In discussing his role as operations support manager for Elite Roofing Supply, Mike Werpy evoked various analogies: playing chess, completing puzzles, and spinning plates. All are appropriate but don’t mistake these comparisons for complaints.
Simply put, Werpy loves his job.
“I’m passionate about it, I really do enjoy what I do, I really enjoy my job,” he said, adding with a laugh, “And it works out well for both me and Elite because they need someone to do this stuff and I’m sitting there going, ‘Ooo, ooo, okay, I’ll do it!’”
That passion becomes doubly apparent when asked to describe what his job entails, which, when boiled down, is a significant role in any distribution company: ensuring everything related to inventory management is running smoothly. Whether it’s material orders, coordinating deliveries, or working with sales staff to resolve issues, Werpy is happy to help.
Different Days in Distribution
While earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado, Werpy earned a paycheck working at a movie and bookstore. The monotony held little appeal to him, so after graduating in 2001, he switched to working in the paint industry as an inside sales rep with Sherwin-Williams; this opened his eyes to what he wanted in his career.
“I just really enjoyed working with my hands, working with multiple companies and contractors, and building friendships and relationships,” he said. “Every day was a little different, you know … there's a new challenge every day.”
Meanwhile, his brother worked for a local roofing contractor, where he continues to work to this day. With a newfound desire to work with his hands and solve problems, Werpy’s brother introduced him to the world of roofing, snagging him a job at the company.
Werpy started as an independent rep for tile and natural slate; however, that didn’t scratch his itch for problem-solving. But like any good salesperson, he made connections on the distribution side of the business, namely Kelly Woods, who currently serves as regional vice president for Elite Roofing Supply.
“I made friends with him and walked in one day and started talking to him, and we hit it off, and he’s like, ‘Hey, are you interested in a job?’ And honestly, the rest is history,” Werpy said.
Werpy says he enjoys exercising his brain instead of being a “robot” doing the same tasks every day, and distribution fits perfectly with this yearning. He refined his problem-solving skills throughout a 12-year stint with Roofing Supply Group. As its inventory manager, he assisted with purchasing and maintaining inventory levels while coordinating jobsite deliveries with contractors.
“There's always something that's going to come up you haven't seen before; there's always a chance to learn something new, and that really got me excited, really was able to expand my horizon to the different areas in construction, not just counter sales, but delivery driving, management, inventory management — all these different aspects were just really cool to me.”
Beacon purchased Roofing Supply Group in 2015. Two years later, Werpy left the company. After a year hiatus from the industry, Werpy found his way back in with Elite Roofing Supply. That was in January 2019, marking this month as his fifth anniversary with the company.
He said in those five years, one of the things he has appreciated about Elite is its willingness to give people the space and resources they need to grow.
“They've really allowed me to flourish in this,” he said. “I already had this background with RSG and Beacon in the past, but now it's like they trust me to take these things on, and they support me and give me all the tools necessary to flourish.”
As the operations support manager, he monitors inventory for the entire company, including cycle counts and complete fiscal inventories. He also works with branches on transfers, inventory levels, and finding better ways of running reports. He is also involved in training the branches and is a resource to those branches to ensure customers are getting what they need on time.
“We have to do whatever we have to do to make sure that [our customers] keep working,” he said. “And so I’m working with all of these different pieces to put together one picture to make sure the job ends on time, the customer's not delayed, and the customer's not losing money.”
One of the challenges that pops up most often is managing aging inventory. Werpy said most roofing items have a long shelf ranging from 18 to 24 months, but when it comes to supplies like coatings, it’s a much quicker expiration date. Keeping them moving is an obstacle that keeps Werpy up at night.
“You have to start watching those earlier and watching the clock, and then, what do we do with those if they're on hand and they're not sold out?” he said. “So [we’re] monitoring those types of items and making sure the branches are buying the right quantities on those.
“That becomes a lot trickier because you get this whole, ‘Oh it's coatings, we sell a ton of it!’ Then all of a sudden, that part of the industry hits the brakes and we're stuck with a whole bunch.”
The problem is compounded by individual states' varying rules and regulations on what products can or cannot be used. California, for instance, may not allow the same types of adhesives that Colorado does, so shuffling them around isn’t as easy as it sounds. It is puzzles like these that Werpy loves to solve – with the help of his team.
Passion Breeds Success
When it comes to optimizing inventory management, Werpy found a solution that is saving Elite Roofing Supply both time and money. He described how he and his team recently implemented a new tech-based inventory procedure to run physical inventory.
Historically, the company did this via pencil and paper, requiring somebody to manually enter the data, making physical inventory a two-day process, often leading to long shifts and weekends.
Elite has reduced physical inventory timing by 40% thanks to the app. He said six branches performed physical inventory last December before the holidays, and none of the staff had to come in on a Saturday to finish.
“The branches are no longer going to have to worry about paying overtime for guys to stay late … they don't have to close any longer than they have to,” he said. “This is an example of my team and I [saving] the branches, and the company, money and time.
“This is one of the biggest things I've done where I'm like, ‘This has made a difference,’” he added.
Described as “modest” or “not taking enough credit” by his colleagues, Werpy noted that the implementation earned him a personal call from Elite Roofing Supply CEO Sarah Weiss.
“[Weiss] called me the other day to congratulate me on how successful it went,” he said, chuckling with incredulity. “This [implementation] was a big deal for me, and this has been my crowning achievement.”
Werpy said, as cliché as it sounds, it came down to his team and Elite’s ability to hire high-quality people.
“I have full support from the executive team, from the [regional vice presidents], from the branch managers,” he said. “Everyone I've come across in the branch levels, they know I'm not there to create havoc. I'm there to help make things better, and we're all in that same boat together, all with the same goal. And everyone accepts that, and they buy it.”
When asked about working well with others, Werpy said it’s about being genuine and respecting people as people and not simply as a customer or a co-worker. He offered up an interesting thought experiment that distribution professionals should try if they’re looking to improve relationships with customers, co-workers or manufacturers.
“Imagine their face when they see your name pop up on the phone,” he said. “Are they going, ‘Oh, hey, it’s Mike!’” he said, then shifting to a sour tone, “Or are they going, ‘Oh God, it’s Mike’?”
So, what is the secret to finding a job that you love? Werpy said it comes down to knowing your passion and finding a supportive atmosphere to foster it.
“Find the niche that motivates you and attack it, and go with it. It makes all the difference,” he said. “I enjoy coming to work every day because I've found this area that really inspires me. I want to do better.”
As dedicated as he is to his job, though, there are two other things that Werpy loves more: spending time with his family, including his two boys, and the Minnesota Vikings.
“I'm an unfortunate diehard Minnesota Vikings fan, so I love that,” he said. “But I have two boys. One's 18 and one's 15, and the 18-year-old plays lacrosse in college; so, watching him play lacrosse and then watching my younger son grow — he's become a skateboarding fanatic — [seeing] my sons flourish and what they do has been amazing. My wife and I, we just love it.”