THE FIFTH WALL WAY: INNOVATION – Delivering Value
Hearing a new employee with over 15 years of roofing experience with a competitor marvel at the new methods he learned one day while observing one of our crews and using words like “quicker,” “easier,” “better,” and “amazing.” That’s innovation.
With only five years of service at Texas Fifth Wall, I am a relative newcomer. I’ve invested a significant effort over these years to understand the culture of the company, how to exert leadership, and how to manage change within my realm of influence. Frankly, when the idea of “Innovation” landed in our tag line and as the third leg in our concept of The Fifth Wall Way, I had to step back and really consider: what is innovation?
“Change; novelty; newfangled idea” is how Webster’s describes “innovation.” But does that accurately describe Texas Fifth Wall, a nearly 40-year-old company that often seems so slow to change?
Granted, Fifth Wall pioneered single-ply roofing in the region; our equipment boneyard is full of well-worn equipment that, in the beginning, was considered innovative in roofing applications. Our history is littered with awards from suppliers, service providers, and industry groups such as our recent second annual Top 100 Safety Award amongst Texas Mutual’s 53,000 insured.
Do such things make us innovative? In a world where innovation is set by a rapid schedule of featureless product releases geared more toward encouraging another purchase than delivering value, I guess we fail the test. But let’s talk about innovation done The Fifth Wall Way:
- Delivering energy efficient roofing systems to Central Texas in the 1970s—before energy efficiency was cool. That’s innovation.
- Watching our guys working in the warehouse creating a new “something” that increases their efficiency or enhances safety. That’s innovation.
- Seeing equipment manufacturers eagerly working with our V.P. of Operations to fine tune their products, then readily deploying those tools or methods to increase productive capacity and efficiency. That’s innovation.
- Hearing a new employee with over 15 years of roofing experience with a competitor marvel at the new methods he learned one day while observing one of our crews and using words like “quicker,” “easier,” “better,” and “amazing.” That’s innovation.
- Having contractors in the roofing industry talk about how much easier and pleasant it is to work with us than with others, and for them to recognize the process and discipline by which we execute from the field through the office. For well respected general contractors to say they trust us—that our quality, safety, and production programs are unmatched. That’s innovation.
- Realizing the investment of human and financial capital in technology and programs by helping the customer better manage the roof lifecycle. To be recognized for our new construction capabilities, to offer experienced service technicians and our ProVigil Roof Protection Program to help facility managers extend the life of their roof, then to be there for them when a reroof is necessary. That’s innovation.
While I recall a time not long ago when I thought innovation occurred when the declining revenue of an end-of-life product was met with yet another new product launch, I can now say that I have a much deeper respect for innovation that delivers value. Innovation like that delivered through The Fifth Wall Way.
Jody Delino, CFO
THE FIFTH WALL WAY: Quality – The Central PIllar of The Fifth Wall Way
- Quality assurance from beginning to end in every job
- Exceed customer expectations and guarantee their satisfaction
- The best products from the best manufacturers
- A safe, quality working environment
Over the past few months our team has been discussing the Fifth Wall Way—our core philosophies and the way we conduct our business—and how integrity defines everything that we do. Safety, Quality, and Innovation are at the heart of every decision we make and define our company culture at every interaction. Fulfilling the Fifth Wall Way promise is how we build and maintain an integrity as sturdy as our roofs, so it goes without saying that quality is a top concern at Texas Fifth Wall Roofing Systems.
Here are some of the ways we pursue a long-term commitment to quality, every day:
1. Quality assurance from beginning to end in every job
Qualification is the first measure of quality, and the human element is a huge part of getting the job done right.
The right person for every job – We assess the needs of each client and project individually to assign the right team to complete it as skillfully and efficiently as possible within the customer’s timeframe. The crew is selected according to the specific needs of the client, the type of roof and varying degrees of sophistication. When we’re building a crew we take into account not only the strengths and weaknesses of the people on our team, but also their specialties: for example, a system that requires insulation is a sophisticated project that calls for a specific skill set.
The highest hiring standards –Having the highest work standards in the industry starts with the toughest hiring standards in the industry. New hires are trained thoroughly on our standards and practices of safety, installation methods, and quality control to ensure that every crew and every finished project lives up to the Fifth Wall Way.
A daily plan of action – We begin every day by defining clear objectives from the top down. Daily Superintendent/Foremen huddles and Foreman/Crew huddles ensure objectives are clear and crewmembers stay productive.
2. Exceed customer expectations and guarantee their satisfaction
Understanding unique customer needs – Our superintendents and foremen are true project managers, skilled at adapting the plan to make the most of every day and unexpected circumstances while avoiding delays. We work around our clients, and in all cases we’re careful not to displace tenants and affect productivity.
Pride in our work – Much of the job satisfaction in our line of work is seeing the result of plying our trade to the best of our ability. There’s a lot of pride in the work that we do, and when a job comes off without a hitch, we don’t need a parade of thanks from our customer. Because of the level of risk, skill, and intricacy of our work, it’s enough to know that, day-in and day-out, we’ve done it right.
As our VP of Operations, Joe Martin, puts it, “It’s the bad jobs people remember, and we’re in no hurry to be famous.”
We work with influential, high profile customers like IBM and Scott & White Hospital, where a little mistake could mean disastrous consequences. So, we’re always on the lookout for the little things—incomplete drains, potential leak sources, and such. A project manager for a recent Scott & White job said it best: “It’s good when you get a subcontractor like Fifth Wall who’s been on the job for 2-3 months and you haven’t had to think about them once. It gives you more time to deal with the not-so-quality subcontractors.”
