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03/08/2019

Earlier this year, the North Texas Roofing Contractors Association (NTRCA) received national recognition for our “Who’s On Your Roof?” consumer advocacy campaign when we won a Gold Circle Award honorable mention in the category of community service. The Gold Circle Awards are given annually by the NRCA (National Roofing Contractors Association).

NTRCA’s “Who’s On Your Roof?” consumer advocacy campaign helps educate North Texas consumers and provides them with information and resources to protect themselves from roofing scam artists and storm chasers.

We are proud of our consumer awareness work and our commitment to consumers in North Texas. With no state licensing, registration or even liability insurance required of roofers in Texas, anyone can call themselves a roofer, regardless of their experience – or lack thereof. It’s “buyer beware” and Texas consumers must protect themselves from storm chasers and scam artists. It is an important part of our organization’s mission to help arm North Texans with consumer tips and information to help them select a reputable roofer.

The NTRCA Who’s On Your Roof? consumer awareness campaign is ongoing and has included: the development of a one-page list of questions that NTRCA recommends consumers ask of any roofing contractor they are considering (available in both English and Spanish on the NTRCA website); a consumer advocacy postcard (in both English and Spanish) with information and an abbreviated list of the NTRCA-recommended questions; media outreach and interviews; communication with municipalities in areas that were hit the hardest by damaging storms;  consumer awareness advertisements in local newspapers; sharing consumer awareness information via social media channels (including Facebook and Twitter); an advice page on the NTRCA website (in both English and Spanish) and two consumer awareness videos – one for homeowners and one for commercial property owners.

NTRCA was honored during NRCA’s annual awards presentation at NRCA’s 126th Annual Convention and International Roofing Expo held earlier this year in San Antonio. Click here to see a full list of winners.

 

03/08/2019

SO MUCH HOPE - FOR SO LITTLE

The 83rd Regular Session of the Texas Legislature opened with a bang, insofar as contractor-related issues were concerned; Texas trade contractors had quite a bit of legislation being sponsored, which if passed and enacted into law, would have been beneficial to the industry and all of its participants. When the dust settled, though, not a lot got done.

Aw, the Opportunities!

The boldest initiative was lien law reform, legislation which was filed after an off-year interim study into the problems with the current lien law system and with input from a number of industry groups and contractors.  Legislation was filed in both the Senate and the House that, if passed, it would have created a much simplified "no fault" lien scheme, providing plenty of protection for project owners, secured lenders and general contractors, while substantially improving the lien protection given to subcontractors.  However, there was substantial opposition from general contractor interests, as well as some banking title company advocates.  The legislation was ultimately withdrawn by its sponsors; hopes are that inter-session negotiations will lead to a passable compromise bill in the 84th Legislature, 2015.

Another proposal that did not make it through the session was legislation to that would have required notice to contractors in the event a project owner was declared by its lender to be in default, so the construction team could lawfully suspend work and protect itself from greater losses.  Banking interest didn't like this very much and killed the bill.

. . . And the Good News?

The biggest win for the construction industry is House Bill 586, requiring waiver by state entities of their sovereign immunity to suit.  This one is a big deal and a change from the existing law that allowed a state agency to claim sovereign immunity from suit - including suit to collect money for work done under a contract with the agency. Under the new legislation, which applies to construction contracts executed on or after September 1, 2013, contractors have the ability to sue state governmental agencies for breach of contract.  For disputes of $250,000 or more, suit can be filed in District Court, with disputes of less than $250,000 decided by the State's Office of Administrative Hearings ("SOAH"). The legislation isn't perfect - it does not allow for recovery of attorneys' fees by the aggrieved parties, but is still a huge gain for construction teams across the state.

House Bill 2015, signed by Governor Perry on June 14, requires that employers awarded contracts for public work must ensure that those performing work under the contract are properly classified as employees or independent contractors, and provides for a penalty of $200 for each individual misclassified as an independent contractor. This legislation is a response to the growing problem of contractors shifting their workforce to 1099 workers and creating an unfair advantage over those employers properly classifying their full time employees as employees. Other proposals for legislation addressing worker mis-classification had dramatically higher penalty levels, but the passage and signing of HB 2015 is an important step.

