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S2:E45 Roofing Road Trips- Trent Cotney- PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION

Cotney Construction Law - S2:E45 Trent Cotney - Planning for 2021
November 16, 2020 at 10:15 a.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of an interview with Trent Cotney, owner of Cotney Construction Law. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast here.

Heidi Ellsworth: Hello and welcome to a Roofing Road Trips. I'm Heidi Ellsworth, partner with RoofersCoffeeShop. And I am as always very excited about this podcast today because I'm with my dear friend, Trent Cotney. And Trent, thank you for being on the show today. 

Trent Cotney: Heidi, it's always a pleasure to be here. It's great to talk to you again.

Heidi Ellsworth: And I could do this every week. I love visiting with you. I love hearing what's going on. You have really created through the Cotney group companies on really looking at what roofing contractors need across so many areas. I thought today, it would be really great to talk a little bit about 2021. And with 2020, wow! What a year. So I want to start there just a tad. Trent, sharing your wisdom with all of our listeners? What are some of the things that you learned so far? I know we only have about six weeks left in 2020, thank goodness. But what are some of the main things you learned in 2020 that contractors should be aware of and maybe using in their planning for 2020?

Trent Cotney: So Heidi this has been a very trying year, for a lot of different reasons. There's a lot of stuff going on, but I try to always look at things from a positive standpoint and I've viewed this as a year of opportunity. I really think this is a chance for any roofing contractor out there, regardless of whether they're brand new or they're established to embrace this change and to use it as a force to help drive cells increase efficiencies and do a lot of other things from business standpoint. From the legal standpoint obviously one of the things that we're looking at is making sure that roofing contractors are protected, safeguarding your accounts receivable. The industry has been blessed because we've gotten through the majority of 2020 without too big a hit.

Trent Cotney: I've got that some reports, some residential contractors in certain areas, Pacific Northwest, Northeast hit a little harder, maybe some soft spots here and there, but overall still pretty strong. I'm more concerned about 2021 now. And, and I think part of that is making sure that, you really take a look at the inside, look in the mirror, figure out how can you tweak your operating procedures, make yourself stronger so that when you come in to 2021, you've got a great game plan together, but there's opportunity out there. Then I think there's a lot of things coming up on the horizon, which I'm really excited about for this industry.

Heidi Ellsworth: I've been saying the same thing and talking to people across the country. I would say for the most part hearing very positive on all levels, manufacturing, distribution, and of course what drives it all are roofing contractors. And so they, for the most part are seeing good business, definitely the same, if not actually a lot more. And I've heard of some really serious backlogs to in certain parts of the country. So from a risk management, you now have the COVID put on, you have obviously the social distancing with that and what's your contractors be doing right now in their planning for 2021 as top priorities. I mean, what, what do they need to do to kind of stay up and stay with the changes that are going on?

Trent Cotney: So one of the things that anybody that's listening to this really needs to watch out for is the amount of regulatory changes that have been happening as a result of COVID-19. And we can also expect some additional regulatory changes as a result of the Biden administration. So from a standpoint of health and safety, HR and employee management and immigration, all three of those things, I expect significant change in 2021. So what I really recommend that everybody does is take a look at your documentation.

Trent Cotney: Now, take a look at, your SOP, your standard operating procedure for filling out I-9s for... Look at your employee manuals, look at your safety manuals and figure out what needs to be done now, and be prepared for future changes. COVID-19 guidance has been all over the place. I mean, it seems like every day we hear something different and many States have very robust COVID-19 guidance on top of what the CDC and OSHA has put forward.

Trent Cotney: So making sure that you are properly training your employees on that, having toolbox talks, engaging and, open and transparent communication about what you expect is critical. And as we saw in the recent elections, there's a lot of things that contractors are going to have to approach for the first time. There were a slew full of states that went recreational marijuana, South Dakota, Arizona, New Jersey, and a few others. And I know you're in Oregon, for the first time they're decriminalizing, possession of all drugs in small amounts.

