Editor's note: The following is the transcript of an interview with Michelle Boykin. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast here.
Heidi Ellsworth: Hello, this is Heidi Ellsworth Roofers Coffee Shop partner and I am here today for another Roofing Road Trip with Heidi podcast and I am so excited to welcome my dear friend Michelle Boykin of Rackley Roofing.
Michelle Boykin: Hi, I'm glad to be here.
Heidi Ellsworth: So we are ready to share some great information and I have to tell you, Michelle is one of the most amazing women in the roofing industry. She is part of National Women in Roofing. We both are on the executive team. She is part of RT3. She is a COO for Rackley Roofing and has been instrumental in starting the service department at Rackley. And just the exponential growth that you're going to hear about. Michelle is also an RCS influencer and we were pretty happy at Roofers Coffee Shop and we were able to get Michelle to join us this year as an influencer. So we're going to talk to her just a little bit about that today too. So Michelle, why don't you start off and just tell us a little bit about yourself and Rackley Roofing so people kind of know where you come from
Michelle Boykin: Sure. So Rackley Roofing is based out of Tennessee. We are the official roofer of the Tennessee Titans. And so we started in 1974 by a gentleman named Bill Rackley. It has since had two additional owners. The last owner is Curtis Sutton. He purchased the company in 2010 and I joined Curtis in 2010 over here at Rackley and I was amazed. There was no service department, which to me was just unfathomable. We had one truck and they ran the roof leaks on roofs that we installed. So I quickly helped Curtis cultivate a service team. It was just he and I for quite a while. We took some leaders that we saw within the company already and kind of turn them into service crews and then really a service division. So within a year we were up to three crews. By year two, we were up to five crews and we now have 23 service crews across the country. We also do have a production division as well, but of course service has kind of always been my baby. So that's the pride coming out of me a little bit.
Heidi Ellsworth: That is so impressive. I mean, that's phenomenal growth. How did you get there? I mean, really as you were hiring and really kind of putting all this into place, I mean what are some pieces of advice that you have for roofing contractors out there as they're starting their service departments?
Michelle Boykin: So I would say, I started off just kind of as a receptionist and then I quickly moved into some other roles, and I really just filled whatever role was needed. So I was service coordinator. I was a sales for a while. I was kind of a mixture of all those things because for the longest time the service department was myself and Curtis. So we were the sales people, we were the ones taking the calls, we were the ones scheduling the crews, we were doing everything. And so really do everything until you can't do everything anymore and then hire somebody. And that's kind of how we grew it.
Heidi Ellsworth: I love it.
Michelle Boykin: Of course, now we have a sales staff. I think we have five service coordinators, so it runs a lot smoother than it probably did back then. But yeah, you have to kind of jump in and, and take care of whatever needs to be taken care of. And for us, customer service is one of our core values. It's something that we take very seriously and you have to be ready to customer service the heck out of people to get things done so.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah. So from a service standpoint, I mean, I love how you say that's your passion because a lot of times people don't understand that how much roofing in this industry creates so much passion in the people who work in it. What's a hot thing? What are some of the hot things that people should be aware of right now in service or maybe implementing in their businesses?
Michelle Boykin: I would say really, you mentioned passion and I don't know who the quote is, but there's the quote, "Passion is stress if you don't love your job." For me, I love my job and so it's a passion. It's not stress. If it's stressful, you're probably in the wrong place. But I think for us, one of the things that we've seen as a really hot issue recently is Roofing Day in D.C. It's a way to get your voice heard, to meet with other roofing contractors across the country and really just get into what is affecting your business and ways to get things to run smoother. And of course I'm kind of biased, but there's Diversity and Inclusion Day, the day prior to Roofing Day in D.C. that the National Women in Roofing, the NRCA and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are putting together and it's really a great way to her focus on diversity inclusion in a way that really includes everyone. It's not just a National Women in Roofing issue, it's not just a Hispanic issue. It's not just an issue with certain minorities. It's an issue in the roofing industry and it's a way for us to come together and really discuss those issues.
Heidi Ellsworth: I agree. I think it's so important to have our voices heard, to participate, to be there in Washington D.C. I think. I mean, I know you and I will be there. It's just is the best day in roofing, to be a part of that.
Michelle Boykin: Yeah. And I would say another thing for us that's been really impactful. We're not afraid to share our business practices. We're not afraid to share who we are. We really feel like the more that we share what we're doing, the better we're elevating the industry. And we are part of a peer group across the nation. It's a Greg Hain, it's called an ESE peer group. And we meet with contractors across the country and we just share best business practices. We share in our successes, we share in our failures and it's really a way for us to learn from others, for others to learn from us. And like I said, it elevates the whole industry. So don't be afraid to share what you're doing and don't be afraid to ask other companies what they're doing because the more that we share, the better we're going to be.
