Mike Griffin wanted to start slow as a roofing contractor. Working for his brother’s company and dedicating his days on rooftops below the sweltering Utah sun wasn’t exactly his idea of a good time.
“I didn’t want to get trapped in roofing and construction because roofing is hot, cold, dirty and hard,” he said, recalling how he preferred to work part-time in 1990. But after about two years, he began to learn more about the industry and realized he enjoyed the work. He also understood he could make more money roofing than in a different career at the time, and started full time.
In 2001, Griffin left his brother’s company to focus on servicing the residential customer in northern and central Utah by starting Cascade Roofing Services, Inc. He said he enjoyed having face-to-face interaction with homeowners and wanted to service the residential market because he felt it “fit his personality” better. But after running his own company alone for just one month, he realized he needed some help.
“I invited my brother to come work with me and we became partners. Over the years, we have gone from no employees to many,” he said. Today, Griffin, his older brother, Alan, and veteran contractor Tracy Eliason oversee and actively supervise a company of about 15 people.
“Each supervisor is responsible for a couple of crew’s daily work and each of these crews has specialties and product knowledge,” Griffin explained. “Crews are sent out to their field of expertise and the supervisor with the most knowledge on that particular type of work will oversee the job. We have one crew that is full time on repair work.”
Each crew has one person responsible for quality control on all jobsites. That person reports regularly to their supervisor and highlights any specific issues regarding that job.
Honest, Fair and Resilient
Griffin said the Cascade team strives for quality over quantity. It’s demonstrated through the pride the employees have in their work, not skipping on important details, and having the resources available to help whenever needed. With 90 percent of jobs being inspected by their supervisor, the employees know to not overlook the small details. The company also strives to be honest and fair with everyone, and values all opinions of their service both good and bad.
Cascade mainly handles residential tear offs and repairs, commercial flat work and “fills in the gaps” with new construction. That includes asphalt shingles, flat TPO, standing seam metal, wood shakes and tile.
“We do approximately 85 percent of our business in residential and 15 percent commercial. We do about 75 percent in re-roofing compared to 25 percent in new construction,” Griffin said.
With high-profile projects including large retirement buildings, condominiums, apartments, and commercial buildings, there are bound to be challenges here and there. Some of these challenges include finding and keeping legal employees.
“Roofing attracts three kinds of people, illegals, losers – burnouts and a few hard working legal people,” Griffin said.
Weather is also a tough issue for roofing companies because it’s difficult to be flexible with bad weather such as snow, rain, heat or wind.
Like many roofing contractors, Griffin and his partners felt the pain of the Great Recession.
“The years between 2008-12 were game changers. Many good people were pushed out and are no longer in roofing. It made us be as lean as possible to survive,” Griffin explained.
“We always had work, but the profit margins were taken away as shingles went up almost three times in cost. It has taken years for the homeowner to catch up and be willing to pay for the higher costs. Fair and honest business practices in roofing are what kept us afloat.”
Griffin and his partners also emphasize safety. With a company philosophy that pushes employee knowledge and training, having excellent safety equipment and the knowhow to implement it is key to limiting hazards on jobsites. All employees know not to take risks and to stop work and ask for help if they do not feel comfortable or safe.
The team would rather send an extra man or run to the supply house for proper equipment than to move forward unsafely.
“Earning a living is why we all do this and the last thing we want is someone hurt,” Griffin said.
Since the company is small enough for the owners to be hands-on, they assign new employees an experienced partner to train with until they become knowledgeable on company safety procedures. They also incentivize continued training.
“We encourage our employees to get certified with one of the manufacturers with a bonus in their paycheck,” Griffin said.
Cascade formed relationships with reliable suppliers in the region early on and continues to foster a strong bond with companies like Interstate Roofing Supply (Allied) in Provo, and Roofer’s Supply in Lindon, Utah.
“They (Interstate) have always looked out for us and given us the product knowledge, perspective, and professionalism we were craving and looking for. The friendships are long term and we have a mutual respect,” Griffin added.
To help create a positive work environment and business culture, Griffin said the team tries to build friendships and trust so that they can depend on one another at any time.
Several times a month, Griffin said they bring all of their employees together on a jobsite so that they can laugh and build the camaraderie needed to make roofing enjoyable. Taking the employees to lunch occasionally and saying thank you goes a long way.
The same approach to building relationships with customers is also very important. Treating each potential customer with respect and honesty is what has helped them land many new jobs.
“Homeowners can see through you and being fair will always win in the end,” he said.