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Tom Christner & Scott Seaton - Who is Taking out the Trash? The Trash Rocket Story - PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION

Tom Christner & Scott Seaton - Who is Taking out the Trash? The Trash Rocket Story - PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION
May 23, 2022 at 2:18 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of an live interview with Tom Christner & Scott Seatonof Rocket Equipment. You can read the interview below or  listen to the podcast.

Megan Ellsworth:
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 from RoofersCoffeeShop. This is Heidi Ellsworth and I am road tripping today to meet some amazing, amazing folks who are bringing new equipment to the roofing industry that is really changing how contractors do business. I am here today with Scott Seaton and Tom Christner of Rocket Equipment. Welcome, gentlemen.

Scott Seaton:
Thank you.

Tom Christner:
Hello.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Hello, Scott. I would love to start with you as the inventor, the owner. You have just done some amazing things. Can you introduce yourself and maybe tell us a little bit about Rocket Equipment and Trash Rocket?

Scott Seaton:
Sure. So I'm Scott Seaton, I grew up in Omaha. I've got a commercial roofing company. I've been doing that for 40 years and now Rocket Equipment, which is the equipment company for the Trash Rocket. I've been a general contractor. I've been a lot of things over 40 years.

Heidi Ellsworth:
And now bringing important equipment to the industry.

Scott Seaton:
That's right.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah. Tom, can you introduce yourself please?

Tom Christner:
Yeah, my name is Tom Christner. Though I grew up in the Midwest in Downstate Illinois, I've lived in Atlanta for the past 25 years. Most of which actually have been in the equipment industry. A lot of it in software selling to the rental industry. But at the same time, I've been around equipment for a very long time. I joined Rocket Equipment last year and I cover everything from Maine all the way down to Florida. But because I'm based in Atlanta, I spend a lot of time in the Southeast.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Excellent, awesome. Well, I'm really excited about this story. There's nothing better than a roofing contractor who brings solutions. And Scott, that's exactly what you've done. I would love for you to share the story from your roofing company to having the idea to where we're at today. If you could just share that with our ... It's so inspirational.

Scott Seaton:
Well, it all started pretty simple. I was putting a new roof on my house and it had a bunch of concrete tile on there. It had 72,000 pounds of concrete tile that had to come off. And I just did not want to just throw it off the edge and just ruin all the landscaping and do all that, which is always the problem.

Scott Seaton:
So we kind of came up with a chute designed thing in the front and it worked so well that I just thought, "You know what?" This could be something that could work in the roofing company on the commercial side." And so I just kind of brainstormed from there and this and that. And we always have problems on the commercial side as well, trying to get stuff from the roof down to the dumpster.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Exactly.

Scott Seaton:
So one thing led to another, we just kind of worked for a couple years to improve the design and came up with the Rocket.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Rocket. That is so cool. So tell us a little bit about the Rocket. I know a lot of contractors have seen it. You guys are very prominent at the shows, but just talk a little bit about the design of it and how it works.

Scott Seaton:
Well, it's pretty simple. It's a trailer-mounted hydraulic boom with a chute on the top of it. So basically there's a lot of times you can't get right next to the building and to get a chute up there, or get the trash down into the dumpster. So this was designed to pull up in the parking lot and then telescope up to the edge of the roof over top of grass, sidewalks, landscaping, whatever the case may be.

Scott Seaton:
And then you just park the dumpster at the bottom. And it's always been a problem in our industry. You're always spending a ton of time trying to set up an old chute ruining landscaping, sidewalks, trying to get the dumpster to the edge of the route, the whole nine yards. So it was just a way to just eliminate all that hassle.

Heidi Ellsworth:
That's excellent. And Tom, I know that you are out there. And you said from Maine to Florida, working with contractors, bringing the Trash Rocket into them. What are you hearing and what are you seeing from contractors who are using this?

Tom Christner:
Well, Scott actually mentioned the concrete tile. Well, Florida is just full of concrete tile everywhere. And there's also lots of multifamily in Florida. So one of our first customers actually does a lot of multifamily townhouses. They do the townhouse communities, basically anything to be managed by an HOA. And they started throwing concrete tile down it and it worked. And the level of excitement that they had for it, they started talking about with their friends then other companies started buying it.