Heidi Ellsworth: And that is why you are an RCS influencer because you're so willing to share and get that information out there. And I know Greg Hain and I mean those kinds of peer groups. I agree with you. I think that's a leading edge thing for contractors right now to work with other contractors around the country non-competing. I mean, you just learn so much and the collaboration also, so many new ideas come out of that all at the same time.
Michelle Boykin: Exactly. And you meet a lot of new friends. So it's amazing. We had tornadoes here last week and I can't tell you how many calls and texts and emails that I got from roofing contractors across the country just saying, "Hey, are you okay? Do you need anything? You want us to send some crews your way? We're sending prayers, we're sending hugs," whatever. So it's amazing how many friends you can make just sharing with people.
Heidi Ellsworth: That's true. And that kind of leads us into one of our other great passions for both of us, and that's National Women in Roofing. You have been so impressive on your journey in National Women of Roofing and I've been so honored to be a part of that with you. So tell us a little bit about what's happening with National Women in Roofing and why should women and even more important roofing companies, overall, men and women, why should they be involved in National Women in Roofing?
Michelle Boykin: So I have to say that Heidi, you are National Women in Roofing. You are the ultimate recruiter of National Women in Roofing. You're an inspiration. You just won the World award. Congratulations again on that.
Heidi Ellsworth: Thank you.
Michelle Boykin: There's no better fit for that. Yeah. But National Women in Roofing is a great organization to join. I joined several years ago. I started a Tennessee council for National Women in Roofing. I served on the board and I'm on the executive committee now and I've I've met many amazing women that I can now call friends in this industry that I never, ever, ever would have met had there not been a National Women in Roofing organization. The only reason I met those women is because of National Women in Roofing. And I've seen so many women better themselves, better their companies, promote their organizations in ways that never would have happened if there wasn't a platform for this. And so, I can't sing National Women in Roofing's praises enough. We are members of RT3, that wouldn't have happened had we not been members of National Women in Roofing first. And we won innovator of the year. That wouldn't have happened had we not been members of National Women in Roofing first. So for us, for me personally and for Rackley Roofing, we feel as though National Women in Roofing was really the start of all these other things that have happened. And really the start of kind of being seen on a national level. So National Women in Roofing is a fabulous organization. Yeah.
Heidi Ellsworth: And you and Curtis, I mean it all of your time, which is huge. Curtis is hugely supportive. And then you're also a platinum sponsor for National Women in Roofing. So I mean this isn't just talk, you walk the talk. I mean you and Curtis and Rackley Roofing really set an example, I think for the industry as a whole.
Michelle Boykin: So one of our rules really is when someone's involved in something in an organization, we require you to be all in. We don't want to just sign up for something and send a check and then be done. We want an involvement, we want full support. And so, of course I've done all the things that I've done with National Women in Roofing. That's kind of my baby here, but we've purchased memberships for all the women in our company. And that's something that we do consistently. Yes and of course, Curtis is a member, we have a couple of other men that are members as well. They can be if they want, but we kind of just go ahead and purchase it for the women. We looked at everything and said, "We really had to put our money where our mouth is and if we're going to support women we need to support women." And so, it was kind of a no brainer for us to become a sponsor of National Women in Roofing because it just made total sense.
Heidi Ellsworth: It's so good. And I love how you then taken it to the next step also of realizing and looking at your local crew, commercial real estate women, and you've become involved there and really started to, from a sales and marketing standpoint, this is something I talk about all the time. Figure out where your customers are and you've done that with CREW. So maybe share a little bit of how that works.
Michelle Boykin: Yeah, so CREW stands for Commercial Real Estate Women. I'm involved on the local chapter, which is Commercial Real Estate Women Nashville. And I became a member several years ago and one of the things that was presented to me when I became a member, because I was one of the first vendors that they allowed. At first they were only open to brokers and property managers and a couple of other attorneys. When they open it up to vendors, they sat us down and they said, "This is not a place for you to come and beg for business. This is a place for us to empower women and for you to help make the industry better. We're bringing you in kind of as a way to diversify our portfolio" basically. And I was all in and that's what we do. We empower women and I, of course made some friendships along the way. I don't sell Rackley when I attend these events. I do say that we support CREW and we fully support that organization. But I'm not there to sell Rackley. Now we've gotten business out of it of course, and it's been a great opportunity. But my focus when I'm in CREW is CREW. It's not me trying to sell our services. And I think one of the things that companies need to realize is you've got to be authentic. Your customers can see through dishonesty. And if you're going to network and you're just sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, they're not going to hear you. But if you go with the intention of empowering and with the intention of trying to help an organization, they're going to see that and they're going to trust you and then they're going to give you their business. So I think it's kind of a little bit different way to sell, but it's impactful,.
