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S2:E51 Dick Bus - The Next Generation of Roofing - PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION

ATAS - Dick Bus RRT - social
December 10, 2020 at 2:37 p.m.

 

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of an live interview with Dick Bus, the president of ATAS roofing manufacturer. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast.

Announcer:

Welcome to Roofing Road Trips with Heidi. Explore the roofing industry through the eyes of a long-term professional within the trade. Listen for insights, interviews, and exciting news in the roofing industry today.
 

Heidi Ellsworth:

Hello and welcome to another Roofing Road Trips. This is Heidi Ellsworth, partner with RoofersCoffeeShop, and I am so excited to be here today. We are interviewing what I would consider an icon of the roofing industry, Mr. Dick Bus with ATAS. He's the president of ATAS. And I have to tell you, I have learned a lot from Dick over the years, and we have worked together on the NRCA, with the MRA. And so as far as I'm concerned, today is a very special podcast. Dick, thank you so much for being here today.

Dick Bus:

Thanks for the invite.
 

Heidi Ellsworth:

Well, the topics we're going to talk about today, the next generation and bringing more women into the industry are definitely as you know some of my favorite topics, and you have really been a thought leader. And so before we even get started, I just want to say thank you for all the support, all the great initiatives that you've done for the roofing industry.

Dick Bus:

Well, thank you for that.
 

Heidi Ellsworth:

It's pretty cool. So tell our audience a little bit about you and your history in both roofing and manufacturing. I want everybody to get to know you.

Dick Bus:

Well, I actually, I got my start in the aluminum siding industry. My father was a contractor starting in 1962 and then he got into manufacturing in 1963 in the basement of our home. So we were bending a trim for our own use as well as for other contractors. Hence, the name ATAS actually stands for Aluminum Trim and Shapes.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Nice, okay.

Dick Bus:

So I've been on job sites installing aluminum siding. Last project I did was on top of a church, on top of the roof and the steeple trimming that out so. That was back when I was 18. And that was, I won't tell you how many years ago that was, but it's a lot so.

Heidi Ellsworth:

That is really cool. The siding industry, we're getting a lot closer between siding and roofing. So I see that. So your dad started in your basement. How did you grow the business?

Dick Bus:

Just by providing quality service and quality products to other contractors and grown from the Rochester, New York market to the rest of New York State to the New England and built our first building in 1972 and started manufacturing aluminum siding. And got into the commercial roofing in 1980, actually in 1978 is when we started manufacturing metal roofing. So we've been growing the products and locations ever since.

Heidi Ellsworth:

And I'm always amazed because I have been so blessed to have a lot of friends there at ATAS who were always kind of doing things together. But I have been amazed at all of the companies that you've also brought to fruition around ATAS. Can you share some of that about the sister companies and everything you're doing?

Dick Bus:

Well, we expanded regionally across the country in 1980 with our acquisition in Arizona and also built a plant in Tennessee. And then in 2008, we bought our supplier and start painting our metal and that's the sister company that you're referring to, that we call BRIGHTSMITH. BRIGHTSMITH coil coaters pre paints metal that's used for all different types of products, including metal roofing, metal siding. We also do a lot of painting for the metal deck business. We're painting for the above ground pool industry, interior ceilings.

Dick Bus:

So a wide variety of products that we paid for. And then we also post paint. We did an acquisition in Trenton, New Jersey. So now we post paint metal. So post paint. The difference between pre paint and post paint is we paint the metal before we form it, that's called pre paint. And post paint is first manufacture the product like for lighters and that type of thing, and then paint it so. Yeah, that's why we ended up with actually a total of six different plants. We have two here in Allentown, like I said, mentioned Arizona, Tennessee, Morrisville, Pennsylvania, and Trenton, New Jersey.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Wow, wow. Because I know how active you are in the manufacturing space too. And we're actually going to come back to that. Because I want to talk more about everything you're doing to grow just overall the manufacturing and the trade of manufacturing. But before we get there, yesterday I was lucky enough to be on a panel with Minnie and with Tiff and a number of ladies from your group. And I work with Leanne all the time and with Shelly.