Tom Christner:
And it's to the point where Florida's a really big market for us and it's because the HOA leadership likes the fact that there's not going to be damage of the shrubby. There's not going to be damage to screens. There's not going to be damage in windows. The sidewalks are going to be completely closed off just because the fact is you can isolate this one space. And then also the contractors like the fact that they can take all the debris to one spot and get it to the dumpster or the dump trailer.

Heidi Ellsworth:
So huge customer satisfaction.

Tom Christner:
Absolutely. Yeah. The people that get it are absolutely in love with it and they tell all their friends.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Wow, that's great. And on the roofing contractors, too, are they using this as part of their sales pitch to share this that, "Hey, look what we're going to do."? When we talked before, grandma's roses are going to be safe.

Tom Christner:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely. It's definitely, especially when they're presenting to condo communities and such, it is a part of the proposal. A lot of my perspective customers are already selling it as if they already have one. And then right before they submit the proposal, they call me. "Hey, how soon can I get one?" And I'm like, "I don't know, 10 days or maybe sooner how about tomorrow?" And then they're like, "Oh, that's great."

Tom Christner:
So that's what we have is we have people that are excited about it. Sometimes they're waiting for a project to do it, but instead of being in the back of their mind, it's more of the front of their mind. We have customers in the Northeast, we have customers or prospective customers in Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, the Southeast, the coastal, the Gulf Coast. And so yeah, every day I get calls from different folks that I've talked to maybe six or eight months ago and they say, "How soon can you get me one?" [crosstalk 00:07:25]

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah, it was so great seeing it in action at NERCA and that you would be able to show contractors how it worked, how easy it is. I think that's a big thing, too, the ease of getting into the job. And like you said, with the boom. Scott, what are you hearing from the contractors and how they are incorporating this into their production?

Scott Seaton:
Well, it's funny. At one of the shows, I forget where it was. I think it was down in New Orleans. There was a guy there that showed up and I came to the booth and he said, "All he does is tear off and demo for roofing contractors." And so he goes in and he would tear off the roof and this and that. And then they would have their crews come in and put the new roof on. And he said, "Where has this thing been?" He says, "This is a game changer." He says, "It's perfect for the industry. It's perfect for everything."

Scott Seaton:
Just the fact that one guy can pull up and set it up in 10 minutes, just one guy. I mean, eliminates all that other labor and hanging a chute off the edge of a roof and all the other problems. I mean, we used to spend $3,000 on a job. $1,500 go setting up a chute and then $1,500 taking it off. And that's only if you needed it in one stop. And it would take four guys half a day or better to do it. And we don't have people to do that stuff.

Heidi Ellsworth:
No. Labor shortage is huge. And the fact of what this does for that speaks so much to make it so much easier for. And talk about safety. It just seems to me like there's a whole element of safety here, too, when you know it's going down once. It's not going to drop on people's heads or anything else.

Scott Seaton:
Yes. Yeah. I mean, it's totally enclosed all the way down so it's not going to blow out of the chute. It's not going to do any of that, but it's also safe for the guys up on the roof. Because if they're coming into it with a powered piece of equipment, it's designed to stop that equipment, which OSHA needs it to do. And it's got safety rails on it at the opening so people can't fall. When you have a roofing company and you live it every day, we design this to do everything that we needed it to do.

Heidi Ellsworth:
That's so smart. I love products that come from the roofing contractors because you're right. You know what you need and how it works and you get it tested out, obviously, too, to make sure it works. I mean, what are you seeing around just when we talk a little bit about quality. And I really want to kind of go to even the production like when that gentleman came to your booth and said he only does tear offs, how much master are his jobs now?

Scott Seaton:
I mean, once you get the things set up, of course, the beauty about the Rocket is it goes up at an angle. And so you can literally throw sheet metal down it, long two-by-fours, whatever. You couldn't do that with the old chutes that went straight up and down because it would just go right down and stop. So there's a lot of things that it has advantages for just getting the work done.

