A Conversation with Eric Suess – Raincoat Roofing
Raincoat Roofing – “Roofing redefined for your peace of mind” based out of Broadview, Chicago, is a very well- known commercial roofing business that prides themselves on their superior customer service, core values and a solution-oriented approach on how to do things differently. Above all the mantra still remains to “always do the right thing.” We had the chance to sit down with Eric Suess, 2nd Generation Commercial Roofer and Vice President of Raincoat Maintenance to learn more about what makes Raincoat Roofing so successful.
Raincoat Roofing started in 1981 as Raincoat Roofing Systems founded by Richard and Carol Marubio. Raincoat Roofing Maintenance was then added to Raincoat Roofing Systems in 1997 by cofounders Jeff Suess (Pappy) to some and Scott Savage, both hard-working industry professionals with sound credentials and stellar reputations. And most recently to adapt to focusing on technology, energy codes, and creative unique solutions in the insulation business. An affiliate, HEC was added to the Raincoat family in 2018 and is co-owned and operated by Raincoat’s Sales Manager Matt Baker and Jeff Suess.
Dad Jeff worked at Clark Roofing as a Vice President working for CEO and former NRCA President Mike Promen before founding Raincoat Roof Maintenance with Scott. Mike was well known in the roofing industry and had multiple associations with high-level companies and people introducing Jeff along the way. With a prior position in roofing at DC Taylor in Cedar Rapids, coupled with his time at Clark Roofing, Jeff gained an abundance of roofing knowledge.
Scott and Jeff formed an undeniable bond having worked together for over 30-years.
Currently, Raincoat Roofing Systems is a tear-off business of 5-8 crews (made up of 6-8 people per crew) focused on replacing roofs (flat and steep slope), various coatings, re-roof and repairs. The Maintenance Division of Raincoat provides roof repairs, handles 24×7 emergency calls, and in-depth inspections. This division runs 8-9 (2 person) crews and is a different entity keeping each service line separate from the other.
As someone who was constantly immersed in the roofing world through his father, it was an obvious choice that Eric would join the company and he began working at Raincoat in 1997. Overtime, his sister’s husband, Zach Riberdy, joined the group solidifying another family member joining the next generation of commercial roofing talent in the Suess family.
Eric and the rest of the executive team constantly strategize on how to separate themselves from the pack. Raincoat certainly hit the nail on the head with their idea to use service vans instead of pick-up trucks in the cold Chicago climate. Be different. Eliminate the headache of snow all over the equipment. Work hard and work smart.
Aside from their ability to think outside the box, the company really lives by their core values as a guiding force for business management, customer service and how you treat others. The three core values ingrained in all current employees are Do the Right Thing, Always Willing to Ask, and Respectful. Eric, along with his father, Scott and the management team invest in their employees to empower themselves. Treat people the way they want to be treated. Like family. And create a great culture. Eric can remember back when the company was much smaller and there was an annual shopping day buying warm coats, boots and protective gear for the entire team. Raincoat has now grown to a company of 75-80 people with many supervisors and foreman working well over 20 years with the organization.
There is a ton of pride in the underpinning of this company. You can find Eric driving around the city pointing out to his two boys, ages 8 & 3 that, “Raincoat roofed that building over there,” including the iconic, historical Chicago Theatre/ Marquee’s Barrel Roof. And Jeff, as a former graduate architect before the roofing bug hit, loves to find the most intricate complicated roofs stating, “If it’s goofy, we’ll roof it!” Raincoat has a reputation of getting super creative with their solutions.
As companies grow, typically their technology footprint will grow, as well. In late 2015, Raincoat began using Dataforma, all-in-one service work management software. The company was introduced to Dataforma by National Roofing Partners (NRP), for which all NRP contractors use Dataforma. Raincoat also works with Greg Hayne, a consultant to Raincoat who they have worked with for many years. In the beginning, Raincoat utilized minimal software features. March of 2017 began the year they started learning more about the functionality and incorporating it into many facets of business correspondence. Eric will readily admit that as far as technology goes, they were the late-comers.
Over time and especially this year during the pandemic, technology became a necessity for all of us working remotely. Raincoat adapted like the rest relying on Dataforma to continue paperless work orders, project details and scheduling. Dataforma had the ability to handle the much-needed remote business needs and COVID-19 became a reset button to rely on the “office in the cloud.” In addition to technology adaptation, their organization became proactive with sanitizing trucks, safety, daily PPE checklists and even taking photos along with written documentation of all employees. The idea was to be proactive not reactive.
Raincoat has also adapted to other various forms of technology over time including Eagleview and Pictometry for aerial surveys and drones for inspections. Zach has even obtained his FAA certification as a licensed drone pilot.
As native Chicagoans, the Suess family and most employees follow the Chicago Bears, the Cubs, the Blackhawks and most definitely the Chicago Wolves, a 25 year-old minor league hockey team that has been sponsored by Raincoat for the last 3 years. Conversations around sports is prevalent throughout the company, which is considered to be one big extended family.
Eric and team are involved in multiple peer groups and roofing organizations sharing best practices and solutions in the roofing industry. Like many companies, they are focused on maintaining their footprint in the market. Yet above anything, it is of the utmost importance to continue the values that the organization was founded on – honesty, loyalty, dependability, quality, dedication, skill and fairness.
We at Dataforma are certainly honored to work with such an amazing, humble, hard-working company. Thank you Raincoat, for your dedication to the people and communities you serve and for the amazing reputation you have built over the past 39 years. Cheers to your 40th next year and for many more decades and generations ahead of you.