You have incredibly strong and very talented women working at ATAS and BRIGHTSMITH. And I know how much you've supported us with National Women in Roofing. Can you just share? I know you've shared this with me before, but share the importance of getting more women involved in both metal roofing, manufacturing, all of the above.

Dick Bus:

Well, I've learned a long time ago, maybe that's because my wife got involved in a business. Shortly after we were married, she came in and started running our HR department and out of the 44 years we've been married, she's worked with me 40 years. She has now retired in the past couple of years, but she has run HR. And I learned from that.

Dick Bus:

And actually even before that, my mother was running our marketing department. So women have always been a strong presence and we continue to have women in key roles, not just in the sales side and the ones that you just mentioned, but also our controllers female, our credit managers female. So I don't know. It's served me well embracing, having women working in the business with us.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Well, it's really putting you in a perfect position too as this new generation comes along. What I see in this new generation is they don't care if you're male or female, they just care that you're respectful and working well. And you've got that in spades in your company. So bringing in this next generation, you're already there.

Dick Bus:

Yeah, with Tiffany, Tiffany's my niece. She's been with us now 10 years after she graduated college. So yeah, we've got the next generation on board and yes, that includes women.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. I love that. So I remember when we were sitting in Chicago a couple of years ago and you brought up the video of Let's Build and your granddaughter. That was just so cool. Can you share with everybody out there, what's going on? What your involvement, your company's involvement with really helping to grow and take Let's Build Construction Camp for Girls to the next level? And I know your granddaughters have been involved in it all.
 

Dick Bus:

Well, one of my granddaughters has been very active in it. The Let's Build Construction Camp for Girls was a brainchild of the local CSI, which is a Construction Specifications Institute and the local associated Building Contractors Association, it was their brainchild to try and get more young people, young girls involved in construction. Because of Leanne's involvement with CSI, they brought that to me and they were asking for a primary sponsor. I didn't hesitate at all. I said, "Let's get on board. I think this is a great thing."

Dick Bus:

And my oldest granddaughter was 14 at the time and we asked her to participate in it. And she learned a lot to the point after she did that week camp, we had the opportunity to a wire in a GFI in a light bar in her bathroom. So anyways, after that week of camp, she ended up doing the electrical work and I just watched what she did. And all I ended up doing was just tightening the screws and wire nuts a little bit more for her. And other than that, she did the whole thing and she did it right the first time.

Dick Bus:

Then on this last year, she was involved where they built a shed that a homeowner had contracted with the group, with the girls camp to build this shed and they put a metal roof on. And my daughter was up there helping them to install this metal roof as well as just build the whole shed. So it's a good program.

Heidi Ellsworth:

That is great. And what are they seeing with the young women who are participating in it? Are they seeing them really become more engaged and interested in the trades for construction?

Dick Bus:

Yeah. One of the subcontractors that supported the program, they ended up hiring a girl that was 18 when she first took the course. And she's now working full-time as a carpenter. So we're seeing the benefit of girls coming into construction trade.

Heidi Ellsworth:

It makes a difference when you're invited in and it's so inclusive.

Dick Bus:

Yes it is.
 

Heidi Ellsworth:

So along that lines, just share with our audience, your involvement with the manufacturing associations and Manufacturing Day. We always talk about the contractor side of things, but really the need for labor and manufacturing is just as important. And I know you've been doing a lot with that. Share some of that.

Dick Bus:

Well, I'm on a local board called a Manufacturers Resource Center and there's 18 companies on that board. And we started this video contest where manufacturers team up with a middle school and they video what the manufacturer is doing what it looks like from a kid's perspective to try and get them to go into the trades, specifically for manufacturing.