Scott Seaton:
The big thing is you can move it from place to place right down the line of a big building. Just the setup and tear down, you don't need a crane or a forklift or all these parts and pieces and everything else to do. So it just eliminates a whole section of work that is not making any money.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Right, right. Wow. So Tom, as you're seeing all these different contractors use it across the board. And Scott, you kind of talk about this with Tom. How's it working with all the different products? I mean, up in the Northeast you're going to have slate and you got tile and you got asphalt, shingles. it seems like it would all be the same, but how is that working?

Tom Christner:
Well, it's funny because right when I first started with the company, I went to one of my friends who owns a big commercial bill in Buckhead, Atlanta. It's a section of Atlanta. It's a high profile building. He says, "Just come bring it by and we'll put it out front and we'll see if anybody comes by." Well, we had like 22 different roofers show up. They were calling each other. The two top slate guys, they didn't come at the same time. But two of the top slate guys in Atlanta came that day because they were all working in Buckhead, because that's where all the slate is.

Tom Christner:
So the fact is slate is very, very difficult to clean up out of the yard and it tears the yard. And it costs thousands of dollars to rent a skid steer and get everything cleaned up and restored back to normal. A lot of times 10, $15,000 to get everything back to normal. You roll this up, you don't have that problem. And so, I mean, as a matter of fact, just this week, maybe two days ago, one of those slate guys called me and said, "Can I rent one of these?" And I says, "Yes. Yeah, the guy, a rental partner in Marietta, Georgia has one available."

Tom Christner:
I gave him what the rate was. He went ahead and he told the customer that it's available, he called the guy and it's scheduled. So we work closely with our rental partners as well because sometimes people don't have the capital to buy one right away. But at the same time, they want to sell it to their customers as if it's available for their project.

Heidi Ellsworth:
And it seems like it would just pay for itself very quickly.

Tom Christner:
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, yeah, maybe two or three jobs if there's significant jobs. Wouldn't you say that, Scott?

Scott Seaton:
Yeah. I mean, it depends on the type of work you're doing. If you're doing a lot of slate or a lot of row houses or a lot of this and that, I mean, you're going to consistently use it all the time. And even demo contractors, I mean, they take it up to a window and they start throwing debris out of a window right down the Rocket into the dumpster. I mean, it's just an easy way to get the debris out.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah. And you know we started this conversation with talking about customer satisfaction and how much the HOAs are actually demanding it, specifying it, however you want to say that. But I just had up on your comment about the slate because I'm thinking about even liability. If you are throwing off the roof into a dumpster or you're using an open chute or whatever you may be doing, you're still getting nails, product, especially with slate it's going to be sharp.

Heidi Ellsworth:
And you think about the liability of the kids. And I know I've seen roofing contractors who have so much time with the magnet going around making sure they've gotten all the nails. You're saving a lot of time in the cleanup.

Tom Christner:
Yes. Yeah, so we have a customer up in the Great Lakes area and he, he does a lot of cedar shake and there's just so many nails that are involved. And then how do you get all those cleaned up out of the gutter and everything else? It's a game changer for people that do specialty, but it's also a game changer for companies that are looking to improve their process to basically do more with fewer people. And this is a good way to do that.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah. This is really cool. So Scott, I'm going to ask kind of a question here and I kind of hit on it at the beginning, but I just think it's really interesting. So if you're giving advice to other contractors out there who have these kind of ideas. They actually see something that's happening in their business and they a solution.

Heidi Ellsworth:
What's your advice to them on how to, I mean, what are some of the pitfalls? What are some of the great things that happen as you were going through this process of bringing it to market?

Scott Seaton:
Oh, I don't know. Boy, it's a tough road. It's a tough road to bring something to market to allow other people to experience it and then use it to help their business. I mean, I've always invented things in the past. So I built a row farmer one time that was a two or three dimensional row farmer and we did a job that way and then we've built other things.

Scott Seaton:
So when we did the Rocket or did this little prototype, it's like, "Okay, you know what? I've invented so many things in the past so it was just part of the job." That I thought, "I'm not going to do that this time. This time I'm going to get a patent on it."So we actually patented it. And so that has helped and we take it to the market. It's tough, but everybody that sees it and if you use, it's a no-brainer. I mean, it totally makes sense.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah. I think that's the nugget, anybody out there as you're doing these, the patent. Because otherwise people just love to come along and take your ideas. Yeah. And you kind of touched on this, Tom, as we're talking about contractors and how they start incorporating this into their business so they can ... Let's talk a little bit about your rental program. How do they first get in touch with possibly renting one to see how it works? Because like you said, once they try it, that's going to be the next step.

