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Learning First-Hand

Getting Started in the Coatings Industry

By Ryan Spencer

In any business, and particularly in the construction industry, entering new territory is never easy. It’s an outright risk, albeit a necessary one, should a company hope to prevail in a competitive market. Diversification can be a key strategy to differentiate one contracting company from its competition. For roofing contractors, diversifying might involve, for example, broadening a company’s focus from just replacing roofs to also maintaining them.

“If you are not in the maintenance business as a roofing contractor, you are missing an opportunity,” said Brian O’Donnell of American WeatherStar (AWS).

Diversification is really about seizing other opportunities in the market, even if they aren’t in full alignment with a company’s core competencies. To undertake any new endeavor is to go through highs and lows, but ultimate success will be dictated by starting off on the right foot.

“Many contractors are looking to diversify their business, but they may not know where to start in the coatings industry,” said O’Donnell.

Contractors often struggle with factors relating to applying coatings, including necessary equipment and proper techniques, as well as conducting business, including pricing, prospecting, and selling. A detailed understanding of these topics is requisite for installing quality roofing systems, and the source from which prospective contractors attain this knowledge will ultimately influence their businesses’ long-term success. In short, new coating contractors need a partner that will guide them through every phase of the learning process.


Right from the get-go, new contractors need to build a strong foundation of technical knowledge, so it’s best to work with a company that’s been there and done that, so to speak. A company with an extensive and successful history in the coatings industry simply has more experience to draw from in order to create an effective classroom setting. AWS pulls from over a decade of experience in the coatings industry to provide contractors with an immersive learning environment with its Fluid Applied Systems Training (FAST) Academy.

At the FAST Academy, attendees are given an in-depth overview of the roof coatings industry, which includes spray-applied and roll-on coatings. Additionally, presentations cover the chemistry and properties of various types of coatings systems, while specifically addressing the components of the core AWS roof coating systems, as well as the conditions and factors each system is designed to restore and handle.


While a foundational understanding of coatings is necessary for a successful coatings operation, solely relying on classroom instruction won’t bode well for a new coating contractor’s first job. A proper introduction to roof coatings wouldn’t be complete without new contractors getting their hands on coating equipment to complete applications.

“Most contractors tell us they really appreciate the opportunity to network and get to know similar contractors that they do not compete with. Sharing war stories can be very helpful.” – Brian O’Donnell, AMERICAN WEATHERSTAR

“Most contractors tell us they really appreciate the opportunity to network and get to know similar contractors that they do not compete with. Sharing war stories can be very helpful.” – Brian O’Donnell, AMERICAN WEATHERSTAR

Learning-by-doing is an important philosophy at FAST Academy, and event partners like Graco Inc. and Rooftop Equipment allow attendees to get first-hand experience performing spray-applied and roll-on applications with coating equipment. The emphasis on hands-on learning adds real-world context to the concepts outlined in the classroom sessions.

It can’t be understated how important it is for new contractors to get the right equipment in their hands and receive a primer on the proper application techniques. It’s much easier to learn from mistakes in a demo than on a job site, and avoiding mistakes makes the path to success much easier early on.


While the classroom and demo sessions foster proper execution on the job, a successful coating operation is so much more than just the applications it completes. Sales and marketing considerations are just as critical as the technical aspects of the coatings business, and they can be overlooked or underestimated in the beginning. With this in mind, O’Donnell explained how crucial it is for new contractors to be provided with “keen insight on practical tools for accessing sales materials, tips for best sales practices, and the valuable methods of lead generation.”

To achieve this, the FAST Academy includes a workshop about AWS’s Business Development Center that discusses how contractors can leverage it to gain competitive advantages in strategically targeted markets. Specifically, the BDC establishes lead generation campaigns that can result in attractive ROI’s without stepping on the toes of another AWS dealer. By eliminating overlaps between dealers, AWS fosters a community of coating contractors working toward a common goal.

“Most contractors tell us they really appreciate the opportunity to network and get to know similar contractors that they do not compete with,” said O’Donnell. “Sharing war stories can be very helpful.”

Whether it’s found in a classroom, or in a demo, or by word of mouth, help is something everyone needs when starting a new venture. The question is, where are you going to get the best assistance?  •

Contact American Weatherstar
Direct any questions you have about getting started in the coatings industry to AWS:
Phone: 1-888-868-2317 | Website:

Photos Courtesy of American Weatherstar

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