Dick Bus:

We've been supporting it for seven years and they're coming out actually next week to film for this year. And there's a contest and we get to see what other kids have done at other manufacturers. So that has helped increase the attendance at the local tech school here in the Lehigh Valley. When it started eight years ago, there were seven companies and seven schools. Now they're over 40 schools and 40 companies. So it has growing nicely.

Heidi Ellsworth:

That is great. From middle school to graduation and we're talking about seven years, so are you seeing some results of young people going into manufacturing?

Dick Bus:

Oh yes. Yeah. Like I said a minute ago, both trade schools I think they're reporting that their graduating class is up 40% since when we started so. Big numbers, big improvement.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Wow, that's great.

Dick Bus:

We're trying to get the message out that just going to college for the sake of going to college is not the answer. Learn a trade, whether it's in manufacturing or even the Metal Buildings Institute, I'm on their committee to figure out a way of reaching out to kids to get them to come into the trades.

Heidi Ellsworth:

It's the future we need and it's such a great career. It's such a great career for families with career paths in there. Aren't you also speaking and kind of talking to some of the kids and really working with them as you're going through all these different programs you're working with?

Dick Bus:

Another program that we're involved in with is National Association of Manufacturers, which they have Manufacturing Day, which is the first Friday in October. And we bring in, we invite in high school kids and we usually end up with about 170 to 200 students. And we do a panel discussion with them and different employees talk about their job and how they got to that career and what they had to learn in school and that type of thing. So we continue to support that every year.

Dick Bus:

Another thing that we support is a National Roofing Day. We go to Washington, D.C. and I'm trying to get NRCA to embrace getting out to colleges or not colleges to high school, to talk to these kids to get into the trade. Do something similar to what National Association of Manufacturers has done.

Heidi Ellsworth:

That's great. Because I know there was involvement with SkillsUSA and CTE and being able to just kind of look at some of these other associations that are having very successful career day. I love that Manufacturing Day really starting to educate the kids coming up who are going to be looking for jobs. It makes a difference.

Dick Bus:

Yep, absolutely.

Heidi Ellsworth:

I hope I'm going to say this right, Dick. The past president of MRA and the current president of MCA, right? Metal Construction Association?

Dick Bus:

No, the other way around. I'm current president of the Metal Roofing Alliance, MRA. And I'm on the board of the Metal Construction Association and have been president from 2004 to 2007. I've been on the MCA board since 1992 with the exception of 2011 to 2016, but they brought me back.

Heidi Ellsworth:

They know a good thing when they have it.

Dick Bus:

Yeah, yeah.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Well with the growth of metal, I mean, we're seeing just huge growth in metal roofing and metal overall as such a strong, sustainable building product. What are you seeing in that realm when it comes to labor and getting out to the younger generation enticing them into the metal trades?

Dick Bus:

Well, like I said a minute ago, we have the Metal Buildings Institute that's trying to get all the different associations working together. So we're getting the same message out to the younger people to get involved in trades. So the Metal Roofing Alliance has a big, big problem with the number of or lack of contractors install residential metal roofing.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Okay. We need to get out there and get the word out on that then because we do. So many people want metal roofing. We're seeing it all the time.

Dick Bus:

Yeah. When the Metal Roofing Alliance started in 1997, metal had 3.6% market share and now we're over 15% market share and that's no installations every year.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Wow. Wow. So opportunity and that's what I always want to kind of put out there is the opportunities for such a strong career in whatever you're looking at, any type of metal building or metal roofing, roofing overall, manufacturing. There's so much opportunity. And I think that what you're doing to get the word out there, we need to continue doing. And I know we're working on that in the RoofersCoffeeShop. We work with MRA and we work with you and your group trying to get beyond just our industry and get it out to the wider audience that there's great opportunity here.

Dick Bus:

Right. Yeah. So I appreciate you working with MRA on that. You're doing a great job.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah, we love them. They are awesome. So I want to kind of switch here real quick. I would love for you to share some of your wisdom with roofing companies, so roofing contractors out there. I hear this all the time, they're like, "We can't find anybody. We can't find diversity. We're having a hard time hiring women. We haven't been able to hire young people." What is your advice to them on how to take that step to really open their doors to have a more inclusive hiring program?

