Making the Connection

As ABC national chair, Rader will serve as the name and face of the merit shop, leading the organization’s campaign to elevate the construction industry’s reputation for safety, job growth and career opportunities for young professionals.
By Lauren Pinch
January 28, 2019

“Good stuff.”

That’s the motto Tony Rader carries with him into his new role as vice president at National Roofing Partners (NRP), where he is not only leading a huge expansion in the company’s scope of work, but also taking the helm as Associated Builders and Contractors’ 2019 national chair. His positive, action-oriented attitude—focusing on “what can we accomplish today”—will be the linchpin to managing a packed itinerary this year.

Rader’s 35-plus years of experience was the pivotal reason that NRP won a multimillion-dollar contract with a major telecom supplier to install 120,000 new 5G cellular towers nationwide in the next three years. The company will onboard nearly 50 new employees, plus expand office space in its Dallas area headquarters to support additional work in the telecom sector this year.

As ABC national chair, Rader will serve as the name and face of the merit shop, leading the organization’s campaign to elevate the construction industry’s reputation for safety, job growth and career opportunities for young professionals.

“As business owners, we often look at the negative and focus on what didn’t happen. Through Tony’s leadership, we now look at the good in what’s happened each day,” says NRP CEO Steve Little, who was personally responsible for bringing Rader on board. “Anything he applies himself to, he’s successful at. People follow that mindset. The people that work for him would take a bullet for him. He’s as dedicated to his family as he is to his faith as he is to his career. He doesn’t do anything he doesn’t like doing. And he does a lot for so many people.”

As NRP President Rodney Shrader can attest, Rader will bring this get-it-done momentum into all facets of ABC’s boards and committees. Rader mentored Shrader early in his career and encouraged him to get more involved in the association. “When someone brings something negative to the table, Tony will turn that around and say ‘yes you’re right, there are problems A and B, but have you thought about C through Z? That’s the good stuff. Let’s focus our time on that,’” Shrader says.

Rader’s pride in relationship building has become his foundation. “I believe in integrity—doing what you say you will do,” Rader says.

In the year ahead, his main goal as ABC chair will be to impart this energy upon the younger generation and encourage them to understand the powerful effect their involvement in training and volunteerism can have on the long term.

“When I look out over the audience from the podium, there are a lot of gray hairs like me,” he says. “I want to get the younger audience engaged and excited about the industry and the association so that there is a legacy down the road. These younger individuals—those in their 20s, 30s and 40s—bring a wealth of knowledge and new ideas that we haven’t even thought of yet. The energy level being around them is great. I want to get them on ABC committees and get them motivated for all of the opportunities that the future holds.”

Rader and ABC’s Executive Committee, working in collaboration with the White House to encourage support for vocational education, will center their workforce development messaging on the concept of: “Get them in, Get them educated, Give them a dream.”

This means working with programs such as Project JumpStart, second-chance recruitment programs for veterans and former inmates, and STEM-focused high schools and colleges to get new talent in the door. Then, it means using apprenticeship and work-to-hire programs to educate individuals for little to no cost. The final step is giving graduates and employees a dream to work their way up the career ladder and potentially start their own companies.

First Things First

Rader entered the construction industry at age 14, when he began mowing vacant city tracts of land for his father’s excavation company after school and during the summer. After his father passed away in 1977, he continued to work in construction to help support his mother while taking evening business marketing classes at Southern Methodist University.

Soon after college, in the 1980s, Rader married and started a family, and he began working in apartment remodeling before going to work at his brother’s general contracting company, WFC Construction, which specialized in pre-engineered metal buildings. When Rader arrived, the company only had five employees, but by the time he and his brother were ready to sell it a few years later, 45 employees were in the field.

The success continued, with Rader joining a post-tensioning concrete company and growing it from a couple million dollars in revenue to nearly $15 million a year. Then, Rader was recruited to work for AUI Contractors in Fort Worth, Texas, where he grew the company from a small $15 million civil contractor into a $200 million commercial general contractor that has become one of the top 10 companies in the United States for wind and solar installations, supporting 300 employees. Rader remained with AUI for 19 years and became its third owner before selling the company.

Rader then joined Schwob Companies, Dallas, as vice president of sales assisting the firm in marketing and business transition that increased the company’s volume to $220 million a year. Then in 2018, he went full time with his consulting business, The Rader Group, mentoring companies, making relationships, cutting deals and hooking people up with the right jobs.