Tom Christner:
Yeah. So as far as rental's concerned, we're kind of in our early stages with it. We have a rental partner in Georgia. We have one in Florida. We're talking to folks in the Carolinas. We're talking to folks in the Northeast. We're talking to someone in Texas, New Orleans, actually around the country. Someone in Chicago just signed with us and so they'll be available to rent there.

Tom Christner:
The reason I mention that is the fact that so many people have just been buying them. If business is good and they need it and they want to have that competitive advantage, they just go ahead and say, "Bring it and show it to me" and we do. Sometimes they'll wire the money, sometimes they'll use our finance partner, but a lot of times they'll just write a check and then I'll go ahead and take it. And then I'll shake their hand, drive down the road, FedEx it home and we'll send them the title. It's a pretty simple process. But folks that are using it are the folks that buy it. We get a lot of good feedback. And some people even put a wrap on it.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Oh yeah.

Tom Christner:
It becomes an advertising feature. So one of our good customers down in Florida has a wrap on it and it's beautiful. We have someone in the Midwest who just bought one of our residential units and he put a wrap on it just right away and he loved it.

Heidi Ellsworth:
How smart.

Tom Christner:
Someone this week just gave me the assurance he's buying one next week. And he went ahead and asked for the specs so he can order a wrap for it. I mean, a lot of these people, because it's 12 foot, six inches tall it's 31 and a half feet long. And you have this big, bright, beautiful tube at the top. So if you can put your advertising on there, I mean, it's a no-brainer.

Scott Seaton:
Well, we designed it that way because we knew roofing contractors liked to put their name on stuff. So yeah, we did it so that you can just plaster your name right on the side of that thing, wrap the whole thing, whatever you want to do. The Trash Rocket name and logo is on the boom right below that. So, I mean, we did this so that contractors can use this as a piece of advertising.

Heidi Ellsworth:
That's smart. That is really smart. I love that. And [inaudible 00:19:28] when you think about that, when someone sees something cool like that, too, and then they can see the name of the company, that again goes back to that this is the type of person we want. It's differentiating your business in just a great way. And I also wanted to note that, I mean, Tom, you pulled this behind your truck, right?

Tom Christner:
That's correct.

Heidi Ellsworth:
I mean, I know you drove it all the way up to wherever we were up in Atlantic City from Georgia.

Tom Christner:
Yeah. That was fun too. It rained the entire time. But the great thing is it tows well, it's a F-250, three-quarter ton pickup it tows well. Because it's just the trailer we chose to with it is very well balanced. It's a tandem axle trailer. And so even when it was windy and it was blowing like crazy or regardless where I was on that trip, whether the weather was beautiful or terrible, I could not feel it back there other than pulling just a regular trailer.

Tom Christner:
But all that was designed in the design phase being able to tow it and do it in a way that is comfortable. And you're not going to feel like it's going to blow you off the road is really important.

Heidi Ellsworth:
And it's wrapped. Now, here's all that advertising going down the highway.

Tom Christner:
Yeah. Well, we get honks all the time, especially at truck stops. People are constantly asking about it at the truck stops.

Heidi Ellsworth:
I love it. Scott, as you're talking, you talked about this at the very beginning a little bit, but commercial, residential, different machines or different chutes, right for those applications. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Scott Seaton:
We do have two models. We have a small one and I have a larger one. And the small one is real easy to get into compact driveways, this and that for residential, et cetera. The large one, it's a lot longer obviously. And so it's a little difficult to get into residential driveways, but it's more suited for the commercial side.

Scott Seaton:
The one of the nice design features that we did on this is as a contractor when you have equipment, the last thing you want to do is go out there and hook up to it and then the thing doesn't work. So this thing operates on batteries. It's got a charger. You can plug it in and charge up the batteries, but it operates on a couple of deep cell batteries. Well, we put a solar charger on it.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Ooh.

Scott Seaton:
So you basically just go park it in your yard out there and the solar charger maintains the batteries, keeps the charge, this and that. So the next time you need to go get it, you just hook up to it and you go and it's ready to go.