 

03/08/2019

It’s time to terminate an employee. Hopefully you’ve developed and followed your company guidelines of progressive discipline. Was there an investigation?  Did you give yearly evaluations, coach the employee about under-performance issues? Or, maybe the infraction is so severe that immediate termination is called for.

Now what do you do?            

  • Keep Your Cool – Don’t spring the news suddenly or berate the employee
  • Avoid Surprises – The employee shouldn’t be completely surprised. Poor performance review is “for-cause” if you document it.
  • Watch What You Say and How You Say It – The employee will remember your words in the worst possible light. Avoid making discriminatory statements and be cautious during the termination meeting. Don’t be a jerk. Make sure it’s done in person and in private and, when possible, with an appropriate witness in attendance.
  • But ….Don’t be Too Kind – Even if you feel like softening the blow, don’t express your feelings in the wrong way. Tell the real reason. For example, if performance was substandard, say so. And don’t apologize for the employee’s failure to perform. If you feel like it’s your fault, you didn’t do enough coaching prior to the termination, and the termination may be premature.
  • Keep Quiet – Don’t discuss the reasons with other employees. Not only does it open you up to a lawsuit, but it damages your relationship with your other employees, who expect you to keep their private issues private.
  • Final Pay - Pay the employee, in full, for all time worked and benefits accrued, at the termination meeting. Although by statute you have the earlier of three days or the next pay cycle, to pay the terminated employee, have the final check ready to hand over at the end of the termination. If the employee has company property, retrieve it immediately, even if it means giving the employee a ride home to get it. Withholding pay under these circumstances is very risky.
  • If you are concerned about any aspect of the termination, make sure you have consulted your attorney or HR advisor ahead of time. 
03/08/2019

In 2012, the EEOC issued an opinion which states that taking arrest and conviction records into consideration when making employment decisions may, in some instances, violate the prohibition against employment discrimination under Title VII. In keeping with this trend, the Texas house and senate passed HB1188 that grants added legal protection to employers who hire those with a criminal record. The rationale, generally, for these decisions is because minorities are more likely to have a criminal record. Therefore, basing employment decisions, even in part, on criminal histories, has a disproportionate effect on minorities.
 
So, what should you do? We recommend a two-pronged approach. First, when hiring, remove the "ever been convicted of a crime" question of the initial application - this should not be a factor in your hiring decision until the applicant has been preliminarily screened for suitability for the position. Second, whether hiring or promoting, limit your inquiries into the individual's criminal background, consistent with the job duties and responsibilities that apply to the position in question and with business necessity.
 
Next, develop a narrowly tailored written policy and procedure for screening applicants and employees for criminal conduct that:

  • Identifies essential job requirements and the actual circumstances under which the jobs are performed.
  • Determines the specific offenses that may demonstrate unfitness for performing such jobs. For example, you certainly would not want someone who had been convicted of crimes against children working on a school re-roof, although that same employee could appropriately be used on a commercial or industrial project. Nor would you necessarily want someone who went to jail on assault charges working as a crew foreman.
  • Identifies the duration of exclusions for criminal conduct and include an individualized assessment. Has it been six months or six years since the conviction?
  • Includes the justification for the policy and procedures, keeping notes on what research and consultation you conducted in crafting the policy and procedures.
  • Provides training for those responsible for hiring in these policies and procedures.

Finally, if you are uncertain whether your policy will pass EEOC muster, or simply are unsure about any particular hiring decision, consult an attorney.

03/08/2019

 

  1. Promote yourself as a member of the NTRCA – on your website, business cards, marketing materials, social media pages, signage, etc. It REALLY sets you apart to be an NTRCA member!
  2. Accredited members: put your NTRCA accredited member magnet on your truck.
  3. Share NTRCA’s branded social media messages on YOUR social media channels (these are posted on NTRCA’s facebook, twitter and google+ pages)
  4. Attend NTRCA events and get involved; events include monthly Lunch and Learns, Annual Banquet & Awards event, training events, Clay Shoot, Golf Tournament, Fishing Tournament, Holiday Party & Community Service projects
  5. Apply for the annual Golden Hammer awards; if you win, promote that you won!
  6. Every member has a free listing on the NTRCA website – make sure that you add your company’s description and logo
  7. Consider advertising on NTRCA’s website
  8. Order customized NTRCA marketing postcards
  9. Take and share photos (on your website and social media pages) of you and your team at NTRCA events
  10. Take advantage of the content on NTRCA’s blog – you can share links to specific blogs posts on your facebook or other social media pages.
03/08/2019

Founded in 1983, NTRCA is the premier resource for roofing contractors and associates working and doing business in North Texas. NTRCA offers educational training, keeps members informed on industry standards and news, promotes members and advocates for consumers in North Texas. We also offer award opportunities and fun networking events each year. 

