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Roofing Road Trips with Heidi- Insurance in the New Normal PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION

Roofing Road Trip with Ashley and Seth
July 6, 2020 at 4:00 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of an interview with Seth and Ashley Pietsch, vice president and president at Integrity Insurance and Bonding. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast here.

Heidi Ellsworth: Welcome to another Roofing Road Trips with Heidi Podcast. This is Heidi Ellsworth. I'm a partner with RoofersCoffeeShop® and today I am with some amazing people out of Portland, Oregon, my friends Ashley and Seth Pietsch, who are the vice president and president of Integrity Insurance & Bonding. Exciting, they're also RCS influencers. So they are writing and doing interviews for us every month and really helping us understand insurance, which for me, always a difficult challenge. So it's so nice to have some really smart, awesome folks so close. All Oregonians too. So Seth and Ashley, welcome to the show.

Seth Pietsch: Thank you for having us, Heidi.

Ashley Pietsch: Yeah, thank you, Heidi.

Heidi Ellsworth: I just have been so impressed with both of you watching your business, watching your family and just really the amazing things you're doing in the roofing industry right now to help contractors really understand insurance. So we're going to talk about that today. But before we get there, I would love it if you would both share a little bit of your background and what you've done. So Ashley, let's start with you. How'd you get into insurance and roofing?

Ashley Pietsch: Well, I started back in 2004. My father owned an insurance agency out of Portland, Oregon. And so I started working with him as the receptionist and decided... My whole family has been in insurance, so kind of decided to do the family biz and got licensed and was quickly promoted to the lead account manager. My father's agency specialized in construction, so it's something that I've done since 2004. And then along came Seth in 2007. He joined our team, and I worked there until about 2015. And then my father had sold the agency to a larger firm in Downtown Portland and both Seth and I went there. And then in 2018, we branched off and started our own independent agency. We've been in it for a while now.

Heidi Ellsworth: That is very cool. And Seth, how about you? How do you get into all of this?

Seth Pietsch: Well, definitely through Ashley's family. I played baseball at Oregon State, played professionally for five years with a few different organizations, the New York Mets being the primary one. When I was done playing baseball, I didn't quite know what I wanted to do. And so I talked to Ashley's father and he really talked up insurance a lot and was a very successful insurance owner. So that really intrigued me a lot, and so I decided, you know what? I think I'm going to try insurance and give it a shot. And then when I started, I didn't even know how to spell insurance in the beginning. And then I'm like, man, this is a very complex industry, but it's really rewarding. And I really enjoy working with people and really making sure that they're taken care of. And I just felt like it was a very good fit, and I just went all in from there and I haven't looked back.

Heidi Ellsworth: That is cool. Professional sports. We talk about this a lot in sales that people who have played professional sports just kind of are a natural to go into sales and also owning their own business. And I bet that has definitely... Have you kind of seen that correlation, Seth?

Seth Pietsch: I have. I think it really comes down to just your overall work ethic. If you have a strong work ethic and you're not afraid to roll up your sleeves and just get dirty, I think that's the main core values that you're looking for. With professional athletics, it's just a grind. It's an everyday grind that you have to go through and it never stops. It's every single day. Because if you're in season, you're playing games and you're grinding every single day. But when you're out of season, you have to be ready for the next season, so it never stops. Owning an insurance agency or anything that has to do with sales, it's an everyday grind. You can't let off the wheel, otherwise you're not producing revenue, you're not moving forward, and you just get stagnant. So it's an everyday grind. So having already that work ethic and that grind mentality already built into me from an early on stage, it's really correlated well into insurance.

Heidi Ellsworth: Well, I mean, with RoofersCoffeeShop, same thing. It's up to us. No one's telling me what to do. We've got to be out there every day making it happen, working with amazing people like you. Along that same line, let's talk about work ethic and being really busy. COVID has been crazy. I know for us at RoofersCoffeeShop, we have been so busy and such great engagement with the industry. From what I'm seeing, you all are experiencing the same thing. Ashley, maybe tell us just a little bit, what are you hearing from roofing contractors? I know you guys are in 10 States. You really have a wide range. What are you hearing from contractors kind of coming out this post COVID mode?

