Teamwork, Trust, and Technology

Roof Management
Written by Allison Dempsey

Offering unrivalled knowledge in assessment, design, forecasting, and project management to maximize the most important component of company portfolios at every stage—from condition assessments to roofing and waterproofing projects—Roof Management provides more than 25 years of experience in the field in roof management, overseeing 2.4 billion square feet of roofing for the world’s largest real estate owners and investors.

By combining its investor-supported strategy designed to optimize performance and minimize expenses with its cutting-edge technology, Roof Manager®—an industry-leading software solution—the company has revolutionized how data and insight can be used to optimize the state and lifetime of a company’s most expensive building element.

It all started in 1990 when David Denman identified a void in the roofing market. By 1994, he had founded Roof Management, covering Columbus, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis. During those initial years, David’s perseverance, commitment, unwavering determination, and staunch optimism enabled the business to grow.

“Dad started Roof Management 30 years ago, so we’re a family-owned business,” says Managing Director Lisa Sligh, who, along with brother and President Chris Denman, strive to carry on their father’s legacy today.

“We specialize in providing global Roof Asset Management services, which include roof condition evaluation, project design, construction management, and a digital civilized Asset Management program for our commercial industrial clients or real estate investment trusts,” says Sligh.

While there are numerous factors that contribute to the company’s ongoing success, it was David’s initial passion and determination that provided the solid foundation that has helped it thrive over the years.

“I remember being in middle school and Lisa was in elementary when he started out at our home office, and he just saw a niche in the industry,” says President Chris Denman. “He had worked on the contractor side and the manufacturer side, and he had worked a lot with building owners that didn’t have the history or roof knowledge of their own assets. And he said, ‘you know what? I could really help these people out.’”

Today, Roof Management provides a host of services, from providing managed solutions that optimize portfolios by giving the clarity needed to plan, execute, and set priorities, to underwriting, with a comprehensive understanding of the possible risks and advantages associated with the roof.

For Roof Management’s commercial industrial clients, roofing is frequently the most expensive element to replace and maintain. To help combat this reality, Roof Management always endeavors to effectively and efficiently manage roof replacements that provide the best roof at the most cost-effective price.

The team’s knowledge base and extensive footprint affords them the ability to get things done where others cannot. Their focus is to bring this expertise to their clients, so they are getting the best in workmanship, price, inexpensive roof systems. and security that it is being done correctly.

Employing real-time progress data combined with skilled supervision guarantees that a company’s investment is installed to the highest standards with complete transparency throughout the process, while the use the technological platform Roof Manager® pinpoints the best places for value-added energy solutions. Additionally, sustainability actions are supported by the Roof Manager® platform, allowing the company to assist clients in measuring the rooftop sustainability data, from daylight savings to cool roofing and beyond.

“It’s a unique niche,” says Denman. “There have always been roof consultants around, and we called ourselves consultants for quite some time until someone said, ‘No, you’re more of a roof asset manager.’”

“I call us asset managers for roofs,” adds Sligh, who, after graduating college, moved into a property management role for a commercial real estate company. “We’re coming up with budgets for all of our clients, we’re forecasting what repairs need to be completed for them, when and what roof replacements need to occur, and we’re overseeing those roof replacements as they arise. We’re helping them with these major decisions when buying multimillion-dollar buildings and portfolios.”

The roof is one of the most expensive capital expenses, she says, and Roof Management largely deals with industrial warehouse buildings. “It’s a big expense for them, and they have to really budget and plan for the future in terms of how much money they’re asking their investors for to do building enhancements.”

It’s definitely not a part of the building any company should ever skimp on, which is another reason for Roof Management’s ongoing success.

“We’ve always been a very honest and upfront company,” says Denman. “There are guys out there who want to design what we call the Cadillac roof, and the building owners we work with are dealing with tens to hundreds of million square feet, and they just can’t afford that approach. We focus on keeping it straightforward, help them understand and get the absolute best bang for their buck for a roof—one that’s going to be a solid roof, a 20 to 25-year roof, but at the most cost-effective price best suited for that asset and the owners requirements.”

To assist with that goal, Roof Management has vetted some of the best contractors throughout North America to help with installations, and strives to treat them as valued team members, Denman adds.

“We’ve grown unbelievable relationships… some of them for over 20-plus years, and we’re starting to see second generations take over their own families’ companies, which is really neat.”

Roof Management’s own team of experts is also highly trained in all areas of the company’s business, able to provide a variety of services and responsibilities.