Heidi Ellsworth: I think it's brilliant and I see it all the time. Personally, as you and I've talked about, I believe in the passion of this industry too and people see that. And so, I think that's just so smart what you're saying about transparency, honesty, and really caring about that everybody wins. And when that happens, this is just kind of happens.
Michelle Boykin: Exactly.
Heidi Ellsworth: It's really good. So, okay. Along those same lines. I know you already mentioned it, but let's switch from the amazing job that you all are doing on diversity to let's talk about the other hot, hot topic in the industry, technology. And you are innovator of the year. Congratulations. That is so cool.
Michelle Boykin: Thank you, thank you.
Heidi Ellsworth: And talk a little bit about RT3 and why you think it's important as how you see it. Yeah. Why is it important for the industry, for the roofing industry and how has it helped your company?
Michelle Boykin: So RT3 is really, it's a group of thought leaders and we get together and we talk about new technologies. We go outside of the industry to find things that are happening innovation-wise that we can bring back to the roofing industry. And that's something that's so profound. I don't know why it took us this long to have a group like this, but again, it's all about bettering this industry. It's all about raising the professionalism. For us, I mean technology is important as an industry. We're all facing the same problem. Shortage of workforce. What can we do to fix that? And technology is a way to do that. It's a way to solve that problem. And we're behind, the roofing industry as a whole. We are ancient compared to the other industries and we've got to embrace the future. And so this is the way to do that. So for us, learning about new technologies has been really great. I think that the one thing for us that we realized is any new technology that you bring into your company, you have to have full buy-in. You can't just go after the bright and shiny thing because you like it and nobody else in your company knows what the heck is going on because then it's just not going to be used. It's kind of like your kids if they get an iPad and then it sits in there drawer for the rest of eternity. You want it to be something that you're using constantly and consistently, or it's not going to do you any good. And so for us, that was one of the things that we realized with any new technology that we brought in, everybody had to be on board. And that's been phenomenal for us. If you've been to one of RT3 panel discussions, you've heard me talk about our virtual reality safety program. It's all about fall protection. It's a way to make roofing fun and enjoyable. And it's not the boring fall protection safety video that we've all seen a 100 times. We're using translator earbuds. Steve Little's doing cool things on the roof with different machinery. Ken Kelly, gosh, he's doing everything possible with Microsoft and just really embracing all that technology. So we're all doing different things as contractors. And I think what we've done as a contractor in RT3 and I would say that this is probably the case for most of the contractors within RT3 is we're figuring out what our pain points are and we're solving those problems. We're not going out and just looking for the next best thing. We're saying, "What are our issues and how can we fix them?" And I think that's what's making such a difference.
Heidi Ellsworth: It is and some of it is as simple as what you find on Amazon. You brought that to RT3 when you told to Google Translate. So I know you just mentioned it there, but just tell everybody a little bit about that because I just think that is going to be so important for our industry.
Michelle Boykin: So the product is called WT2 Plus and it's actually better than Google Translate. Google Translate is always kind of literal. So you say something and it takes each word and it kind of things like that word on its own and the WT2 Plus translator actually translate the sentence or the phrase a little bit better and it's real-time. So it kind of looks like Apple earbuds. The white pouch kind of deal and you wear one and somebody else wears one. You put in the languages and it's actually the colloquialisms as well. So if I have a Hispanic from Guatemala, I could put in Guatemalan Spanish. And if I have a Hispanic from California, I can put in US Spanish and it's going to translate because they're not all the same. So you can start to communicate better with crews. You can start to communicate better within the office, and it kind of breaks down that barrier that we all have had in this industry. And we found it kind of by accident. Our owner's daughter was struggling with Spanish in class and they found this product on Amazon. It's like 150 or 199 bucks and bought it and said, "This might be good for the roof." And so we tested out and it's really great. It's an awesome product.
Heidi Ellsworth: That is so cool. And I mean that's the kind of stuff that's and it kind of goes back to what you were talking about with the peer groups and about belonging to the right organizations where people are willing to share and share success. I mean, I've talked to a lot of people since you brought this and they're like, "Yeah, we're using it" and it is really helping to break down that barrier, that language barrier.
Michelle Boykin: Oh yeah.
Heidi Ellsworth: That is so cool. So, okay, one of the things that I really wanted to talk about a little bit too is and it's kind of going back a little bit, we talked already about National Women in Roofing, but I think it's a bigger issue and that is balance and culture in the workplace. I'm just always inspired by you and Curtis and how you balance responsibilities. Curtis has his own family, you have three boys and an awesome husband and you have all these 220 employees in between. That's a lot on a plate, but yet you all seem to be able to recognize everyone's talents and strengths. And so, I'd just love for you to share a little bit about that and maybe kind of breaking some of the rules like women on the roof and really looking at that overall balance in the workplace.