Ashley Pietsch: Primarily I'm hearing a lot of people a little worried about their sales and are they going to hit their sales. A lot of roofing contractors are with non-admitted carriers that don't necessarily return premium if you get audited and you don't meet your sales. Trying to work with them and get creative and reaching out to companies and letting them know that, hey, this was not really something that we foresee happening. And so how can we get creative to help these contractors out that have constantly been in growth mode, but maybe due to this COVID-19, there was no work for a little while there, or maybe there was but not as much, or maybe jobs got postponed and it's not going to happen until the next renewal time. So I've seen a lot of contractors just reaching out to us and just like, hey, how can we maybe get a little help? How can we get some rate reduction or whatever? And so having that open dialogue with your trusted advisor and your insurance agent I think is super important because they look to us for that.

Heidi Ellsworth: Seth, I know we talked about this during coffee conversations, but what are some of the kinds of questions that you're getting about insurance in response to COVID and also just the whole sheltering in, recovery, risk. I love, Ashley, what you just said too about who... I didn't even think about them having to hit sales numbers. So what are some of the things additionally that you're dealing with for the contractors?

Seth Pietsch: Everything is so different with just the executive orders that the governors are putting in place here in Oregon and Washington and all the States. But trying to be in compliance with just the rules of, if you can, of social distancing, of just all the parameters. On Wednesday, our governor here in Oregon just mandated in I think seven or eight different counties, but Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington primarily affecting us because we're in that tri county area, it's required to be wearing masks now, regardless if you're a contractor or not or anything. There's just so many different parameters that everybody has to follow and really be aware that this is the new norm for right now.

Hopefully it's the new norm on a temporary basis and things go back to normal, but people have to be very aware of their surroundings because a lot of people right now are at home. They're getting stir crazy. And you know what? We have a lot of people that are posting things in their social media about, hey, this company wasn't wearing a mask or this company, they're not doing social distancing. And OSHA and different safety organizations or whatever, they're coming in and they're cracking down on those companies that are in violation of the current rules that are in place. And so not just your normal inspector that would be hired by OSHA or the construction contractors board or whatever are doing the inspections. You have regular people doing not inspections, but posting things to their social media that is coming back in a negative reflection of that company. So they have to be absolutely on point with everything that they're doing because they're not just being scrutinized by an actual OSHA inspector, but they're being scrutinized by just the regular people walking down the street.

Heidi Ellsworth: Yes. I've been hearing that too. It just seems like business insurance. I mean, I know we have workers' comp, we have so many different forms of insurances as you all know much better than I do. But even just from a business insurance standpoint for that risk of lawsuits and of just kind of some overall craziness that's going on out there, I know talking with Trent Cotney, they're seeing it. They're starting to see job delays, all kinds of different litigation risk and possibly where insurance is going to be coming in. Seth, maybe you can continue on this, what are you talking to your roofing contractors about when it comes to insurance policies. And also, should they be adding anything? Should they be making any changes to their policies with all of this that's going on?

Seth Pietsch: Yes. The insurance world, it's a moving target. And especially on the roofing insurance side is we see carriers come and go and we see carriers come and go sometimes within a month or maybe a year or two. So they're always coming in and out of the market. And unfortunately, nobody saw this pandemic really coming to light. Nobody expected it to happen. Almost every insurance company out there have some sort of an exclusion for pandemics. And so when businesses were shut down and they weren't able to generate revenue because there was a moratorium on construction or nonessential businesses or what have you, they turned to the insurance company saying, "Hey, we have loss of business income and we have extra expense. Does it cover a pandemic?" And unfortunately, most insurance companies, almost all of them, it didn't cover that. And so now contractors are trying to get creative and come up with new ways of generating revenue where maybe they do a job that they would have turned down a year or two ago. There's a lot of insurance exclusions that exclude certain types of work. Especially in Oregon with it being a construction defect state, a lot of it stems from new residential. So a lot of contractors that weren't doing new residential are now maybe looking at a new residential job that they wouldn't have done before. But that doesn't mean they have the insurance coverage to do new residential work.

So contractors are doing everything they can right now to generate revenue and they may not know the ramifications of doing that because their policy may or may not even provide the coverage for them to do those types of jobs. A good rule of thumb is if you're doing something that you don't usually do from just a work perspective, to make sure you have that conversation or run that job by your trusted advisor or your insurance agent and say, "Hey, is this something that would pose a problem if we did? Because we are thinking about doing this project because a lot of the other projects that we were doing have dried up right now or been postponed. We have to drive revenue one way or the other, so we're going to go out of our norm and do something that's different. And do we have the coverage for this?" And having that conversation with whoever your insurance agent may be is a very viable tool to have, because then you know whether or not you have the coverage for it. And if you don't, how you go about getting that coverage.

