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Blazing a trail--Lindy Ryan makes history as NRCA"s first female chairman of the board Time:2017/01/19 14:49:53 Hit:245

When Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail," he was persuading others to have the courage to traverse unknown territories and lead the way fonr others.

Since 1886, when NRCA was established, association members have elected 124 presidents to lead the organization. Every president had the courage to guide NRCA through unchartered terrain and challenges, and each president left a legacy as unique as each man who served his peers and industry.

This year's president, now called chairman of the board as a result of a change to NRCA's bylaws, already has blazed a trail by being elected to a position that¡ªuntil now¡ªonly has been held by men. For the first time in 129 years, NRCA has elected a woman, Lindy Ryan, senior vice president of service and leadership development for Tecta America Corp., Sanford, Fla., to serve as its chairman of the board.

"I think it's awesome," says Kelly Ryan, Lindy Ryan's sister and office manager for Tecta America Central Florida. "I know Lindy being the first woman president will make a positive statement in what is considered a man's world."

Ryan is honored to have been selected by a committee of her esteemed peers as the first woman to represent the association, but she doesn't want her gender to define her term: "I'm a little bit awestruck that five of my peers, who happen to be men, nominated me for this position. I am truly honored, and I do mean truly honored, to be the first woman to represent the association at this level. But I really try to separate the female thing as much as I can because I don't believe the challenges are any greater than they would be if I were male."

A pioneer's journey

Similar to many roofing professionals, Ryan didn't apply or seek out a career in the roofing industry. The opportunity came along via the family route.

"When I got married, my husband had just started a small general contracting firm," Ryan says. "In the late 1980s, he was struggling to find a roofing contractor. In Florida, you need a roofing contractor license, so he got his license to do roofing work."

In 1990, they converted General Works LLC from a general contracting business to roofing exclusively. Ryan also received her roofing license in Florida, and they worked hard to successfully grow their roofing business during the next few years.

"There were many long days and a lot of growing pains," Ryan says.

A detour

In 2005, Ryan and her husband sold General Works to Tecta America Corp., Rosemont, Ill., and their company became Tecta America. In 2006, Ryan and her husband divorced. Ryan stayed in the business and in roofing.

"It's really funny because as you go through life, you think you're on a certain path and you're going to do certain things and follow your hopes and dreams," Ryan says. "And then it turns out that's not what life has planned for you. My mom says: 'Life happens when you're otherwise planning.' And that's certainly what happened.

"I had a tough time for a while," Ryan continues. "But you know, I had to work through it because if I didn't, I'd be stuck in a really tough spot. It's difficult to regroup, particularly when you're not 25 years old, but you have to put on your big-girl pants or you're not going to survive."

New topography

Not only did Ryan survive the ordeal, she thrived. In 2010, Tecta America streamlined its operations and Ryan became regional managing president of Tecta America Southeast. And in September 2014, she became Tecta America's senior vice president of service and leadership development. In her new role, she wears two hats, both of which ultimately help others thrive.

One job bears the responsibilities of overseeing Tecta America's service business throughout 51 units nationwide. Working with operating unit presidents and service managers, Ryan helps grow the service side of the units from a revenue or margin perspective and assists them with figuring out how to go to market in their respective locations.

"I get to be the new set of eyes and be the person who has a clear picture of service because I'm not distracted by the other spokes in the wheel," Ryan says. "I usually try to come up with two or three things to put on our action plan and then we hammer on those."

According to Mark Santacrose, CEO of Tecta America, Ryan has a great ability to focus on and understand the service and maintenance side of a business: "From the time she worked at the operating level, Lindy has understood the importance of service and has worked hard to help us become more efficient at delivering service. She has a real aptitude for it."

The other Tecta America role Ryan has involves leadership development across all units, a new position within Tecta America.

"Lindy is a terrific teacher and cares about the development of our people," Santacrose says. "She has been a leader in this area at Tecta America for a long time. So we simply elevated this important role in our organization."

The most satisfying part of Ryan's job is working with people who have potential, helping them see that potential and developing it, not only for the organization but also for their personal careers.