Heidi Ellsworth:
That's awesome.

Scott Seaton:
We designed this thing. There's there's like no [inaudible 00:22:17]. There's no there's very little wear parts. It's all designed to be maintenance-free, trouble-free because we don't need headaches.

Heidi Ellsworth:
No, there's enough up on the roof. I love the solar panel. That's that's really cool. And I've been there more than once when something doesn't work and I know how frustrating that is. Well, I'm telling you what, I love this. So we talked a little bit about renting it, but let's talk about buying it.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Now, Tom, I know you told us that you would show up, but probably having them go on to the website or to the directory on RoofersCoffeeShop and it sounds like it doesn't take very long to get one.

Tom Christner:
It doesn't. We have probably a week to 10 days. A lot of it has to do with where you're located. And some people just decide to come pick it up because they want to see the factory. They want to get to know us so that happens quite a bit.

Heidi Ellsworth:
And where's the factory located?

Tom Christner:
Omaha, Nebraska.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Omaha, Nebraska. That's right. Okay. That's nice. Right in the middle of the country.

Tom Christner:
That's right. Yeah. You could eat off the floor there. It's definitely probably one of the cleanest shops, probably the cleanest shop I've ever seen. And so maybe that's part of the reason why they want to come pick it up just so they can see the efficient operation. But yeah, we can deliver it to you, sometimes even quicker. I keep inventory in Georgia. And so next week I'm going to Florida and I have somebody in Florida that wants to pick one up. So I'll be going down there and making that delivery and getting to know them, give them trained.

Tom Christner:
Because even though it's pretty self-explanatory, there's certain things that it's good to be able to have some best practices on. And one thing we did and I know you didn't ask about it, but it's pretty important is the fact that we had this great piece of equipment, but it had a manual hopper on the front where we would manually put it into place. It had multiple positions you could hold it in. Well, in the last six months, we have now put a hydraulic lift on there. And so now it's you can vary the angle in which the hopper is sitting. But you can instead of taking 15 minutes to set up, it takes about seven minutes to set up.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Wow, wow.

Tom Christner:
And then you don't have to get off the platform. You can just stay on the trailer and you can just put it in a position, and it's great. It's definitely an exciting enhancement that we provided.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah. Wow. That's great. I love it. I love the whole thing. Constantly doing the improvements as you see what makes sense and what works best for everyone. I also love the fact that people can come to the factory and see what's happening, test it, look at it. And I'm assuming there's tours. Is that right, Scott?

Scott Seaton:
Sure. Yeah. We can show you right where they're made so.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah. Well, everybody here loves plant tours so. That's a great one to do so. Well, gentlemen, anything else? Tom, anything else I forgot to ask?

Tom Christner:
Oh no, but are you going to be at FRSA in Florida?

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yes we are and we're going to be live.

Tom Christner:
And we'll actually have the large unit inside the hall. Great. So we're excited about it. We'll also be at Western States. We'll be at the one in Texas. So yeah, we're definitely going to be hitting the road just like you.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah, we'll be at all the same places so this will be good. Scott, hopefully we'll see you at a couple of those shows also.

Scott Seaton:
Yeah, I'm sure I'll be there.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah. Well, gentlemen, thank you. Thank you so much for sharing this. I just think this is such a great invention. So Scott, thank you for bringing it to the industry and sharing your experience, your wisdom of finding it.

Heidi Ellsworth:
And Tom, thank you because you're the reason we're here today because of meeting at NERCA. So I really love learning about this new equipment and what's happening and really how contractors can differentiate their business, and this is definitely a differentiator.

Tom Christner:
Well, thank you very much.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Thank you very much for being here and thank you all for listening. As always, you can find all kinds of information about Rocket Equipment and the Trash Rocket on the RoofersCoffeeShop on the directory or go straight to their website.

Heidi Ellsworth:
You can also catch all of our podcasts that are under the Read Listen Watch initiative. Just look for the Roofing Road Trips and be sure to subscribe and hit your notifications on your favorite podcast channel so you don't miss a single one. Until the next time, we'll see you next time on Roofing Road Trips. Thanks.

Megan Ellsworth:
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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