WHY JOIN the NTRCA?

• Set your company apart; members must meet strict criteria and high standards
• Increase your exposure 
• Continue to learn and train 
• Get connected and network through our events
• Give back by participating in our community service projects
• Get recognized through our annual awards program
• Stay informed about industry and association news 
• Enjoy members-only benefits

Apply online today: Contractor Application - Associate Application

03/08/2019

Many NTRCA members were recently affected by some underhanded, deceptive SEO (search engine optimization) techniques by a company named Accent Roofing Company, most likely implemented by a shady SEO company they hired. They littered YouTube with multiple copies of the same video, tagging many of our NTRCA members’ company names, in order to deceptively drive web search engine traffic their own way.

A big thank you to Bert Roofing for bringing this to our attention. The company has been reported to YouTube by many of us and, as of now, it looks like the videos with other company names have been pulled.

SEO is important to most businesses, including roofing companies, and many SEO-focused companies are in business to help customers increase their search rankings. But how to do you spot a bad SEO company? How do you select a good one?

In short, good SEO companies will use techniques to help you gain higher rankings in an ethical manner that involve no deception. This can take time and money, but the results can make it worth it. Bad SEO companies, on the other hand, often employ deceptive practices that are not approved by search engines, which can result in a site eventually being banned, de-indexed or penalized through lower rankings. Any short-term gain received by bad, deceptive SEO practices is NOT worth this kind of risk.

Bad SEO (or what some call black hat SEO) techniques include keyword stuffing, doorway and cloaked pages, link farming, hidden texts and links, and blog comment spamming. Good SEO (or what some call white hat SEO) techniques include research, analysis, re-writing meta tags to be more relevant, content improvement and web redesign.

Below are several tips and red flags to help you recognize a bad SEO company and avoid getting scammed:

1. They Offer Free Trial Services…and Want Access to Your Website

Companies using this tactic may make you an offer to try their services free for 30 days, if you’ll just give them access to your site. This is a red flag. Don’t do it. Never give your website login info to anyone offering you a free trial or to anyone else you do not know and trust.

2. You Were Made Aware of the Company Only through Email

Unsolicited SEO offers via email or a cold call should give you pause. Spammers often use spiders to crawl for a list of URLs and email addresses, so when you get an unsolicited offer via email from someone who claims to have visited your site, be wary. Like we recommend to those selecting a roofing company, do your research before hiring any SEO company.

3. Their Services are Under Priced or Overpriced

Beware of really inexpensive SEO service offers from sites like Fiverr and Elance. Good SEO takes time, expertise and working within the rules. Be leery of someone offering services at a significantly low (or high) price.

4. They Make Promises and Guarantees About First Page (or First Rank) Positions on Google or Other Search Engines

Good, effective SEO cannot be done quickly, unless it is done using bad practices. It takes time, research and likely some rework on your website to do it well. Do not do business with anyone that promises a particular page rank, or page ranking in a short time frame.

Ranking is done periodically by Google, not on a daily basis, and nothing you can do will speed up the process. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months for a page to get ranked, and your ranking is also impacted by other sites’ rankings.

5. You Are Promised Hundreds (or Thousands) of Links to Your Site

Lahle Wolfe, CEO of LA Wolfe Marketing says: “Any links you get from such claims are more likely to hurt your site than to help it. Building links too fast to the wrong sites is considered black hat SEO and could damage the credibility of your website in search engines. If Google catches you building links with black hat strategies your site will be penalized or blacklisted.”

Instead, she recommends spending time building your own quality in-bound links by offering meaningful content and suggests avoiding reciprocal linking (an old SEO tactic that is no longer effective). “Robots are smart and know when you are trying to cheat the system,” she warns.