"It gives me a great sense of pride, honor and accomplishment when someone I've worked with has great success and achieves something he or she has worked hard for," Ryan says. "When I'm able to help a person in some way or help him or her get on the right path, at this stage in my life that is a 'wow' for me. It's really cool to see someone do well. I love that."

Beyond the map

Nicole Eisenhardt, regional HR manager for Tecta America Southeast, says Ryan has a natural talent for working with people and helping them achieve goals: "She not only is able to see the big picture and beyond the big picture, she is influential and persuasive. Her confidence and belief in people can get them to do things they may not otherwise think they can do. I think it's through her compassion for other people and understanding people's strengths and weaknesses that she helps them be successful."

Ryan's encouraging nature has built a loyal staff following at the Tecta America Central Florida office.

"She is the best boss I have ever had," says Candy Dease, executive assistant for Tecta America Central Florida. "She's wonderful. I don't know where I'd be without her. She's supportive, encouraging and understanding.

"Lindy knows how to figure out what people need and help them along," Dease continues. "She can zoom in on whatever is wrong or right and help someone push through something he or she may not be great at. It's really a gift. Every day, I count my blessings to have her for a boss."

Michael Kliber, controller for Tecta America Southeast, says even though Ryan has been through a lot personally and professionally, her focus always has been on building a happy team: "When I started here, it was a small mom and pop roofing company, and it's a different life going from that to a multimillion-dollar company. But Lindy is still concerned about making enough money for everyone to feed their families and being part of a team that is happy to be here."

Ten years ago, Ryan was at the office at 5 a.m. handing out the orders for the day and reviewing service tickets and repairs. But these days she's away from the office quite a bit traveling to a Tecta America unit or for NRCA business. Kliber says though he'd rather see her smile every day, there are some benefits to her busy travel schedule. He says: "We just received the NRCA low-slope manual that was sent to her, and I grabbed it off her desk right away to read it. I said: 'I know you're not going to be able to look at this soon, so I'll give it back shortly.'"

An important destination

Ryan's company joined NRCA in 1996 after receiving a National Roofing Legal Resource Center flyer that scared her. She explains: "That flyer scared me because I wasn't doing things I should be doing. So I went to the seminar, and I left there even more scared. I came home with three pages of things I had to do when I got back to the office, and I immediately joined NRCA. Soon after that, NRCA had a 'getting involved' event that I went to, and that's what I did. I got involved."

In 1997, Ryan was selected to serve on NRCA's Health and Safety Committee and served as chairman of the committee for several years. In 2002, she was elected to NRCA's board of directors. Ryan's involvement in NRCA helps her professionally and personally. She says: "NRCA puts me in contact with a vast number of smart, capable industry experts and professionals that I may not necessarily encounter on a daily basis, and those relationships enhance my ability to do my job.

"And it's not just on a professional basis. With the passing of each day, week and month, I become better friends with them and those professional relationships turn into really great friendships that enhance my personal life. I'm not sure why anybody in the industry would not want to be a part of that."

When asked what she would say to someone who says he or she doesn't have time to get involved, Ryan says: "That's hogwash. Time is relative for sure. I think we're all busy people, and we live in a busy time. I get that. You don't need to get involved on the level that I've become involved, but I wholeheartedly believe getting involved on some level will enhance a contractor's ability to develop and grow not only a business, but also the people in the business. From the educational aspect to the technical aspect to the fight on the frontlines on Capitol Hill¡ªno other organization has the wherewithal. Those three things alone are going to positively affect a business."

Staying the course

Ryan plans to continue NRCA's focus on membership recruitment, including a goal to reach 4,000 members that began during former President Nelson Braddy's term and remained a focus during Immediate Past President Rich Nugent's term.

"Rich worked tirelessly on that agenda that started when Nelson was president," Ryan says. "He maintained a steadfast focus on membership following Nelson's presidency, and he did it with passion. He did a really great job representing the organization and industry."

Ryan plans to continue working with NRCA's committees, board of directors and Executive Committee to explore ways to reach potential members.

"I think we need to be a bit more personal in our approach," Ryan says. "We should try to be more one-on-one so we can actually touch people and talk to them. It's about not knowing what you need to know. It's crucial for us to encourage membership for that reason."

