing, taught you-
Ron Lloyd: Yes.
Heidi Ellsworth: basically tile roofing and then onto asphalt. As you started your own company, maybe tell us a little bit about that. You were doing more than tile roof, I'm assuming, and I know you do a lot of commercial now too. How did you learn all of that?
Ron Lloyd: People we hired along the way. We brought in a gentleman who had a lot of flat roof experience and Jim ran a flat crew for us and taught us single ply. We've never done hot mop. It's never been our thing, or torch down, but we do a lot of single plys. Jim helped us. Then I had another company that I partnered with on joint venture kind of deals, and Bob taught us a lot of stuff as well along the way, and then we just hired the right guys that have that skill level that they could bring to the company.
Heidi Ellsworth: It's really about working together.
Ron Lloyd: Right. When I moved to Hawaii, there's a ton of metal roofs in Hawaii, so you either learned how to do metal or you didn't get a market share because there's a lot of metal over here. Here again, we hired guys that have that skillset and then they trained some of my other guys.
Heidi Ellsworth: That's smart. That's smart. I love that. I'm going to move on here just a little bit because I love how you're sharing all these people you've worked with and different things. What were some of the most valuable lessons you learned about roofing?
Ron Lloyd: Oh, there's been a couple of things. Back when I started here, again, I'm dating myself, we would do $50,000 jobs on handshakes, and your word was your bond. A lot of the guys I worked with in Utah, these general contractors, they didn't even sign contracts. I know you, you know me, you do the job, I'll pay you. It was great, actually, in those days, but your word is your bond.
I've always been of the frame of mind that at the end of the job, if my customer's not happy, I would rather they not pay me than they go away with a bad taste in their mouth, and so, we've always had this feeling that the customer needs to be happy at the end of the day, and sometimes it bites you in the butt, but for the most part, it's served us well.
Heidi Ellsworth: It seems like it's worked really well, because that's scary to say, "If you're not happy, don't pay me," because we know there's some people out there who are maybe not as ethical, but to know that you are providing that level of work all the time and those referrals, that's probably one of the most valuable lessons you could have.
Ron Lloyd: Right. I learned a lot. I'm a part of the Western States Roofing Contractors Association, and I've been a member there... Gosh, since the beginning, almost. 25, 30 years, and attending all those seminars, all those meetings and surrounding yourself with those people that have been in the industry a long time and have that credibility and that ethic about them, it's been an inspiration.
Every time I go to a meeting, I learn again, even though many times, I've been doing this longer than anybody in the room, I still learn every time I'm there. I think to be successful, you just have to learn. Never stop learning and never stop absorbing information from other people. [inaudible 00:09:52].
Heidi Ellsworth: Right, listen to other professionals.
Ron Lloyd: Yeah.
Heidi Ellsworth: So along that line, if you were to go back and start at the beginning of your career, what would you do differently?
Ron Lloyd: Oh gosh. That reminds me of an old country western song. "If I knew I was going to live this long, I'd have took better care of myself."
Heidi Ellsworth: I love it.
Ron Lloyd: What would I have done differently? I don't know that I would've done anything differently.
Heidi Ellsworth: I love that.
Ron Lloyd: I really don't have regrets. Most of the people that have worked for me are still my friends. We don't part with lawsuits or name calling and things like that. I have employees that have worked for me for 28 years and I don't know. I feel like I have a good network of people around me, and that makes it easier to do what we do.
The suppliers are there for us, Western States, NRCA, just that group of people around you that you feel confident that you're going the right way, doing it the right way. If any regret at all, it would be I wish I wouldn't have worked quite so much when my children were young because I missed out on some of the scout meetings and dance recitals and things like that, but I don't miss them with my grandkids. I go to all of them.
Heidi Ellsworth: Now you have your kids working with you too, which is pretty special.
Ron Lloyd: My son works with me, which is nice. Actually, my oldest grandson who just graduated from high school two weeks ago, is helping us during the summer this year doing cleanup and he's handing out door flyers and things like that.
Heidi Ellsworth: Love it. Love it. Three generations. That's pretty awesome.
Ron Lloyd: Yeah. That's crazy.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah, I know. It's hard to believe. I'm with you. Okay. I'd love to talk just even a little bit more about Western States on this, but what is the best thing you ever did for your business and for your career in roofing?
Ron Lloyd: Probably expanding outside of just doing tile roofs only, which is what I did. I was on the roof for 17 years and I did nothing but tile. Just that's all I did. When I started my own business, the people I brought with me, they were tile roofers and looking past that and saying, "Let's try something different." I have to say as I've gotten older, I've calmed down a lot.
