Before becoming CEO, Ribble served six years in the U.S. House of Representatives, and for over 30 years, he was the president of his own roofing company.
Ribble will share a life’s worth of lessons learned from his father, his roofing business, his time in Congress, and leading the roofing industry as the CEO of the NRCA.
The keynote is scheduled for 9:30-11:00 a.m. on Feb. 1.
We spoke with Ribble to get a sneak peek at what to expect at the premier roofing and exteriors event.
Roofing & Exteriors: What does it mean for you to be able to address the IRE audience as the 2022 keynote speaker?
Ribble: You know, it's kind of a surreal experience, actually, because my name had been bandied about early on when I came back to NRCA shortly after leaving Congress, and I never I never really put much credence on it because there's so many great speakers out there and big names that Informa [the show's parent company] is always able to draw. So when they called me and said, ‘Hey, we'd like you to do it.' It was a bit shocking and even humbling to be asked, and so I'm looking forward to it. I'm honored to be asked. I'm actually looking forward to doing something different because I give a lot of speeches. I mean, I give a lot of speeches, but most of those speeches are either information or technology driven. And this is a combination of providing information that's meaningful, but also providing a bit of education that's motivational at the same time. And so but it's also things that I'm going to be passionate about and it's not going to be specifically geared to roofing per se.
R&E: Could share some of the takeaways that you plan to cover?
Ribble: This audience—every roofing contractor or worker that's there—will be glad they came and they'll feel good about who they are, what they're doing when they leave. But more importantly, they're going to be leaving with some lessons that I've learned over the course of my career. I'm almost 66 years old and I've done this my entire life. There's been a lot of a lot of lessons that I've learned. But starting at the base of it were lessons that my father taught me that that I still remember. My dad just had a clever way of wordsmithing things that would get you to remember. And so there's a lot of things that he taught me growing up that I kind of pooh-poohed in my 20s and 30s. And then as my own kids were getting ready to go off to college, they [the lessons] became more meaningful to me. And certainly in my time in Congress. They came back to me and so I talk a lot about what those lessons look like, how they how they both formed me and informed my decision making throughout my career. And I think I think they'll find it really beneficial.
R&E: What priorities will NRCA be focusing on in 2022?
Ribble: I think that they're going to be pretty similar to what we've been focusing on the last 24 months. COVID is moving from a pandemic to an endemic stage. So we don't really know how the country is going to deal with COVID. Is it here forever? Does it look like the flu and that every single year you'd get a booster shot and that's how the society deals with it? Is it going to be this constant up and down depending on the politics of the day, where we have lots of restrictions and no restrictions and the American people are kind of swinging in the pendulum back and forth? So, I think based on the political changes and what's happening with COVID, it's probably going to feel very much like it does now. Although I will say this, I fully expect a recession at some point. Inflationary by its very nature is also recessionary. And so, I would anticipate some type of recession occurring because there will be an elasticity of price in the marketplace on everything. And people will eventually stop buying and when they stop buying, things will slow down. And so then we need to prepare ourselves for a different type of economy. One we've been through a period of really strong demand for five or six years. What happens if that collapses? Or what does that look like?
R&E: Do you have any tips for our readers on how they may start thinking about how to recession proof their roofing businesses?
Ribble: For one, you have to stay really, really close to your key customers. I mean really close to them. You need to be super nimble. You've got to be able to move and you've got to be able to hoard cash right now in the environment that we're in. Because materials can be difficult to get certain materials are still very difficult to get. There's a certain amount of hoarding going on. And all that hoarding of materials is really cash that's otherwise in use. So if I if I buy 100,000 10-inch roof screws and store them someplace—that costs X number of dollars and that cash is now tied up until I can convert that back to cash. But when you get into a recessionary cycle, the prices collapse. And now you have a product that is not worth what it will be in the marketplace. And you can't convert it back to cash on a one to one or one and a quarter or one and a half to one. And so the key is to remember that cash is king, that you need to be in a position that when things start to slow down, that you're able to ride through it. And then you stay really close to your customers and your vendors. Those relationships are going to really matter. They're going to matter more in 2022 than they did in 2021.
R&E: How has your time as the U.S. House rep impacted your ability to advocate for NRCA members?
Ribble: Well, certainly I have more access to people than what we might have otherwise had. I have had the cell phone numbers of a lot of U.S. senators and U.S. House members. . . .[Q]uite often, the message that that we deliver is a message that nobody ever sees because we will block things or have tried to block bad things from happening before they happen. And so we'll get wind of something that's going on, this piece of legislation going on, and between my staff and myself, we were able to get a hold of key members of Congress to try to put a block in. . . so we can prevent bad things from ever happening and in the first place. The tragedy of that is that nobody received what doesn't happen and so you often don't get credit for those types of things. And credit doesn't matter to a certain degree because our members are paying for us to do that. So you want them to be aware, but also when good things happen. Like what happened with the tax code. We were really out of there. And so, the facts are that my experience informed me about how Congress actually works and what to get stressed out about and what not to get stressed out about. And I think that's really important too, because we can sometimes just settle people down and just say, yeah, they're talking about that, but that's never going to happen. So just go ahead and sleep easy tonight.