Eagle Rivet loves challenges, sits on the cutting edge of sustainability and invests in its people’s safety above all else, but doing quality work at competitive prices is the primary reason for its ascension to becoming one of the most successful roofing companies on the Eastern Seaboard.
Art Dias spoke to me from his truck on the way home from another busy day for one of the largest roofing companies in Connecticut. “The company was formed in 2000 when we acquired an old line company in Connecticut called Eagle Sheet Metal Works that had started in 1919. Once the acquisition was complete we became a different, new company, and we grew to be one of the top five or six roofing companies in Connecticut in terms of the amount of sales in the type of work that we do.”
Eagle Rivet employs up to two hundred people when it is at its busiest and makes annual sales in the $15 million to $20 million range. The company has come a long way from its inception at the dawn of the millennium.
Roofing is not easy work but Eagle Rivet has built a reputation for taking on the projects others cannot or will not. “We can do the type of projects that nobody else wants to do – in terms of being difficult, labor intensive, and requiring skilled craftsmen – and we’ve been very successful at these types of jobs. When you can get a job like that done, and the customer recognizes that it’s difficult, then they are inclined to award you more work. A substantial amount of our business is repeat customers,” says Dias.
As the world wakes up to environmental sustainability, Eagle Rivet is there to help lead the way. It recently prepared a Target store for sunshine energy. “Solar panels are definitely something you see more and more with our customers with large roof areas – even our customers with smaller roof areas. As the price of the solar panels goes down and the price of electricity goes up and the efficiency of the solar panels goes up, it’s something you will see more and more. As it is, Target won’t be able to get all their electricity from solar but most of it. At a minimum, it will drop down their demand charges from the electricity supplier, which will offset the cost of installation,” Dias explains.
“With Eagle’s customers in mind, we’re doing a lot for sustainability in terms of green roofs and using recycled materials as well as recycling material on our own. We’re improving our sustainability too by implementing cutting-edge roofing technology. The roofing industry has historically been slow to change; there’s an inherent fear in being the first to try something new to market. One of the things we’re seeing trending – that seem to be getting a lot of traction – is synthetic materials: shakes and slates that are made of recycled materials that far exceed the longevity of their organic counterparts. In green roofing, we construct flat roofs that actually allow for vegetative growth above them.”
One of the company’s roofing projects was recognized as the 2014 Project of the Year by DaVinci Roofscapes. DaVinci is the leading manufacturer of American-made synthetic roofing material, and its polymer roof tiles are made from recycled materials to look like slate or cedar. Unlike cedar, these tiles have a Class A fire rating and are virtually maintenance free for the life of the system.
Like any business, Eagle Rivet is subject to the pressures of the world economy and its fluctuations. “The economy is better than it’s been but it’s not as robust as we were hoping for this year,” says Dias. “Last year, we saw a lot of improvements, and industry predictors were that this year was going to be a growth year, but we’ve really just maintained last year’s sales. We’ve seen good annual growth since we got started back in 2001, but the rate of growth has slowed recently.”
Various levels of government in the United States will be spending up to $1 trillion over the next ten years on badly-needed infrastructure investment. “That is really good for the construction industry in general, but we don’t pursue the type of work they are going to be funding. However we do foresee an advantage to this, as some of our competitors will be bidding on and performing this work, and this will create an opportunity for us to gain market share.”
Business boils down to technology and people, and Eagle Rivet has earned a stellar reputation over its sixteen years in both those domains. “Our excellent relationship to our suppliers and vendors contributes to our profitability in a couple of ways. First, these relationships allow for pricing discounts and reduced payments, and that helps a lot. Secondly, if you have a situation like we had recently with hurricane Matthew, where we were waiting to see if we were going to mobilize in that region of the country, it can make or break you. When you have a solid credit line with your vendors, and you need to go above and beyond your normal credit with them – to get a substantial amount of work completed in a short amount of time – then you can do that. That’s a very important facet to storm relief because the businesses that can obtain and install materials quickly are going to be awarded those emergency contracts.”
Roofing is considered to be one of the more dangerous building trades, and quality and price are never secondary to labor force safety at Eagle Rivet. “We have training programs for new hires that will do the work in the field,” Dias says. “We have a mentoring program, where they’re assigned to an older and more experienced technician for their first year, where they can learn the safety measures required for the trade. We also have manufacturers perform in-house and on-site technical training where they introduce new products and techniques. We also retain the services of a safety professional that specializes in on-site safety inspections and bi-weekly safety meetings. This allows us to stay ahead of any new OSHA regulations and keeps our workforce safe.”
Despite its efforts to train its workforce to be safe and productive, Eagle Rivet is facing a similar issue as the rest of the construction industry regarding attracting workers. “An aging workforce is a challenge right now. Young people are just not attracted to the trades anymore. It’s not just roofing, but roofing appears to be one of the least attractive trades for young people because it involves hard work out in the elements year-round,” Dias shares.
“As the people in our workforce are reaching retirement age, I don’t know if we’re going to have enough people to coming up behind them. So we are reaching out beyond our own workforce. We have a lot of second-generation and related workers, where the Dad worked for us, and then we’ve got the son, and then we’ve got the cousin, but I don’t know if that’s going to be enough. The millennials don’t want to drive a hammer; they want to drive a keyboard and a cell phone. They don’t want to drive a truck either. The trucking industry is having a very difficult time attracting and keeping drivers. Trucking really affects our industry because of all of our materials have to be transported from the manufacturer to the distributor and from the distributor to the job site.”
As we move into an increasingly digitized world, Eagle Rivet has seized opportunities to grow. “The Internet has become a staple in all business activities throughout the day. We have structured our website to optimize business searches. Our marketing department works tirelessly on search engine optimization and social media. Technological innovation in roofing and search engine optimization can only take a company so far; Eagle Rivet’s success boils down to the character of its management and employees. “We’re really focused on doing quality work and providing the best customer service in the region. Those two things have always taken us through the hard times. If you call us, a pleasant voice is on the other end of the line; our staff will send you to the person who can actually solve your problem. And when we are asked to perform a service, we do it correctly and on time.”