6. Companies That Are Not Easy to Reach and/or Will Not Answer Your Questions

Like we suggest to property owners when they’re hiring a roofing contractor: ask questions (and lots of them). If you get the runaround or get told the answer is a “trade secret technique,” look elsewhere. You are hiring experience, not trade secrets when you work with an SEO company. You should also be able to easily find the SEO company – online and via phone (and not just a cell phone).

7. The Company Does Not Easily Refer You to Past Clients

Ask for referrals. If the company refuses, is hesitant or only gives you a couple references, it may be best to look elsewhere for SEO help.

 

It may be that the SEO company is to blame for the deceptive videos pumped out on YouTube last week for Accent Roofing Company, but Accent will be the one reported and harmed. It’s important to choose carefully and to have a clear understanding of what the SEO company will be doing for you and their techniques.

 

03/08/2019

Most Frequently Cited OSHA Standards in 2014

Add a description  

The following were the top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards in fiscal year 2014. 
 

Below each one, there are two links:

 

1) A link to the OSHA regulation
and

2) A link to a related topics page.

 

  1. Fall protection, construction
  2. Hazard communication standard, general industry
  3. Scaffolding, general requirements, construction
  4. Respiratory protection, general industry
  5. Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry
  6. Powered industrial trucks, general industry
  7. Electrical wiring methods, general industry
  8. Ladders, construction
  9. Machines, general requirements, general industry
  10. Electrical systems design, general requirements, general industry

 

For more detailed information, visit Frequently Cited OSHA Standards
 
Thanks to Greg Walther of Independent Insurance Group for compiling this information.
 
Independent Insurance Group
03/08/2019

STOLEN SHINGLES ALERT

Roofing supply thefts are on the rise again in North Texas. This problem affects not only roofing and construction companies, but consumers are the ones who ultimately suffer.

As theft losses in the roofing industry increase, roofing costs are driven up. NTRCA recommends that consumers ask potential roofing contractors questions about where their shingles were purchased, especially if the bid is significantly lower than other roofing bids. How and why can a roofing company afford to provide the materials and labor at such a significantly lower price than other companies? 

NTRCA recommends that roofing companies:

1. Do not buy deeply discounted materials from “chop shops” or “discount wholesalers.” 

2. Help educate consumers. Homeowners and businesses are not aware that their roofing materials may be STOLEN goods. Encourage them to ask roofing contractors where they purchased their shingles.

3. Mark your shingles and other materials in any way you can to help police identify your materials.

4. Report your stolen items to the police.

Help put a stop to this crime ring. If it hasn’t affected you yet, it will…

More consumer protection tips and resources for North Texas roofing contractors are available at www.ntrca.com.

 

03/08/2019

It’s the start of a new year and a good time to re-visit your I-9 compliance!

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (”IRCA”) requires that all employers complete a Form I-9 for all employees hired after Nov 6, 1986. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (”DHS”) oversees all immigration and customs efforts through Immigration and Customer Enforcement “ICE” & U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (”USCIS”). 

The U.S. Dept. of Labor oversees labor, employment and wage laws.  State laws are, generally, not very different. 
$        U.S. Department of Labor: www.dol.gov 
$        Texas Workforce Commission www.twc.state.tx.us

I-9 compliance is required for anyone who receives a paycheck from the company, but is not required for independent contractors.

Going through the I-9 process must wait until the employee actually becomes an employee. In other words, unless directly related to the job duties, you cannot ask a prospective employee anything other than whether he/she is eligible to work in the U.S. 

Remember, the employee, not the employer, gets to choose which document(s) is/are presented to confirm work eligibility. Acceptable documents must be originals and from those on  List A, or a combination of documents from Lists B & C – all of which are found on the reverse side of the Form I-9.   If the document looks reasonably genuine on its face and relates to the employee (names match, photo looks like employee, etc.) then the document must be accepted. Questionable documents may be rejected and the employee allowed to present other acceptable documents. However, the employee still gets to choose, and can be terminated only after no other acceptable documents are presented.

The employer can - and should - keep copies of these documents, but they must be kept with the employee’s I-9 form, and not in the employee’s regular personnel file or in an unsecured location. If kept on the computer, the directory containing these files should be password protected. 