“We’re proud that everyone in our company has the versatile skill set to do almost any task,” says Denman. “So if someone needs help, we can immediately find someone to help them out in that area. We’ve created quite a staff. We have a support staff of about 23 people in our headquarters in Marysville, Ohio, and the remaining staff are located in prime markets throughout the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, and Europe.”

On the technical side of the business, Roof Management provides a new level of clarity to new clients who come onboard. Upon the initial inspection process, the client is now armed with detailed condition reports on their portfolio, long-term capital forecasting, and a maintenance plan designed to optimize the condition and longevity of each roof. All this data and more is provided to the client in a centralized database called the Roof Manager®.

The company manages those roofs year in and year out, assessing them on an annual basis and utilizing both performance data and visual observations to continually finetune the ongoing maintenance plan and capital forecast.

“If they extend the service life of a roof even by a year, we just saved our client money,” Denman says. “And if we keep helping oversee their roofing year after year, we’re saving them millions and millions of dollars in money they would have had to spend if they did not have our services.”

When it comes to the project side—when it’s time for a replacement—Roof Management provides a project design and construction management team to help clients lay out the most economical and effective route for their needs that fit the budget.

“We listen to our client, understand their plans for each asset, and tailor options to suit those needs. This is where our experienced design team and vast knowledge base allow us to design solutions to meet the specific needs of each project.”

While many people may think all roofs are alike, characteristics such as deck, existing roof types, coastal regions, and hail zone areas make each project and design solution unique. It is vital to find the best roofing solution to suit the specific needs of each company and project. “We lay out the options for our clients and share our recommendation; however, they drive the ultimate decision based on the options presented by us,” says Denman.

Sligh agrees. “We always work with our clients, and while a roof is a roof, there are a lot of different aspects of the roof, and so many different types of roofs,” she says. “It depends on what the client really wants to do with that building. That is why close communication and understanding their goals is imperative.”

The different types of tenants make a big difference when it comes to roofing projects, she says. “That’s why we create so many great relationships with these contractors, because we work as a team with them to get this project completed from A to Z,” says Sligh. “And we don’t want any disturbance for the tenants; we want our clients not to hear any kind of issues with the project from their client.”

When it comes to sustainability, creating environmentally friendly materials and practices is becoming more and more popular and in-demand.

“Our clients are prioritizing sustainability right now, and we’re tracking detailed data for them on that aspect,” says Denman. “After a project is complete, we’ll calculate how much landfill avoidance they saved not having to tear off a roof and doing a recover of a new roof system, increased r-value, solar reflective values, and daylighting.”

Additionally, a lot of Roof Management’s clients are now focusing on rooftop solar, with some design requirements pushing for a 30-year solar-ready roof to increase the amount of solar-ready rooftops available in their portfolios for the future.

“For a lot of our clients lately, it’s been a hot topic,” says Denman. “And we’ve just made it a priority to track how they are helping the environment on these projects.”

All of this is done, of course, with an eye to the foundations that David Denman laid years ago. Family is at the heart of Roof Management’s legacy and the reason why his children plan to uphold it for as long as possible.

“This company meant the world to our dad,” says Denman. “When he got sick and passed away three years ago, he told Lisa and I to run this our way: ‘You don’t have to do it how I did it. You’ve learned the knowledge, now run and put your own thumbprint on this and run with it.’”

And that’s exactly what they’ve continued to do, with great success.

“The foundation is similar to how he would run it,” agrees Sligh, “but as we grow, we’re just putting in different protocols and processes and making it more efficient. And it’s that efficiency—not only for our employees, but also for our clients—and our Asset Management Program that all of our clients use, which holds all the data [that makes the difference]. The future is a lot of this data that we’ve been collecting for over 30 years.”

This family-run business plans to stay that way for the foreseeable future as well, with both Denman and Sligh—along with their mother—acting as co-owners and taking a team approach in all areas, including maintaining a healthy and happy culture.

“Our dad started it in our home,” says Sligh. “Chris and I would help him with reports and glue pictures down, so keeping that feel and team closeness is very important to us. We have staff throughout the United States, Europe, Mexico, and Brazil, and we want them to know we can always lean on each other and continue to be a team, calling anyone around the country to have them come help out.”

Responses from team members over the years have been extremely positive, Denman adds.