3. The best products from the best manufacturers
Our standards for the materials we work with are as high as our expectations of the people who work for us. Our formula for ensuring quality and success: employ the right people to install the best roofing system available. Our 40-year reputation affords us the choice of working with any roofing system manufacturer in the industry and our skilled management, sales and field employees are recognized as experts at what they do in the industry. Together, this has afforded Fifth Wall the recognition of Excellence in Single Ply (ESP award) for the 15 year in a row from Carlisle Syntec, bestowed upon the top one percent of U.S. firms for unyielding quality, professionalism, and a high volume of warranted installations. Fifth Wall also is one of two installers west of the Mississippi that holds the unique distinction of over 1,000 perfect installations for Carlisle.
4. A safe, quality working environment
If you don’t care about the safety of your people and your clients, what else matters? A good safety program, above almost anything else, shows how committed a company is to quality.
Frankly, when we started this business we didn’t begin with a long list of structured definitions of quality. We just wanted the job done right, and over the years, we’ve built a reputation for being the guys you call in when you’ve got a really difficult job, when everything it takes to put down a quality roof is involved and there’s a lot at stake.
Top tier general contractors call on us for the tough jobs. While we aren’t the cheapest in the industry, we are the most trusted. That’s why clients like DPR Construction, Circuit of the Americas, Lifetime Fitness, Rogers-O’Brien, St. David’s Hospital and others depend on us again and again—sometimes as their only bid for a project.
Recently a client called me just before a project was set to begin and asked, “You’re bringing your A-team, aren’t you?” My answer was yes, of course, but the real truth is that even if we sent our B- or C-team, you’d never know the difference, because we’re all consummate professionals with our heads in the game. Working constantly to ensure that’s always true is how we maintain our good work, our reputation and above all, our integrity.
Gabriel Rangel, General Superintendent
THE FIFTH WALL WAY: SAFETY – More then a Manual
. . Safety is the promise that literally supports the people of our organization. Safety is all about people. It’s about families. And it means a lot to our professional family at Texas Fifth Wall Roofing Systems, because it’s a passion and commitment we all share.
This summer we’ve been discussing the three “pillars” of integrity that define the Fifth Wall Way: Safety, Quality, and Innovation. Of the three, safety is the promise that literally supports the people of our organiz
ation. Safety is all about people. It’s about families. And it means a lot to our professional family at Texas Fifth Wall Roofing Systems, because it’s a passion and commitment we all share.
After a week of camping in the mountains with my son, I’m reminded of my own personal reasons not to take safety for granted. There was a time when I couldn’t have enjoyed this quality time. Prior to my 29-year career with Fifth Wall, I suffered two job-related injuries while working my way through the ranks of the roofing industry. In the first, I lost the tip of a finger and in the second incident, I fell when a section of the roof I was working on collapsed.
I was partially disabled for some time, something that takes an unexpected toll on someone in our hands-on industry. Our pride is in our physical work – it’s how we support our families, and it defines our self-worth at least in part.
Recently, an Austin construction company held a coloring contest. The employees’ children were asked to draw a picture about their mom or dad who worked for the company. The winning entry was very simple: just a stick figure drawing of a girl and her father holding hands. When you visit any one of that construction company’s job sites, the first thing you will see is a sign that says, “My dad works here. Please be careful so he can come home tonight.”Many major industry players that have experienced a job-related loss have changed the industry by passionately transforming their own safety standards and practices. When you lose someone on a job you’re working, you never forget it. You never forget the person or their family, and the responsibility of keeping employees, contractors, and clients safe from harm becomes a personal one.
Today, I oversee the safety program at Fifth Wall. We use OSHA as our base guidelines, but our safety program goes beyond the industry standard in a number of ways.
In order to avoid conflicts of interest between safety and productivity, we hire a third party (Engineering Safety Consultants) to oversee compliance to our strict guidelines. We also hold a monthly company-wide meeting to share safety resources with the entire company, as well as regular “Toolbox Topics” that we discuss once a week, covering items such as heat and hydration, fall protection and lifting, tying off materials and overhead exposures. Our employees receive thorough field training. We also closely manage our subcontractors to ensure that all work being performed on the roof is in the hands of a skilled, safety-trained professional.
If an employee is ever injured, we are there to support a positive path to recovery, creating work in the interim to keep morale high and ease the transition until they are fully back on the job.
Safety is part of our everyday interaction with our clients as well. Prior to beginning any work, we meet with the client to discuss our job responsibilities, safety and work procedures,and to review any potential dangers that the job might present. We make sure any personnel involved—such as the building engineer or facilities manager—understand the work and hazards involved in completing the project. We proactively recognize and minimize any potential exposure to the tenant or to the general public, which may range from blocking off a sidewalk when necessary, or just posting signs to let everyone know we’re there.
Safety is a total team effort that must be supported throughout the company. We hold our foremen to the highest standards, and in turn they apply the same oversight to each employee under their supervision. Every employee at Fifth Wall understands the importance of a thorough set of protective guidelines, and of the necessary caution every day on the job—not just because safety and quality are so closely entwined, but because at the end of the day, everyone wants to wrap up a job well done and go home to their families. Because we all share this common commitment, we trust each other like family. To me, that is a large part of how you create a culture of integrity in any organization, especially one where we often place our lives in another’s hands.
by Joe Martin, Vice President of Operations