10 questions for Adam Suffolk:
TC: What was your path into roofing and to your current position?
AS: After leaving school and not knowing what I wanted to do, a friend’s family roofing business took me on as a labourer which is where I learnt to be a felt roofer and I was lucky as I was trained well and stuck with it. After about ten years I decided to move away and worked on large pitched roofing jobs for a few years and then to where we are now which is concentrating on flat roofing with 99% of the work being felt.
TC: If you had one piece of advice about starting a roofing business, what would it be?
AS: Be very picky and careful with regards to who you work for; we’re in the trade where payment is almost never up front. We all hear about cowboy contractors all the time, but don’t forget there are far too many customers who don’t pay at all and many who pay late. Protect yourself and don’t sign any contract that you’re not 100% happy with regardless of how big the job is or the value of it; credit check if needed and it’s very basic, but remember receiving payment is the most important thing to keep trading.
We all hear about cowboy contractors but don’t forget there are far too many customers who don’t pay at all and many who pay late
TC: Tell us about a current project you’re working on…
AS: I’m currently working as a sub-contractor for an excellent contractor on a school, roughly 1000m² with about 50 skylights and lots of LM of perimeter flashings to do. It’s a Langley spec.
TC: You must have worked on some difficult projects over the years. Does one, in particular, stand out?
AS: One does stand out but not for the difficulty of it. A few years ago, we fitted a roof on BBC DIY SOS The Big Build for a gentleman – who had lost his wife – and his daughter who had lost her mum due to cancer. The mum went to the hospital on a Friday and passed away on Monday. The house the family was renovating had a stream running under it and sorting that took all the money; this left the Dad and his daughter living in a caravan in the garden with no money to finish the house. As a tradesman it’s rare you can say you changed someone’s life with what you do at work, however, we really did put a roof over that family’s head so that is the most rewarding job I’ve done for a family in need.
TC: What about difficult customers? Any situations that stand out that you can tell us about?!
AS: Yes, one, in particular, stands out. It was a slate job we were working on where the client decided he wanted to swap the slate to a different one to what he was quoted for. The problem was we had installed about 20,000 at the time, and we had another 10,000 to go when he decided that he wanted us to remove them all and fit another slate, and he wouldn’t pay us anything till that was done.
After a few site meetings, we were not happy with the idea of buying another 30,000 slates and installing them in the hope he likes them, without paying for the work done to date.
It’s jobs like this that highlight the points in your other question about advice and making sure to protect yourself and making sure your quotes have the types and names of material you are using. That is what helped us when this went to court and we received payment.
TC: What’s the most frustrating thing about your job?
AS: Staff and the lack of good labour who have the right attitude towards work, and I’m sure everyone who employs anyone will have many stories about that topic. This lack of skilled labour is by far the most frustrating thing currently.
TC: And the most satisfying?
AS: For me, the most satisfying thing is looking at the bead or bleed – whichever you like to call it – on a felt roof and seeing that millimetre perfect on all laps on the flat area and detail.
TC: What’s your most important tool as a roofing contractor, either in the office or on site?
AS: That is a very difficult one as I have two; one is my Calloni titanium torch and the other is my plumber’s hand-held gas. If it had to be one I’d go with my Calloni torch as it was the torch I first learnt with and having used the Sievert for a bit, I find the Calloni titanium better and much lighter.
If it had to be one I’d go with my Calloni torch as it was the torch I first learnt with…
TC: What’s the best social media platform for you as a roofing contractor?
AS: I’m not the biggest fan of social media, however, I would say LinkedIn for a nose at the pictures of people’s work and the odd debate.
TC: How did 2018 go and are there reasons to be positive for 2019?
AS: 2018 was very good with working with an excellent contractor. 2019 shows no sign of easing up and I’m positive about installing 1,000s more m² of felt roofs.