Trent Cotney: And there's also, medicinal magic mushrooms now. So what that brings is changes in your employee manuals and how you train. And it doesn't seem like that would be a big issue that affects the workplace, it does because what we saw early on in Colorado was a great example of this is when those, laws change crew members don't realize that what happens at the workplace stays in the workplace. You can't bring a lot of that to work, and you need to make sure that you're educating your employees on what these new laws and regulations are.

Heidi Ellsworth: Because even if it's legalized, it's still not legal within a work site. And so that really comes down to your employee manuals, your safety manuals. And so this is where I really wanted to take some of this conversation. I mean, I've worked with you a long time and I love this and worked with you on the subscription. Really talking about this with your subscription plan. I personally don't think there's any time that is more important than now for contractors to be really looking at some sort of ongoing legal and risk support, where they can evaluate all of their manuals, evaluate their processes and making sure that they have minimized risk as much as possible. So how can they do that with the programs that you've put together to really help them with this?

Trent Cotney: This transcript was exported on Nov 16, 2020 - view latest version here. So when I started this company and I had worked at big law firms for the first 15 years of my career, when I started kind of construction law years ago, eight and a half years ago now, what I wanted to do was I wanted to create a different environment where the relationship between legal counsel and contractors was mutual. It was proactive rather than reactive. And I wanted people to see me as a business partner rather than see me as just, that lawyer. So what we did is, is we designed a subscription plan with the idea that every month you pay a set fee and in that fee, you get unlimited services depending on which skew you pick. Okay. And the reason this is great, for example, under our silver plan and all these plans are on our website and tab, you can find them there. You get unlimited employee manual and safety manual updates.

Trent Cotney: So I kind of view it as an insurance policy and think how much time you would spend trying to figure out what the latest regulations are either you trying or getting your HR people to draft this for your manual. We take all of that headache away from you for a very small price. And you have basically your own counsel in your pocket whenever you need it. And that's really the benefit of it. It's created great relationships. And that's what I'm about. Is I want to foster those positive business relationships so that our customer success is our success. That's how I kind of view it, but now more than ever, I definitely see a need to make significant changes to all of your manuals, to all of your legal stuff, because it's going to change, especially with the new administration coming in.

Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah. And you know what I love is the fact that you are so focused on roofing. I know you do construction law across all trades and can really help anybody in construction, but you're so focused on roofing. And so you're able to kind of take almost this overall knowledge of the industry and what all contractors are going through. So you bring that down to each and every contractor. So they're getting this greater knowledge, not just what they're dealing with, but how other contractors have dealt with it. And really that I just love the advocate you are and your team is on to helping contractors be prepared and be proactive.

Trent Cotney: Well, thank you. I've always tried to take the approach of being pragmatic rather than academic and because we represent so many roofing contractors, we're close to a thousand roofing contractors we represent now, all over the US and Canada, because of all of our great strategic relationships with suppliers and manufacturers, both here in North America and internationally, gives us the capability of knowing what's going to happen to the industry. Oftentimes before the industry knows what's going to happen in the industry. And what that allows us to do is not just give legal advice, but understand the nature of the business and help navigate those things, regardless of whether you're a new roofing contractor just starting out, or you've been in the game for 100 years. And that's really something that unique about our company is we are really dedicated to the industry from the bottom to the top, top to the bottom, all in between you name it.

Heidi Ellsworth: I think that's a big part of the pro activeness like you said, you see things coming long before probably most contractors do because of the scope of working with so many associations and working with so many different contractors. So one of the things that I see you do all the time, Trent, and I think this is important for all the contractors planning out there, is you see problems and you see pain points and you deliver solutions. One of those is also along with the subscription plan, you also just launched Cotney Consulting Group with John Kenney this last year. I think contractors should be looking at what kind of support and help they need in 2021 from that side too. So maybe share with them a little bit, how is that going to help them?

Trent Cotney: Sure. So one of the things that I found out and giving legal advice is really what the problem was, was a business problem that caused the legal problem. it was a bad policy. It was a bad procedure. You weren't running your business right to begin with, and that's why you had to call me. And I've known John for 20 plus years, really close to his family. John's background is third generation roofer started as a union roofer in New Jersey. He went from the roof to the boardroom. His last job, in February of this year was chief operating officer for $50 million construction company. And he brings know-how on operations, on estimating, on business consulting. That is pretty much unparalleled. He has the capability of being able to go into any roofing business and explain how to do things better because he served in every position.