Overcoming a roadblock

According to Ryan, the most important issue facing the roofing industry is the workforce: "Years ago, we competed for workers against ourselves, and now we compete with a lot of industries. We need to continue to explore the things we can do as an association that can enhance the possibilities in the industry that will benefit our members and their abilities to hire people. If they can't find qualified people, we need to figure out how they can find people who can be trained to become qualified."

Ryan believes the public's perception of the roofing industry is a significant consideration to solving the industry's workforce needs.

"We're not viewed as a glamourous and fun industry, and our reputation isn't always viewed as being the most admirable," she says. "But I believe I have and will continue to make a positive change in representing the industry and how the general public sometimes feels about roofing contractors. The more I can talk to people, the more I can get them to see our industry is a group of individuals who are professional, honest, hardworking and fair."

Ryan recognizes there is no quick fix for the workforce issue, but each small step the industry can make to encourage people to be visionaries about their career paths will make a difference. She says: "I think many people don't know how to create something more than a job. If we can get them to see they truly can make a living and actually contribute to something and get more than a paycheck, that's what will make a difference. Sometimes, people don't realize what they're looking for is to make a difference."

Ryan also realizes she can make a difference in her capacity as chairman of the board to encourage other women to join the roofing industry.

"I'm excited to have the opportunity to encourage and influence young women to see there are career opportunities for them that they might not ever have thought or dreamed about," she says. "This in no way excludes young men, but sometimes women don't believe there are terrific opportunities for them in the roofing industry, and there are. It's just a matter of their mindsets and how they choose to tackle it."

Kliber says having Ryan as NRCA's first female chairman of the board will have a huge effect on the industry's ability to recruit new workers.

"We have few female roofing workers in our region, and I think having Lindy as a leader in the roofing industry is significant," he says. "I think she will take advantage of the opportunity to advance women who would like to be part of the industry. I think she's going to do great things to build confidence in people to know that we have an industry they can be a part of. She's a great face for the association; she really is."

The rest stops

In between being the face of the organization and her professional responsibilities, Ryan is in places most people won't ever see, such as Vietnam or Cambodia. Although she was born, raised and has lived in the same town all her life (she attended the same elementary school as her mom), her bucket list takes her all over the world.

"I travel a couple of times of year for fun," Ryan says. "I have a lengthy list of places I want to go, and where I go often depends on the timing. This year, I'm going to the Galapagos Islands because it was a trip I found I could fit in at the end of June so I'd be back in time for NRCA's Midyear Meetings."

And when she travels for work or NRCA, she often squeezes in a trip to the zoo.

"She's an animal lover and drags me to zoos a lot," Kliber says. "If we're at a seminar or something like that, she will literally drag me to a local zoo or park."

When she's not traveling, Ryan enjoys reading, attending book-of-the-month club meetings and spending time with her mom, sister, niece and nephews, who live three blocks away.

"We're extremely proud of Lindy," says Kelly Ryan. "She's worked hard to get to where she is. She is a strong person. I hope more women who see her as NRCA's chairman of the board will be more open to getting involved in the roofing industry."

The journey continues

As Ryan begins her term, she is thankful to be surrounded by supportive Tecta America colleagues.

"I have a great team, and thankfully they are extremely supportive of my NRCA commitment," Ryan says. "I don't think it would be possible if I didn't have them behind me, beside me and in front of me. That's the only way I'd be able to do it. I'm grateful to them."

Although Ryan is NRCA's first female chairman of the board, Eisenhardt believes Ryan's legacy will be remembered for much more than that. She says: "I think every president leaves a mark of his or her true skill set. Lindy is going to accomplish great things because she is able to bring people together and work toward a common goal. She'll get people to want to do more than sit around and talk about an idea. She'll get them to want to go out and get it accomplished. I think that will be her legacy."

Ryan is thankful for her involvement in NRCA and looks forward to a productive, fun and memorable year ahead.

"Getting involved in NRCA has turned into a wonderful journey for me," Ryan says. "I am excited to represent such a great industry and such a wonderful organization. I will do my best, and I am really looking forward to it."

 

Original:Professional Roofing