Heidi Ellsworth: That is excellent advice. I mean, you just got to really stay close to all of your... I love how you say that, trusted advisors, because things are changing so rapidly. And I kind of want to go back and hit on, Ashley, what you said earlier about are you hitting your sales goals? How is that going to affect your insurance policies? I mean, from your introduction, you have been working in insurance for a long time, and you've also gone through, I'm guessing, many, many cycles of renewals. And if I'm correct and correct me if I'm wrong in this, but I think the next renewal is coming up in November. I'd love for you to talk a little bit about that and what contractors should be doing right now to be prepared and to be able to get the best pricing and maybe make changes to the contracts like Seth was talking about that they might need on at their next renewal.

Ashley Pietsch: Well, Heidi, actually a lot of our contractors renewed different times throughout the whole entire year. I know a lot of the work comp renews on 10-1, but we have roofing contractors and other contractors renewing every single month. So it's constantly a renewal time for us, which is good. Totally bogged down in November. But we've basically just been trying to reach out 90 to 120 days in advance to our clients and kind of just talking through it and like, "Hey, how do you think you're going to end up last year? Should we go in lower? And then if you exceed them, great." We don't ever want our clients to overpay for insurance, but we also don't want them to totally undershoot and then get stuck with a huge audit.

If we do kind of undershoot, we like to maybe do like a quarterly review. So we'll call them up and we'll say like, "Hey, where are you at right now? Do you want us to go ahead and up your sales?" Kind of have that communication with them throughout the year. So that way come their next renewal when it's audit time, they're not just stuck with this huge, huge bill.

Heidi Ellsworth: What are some of the other things too that they... I mean, I would assume if they're having any claims, maybe like you were talking about even trying to figure out what's covered and what's not covered, as they're looking at their renewal along with sales, what are some of the other things that they should be focused on?

Seth Pietsch: Luckily, our roofing contractors we work with don't have claims, so we're good there.

Heidi Ellsworth: I love it.

Seth Pietsch: The most important thing that we stress to anybody that we work with is we work for you. We're a partner in this with you, and we're going to be on the sideline overseeing everything that we possibly can to help you run your business and take the stress out of insurance. Because their job and their role is to go out, sell roofing jobs, construction jobs, depending on the trade and drive revenue and keep their employees safe and keep their business going. The insurance part really isn't supposed to be a major concern of theirs.

Obviously they pay the bill for it each month and everything else. That is a concern to any business owner, but we want to keep the stress free out of the insurance forms so they're not worried about it. Claims are going to always happen. That's the only reason why you have insurance is to cover or defend you if a claim happens. We're constantly involved with dealing with the claims adjusters, answering questions, providing them with additional information, and making sure that the claim is handled and closed out as quickly as possible. Because there's nothing worse than a homeowner or a property owner or something like that constantly following up with the claims adjuster or the contractor that performed the work saying, "Hey, what's the status here? What's going on?" Because it leaves a negative taste. And especially if that property owner is a current client and is going to continue to give you more work, you don't want that customer getting disgruntled because a claim isn't being handled the appropriate way.

So you just do everything you can to exceed expectations of the people you work for because ultimately we're all in this together and we want to see them keep business going and just not have any sort of blurbs on the radar as far as having them stop what they're doing to try to sell jobs to deal with stuff that really they shouldn't have to be dealing with.

Heidi Ellsworth: That is music to my ears. That's what I love too. You know? I want to do what I do well and really depend on trusted advisors to do what they do well, and that's what you guys are doing every single day. One last thing before we kind of move on to a different topic, safety. I hope I'm going to say this right, but their MOD score and safety concerns and ongoing training is all so critical for continuing to get good insurance rates. Anything new on the safety front?

Seth Pietsch: There's definitely been a lot. There's a whole new norm. I'm tired of actually saying the new norm because I miss the old norm. There's so much new stuff out there with people working virtually. That brings a whole different dynamic because insurance companies in the past were concerned about people working from home predominantly because it's harder to control risk when people are away from the job sites or away from the actual location, the office. Because now the safety foreman the safety supervisors within the company, they can't monitor or correct or advise their employees if there's an unsafe characteristic habit forming.

