An Enduring Spirit
Second-generation roofer, R. D. Bean, Inc., still maintains its founding principles
After 53 years in the roofing business, second-generation R. D. Bean, Inc.’s success remains a matter of following these basic tenets: innovate, control and respect.
Long before other roofers did so, founder Richard D. Bean Sr. innovated ways to automate roofing jobs. He also understood the importance of controlling project costs using company-owned fabricating equipment and bulk materials. Moreover, not only did he respect those footing the bill—his customers—he went out of his way to show respect to those carrying the load—R. D. Bean employees. The result of these practices: quality installations, industry accolades and a loyal workforce at the company Richard Sr. launched with his wife, Betty, in their basement in 1967.
Though the founders have passed on, Richard Sr.’s legacy statement, “May the work I did, speak for me,” motivates the late couple’s daughter and son, who now own the company. Richard D. Bean II serves as President, with sister Pamela Bean Liverman as Vice President.
“We were at the forefront of automation with our early use of conveyors and laddervators when roofers were using ladders for carrying up shingles. We also were among the early users of toe power brakes, cranes, vacuum trucks and tankers for transporting asphalt,” Pamela says. “Dad, being mechanically inclined, was always thinking ahead to make the work, which is hard, easier and better. He instilled in us that spirit of innovativeness.”
While R. D. Bean began as a residential roofer, today the Beltsville, Maryland-based business is 100% commercial and industrial, with myriad projects for companies and municipalities throughout the Maryland, Washington, D.C./Baltimore and Northern Virginia area, to its credit. As it takes on new business, nothing is outsourced. Instead, the company operates its own fleet of trucks and cranes and maintains a large inventory of roofing equipment, including welders, generators and adhesive sprayers. The firm has its own 7,500-square-foot fabricating facility, with roll forming and bending machines for metal roofing, flashing and trim. The firm buys all of its materials in bulk, using two warehouse facilities totaling 13,000 square feet for storage. Moreover, as a full-service roofing company, it installs built-up roofing for municipalities and single-ply roofing as wanted or specified by building owners and architects.
“All of this allows for better efficiencies, quality and cost control,” Pamela says. “As our business has grown, so, too, has our connection to our peers through the industry organizations we belong to and the recognition of the work we do.” Awards for quality, craftsmanship and safety have come their way from Johns Manville and Associated Builders and Contractors. In addition, memberships in multiple building trade associations and master contractor designations help keep the company’s image strong.
White Roofs Keep Company in Black
Another key element of the R. D. Bean story involves its ability to react to changing market trends. In recent years, that’s meant more thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) single-ply roofing membrane installations, embraced by many commercial facilities for the material’s UV reflectivity, heat resistance and energy efficiency. R. D. Bean materials meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR requirements.
Then there’s the cost factor. TPO roofing systems can be 30% lower than built-up roofing systems consisting of alternating layers of asphalt and reinforcing felts and surfacing over rigid thermal insulation.
“With gas prices being what they are,” says Pamela, “and asphalt being made from gasoline byproducts, the cost is higher with built-up roofing. A single-ply roofing system gives customers more options for their budgets.”
Also, metal roof panels can provide challenges, depending on customer requirements. “Wider panels, due to weather-related expansion and contraction, tend to roll or buckle, but we can minimize that using equipment that adds striations,” says Estimator Rick Drew, who joined the company in 1975 as a crewmember. “Ten years ago,” he adds, “TPO was less than 50% of our overall business. Today it’s the majority of our business.”
Paying It Forward
As one of two employees who have been with the company for 46 years, Drew is not an exception when it comes to longevity.
“Thirty-five percent of our workforce, about 100 employees, have been with us for 20 to 40-plus years and 15% have been with us for more than 10 years,” Pamela says. This longevity, she says, results in quality installations that don’t go unnoticed in the field. “Our contractors and county school districts regularly compliment us on our employees’ work.”
Like their dad, known for being a generous individual who would lend financial assistance to employees and friends in need and help community organizations and churches by providing pro bono work, Pamela and Richard understand the importance of ensuring that that spirit of generosity and civic mindedness lives on.
“We remain a family-owned business that treats our employees as family,” says Pamela, a former school teacher and administrator. “We lend financial support for unique educational opportunities involving international travel, sponsor our employees’ children’s sports teams and we continue to assist our staff in times of need. We do all we can to support our team, their families and their charitable causes. We do all of this because we believe that they are an integral part of R. D. Bean and we take pride in them and their work.”
Drew agrees, pointing to the company’s commitment to training and promoting from within. “With a few exceptions, all of our supervisors and foremen have been promoted from the ground up,” he says, adding that even now-President Richard once served as a laborer and truck driver, while Pam worked in the office. “We teach our workers a trade, provide driver training to obtain CDLs (commercial driver licenses), provide in-depth safety training that includes monthly classes (the company employs a full-time safety director), and we ensure work year-round,” Drew says. “Some roofing companies don’t work year-round, but we sure do.”
“We also provide employees with biannual bonuses and company events to look forward to, such as summer cookouts and a Christmas dinner,” Pamela says. “It’s all about showing respect and saying thank you.”
Asked to describe the company culture, Drew cuts to the chase: “It’s a fun place to work and grow.”
Future Looks Bright
“Our plans for the future are simple,” Pamela says. “We intend to stay at the forefront of the roofing industry by growing and expanding with new trends,” she says. “It’s important to stay abreast of what’s happening and to remain a member of multiple industry organizations to remain current and connected.”
Pamela also sees a future with more opportunities for women roofers. “An interesting step forward for us has been the inclusion of seven women laborers on our single-ply crews,” she says. “They’re working hard and learning. This is just another way for us to remain at the forefront of the industry.”