Dick Bus:

I think bottom line is they need to get involved in different groups that gets them exposure to other people and not only their own peers, but also within their local remodeling association or local roofing contractors association or even the national one, but they need to get involved. They need to network. That's how they're going to be able to get more people. Go into the schools and promote the importance of the trades.

Dick Bus:

If they know anybody that's in the education field to get the word out to them that there's nothing wrong with being a roofing contractor. I have to give a plug for NRCA with their certification program. I mean, that is just elevating the quality of the trade and getting more quality contractors in there.

Heidi Ellsworth:

I've been seeing the same thing and really the level of professionalism and this being communicated out about the roofing industry and the opportunities for a really good career and good wages.

Dick Bus:

Right. Yeah. There's nothing to be ashamed of putting on working clothes and getting a little bit dirty, get your hands dirty. There's nothing wrong with that. But my father did it and I have to tell you a little short story. When we were building our building here in Allentown and my father, we were up in Rochester, New York, which is 300 miles away building a new plant. And my father came down here shortly after I moved down here.

And he was doing some up in the front lobby cleaning up the construction debris and these two salesmen come walking in and they asked to see me. So my father came and got me out of the plant and I came in and these salesmen were given their spiel. And I says, "Well, wait a minute. My father knows more about that than I do." So my father came into my temporary office where these guys were sitting and these guys, it was so obvious that their face just dropped. And it's kind of like, "Oh my God, that was the president of the company that was pushing a broom."

There's nothing wrong with it and just because someone's pushing a broom or wearing work clothes doesn't mean they're not a successful business person.
 

Heidi Ellsworth:

That's right. That's right. I grew up in the trades myself. My dad was a general contractor and I know. It's the impressions, unfortunately, that sometimes are out there are people's biases. They just miss the whole opportunity right there.
 

Dick Bus:

Yep. And by the way, I kicked those salesmen out. We didn't even listen to them anymore.
 

Heidi Ellsworth:

Know your audience.
 

Dick Bus:

That's right.
 

Heidi Ellsworth:

I love it. Well, I think one of the things that I would like to end this podcast on Dick too is just your overall involvement with associations. I know you just said this about advice to roofing companies, but I just look at it and I'm always in awe of you with what you've done with the NRCA, the MRA, the metal, and then now National Women in Roofing and your manufacturing associations. Just kind of leave our audience a little bit with again the importance of what associations can do for you as a person and also for your business going forward.

Dick Bus:

I just learned the more people I talked to, the more I learn even if they're not in the industry. Just being involved and networking and learning and listening, you just can't put a price on that.

Heidi Ellsworth:

I agree. Everyday I'm so blessed with the people I've met like you throughout my association involvement in National Women in Roofing. So thank you. Thank you for everything you do for the industry. And thank you for the inspiration that you've given all of us.

Dick Bus:

And thank you for what you're doing and thanks for having Minnie and Tiffany on the podcast yesterday. So we really appreciate that.

Heidi Ellsworth:

I love them. I love your team. They are amazing people. So we'll just keep working together and having some fun times.

Dick Bus:

Absolutely.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Excellent.

Dick Bus:

I look forward to when we can see each other face-to-face.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yes, me too. Me too. And I want to thank everybody for being on this podcast. You are going to be able to find information on ATAS, on all these associations we've talked about in the directory section of RoofersCoffeeShop. There is excellent information on how to become members, how to get involved and how to learn more about all of the great products and initiatives and everything that's going on with ATAS.

As you heard, we need more metal roofing professionals and more metal roofing contractors. So be sure to visit that, along with all of our podcasts on our Read Listen Watch section of the site. Thank you so much for being here today on this podcast. And we look forward to seeing you again or hearing you again in the future. Have a great day.

Announcer:

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



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