So when people are working from home, there's no way to monitor that. So everybody's trying to do virtual meetings, whether they're job talks or safety talks or whatever. Everybody's doing virtual meetings and trying to get an understanding of what's going on. For the most part, yes, proper lifting techniques, fall protection, that stuff's been around, that's been a requirement. This morphing, it still morphs here and there a little bit at a time, but it's mostly now trying to really corral the at home exposure because it's very difficult to monitor someone's behavior when they're not in the office and you can't see it firsthand.

So experience mod, that that is all a reflection of how claim activity is of a company. So the lower the experience rating, that usually was a reflection of the safety controls that the company has in place and that usually means that they have good safety procedures. When you start having an experience mod that exceeds the 1.00, that doesn't mean that a company has bad safety protocol, but they may have had a bad claim that increased their experience rating. So always having safety talks, having safety meetings, I don't know how often contractors should do it, but I would say at least weekly or biweekly so they're at least getting their employees engages is highly recommended from a safety perspective.

Heidi Ellsworth: Wow. I mean, sure to document it all so they can prove it and show it.

Seth Pietsch: Absolutely.

Heidi Ellsworth: Exactly. So I'm going to switch gears here just for a second. I got to know both of you. As you said at the beginning, Ashley, your dad was in insurance. Both of you mentored with him and now have your own business. Even on your website, I love where you say you're building a generational business because that's kind of how I'm feeling right now with RoofersCoffeeShop with having Tim and Megan and our family all involved. A lot of roofing companies are family-owned businesses and multigenerational.

What are some of your thoughts and vision on this generational business and kind of creating that work-life balance? You work all day together and then obviously the weekends and evenings. And I just would love... Maybe Ashley, you can start with kind of some of your thoughts of how this has worked for your family.

Ashley Pietsch: Yeah. I mean, insurance basically is our life balance. You know? It's our night topic. It's our weekend topic. And I guess it's more so because we love what we do. It's not necessarily negative to have it go into that or whatever, but I remember even my parents would be talking about their work day and how things went. We had conversations with them and they were really open and transparent about basically what it was like working in an insurance agency. My dad always took me into the office, let m help him scan things, file things and all that. So we just really want to give opportunity to people, even to our children, to eventually come in here. Who knows that they'll want to do insurance? But even the rest of the staff we have, they're now family to us. And so just really making it a culture where everybody is important and everybody has a space where they can succeed at and basically finding the right people, right seat, just to make this business grow. And like I said, giving opportunity to generations still to come.

Heidi Ellsworth: I love that.And you never know with your kids, right?

Ashley Pietsch: Right.

Heidi Ellsworth: Even though our Megan's going to be a musician, she's working for us at RoofersCoffeeShop. She heard all those same conversations growing up, talking about our days, talking about our friends in roofing. And so it's all been so positive. And I kind of look at roofing as our family, right? And you two have done just a spectacular job on embracing the industry, networking. Seth, maybe kind of share some of that philosophy of just how you are becoming so much a part of the roofing industry and your expansion, not just in the Pacific Northwest, but out into other States.

Seth Pietsch: Yeah, absolutely. It was really kind of just by dumb luck that I fell into the roofing industry on the insurance side. The first large roofing company that I ever wrote the insurance for, they actually thought I was somebody else that they were allowing into the office, which I didn't know. I didn't know that that was the fact, that that was the circumstance. But a couple of years after I started working for them, they said, "Yeah. We thought you were somebody else coming into the office that we were having them come in and work on our insurance. And then we just liked you, so we kept rolling with it. And then you ended up getting our business." So I just got a lucky break and then it really expanded from there. What I've learned really within the first couple months of insurance and I'm like, man, this is an industry that you really, really have to be a student of the game. And this goes back to my athletic days is you have to put in the extra effort if you want to succeed. And insurance, there's so much to know that really you will never be able to know everything that you need to know about insurance, but you constantly are trying to learn and become a student and become highly educated about the coverages, and then really learn about the industries that you want to focus on to see what exposures they actually have and how to protect the contractors that you're working for in the best possible way.