That’s when everything changed. Little approached Rader with the prospect of helping NRP write the business plan for the huge telecom upgrade project. With his experience in wind and solar installations, Rader is no stranger to the challenges of working on super tall towers and complex rooftops, and helped sell NRP’s customer service and technical expertise to win the three-year contract to transition all of its towers across the American landscape. Simultaneously, NRP hired Shrader, who brings a 20-year record of success in sales and marketing for the facilities storage and rental space, as its new president.

“How fortunate and blessed are we to be able to have Tony’s leadership running a brand new opportunity for us n the telecom segment of the services industry. Tony is coming from a general contracting standpoint, which is exactly what the telecom community is looking for—someone to take on new builds and expansions and rehabs in the facilities that they have currently as well as transition the 4G to 5G technology, which puts NRP at the cutting edge of what’s happening in the world today,” Little says.

“In this new role, Tony brings forward-thinking to the telecom industry,” Shrader says. “His leadership is taking us to the next level, and it’s been fantastic.”
Adding to the leadership mix at NRP are Vice President of Finance Kyrah Coker, Vice President Geoff Craft, Vice President of Service Kim Baxter, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Deryl Kratzer and Vice President of COOP David Adams.

While it may seem unusual for a roofing company to take on telecom work, Rader’s experience means he is able to talk the talk. “We’ve had the struggles with guys saying, ‘I will not have a roofer on my job,’ thinking we are shinglers reroofing homes. Now that we have proven ourselves, they are asking for help on more jobs,” Rader says.

“We have been the disruptors. Our telecom partner is liking that we are taking a different approach to it—applying a general contracting mindset rather than a subcontracting mindset on how to schedule, execute and communicate on jobs.”

On top of the major telecom contract, NRP’s bread and butter is providing commercial roofing services for large retailers, including The Home Depot, Walmart, Burlington Coat Factory, JCPenney, CVS Health and more. Through its call center and online service portal, NRP’s national footprint serves as a one-stop-shop to connect any multi-facility client with a local roofing partner when a service need arises. Typically, work can be performed within hours, thanks to its existing contracts, insurance documentation and warranties with major roofing manufacturers.

This year, NRP is expanding its solar division, hiring new sales executives and growing the company’s service department up to 30 percent through customer acquisitions. In addition, NRP is expanding its project management division to handle more re-roofing, restoration and retrofit work. Plus, the company has begun implementing a drone assessment program.

ABC Merit Shop Proud

Usually, volunteer leaders filter their corporate business strategies into their association roles. For Rader, it’s the other way around.

“I’ve modeled the goals here at the company similar to ABC National’s, taking our Franklin Covey training and ABC’s strategic plan into NRP as a model for us in developing similar goals in our strategic planning process,” he says.

Rader first discovered ABC though his oldest son Aaron, who was seeking a scholarship for a civil engineering program at Texas Tech University. After doing some research, he came across ABC’s website, which advertised scholarships for members. While Rader was a member at the time, his company wasn’t very engaged in the opportunities the association had to offer—and that quickly changed.

“It was shocking to know there were so few applicants,” Rader says. “They were having trouble finding people to apply for free money.”

Recognizing the untapped potential to spread the word about opportunities in the construction workforce, Rader became more and more involved in the Dallas area chapter, where he met influential ABC leaders Gary Roden, who now serves as vice president of business development at TDIndustries, and Ben Houston, who recently retired from TDIndustries. “Ben started mentoring me and getting me involved on several ABC committees. One day at lunch with our wives, he said, ‘Tony, you are going to be national chair one day.’ And I said, there’s no way. But he said, ‘you can do it. I know you can.’” Ben is the one that pushed me to get there. He is still a good friend to this day.”

In 2004, Rader, Shrader and Little were involved in the ABC chapter’s merger with Associated General Contractors’ Dallas chapter to form what is now named “TEXO, The Association Chapter,” and since then he has continued to use his chapter connections to build his network and support national education and recruitment efforts. Rader has served on the legislative, membership and PAC committees at both the chapter and national level. Plus, nationally, he’s served on the ABC Services Corp. Board and the Construction Legal Rights Foundation Board.

In the year ahead, Rader is looking forward to making new lasting connections. “Anytime I visit with an ABC member, their integrity and work ethic stand out. It’s going to be a lot of work, but the rewarding factor is the relationships I will have form long term. It’s going to be a humbling experience.”

by Lauren Pinch

Lauren Pinch was editor-in-chief of Construction Executive and serves as an editorial consultant to the construction industry.

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