Editor's note: The following is the transcript of an interview with Chelsea Oesch, Branch Manager with Beacon Building Products. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast here.
Heidi Ellsworth: Hello, and welcome to another Roofing Road Trips with Heidi. This is Heidi Ellsworth with Roofer's Coffee Shop, and today I am so excited to welcome Chelsea Oesch, branch manager of the Austin Branch of Beacon Building Products. And she is here today to really talk about some really amazing stuff that she is doing right now with the branch, with employees, and I've just been following her for a long time. So I'm very excited to hear all this. Welcome to the show, Chelsea.
Chelsea Oesch: Thank you so much for having me. We're in an industry that's a difficult industry as far as being very labor intensive. So we had to look at a different way to really motivate our employees and make sure that we grow our team and these employee engagement activities have really changed us at this branch. When I joined this branch in 2018, we had just gone through the three years of acquisition between Beacon Building Products and Roofing Supply Group, so we weren't always in the best place, but with these employee engagement events that we've had, it's really changed the culture, and it's been really exciting to be a part of it.
Heidi Ellsworth: I would love for you to share a little bit of your background and I always love to know how did you get into roofing?
Chelsea Oesch: Yeah, so the roofing industry isn't necessarily an industry you go to school for, and you don't dream of being in the roofing industry as a child, but as an industry that once you get in it, you're in it for life. The people are fantastic. There are great relationships to be made. So I'm so thankful to be in the industry. I graduated from Texas State University in 2009 with a degree in business and an emphasis on marketing. 2009 was a extremely tough job market. We were in the midst of a recession and my boyfriend, now husband at the time, one of his best friends, worked for Roofing Supply Group. And so his best friend reached out to him and asked if I would be interested in interviewing at Roofing Supply Group for their inside sales position. And I interviewed, I got the job and I joined in September of 2009, and here I am. It is very cool. And I think a lot of people think roofers and they have those negative connotations, but it's so much more than that. And it is good, hardworking people. It's a very great industry to be in. So people can't sleep on the roofing industry.
Heidi Ellsworth: That's true. That is so true. Well, tell us a little bit about your branch and I mean, the fact that in 2009, you started on inside sales and now you're a branch manager, very impressive. And I would like to hear a little bit about that journey and also how you're doing right now with kind of this new normal that we're dealing with?
Chelsea Oesch: Yeah. So my journey with the Austin market has kind of come full circle. So I started at Roofing Supply Group in 2009, did inside sales, dispatch, did some purchasing as well, and about 2015, things were starting to change and the opportunity with Beacon to go into outside sales came about. And so I left in May of 2015 and went to Beacon and started my outside sales career there and was starting to build my book of business when we all got the news that Beacon acquired Roofing Supply Group. So, lesson learned, always leave on good terms, which luckily I did. And so all of my friends over at roofing supply group are now, again, my coworkers and everything was great, but we had just now had to consolidate our sales teams and I was new into outside sales. And the opportunity was presented to me to be an assistant manager at our South Austin location, which was the Beacon Legacy location. And first I was a little hesitant about it, but obviously they knew what they were doing better than I did, and I did accept the assistant manager position and through some time and learning in that position, the opportunity to be the branch manager at the old Legacy Roofing Supply Group opened up. And so that's how I ended up here. So it's kind of funny, where I started into the industry is where I am now at the same location, which is just completely wild to me.
Heidi Ellsworth: That is, and you know what? That's part of roofing. Small industry, never burn a bridge, because you never know you're probably going to be working with that next person very soon.
Chelsea Oesch: Oh, it's so true. And then as far as like our new normal here, I know like in the East and West coast, they experienced a shut down and some new restrictions a lot sooner than other areas of the country, but in Austin we have South By Southwest and that was one of the first major events to be canceled due to COVID-19. And so it gave us an opportunity to react, I think quicker than a lot of other places in the country. And this new normal became a new normal sooner than in other places. We made adjustments to our store hours, our showroom, making sure that our employees were protected, and now it's just kind of a way of life and it's just what we do. And it seems like all our customers have adapted well to it, and it's given us an opportunity to use our online platform in different ways and have express pickups and no touch deliveries. So it's been a good way for us to learn new things and adapt to the changing ways.
Heidi Ellsworth: I'm glad to hear, just not to take us too far off track from the employee engagement, but I would love to hear how the online ordering, because that's our next RCS influencer, which you are. That's our next topic. So how's that working for you?