There was a time when we just felt like we could walk into any market and just say, "Okay, we're going to take some of this. This is going to be some of our work now," and we've toned that mentality down, but we were pretty aggressive younger. Yeah. Like I say, I don't have any regrets and I don't think I would do anything differently. It just unfolded the way it should have.
Heidi Ellsworth: How important has being part of associations like Western States and National Roofing Contractors Association, how important has that been to your business?
Ron Lloyd: Oh, it's huge. I started out with the Utah Roofing Contractors Association and I belonged to that, then I was a board member, then I was the president. My business partner has been the president as well. Then, when I came to Hawaii, I joined that association and I now serve on that board and I also serve on Western States. It's important because it's a room full of smart people and it's people that know about steep slope and low slope and safety and marketing yourself and advertising.
You can't know everything. Like you started this with saying you don't spend much time on the roof. Well, a lot of us in the room have, and you can learn from us and we can learn from you. Yeah, it's a wealth of knowledge, the association, and it's a good group of people. It's a solid group of people that I admire.
Heidi Ellsworth: Having been on the associate advisory board for Western Roofing for so many years, and just meeting someone like you, that you and I spent time together at the last board meeting, meeting all the quality contractors that are out there, you're right. We all learn from each other and there's nothing more valuable.
Ron Lloyd: Yeah. I think this is my second or third term on the board, and even at our last meeting, I went to dinner with some newer board members that I've never sat down and talked to. Went dinner with them and walked away going, "Wow, that's a piece of the business I never realized," and so, every time, I learn something new.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah, me too, me too.
Ron Lloyd: I think lifelong friendships are formed there too. Even when I get out of roofing, I'm going to keep in touch with a lot of these people.
Heidi Ellsworth: For sure. That I have no doubt. We're never going to get away from roofing, that's for sure.
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Heidi Ellsworth: Let's talk just a little bit about your employees and coworkers, but I would love, in one word, describe the most important trait in an employee or coworker.
Ron Lloyd: Honesty. Honesty that they're doing the job correctly, that they're being transparent with me, with the field supervisors, with the customers. Communication and honesty is paramount with what we do.
Heidi Ellsworth: When you think about honesty too, that honesty comes to safety, to being honest about doing safety and about the quality of the work. I think that's such a great answer because if you don't have that, you really have nothing.
Ron Lloyd: Yeah. To being honest to the point of saying, "Boss, I don't know how to do this," or, "This is something I'm not familiar with," and sometimes, the male machismo gets in the way and the ego and says, "Oh yeah, I can do anything," and that'll get you in trouble every time.
Heidi Ellsworth: Right. Yeah.
Ron Lloyd: My guys can call me, text me anytime. They don't have to go through a line of supervisors or anything, and if they have a question, I'll be there for them and vice versa. It's been good. Some of these guys have worked for me for a long, long time. Started as young boys and now they have grown children. You know Heidi, when I started my own business, I sat down with a dear friend of mine and I said, "Larry, if you could give me any advice, what would it be?" He said, "Always give back. You always need to give back because there's always people that need your resource, your knowledge, your time, your compassion." That has been a good bit of advice, so [inaudible 00:17:48]-
Heidi Ellsworth: I agree with that 100%. I love that because it always comes back. You don't do it because it's going to come back, but it just always does.
Ron Lloyd: It always does. It always does. Years-
Heidi Ellsworth: So-
Ron Lloyd: Go ahead.
Heidi Ellsworth: Oh, go ahead. No, go ahead.
Ron Lloyd: Say, years ago, when we were just in Utah, I hadn't come to Hawaii yet, we were approached by one of our general contractors and asked if we wanted to be a part of Extreme Home Makeover.
Heidi Ellsworth: Oh, fun.
Ron Lloyd: We actually put the roof on one of those houses and it was on TV, and unfortunately, it wasn't very glamorous because we put the roof on during a thunderstorm at 2:30 in the morning. I do have the video of it, but it's not very Hollywood, but two years later, we were at a home and garden show, and my then salesman, who's my business partner now, he and I were manning the booth and this lady came up to us and it was the lady that we did the roof for, and we never met her when we were doing the job because they're never there, and she came and said she wanted to search out every person that worked on her home and thank them personally.
Heidi Ellsworth: That's cool.
