Sunny Lotay is the National Commercial Manager at Permaroof, which made the move into the commercial sector this year. With a varied and successful career, which started by spending the school holidays volunteering for his dad’s construction business, we caught up with Sunny to hear his thoughts on, amongst other things, what the future of the roofing industry looks like after one of the most challenging years in recent times…
TC: Tell us a little bit about your path into construction, and how you came to join Permaroof?
SL: I’ve always been fascinated by how the construction industry works – ever since I spent my school holidays on site with my father watching how things were done. However, I didn’t immediately go into the sector and spent some years working in estate agency, account management and even had my own decorating business for a time.
It was after this that I decided to enter the roofing industry, starting with SIG Roofing where I spent almost seven years as a Business Development Manager, followed by one year as a Specification Manager at SIG Design and Technology. I then took on the role of Head of Flat Roofing with Saint-Gobain/Jewson for five years, where I was introduced to Permaroof.
But it wasn’t until after almost two years into my next position as a Regional Specification Manager at Flex-R that discussions with Permaroof and the creation of its commercial division progressed rapidly, which brings us up to December 2020 when I started my current role.
What are you most excited about doing within your new role?
Permaroof has been dominating the domestic EPDM rubber flat roofing market for the past two decades, so to work closely within a successful business and build on that solid foundation as we begin a new journey into the commercial sector is incredibly exciting.
I’m also looking forward to having the opportunity to partner with world-renowned EPDM manufacturers, like Firestone, to really offer value-added solutions and to build long-term partnerships.
Why was now the right time for Permaroof to make a move into the commercial sector?
During my 14+ years in the industry, flat roofing has evolved dramatically – from ‘hot works’ to cold-applied systems with a vast range of options available to the specifier, building owners and installers. This, combined with Permaroof’s 20 years of successful merchant distribution and backing of an industry giant like Firestone Building Products, made for a perfect fit and, equally, perfect timing.
This means that we’re able to capitalise on the synergy and culture of what we already have and offer further support and solutions, coupled with Firestone’s proven business model on a project-led basis, to find the correct roofing system for each client’s brief.
What are some of the key challenges facing your customers at the moment?
Arguably the biggest, and most obvious, challenge to everyone is the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to the current lockdown, projects are being pushed back and clients are focusing on repairs as a result of a lack of advice and support. However, there are a number of other challenges – for example compliance with British standards, the impact of Brexit, identifying what the correct flat roof solution is and overemphasis on cost as opposed to understanding broader, long-term solutions – that customers are navigating as well.
In this time of uncertainty, what steps have you taken to ensure supply of products and meet the demands of your customers?
Permaroof has been very proactive to make sure that products are available both in-house and via the supply chain. Working more proactively and maintaining ongoing interaction with our supply chains has kept our offering up-to-date and ensured the wheels keep turning, which is apparent when you look at the record-breaking year Permaroof experienced in 2020. I’m sure the introduction of our new commercial division will continue to contribute to this ongoing growth throughout 2021 and in the years ahead.
How do you foresee 2021 panning out, not just for Permaroof but for the whole sector?
Like last year, we still face ongoing uncertainty due to the pandemic. But I strongly believe the industry itself should see increased activity and confidence as we, hopefully, return to normality in the second half of the year. Roofs will always continue to need attention and eventually we’ll see a growth spurt as 2022 approaches, creating more specification opportunities to provide support and assistance to our customers.