Chelsea Oesch: I think I have been extremely lucky to be with the Beacon team because we've had Beacon Pro Plus for quite a while, and so we were one of the first to the market and a lot of our customers were already well versed in the program. So getting them to use it more was very easy because they're already trained in it. They knew how to use it. It allows them to place all their orders online. They can do their delivery tracking there. Even from their Beacon 3-D takeoff, order their materials through Pro Plus. So it really makes their job easier. That production manager can do a couple clicks and have their order sent over to us. You have less order entry errors. So the online platform is I think the way everything's going, it's just that COVID-19 just sped up that timeline. And it seems like our customers are just adapting so easily to it.
Heidi Ellsworth: Okay. Share with everybody that first experience you had with Mother's Day last year and kind of the start of this really creative employee engagement that you're doing at your branch.
Chelsea Oesch: Yeah. So in Austin, like I mentioned earlier, we had a turnover issue. It wasn't great. We had a problem and I needed to come up with a solution to fix that. The industry we're in is extremely labor intensive. It's hard to try to sell to someone to work in 100 degree Texas weather at heights, hoofing 80 pound bundles up and down a roof. It's just a very hard job and how can I make their lives easier? Because I know I can not do what a lot of my employees do every day. And so I was just thinking if I was in their position and working those long days, the last thing I would probably even be thinking about was buying flowers for the mom in my life. And if I could take one thing off of their plate to make it easier in that they can just go home and be proud of what they have to give to their significant other, their mom, it's like, I want to be that employer that does that for them. And so I just kind of just did it. With a lot of things in life, sometimes you can't ask for permission, you've just got to do it and ask for forgiveness. And that was definitely one of those things that I just did it and-
Heidi Ellsworth: So inspiring. I love it.
Chelsea Oesch: Yeah, it's been really cool to just see that grow within Beacon, too. And other branch managers, wives getting on to their husbands about, Hey, you need to be doing this at your location. Cause they saw the post on Facebook or on the Roofer's Coffee Shop, wherever it may be. We all really know each other. At the holiday parties it's a big get together for everybody and we get to catch up and hear about how much they loved all their different guests throughout the year. So we are creating a little bit different bond here. We're not just a paycheck anymore, which is really impactful.
Heidi Ellsworth: You know, I'm Chelsea, I'm just so proud of you. I mean the fact that this one idea, and you ran with it, I love the fact, I didn't ask permission. I just did it. And now it's being picked up corporately across the country in different ways, but great big, that has to make you feel great.
Chelsea Oesch: I think it just makes me proud to be a part of a company that responds to these kinds of ideas and excited about them. From the top down, everybody is just so in tuned with what's going on in the branch and doing the best for their employees. So I'm just really proud to work for Beacon. And it's been a great company to be a part of.
Heidi Ellsworth: What do you recommend for roofing contractors of kind of adopting some of these ideas of employee engagement and really thinking outside the box?
Chelsea Oesch: So I have a wheel in my conference room that I actually stole the idea from one of my roofing contractors here in Austin. And it's like, one of those giant spin the wheels and you can write different prizes on it. And so that's actually how my employee engagement started was with an idea from one of our roofing contractors. And it's an opportunity for our employees to nominate each other for either helping another employee out, a customer calling in with a raving review, we saw something good as management, and so we now use that as part of our safety meeting. This needs to be something that comes directly from you to get that impact that you're looking for.
Heidi Ellsworth: That is great advice. And I agree a hundred percent that their needs and making it personal, I love that.
Chelsea Oesch: Yeah. It's just been so much fun. I love the creative part of it and just what wild idea can we come up with to just celebrate our employees? That's what makes work fun.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yes.
Chelsea Oesch: So, we've all got to be here and it might as well be fun and we have a good time doing it.
Heidi Ellsworth: I love it. I love it. I love it. Chelsea, thank you. Thank you for sharing this today. As you know, I've said many times, it's one of my favorite things and I just want to thank you, too for being an RCS influencer and for sharing this kind of advice. I look forward, I want to hear more about this, we need to get a couple more articles out there on what you're doing and different things, because it is very inspiring to all businesses, not just on distribution or roofing, it's across the board.
Chelsea Oesch: Thank you so much. It's been so much fun being a part of this and just getting to meet different people. I mean, I never would have gotten to meet you and some other people across the country if it wasn't for this. So I'm just very grateful for this experience. And I just can't wait to see what it grows into.