Ron Lloyd: It still chokes me up. It was a very, very moving moment to have them come back and say, "You made a difference in my life."
Heidi Ellsworth: Oh, Ron-
Ron Lloyd: Yeah. So that was fun. We immediately got involved with Habitat for Humanity right after that, and we've been doing that for 25 years now, Habitat.
Heidi Ellsworth: Talk about changing lives. Habitat changes lives every single day. It's amazing.
Ron Lloyd: Absolutely. Absolutely. That's been important. I can't sing or dance or paint or draw, but I can put a roof on.
Heidi Ellsworth: A beautiful roof.
Ron Lloyd: That's something we can do to make a difference.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah. I've seen some of your roofs. I've seen the pictures. They are beautiful. Okay, you said a couple things there about people giving you advice. I love that. Always give back, but who was the best boss that you ever had?
Ron Lloyd: Oh, that's a good question. My mother always teases me. Between the time I turned 16 until I was 22, she counted that I had 19 jobs. I just couldn't stay at a job for whatever reason, and now I've been at the same job for 45 years. My former business partner who I went into business with when I first started my own company, his name was Ray, and Ray told me a couple of things, and one of them was, "Your pay becomes effective when you do," because I was in there moping around like, when am I going to make some money?
I own a company and I'm not making any money. He says, "Your pay becomes effective when you do," and I thought about that, and I walked out. I was mad, but then I thought that's true. When I really put my nose to the wheel and go for it, then it started changing. I'd have to say Ray was probably one of, if not my favorite employer, and he was only my employer for about a year, and then we became true partners and we worked together for 10 or 15 years, and then he retired. Yeah, I would have to say... Because I haven't had that many bosses in the last 45 years.
Heidi Ellsworth: Except for the 19, somewhere in between 16 and 22.
Ron Lloyd: I learned a lot from I think every boss. I learned a lot of not how to be from some of my bosses.
Heidi Ellsworth: Exactly. Well, I think being an entrepreneur is just in your blood, and obviously for you, it was, and taking it to this next level. Speaking of that, what makes you smile when you think about your job or your companies?
Ron Lloyd: Well, if you saw the view I have right now over my computer, it is covered with a wall full of magazine covers and awards and things that we've done and accolades and things like that. When I have my biggest pain in the butt customer on the phone with me, I look up at those things and go, "Okay, for every one of you, there's 99 of the good ones."
Heidi Ellsworth: I love it.
Ron Lloyd: I guess seeing my guys excel, because I don't put the roofs on anymore, and I haven't for a long, long time, but my guys do really nice work. When I get that thank-you note or the, "Your guys were wonderful," or, "I'll recommend you to anyone," at this point in my career, it's not really about money anymore because I've been doing it too long, and it's not also about accolades because we've had a lot of them. It's just a blend of both, but having satisfied customers that thank us at the end of the day, and having employees that are thankful to work here.
Heidi Ellsworth: Right. Well, from everything you're saying, you have employees who have been there a long time, which speaks to the culture right there.
Ron Lloyd: We have. I still love my job. Don't get me wrong, there's bad days, but I still get up excited to go to work and to do the deal and I'll open a set of blueprints and do the takeoff and get the pricing and put it together and have them send that email and say, "Congratulations, you're going to work with us on this project," so that it's still fun. I'm not going to retire yet. Not yet.
Heidi Ellsworth: Don't do it. Don't do it. Yeah. You got too much fun ahead of you. Okay. Well, with that in mind, what are some tips that you would give to new people who are starting out in roofing? This next generation, brand new into roofing?
Ron Lloyd: Make your word your bond. That would be the top of the list. If you tell somebody you're going to do something, do it. I'm a big fan of the Rock, Dwayne Johnson, and one of his expressions is he's the hardest worker in the room. I like to think I'm the hardest worker in the room. I can say that because he's not in here with me, but I do work hard and I don't skate. That's what I would tell people, is get up every day with purpose and go about your day and do it. Don't just go through the motions and don't pretend, because that will catch up with you too.
If you make a mistake, own up to it. This is a side note, but I remember years ago we did a house for some people in Utah, and it was a young professional couple, and I don't know how, but I put the wrong shingle on their house, the wrong color. I said, "Is there any way we could get you to accept it?" It was like 45, 50 square, and this was back in the early eighties. The guy was like, "No, my wife has the stucco picked out and the eaves and everything. No, she's really got her heart set on it," so we tore the roof off, threw it in a dumpster and put on a brand-new roof on my dime.