So I just realized that, you know what? This industry is unfortunately underserved from an insurance standpoint. There's so many contractors and historically they pay a lot of premiums. A lot of insurance agencies do go after construction just because there's so many of them, they pay historically a lot amount of money, but they don't truly understand really the risks that goes into construction insurance. And so I just wanted to make sure that if I'm going to do this, I'm going to be all into it and I'm going to dedicate really my insurance career on making sure that I do the best possible job for the contractors because they're literally putting their financial livelihood in my hands.

Because if I write an insurance policy for them and they have a claim that's not covered, that could put them out of business. And I take extremely high pride in making sure that I do the best possible job for them and make sure that they have the best possible coverage that we can get so that doesn't happen, because that would be devastating to me to know that if something happened and that was because of me and it puts somebody out of business. I do everything I possibly can to go through the educational process with anybody that I worked for. It doesn't mean that they buy the coverage, but at least they'll have the information now to make the best informed decision they can of what's important to them and their business.

Heidi Ellsworth: That I think it's so important. And what we've seen is the companies, whether it's insurance, legal, marketing, any service that is helping roofing contractors, they need to understand roofing and they need to understand the industry and really be a part of it. That's what I see with both of you, I see it at the Oregon Roofing Contractors Association and all the different functions so involved with the coffee shop. We just love it. And so tell me real quick about... Just tell our listeners what states are you in. And if you mention a state that maybe someone listening where you don't cover, can they still call you and talk to you about stuff?

Seth Pietsch: Sure. Go ahead, Ash.

Ashley Pietsch: We are in Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Idaho, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Virginia and California. We are in the works of getting in a few more states, but that is where we're licensed right now. And so anybody in the states looking for some help on the insurance side, we're here, whether you just want to pick our brain, whether you want us to review what you got, give our recommendations, if you need help. 

Heidi Ellsworth: Exactly and really understanding the fact that you too understand roofing and are involved through National Women In Roofing, through the local associations. I mean, I think that's just what makes such a huge difference and then being such experts. One last question because we're coming to the end of our time, but really any new progressive ideas or different things that you can share that the contractors should be thinking about?

Seth Pietsch: That's a really good question. That's a tough one, too. I think the big thing right now with just the way everything is is really be looking for ways to have technology boost your sales. Nobody wants to lay off employees. Nobody wants to do anything like that. Employees are the foundation of everybody's company. But with having to do things virtually, doing just the technology side right now, it's a huge key component to businesses overall basically their current state of driving new revenue. Because if you can't go out and do an estimate like you did six months ago where you go out and meet with the property owner and actually go up on the roof, well, how are you going to do that? You got to be looking for ways and creating ways to continue to do bids and estimates effectively, safely, and efficiently. And there's a lot of new technology out there, whether it's virtual, whether it's use of drones, whatever.

Some of this stuff has been around for more than just in the last three months, but looking for new ways to do things through technology to help boost sales and keep bids and everything coming through. From a construction standpoint, that's probably one of the most important things to be focusing on is what kind of improvements and what kind of technology advancements can we get to help drive and continue to drive sales and revenue for our company.

Heidi Ellsworth: I think that's excellent. I love that. I agree 100%. And I think I would add onto that is as you were adding all these technologies, whether it's drones or working in the cloud, there is risk, and there's cyber risk, and there's technology risk, especially with drones. So be sure that you are talking to you two about that also, making sure that's all part of their insurance policies, right?

Seth Pietsch: Absolutely. And that's what we talked to actually with Karen yesterday about is the use of the technology and the advancements in technology just to make sure that you run things by whoever you're working with to see if there's any adjustments you need to do from an insurance perspective.

Heidi Ellsworth: I love it. I love it. And I love what you said, Ashley, about that if... Our listeners out there, if you even want to just pick your brains to review policies, I can tell you, Ashley and Seth are there for you and their team, which they just have... Integrity Insurance is really making a difference in the roofing industry. So thank you both for being here today. I so appreciate your wisdom.

Seth Pietsch: Thank you very much, Heidi.

Ashley Pietsch: Thanks, Heidi.

Heidi Ellsworth: Thank you and I want to thank everybody for listening today. This is Roofing Road Trips with Heidi. As we go around the country talking to people in the roofing industry, be sure to listen to all of our podcasts and our webinars and our videos. They're all under read, listen, watch on our website, RoofersCoffeeShop. I hope you all have a wonderful day and thank you so much for listening.

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