Karen Ensley
Cutler-Smith, PC
Ph: 214-219-0800
Cell: 817-538-6894
[email protected]

 

03/08/2019

In the earlier days of Facebook, if a user “Liked” a business page, that page’s posts typically showed up in the follower’s news feed. Then Facebook went public…and things changed. Facebook altered their news feed algorithm and introduced advertising for business pages. Businesses then had to advertise (“boost”) their posts in order for them to show up in more than a small percentage of their followers’ news feeds. Compelling, engaging content also became more important than ever — users who engaged the most with a page were more likely (but not guaranteed) to see more of that page’s posts in their news feed.

Now there is a new Facebook feature just introduced in the U.S. called “See First.”

As a Facebook user, it gives you much more control over what you’re seeing in your Facebook news feed by allowing you to prioritize which friends and pages you’d like to see updates from first. No more missing posts from your favorite friends and pages!

As a business owner with a business Facebook page, it gives you an opportunity to ask your followers to “See First” you…getting more of your great content in front of those who want it.

Here’s how it works:

On Your Computer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1) Go to the business or organization’s page you like (such as NTRCA)

2) Go to the box where it says “Liked” with the thumbs up icon

3) Hover over that box and then click “See First” so you’ll be sure to see that page’s posts in your news feed. That’s all!

On Your IOS Device

(note: this feature should be available on Android devices very soon)

newsfeed_preferences_seefirst

1. Make sure you have the most recent version of the Facebook iPhone app installed

2. Open the app and click “More” on the bottom right of the screen

3. Scroll down to “Settings” and click “News Feed Preferences”

4. Then, click “Prioritize Who to See First”

5. Finally, click on all friends and pages (like NTRCA) you’d like to see at the top of your feed

03/08/2019

OHSA Updates
 
 
Updates to OSHA's Recordkeeping Rule: Reporting Fatalities and Severe Injuries --  OSHA's updated recordkeeping rule -- expands the list of severe injuries that all employers must report to OSHA. Establishments located in states under Federal OSHA jurisdiction must begin to comply with the new requirements on January 1, 2015. 

Establishments located in states that operate their own safety and health programs should check with their state plan for the implementation date of the new requirements. - To read more about the new rules click here.
03/08/2019

Many of us love to hate facebook, but we've noticed a trend among our friends: when they are looking for a service provider, they ask their friends on facebook.
 
"In the last week alone," says Ronnie Crowley at NTRCA, "I've had friends ask for recommendations for air conditioning companies and plumbers." How and where did they ask her? Via Facebook. Facebook is often used as a way for people to poll friends for companies they've had good experiences with (with no need to pay to be a member of Angie's List). "It's even easier for me to recommend specific companies if they have a Facebook page that I've liked.  I can just tag them or provide a link in my reply! If I didn't know so many great roofers, I know I'd be asking my friends on Facebook for a roofer recommendation when I need one."
 
Starting a Facebook business page costs you exactly $0. So if you haven't created one, why not? You are missing out on leads.

Need more reasons? Read this article which gives you the Top 10 benefits of a Facebook Business Page with lots of great stats. 
 
Need help to do it?  Facebook has a great help page, and there is more great information here.
 
Once you have a business page, let [email protected] know and NTRCA  will like your page from the NTRCA Facebook Page. Remember to like us back!  While you are at it, don't be bashful --  ask your personal friends to like your business page.
 
One word of caution: your Facebook page isn't going to help you if you don't feed it! You need to make time in your business to update the page and keep it current. You need to give someone the responsibility of responding to comments made on your page. Someone who understands your business (and has good grammar and spelling skills) needs to be responsible for posting on a regular basis. Social Media needs your attention for it to make a difference in your business. And don't make it all about you -- it's called "social" for a reason. Provide tips and valuable information, project photos, videos and more to engage followers and get them liking, sharing and responding to expand your reach.
03/08/2019

If you need to accept credit or debit card payments from customers for your business, it can be difficult to know which way to turn in terms of which pricing model is the best for your needs and budget. In this article, NTRCA associate member Corey Young with ProV3 Payments, outlines the three basic pricing models that credit card processors use.