Michelle Boykin: Yeah. So first of all, I mean if we all have the same personality, we'd really be boring, right? I mean, you and I are probably complete opposites when it comes to personalities, but we love each other because we are different and we can respect that. For some reason as owners and even as managers, we think we've got to do everything all the time. It all falls on our plate and that's just not the case. And Curtis and I noticed the pattern many years ago that worked for us. We didn't really have a name for it back then. It was just kind of like, "Well yeah, we get things done and it happens and he does his thing and I do mine and it works really well." And basically he comes up with these grandiose ideas and then I have to figure out a way to make them happen. And over the past few years, we became involved with okay thing called EOS, which stands for entrepreneurial operating system. And it basically took all the things that we've already been doing and kind of gave it a name. So Curtis is our visionary, and I am our integrator and a visionary is a person. Yeah. Visionary is a person that sees the big picture and operates on emotion and ideas. And then so that's Curtis and then an integrator, me, I'm the action person, I'm the doer, I'm the one that turns those things into reality. And so, really there are instances where that same person, but in most companies they're going to be two separate people. And so if you could figure out a way to kind of balance those strengths and those weaknesses, then you can start to really make some momentum within your business. And if you start to drill that down across the board, people on the roof, people in the office start to figure out the strengths of each person. Then they're going to enjoy their job better because they're doing what they love and they're doing what they're good at and everything starts to flow pretty well. So that was something that we looked into I think, and especially trying to figure out a name for it later on. But yeah, it's been great. And I think once we joined National Women in Roofing and we could really see the value of having women on the roof and the women working in this industry, it really changed our perspective. And so, we've been able to hire women on the roof. We've been able to offer for anybody in our company, whether it's a man or a woman, if they're in the office, if they want to get out on the roof, that's something that we allow them to do because we've seen the importance of that. And it really, it does a couple of things that makes the person in the office feel like they're part of something because they get to see it and touch it and feel it and hear it, and all the different things that when you're on a roof. But then it also makes the field people respect that office worker more. I can't tell you how much more respect I felt from our service techs once they saw me on that roof. It just made all the difference in the world.
Heidi Ellsworth: That's so smart, that is. For years in marketing as I've worked for all these different companies, I was like, "If you don't get your marketing people out on the roof, you are missing half the story." You have to understand the hard work, the innovation, just overall how cool it is for what we do in this industry whether you're on the roof or in the office, understanding both sides of it. I think you guys, you just do the most amazing things at Rackley with that.
Michelle Boykin: Thank you.
Heidi Ellsworth: And okay, so in talking about that, we also talked about how much you've grown, not just a service division, but your company as a whole, locations across Tennessee. So as an RCS influencer, what is your best piece of advice to other roofing contractors who want to grow their business like you guys have?
Michelle Boykin: So I would say figure out who you are as the owner, who you are and who your company is before you start to grow it. Don't think that the bigger that you get, the smaller that your problems become. They just get bigger as you grow. So you have to make sure you understand who you are and who your team is and make sure that's what you want before you start to grow, and that'll help make the growth a little bit easier because the culture that you have today, if you start to grow, it's just going to be magnified. So if there's a change that you want to happen in your culture, do it before you start to grow or it's going to make it super hard later. I think that that was something for us that really made the difference. Having a culture in place has really been kind of a key for us.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah, that's so important. When Vicky and I kind of started our journey together in 2015, we did similar things. Wrote it down. What is our culture going to be? Who's the visionary? Who's the integrator? We didn't have those names, but we did the exact same thing. And you're probably just like you said earlier, we're a little bit opposite. So yeah, I was a visionary. Vicky makes it all happen. Together, it's amazing. So I think that is a great piece of advice for companies. I mean, understanding the talents and then understanding the culture and getting that solid before you try to do the big growth. Because you're right, I've seen it. The problems only get bigger if you don't deal with them early. Well, that is great. Well, Michelle, thank you. Thank you so much for today and thank you for everything you do for the industry. You always give me such high compliments. I have to tell you, you are an amazing woman in roofing and I'm just so thankful that you are such my great friend and that we get to have this journey together. It's pretty fun when I can call up and say, "Hey, let's do a podcast with one of my dearest friends." So thank you so much for being here today.
Michelle Boykin: Aww. Thank you. I've enjoyed it.
Heidi Ellsworth: It has been fun. We'll do it again on other topics as they come along. So all of you who are out there listening, please look at all of our podcasts under the Read, Listen, Watch section of rooferscoffeeshop.com. There are great podcasts out there with just other folks like Michelle, who really are making a difference in the roofing industry, who are helping to lead and who are sharing what they've learned with all of us. So thank you so much for being here today and I look forward to having you back on our next podcast.
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