Trent Cotney: He was chief estimator. He was project manager, he's been on the roof. He he's seen it all and done it all. And I think what we're able to do is with both consulting and their team legal and our team, we're able to provide a full service solution for whatever your business problems are. I always say we are the construction solution. I mean, that's it. If you have a problem, we can solve it for you. And you're not just getting, you know, a flash in the pan, we've got historic track record of success that has demonstrated that we can make changes within a business. So very excited about it. John's a great guy. Also, he's just a good guy to have around and I don't come to work. I don't come to work at all. It's not how I view it. It's John and I ended up spending a lot of our times talking about what can we do next for the industry? And that's something that we're both very, very passionate about.

Heidi Ellsworth: And I've seen that a lot. And I think really when contractors... And I say this all the time from a sales and marketing side, that if you are getting people to help you with your business, make sure they understand roofing, make sure they've been involved in roofing. So the fact that John and your team, and I know that team is building of consultants, they can really come in. And again, that pro activeness ahead of time, how much money are you saving, going forward into the future? So I love that combination.

Trent Cotney: That's great. Really, really blessed to have him here. Actually, funny story about John is... And I'll tell the story real quick.

Heidi Ellsworth: No, do.

Trent Cotney: I started my practice down in South Florida at a very large law firm, 500 lawyers down there. And I realized very quick that South Florida is probably not where I need to be. There's nothing wrong with South Florida, it just wasn't my fit. So moved up to Tampa. Moved up to Tampa and wanted to get involved with roofing. Our grandfather was a roofer. I figured why not? I went into the local roofing association. It was a dinner meeting at night and I was scared to death. At the time I was about 25, 26 years old.

Trent Cotney: I was probably a buck 45 wet. And I was like, "They're going to throw me out of here." And that's what I was scared to death going into that meeting. But I did it. And the first person I met was John Kenney. And we struck up a conversation there and have been friends ever since and now 20 some odd years later, we're working hand in hand. So we always both kind of had mutual respect for each other. It just, the stars aligned. And now here we are. So it's funny how things work out.

Heidi Ellsworth: I think so. That's part of the beauty of this industry. I love it. So along that lines, solving problems, you and John, I know one of the things you are passionate about is advocacy for the contractors and advocacy with regulatory and laws, everything that's coming out and politics. And so you started Cotney Construction Lobbying, and really kind of started in Florida, but this just a little while ago, you brought on somebody that we all know and I think is just going to be amazing. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Trent Cotney: Sure. So it became apparent a couple of years ago that I have to do something and that's how I kind of looked at it is. It's great to advocate. It's great to understand the law and everything else, but I know what needs to be changed in the industry, I know it because I see it and I do it every single day. And I got to a point where I couldn't sit on the sidelines anymore. So we created the lobbying group. We've got eight lobbyists and right now we're in Florida, we focus on construction industry, favorable legislation and executive agency actions. So that includes workforce training, vertical infrastructure improvement, favorable laws that will help con roofing contractors do what they need to do. And it's been something that I've been very passionate about.

Trent Cotney: We also set up the Cotney construction pack and I put my money where our mouth is. And the idea is that we support candidates that support construction. So as part of that, I realized that we've got to get a national presence as well. So Cotney Construction Law has hired Craig Brightup, who is a very wellknown roofing lobbyist. He's been doing it for decades. He represents a lot of the roofing associations and manufacturer associations out there. I've known him and respected him for years. We've talked and known each other. And I've seen him every time along the road, but he is just absolutely incredible for us. Gives us some real insight and I'm looking forward to being able to work with him to affect some change nationally, and I'm a big believer that I think it's our duty to do that.

Trent Cotney: I kind of view it that way. I view that we are in a unique position, so we have to advocate, and that's kind of what I get excited about. I'm sorry if I'm nerding out here

Heidi Ellsworth: No, I love it.