In the merchant service industry, there are three basic pricing models that processors use. It is important that the business owner understands these models and why they are used. The more informed a business owner, the better chance they will not be taken advantage of.

1. Tiered

This is, unfortunately, the most common way most credit card processors charge their merchants. Tiered pricing bundles groups of interchange rates into buckets and then charges the merchant depending on what type of card is run. These buckets are:

  1. Qualified – This bucket usually consists of debit cards and the most basic credit cards. This bucket almost always is for swiped cards as well. This will be the lowest rate offered.
  2. Mid-Qualified – This bucket is often lower tiered consumer reward cards and most likely for only swiped transactions. This rate will be in the middle, usually in the 2.5% plus range.
  3. Non-Qualified – This bucket is the catch-all for everything else -- if you key in a transaction, if it’s a business card, if it’s a higher reward type card. This bucket is, by far, the most expensive. The cost here is normally 3.5% and up.

The major problem with this type of pricing is that the processors do not disclose what interchange rates make up each type of bucket. They will hook the merchant with a low qualified rate and then “downgrade” 90% of cards taken to the higher buckets. With this type of pricing, you will never know exactly what you’re paying for or how much the processor is making.

2. Bundled

When a credit card processor offers one rate for all your transaction, like Square, this is bundled pricing. The processor is taking all the interchange rates charged from Visa/MC and lumping them together and then marking them up. The processor then makes a different percentage depending on what type of cards you take from your customers.

This type of pricing is most commonly used for small businesses that may not take credit cards on a consistent basis. Oftentimes, companies that offer these types of rates will also offer other services to help the small business as well. A great example of this is Square and a company called Cuffr. They offer email invoicing, customer management and web-based payments. They only charge you when you take transactions.

3. Interchange Pass-Through (a.k.a. Cost Plus)

Cost Plus pricing is the most transparent way to price in the merchant service industry and the model we used at ProV3 Payments as well as other companies. This model discloses what fees are going directly to the card brands (Visa/MC interchange rates) and what the credit card processor is making (the discount rate). Here are some of the most common interchange rates from Visa and their associated fees.

  • Regulated Visa Check Card (This is your debit/check card) - .05% + .21/transaction
  • Traditional Rewards -  1.15% + .05/transaction
  • Visa Signature Preferred / Visa Infinite – 2.1% + .10/transaction
  • Business Standard Interchange Reimbursement Fee – 2.95% + .20/transaction

There are over 125 of these interchange buckets for Visa/MC. Where they land is determined by what type of card is accepted and how it is processed. If it is swiped, it will be cheaper than if it is keyed in.

Cost Plus is also very beneficial because it allows you to fully analyze how you are taking payments. For example, if you take payments over the phone you might be getting penalized for not having enough information in the transaction. By analyzing the interchange buckets you might be able to save a considerable amount just by adding something as simple as an invoice number when you process the transaction.

At the end of the day the only way to really determine how much you are paying for your credit card processing is to determine your “effective rate.” You calculate the effective rate by taking the total of all your fees and dividing it by the total card volume processed. By doing this calculation you will be able to determine if there might be hidden fees, downgrades or other issues that are increasing your fees.

Corey Young is managing partner at ProV3 Payments and CEO of Cuffr. He has 15 years of experience in the financial industry and enjoys working with his clients to help them with mobile payments, web/ecommerce payments and traditional retail transactions.

03/08/2019

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced the preliminary Top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations for fiscal year 2018.

The top 10 violations seen by OSHA in fiscal year 2018 (as of Oct 23, 2018) are:

  1. Fall protection at 7,270 violations
  2. Hazard communication at 4,552 violations
  3. Construction scaffolding at 3,336 violations
  4. Respiratory protection at 3,118 violations
  5. Lockout/tagout at 2,944 violations
  6. Construction ladders at 2,812 violations
  7. Powered industrial trucks at 2,294 violations
  8. Fall-protection training in construction at 1,982 violations
  9. Machine guarding at 1,972 violations
  10. Eye and face protection in construction at 1,536 violations

This is the first time that Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment—Eye and Face Equipment and Fall Protection—Training Requirements have appeared in the list of top 10 violations.

Get more details at https://ohsonline.com/articles/2018/10/24/osha-announces-top-10-violations-for-fy-2018.aspx?m=1