I just remember being so upset that number one, I made the mistake and number two, that they wouldn't work with me. That guy has probably referred 50 jobs to me over the years. To this day, people will still call up and go, "You did Kurt Allred's house back in the eighties. He said you're a standup guy," and so, you got to do it right.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah. I love that. Stand by your word. Do the right things. I see that so often. I remember when I first started in the roofing industry, and people just want... They want to know they can trust you. That stays with you throughout your whole career.
Ron Lloyd: Yeah, well, there's that omen hanging over our heads that you can't trust contractors and there are contractors you can't trust, but I choose to be the other one. We have a little tagline at the bottom of our emails and anything we send out, it says, "We're in the service industry and roofing just happens to be the service we provide."
Heidi Ellsworth: I love that.
Ron Lloyd: That's how I look at it is, is I'm not a roofer. I'm a service provider. Whatever we chose to do, I just want to be the best at it. Roofing happens to be what I chose, or it chose me.
Heidi Ellsworth: It chose you. My husband always says, "Everyone needs a roof. Everybody needs a roof over them, and it needs to be strong and capable and perform and protect those underneath it." It's wonderful when you really think about what this industry does for homeowners and building owners everywhere. It's providing safety and security. I love that. Okay. Shameless plug, but I would love to know, how long have you been following Roofers Coffee Shop, and what's your favorite thing about it?
Ron Lloyd: How long have I been following? Probably since you've been doing it. It's always there.
Heidi Ellsworth: Since the newspaper?
Ron Lloyd: Yeah, because I've been a part of Western States for so long.
Heidi Ellsworth: That's true.
Ron Lloyd: It's always there. In the very beginning, I wasn't quite sure what it was. I thought it was a real brick and mortar place. Oh, this is where roofers go drink coffee, but-
Heidi Ellsworth: I love it.
Ron Lloyd: yeah, I followed it... I don't know. How long have you been doing it?
Heidi Ellsworth: 20 years.
Ron Lloyd: Yeah. I was going to say 15 years at least that I've been following it. My favorite part of it, and this will sound very gratuitous, but my favorite part of it is you, because you have such an infectious attitude of enthusiasm and optimism. When I met you in person, then I really realized. There were a lot of people who had told me, "Oh, you got to meet Heidi. You got to meet Heidi. Heidi's the best. You got to meet Heidi," so when I finally got on the board and met you at one of the events, yeah. You are very enthusiastic, which is good for our industry.
Heidi Ellsworth: When I met you, we all were sitting around there, all these contractors, everybody, just such a great group and we've all become friends. It seems like I've known you forever, even though we met officially this first time back at Western States at the board meeting.
Ron Lloyd: Yeah, no, I like what Roofers Coffee Shop is and the surface it provides and the information. Every time I watch one of your little podcast deals, I learn something new because here again, it's people doing what I don't do. Same industry, but they do different than I do.
Heidi Ellsworth: You do.
Ron Lloyd: Like people that... Storm chasers. I've never done that. I've never been around it. It's all foreign to me. When I hear about it, I'm like, "Wow, that's a whole different facet of this business." Not that I want to get into it. It's not really my thing, but I realize there's a big need for that too. It's interesting, and your podcasts are very informative to me.
Heidi Ellsworth: Oh, well, I have to tell you, Ron, this podcast is going to be very informative to a lot of other people too. This is the kind of stuff everyone needs to hear, and you learn so much, but it just makes you feel good to be part of this, and so, sharing your story, I can't tell you how much I appreciate it, and I love it. I'm so happy that you're a part of River's Coffee Shop, part of the R-Club, part of Western States, and we get to do all these things together. It's awesome. Thank you so much.
Ron Lloyd: Yeah, thank you. I'm enjoying my time.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah. I want to say too, thank you for sharing your story because I think stories are the most important, and this story from The Roof really is going to start us off with a big bang, so thank you so much for being here today.
Ron Lloyd: Absolutely. My pleasure.
Heidi Ellsworth: I love it, and thank all of you for listening. This is the start of all these stories from The Roof. You're going to learn about some amazing people like Ron Lloyd. You're going to be able to get a chance to live and understand how they came up into the roofing industry, and I'm just so happy you're all here, so be sure not to miss a single episode. Get on Roofers Coffee Shop and under the RLW, look for the podcast or on your favorite podcast channel. Be sure to subscribe and hit those notifications so you don't miss a single one. Thank you so much for being here, and thank you for sharing and being a part of our Stories from the Roof. We'll see you next time.
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