“One of our new hires recently said, ‘You say you guys work as a team,’ and he’d heard that from three or four other companies he’d worked for, but this is the first time he’d ever really felt like a part of a team,” says Denman. “I thought that was such a nice compliment. That made us feel really good. I know a lot other companies preach teamwork, but he said with the way we interact, and how we’re so tightknit, that he really felt like part of the team.”

This is particularly complimentary considering many Roof Management employees work remotely and by themselves across the country, although the company does reach out on a constant basis to stay in touch with them.

“And we—Lisa and I, as owners—we say our phones and doors are always open, and to never be afraid that you’re bothering us if you want to reach out about anything, work or personal. We’re here to help.”

This personal connection and leadership from the top down has created not only loyal employees but steady growth over the years. Growth, while it is always ideal and welcome, presents new challenges that Roof Management tackled head-on during a recent surge fueled by the logistics expansion brought on during the COVID pandemic. “The booming growth and capital spend cycle in the real estate market was met with a roofing industry now facing extreme material production, delivery, and pricing problems. No one was immune to the challenges entirely, but we worked tirelessly to leverage our relationships both with our network of manufacturing partners and contractors to deliver the results our clients expect from our services,” says Denman.

“It’s one of those things you live and learn,” he says. “Every day is learning, adjusting, and evaluating in order to keep evolving through growth cycles and new challenges in the market. We’ve got some great new tools available to help optimize our teams’ scheduling, productivity, and work deadlines.”

To be sure, while growth is always welcome, making appropriate changes within the company structure is vital in order to keep up and keep ahead.

“It’s bittersweet because sometimes we get nervous,” says Denman. “You always hear about the horror stories of growing too fast and getting yourself in trouble.”

Roof Management has, however, created a way to be efficient in order to not interrupt that growth.

“Christopher and I have a management team, and we meet quite often and bring our heads together and come up with different ideas on all different aspects,” says Sligh. “Jeff Schultz, Managing Director of evaluations, leads our evaluations and due diligence team, which helps our clients budget and forecast how their roofing assets and/or potential roofing assets are performing. Jonathan Chamberlain, Managing Director of design and construction and also our architect, handles all the design and construction for Roof Management. As a team we are always looking for ways to enhance, improve, and support the team out in the field doing the inspections and the project work. We’re coming up with new applications and efficiencies. We just hired a field operations manager to optimize productivity and key milestone dates within our client base. We’re really excited to see those pan out.”

As for accomplishments, the company counts many in its impressive history, some of which include, of course, its 30th anniversary, along with a varied client base and involvement in seven of the top 10 REITs in North America.

“You know, you’re not paying attention to that, you’re not trying to accomplish that; it just comes naturally, and that feels really good,” Denman says.

And in keeping with David Denman’s other passion—flying—Chris is also a pilot and has followed in his footsteps of visiting clients whenever possible by plane.

As a result, “We’ve been able to respond to client needs and any issues quickly,” says Denman. “We had a leak on a project in Columbia, South Carolina, and the tenant called us in Marysville, Ohio, and said, ‘We have a leak going on right now. I think the roofers must have created a hole somewhere.’ And I said, ‘I’ll be right there.’ Two hours later, I was in Columbia, South Carolina, in this guy’s office. He said, ‘I don’t understand how you’re here right now. Where were you when I called you?’ And I told him, and he was just in disbelief. We’re pilots and we can respond very quickly to any issues.”

Their father would surely be very proud of not only how they’re carrying on the family business, but carrying on quality customer service as well.

“A lot of people ask, ‘how are you guys different?’ And I say, ‘there are tons of roof asset managers and consultants out there. There are guys out there who have their own software and asset management program, but they don’t have the history in their asset management program that we do,’” says Denman. “We have over 25 years of roof history. Dad didn’t come up with the Roof Manager® until five years after the company started. But we have over 25 years of data insight that we can crunch to make the best decisions and forecasts possible for our clients. At the end of the day, accuracy in our recommendations and insight is paramount and our depth of data is second to none in the industry.”

And, of course, being pilots also certainly sets the Roof Management owners apart from other companies in the field, he adds. “Our dad’s passion was flying, and he wanted to try to incorporate flying into business. And that’s the way he traveled around and spread the geographic coverage area, was being a private pilot to service clients.”

It’s that kind of personalized care and attention that is being carried on from one generation to the next, and hopefully more to come.

“We’re an honest company that wants to help our clients in the most positive way with our resources,” says Denman. “And we’re a team and will always stay that way.”

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