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February 8, 2024
Roofer Josey Parks told several thousand attendees at the International Roofing Expo in Las Vegas this week that they need to embrace artificial intelligence; otherwise, they could find themselves out of business.
“AI for good will make our lives so much better,” said Parks during his keynote presentation, Man & Machine: How Artificial Intelligence is Poised to Change the Roofing Industry. “We need to accept it and move forward.”
But contractors don’t need to become coders. “You just need to open your mind to what’s coming and how to prepare your business.”
Parks noted that contractors already use AI every day. “This machine (waving his cellphone) is saving time and creating time, but it’s always creating challenges and opportunities.
“This machine is for our good and our teams, but there are a lot of people who are living in the past,” he added.
Parks related a personal story: His family owned a company that printed the local community newspaper. His grandfather did not adapt his printing business to technological advancements, and he lost the business and had to foreclose on the company’s building. A few months later, he died.
“I don’t want to see that happen to this industry,” he said.
Parks described how AI accelerated his Texas roofing business. He said he meticulously categorized his historical project and client data, and in 2015, fed it into an AI platform, which told him go knock on doors of all the company’s leads.
“Our sales skyrocketed,” he said. “Even that far back, I was able to use AI not having a clue.”
“You don’t need to be (computer savvy), but you need to be the leader,” he said, noting he hired college interns to do the tech work.
Parks told the audience that he’s sold $750 million in roofing, and “a lot of that is the technology.”
“AI and machine learning are advancing rapidly,” he said. “Adoption will continue despite skepticism.”
AI offers opportunities for businesses to improve efficiency, insights and decision making. And although they may not know it, roofing companies use AI in the form of automated scheduling, damage detection and predictive analytics. Parks said.
“Think of ways to use it in your business,” he added. “With all the changes that are coming, you have to figure out how to use it.”
Despite his enthusiasm for AI, Parks listed several potential challenges he’s concerned about:
“This tech is so disruptive; if you don’t upskill you are going to be in trouble.”
“This technology will create massive job losses.”
“Some are concerned about potential misuse.”
“Human oversight is still needed to apply ethics and values to AI systems.”
Parks challenged attendees to try ChatGPT or another generative AI platform to see how it could improve their companies’ website content, marketing copy and other messaging.
Generative AI refers to deep-learning platforms that can generate high-quality text, images and other content based on the data and information they were trained on. ChatGPT and others allow users to do tasks such as compose emails, sales pitches, marketing materials and more.
“You can use AI for marketing ... to enhance what you have,” he said.
Generative AI also can be used to train sales teams, Parks said: “Imagine if you don’t have to hire overpriced sales managers, trainers and sales reps? You can have AI role-play with your reps. It can record their pitch at the homes.”
Using AI, Parks said his roofing company increased revenue by 12% by helping reps sell more.
The roofer concluded his keynote with these thoughts: “If you are a successful business and if you are not innovating now, it’s likely your business will be disrupted in the future. This technology is coming. You’ve got to prepare yourself and be ready for it.”
“Don’t be the disrupted; be the disrupter,” he said.
Editorial Director, ConstructioNext, WOC360, IRE360, Informa Markets
Jean Dimeo is an award-winning editor, writer and publication manager who has worked in construction publishing for 30 years. Dimeo was managing editor of Construction Dive, our sister publication about commercial construction, and the editor in chief of Builder, EcoHome and Building Products, all about residential building and remodeling. She also worked as an editor for a Spanish-language construction publication and as a building products expert for consumer magazines including Better Homes & Gardens SIPs.
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