Trent Cotney: But this is what I'm really passionate about, because if we can do and I can look back and say, "Hey, I affected some positive change here." That's what it's about for me at this point. So Craig is the man. I'm very excited to have him on, we're actually doing a webinar here shortly and going to talk about some of the election updates, but he is just a brilliant man. And we're blessed to have him, lobby for us up in D.C.

Heidi Ellsworth: I love Craig. I love listening to him speak. I'm really excited for that webinar. Because I always want to hear kind of what's going on and how's it going to affect roofing and the construction industry overall. But you know what, Trent, I would love for you to kind of share with the contractors, why they should care and what they should be doing planning wise, or at least reaching out to you and your team when it comes to lobbying and advocacy, but even more so the bigger thing of how they position their company. Maybe kind of bring all that together between the law, the consulting and the lobbying.

Trent Cotney: So I think 2021 is going to be a great year for roofing. I don't doubt that the economy might take a little bit of a downturn, but what I'm seeing from the Biden administration, there's some opportunity there. I think there's going to be a big push for renewable energy. I think there's a lot of opportunity for roofing contractors to incorporate solar. And I'm also looking, I've talked to some manufacturers about biofuel and green roofing. I think there is just a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of that. I think immigration laws might be a little bit more favorable and that's something that we're interested in doing. So I do think there's some opportunity. I do think there will be some changes to regulation that contractors need to watch for, but we are there every step of the way. So if anybody that's listening to this has any questions about what the upcoming regulations mean, what legal issues there are, what business problems there are.

Trent Cotney: We have a solution for you and whether it's a subscription plan or it's, it's just talking to us to get advice. We are always happy to help. And that's something that I really enjoy about what my job is now is just being able to talk to contractors, especially ones that are just getting into the business. If you're listening to this and you are just starting out and you don't know where to turn, give me a call, man, I'm happy. I won't send you a bill. I'm happy to talk to you, I want to get more people in the industry. I'm very passionate about it. And it's just something that I'm very proud of.

Heidi Ellsworth: Oh, I love that Trent. That's exactly how I feel. I'm like, "Give me a call. Let's get you in here to show you how great this industry is." As you're listening to this and as you're doing your 2021 planning, I just think it's so critical to reach out to the experts in the industry to kind of really find out what's going on, making sure your position, talking to all the contractors out there, positioning your company in a way for success, because we know the businesses there. So now you need to mitigate risk and you need to make sure you're aware of everything that you need to be involved in. Trent, I know that you also are general counsel for several roofing associations. So there are a lot of different ways for contractors, for roofers to get in touch with you. 

Heidi Ellsworth: Whether that's like free consultations through RoofersCoffeeShop, which we have online through the associations. And then through just calling Cotney Construction Law, because you guys are great about just taking care of everybody. So thank you so much. Thank you for all that great advice. Any last thoughts?

Trent Cotney: I just want to let everybody out there know that Heidi, you are good people and RoofersCoffeeShop. You guys have really just blown up, especially during COVID-19. You have been a tremendous resource for all of the contractors out there for the industry. And thank you for everything that you and RoofersCoffeeShop does. I drink out of one of the three or four different mugs I have daily and I always think of you. And if we don't talk, I'm always thinking of you. So I want to thank you personally and thank RoofersCoffeeShop, you guys do a fantastic job.

Heidi Ellsworth: Thank you, Trent. I feel the same. I'm going to be on that webinar tomorrow. Tuning on listening to you and for all of our listeners out there, everybody who's enjoying this podcast and you can find information, free articles, advice, you name it. Trent is one of our RCS influencers. They write every month they send us articles. So there is so much information on RoofersCoffeeShop about Cotney Construction Law, Cotney Consulting Group, and Cotney Construction Lobbying. You can find it there and that will take you right to Trent. So again, thank you Trent for being here today and thank you everybody for listening. Please visit the read, listen, watch section of RoofersCoffeeShop and listen to all the podcasts or on your favorite podcast channel and be sure to subscribe. Thank you and have a great day.

Speaker 1: Make sure to subscribe to our channel and leave a review. Thanks for listening. This has been Roofing Road Trips with Heidi from the


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