When George A. McDowall started his roofing company in 1895 in Joliet, Ill., times were far different than they are now. To put that into perspective, that year, baseball legend Babe Ruth was born; Olympia Theatre — the first theatre to be built in New York City’s Times Square district — opened its doors; and the first ever American automobile race took place in Chicago’s Jackson Park.
Fast forward 53 years to 1948: Harry Truman is elected to office; Babe Ruth passes away, and the current edition of McDowall Company takes root in St. Cloud, Minn.
Now, five generations and nearly 121 years later, McDowall Company is still flourishing, and showcasing what it really means to remain successful in a competitive market for over a century.
John McDowall, current president and CEO, began his roofing career at a young age — sweeping the shop, loading up the work trucks and keeping the office tidy. Following his high school graduation, he began working full time on a roofing crew, and the rest is history.
“I am a fourth generation family business owner, and my son, Matthew, has joined the team, which represents five generations of McDowall’s in the roofing business,” said McDowall, who owns and operates the company with brother, Lawrence.
“It’s a passion. Family comes first, whether it’s in the office, field crew, whomever. We’ve been around and plan to stay around,” said Matt McDowall, operations manager and fifth generation roofing contractor.
McDowall Company moved to its current location in Waite Park, Minn. in 2007. Its 145 workers are a part of the Roofers and Waterproofers Local 96 and the Sheet Metal Worker’s International Association Local 10. The company focuses on commercial business, 60 percent of which is reroofing, and 40 percent new construction.
Building on Culture
With an unmatched amount of experience under their belts, the team at McDowall Company knows how to operate business effectively. Building on 100+ years of business culture and construction expertise, the company houses several different divisions, including a roofing maintenance department focused on building relationships with customers. It’s a very important aspect of the company’s success, given that these longstanding customer relationships play a large role in generating revenue.
With a marketing plan in place described as “old school,” McDowall focuses on working with repeat customers, and providing them with the best service possible. In turn, those customers spread the word about the company’s top-notch quality and service.
“The customer sees the value we can provide and they start to trust McDowall Company to help with their roofing needs,” John McDowall said.
And that value begins with properly educating and training employees. To do this, manufacturer reps are brought in to explain specific products, as well as their application and installation techniques. Taking training one step further, employees at the company receive anywhere from three to five years of schooling specific to their trade, and an additional 6,000-8,000 hours of on-the-job training. Specific foreman training also takes place in the spring and fall each year.
“When the customer’s roof reaches its service life, we can work with them to identify a new roofing system that meets their needs. We are a full-service contractor so we can take care of them 100 percent from start to finish,” McDowall explained. To further insure superior standards are met, internal daily inspections are completed by foreman and supervisors.
Being involved with prominent associations like the National Roofing Contractors Association and the Midwest Roofing Contractors Association has helped educate McDowall on the latest changes and challenges happening in the industry. He also regularly attends conventions for the helpful interactions they present with other contractors.
A Century Strong
Proven procedures and the idea of going the extra mile for customers have kept the company running proficiently for over a century. “We have been in the roofing business for a very long time and our customers know we strive for excellence on the projects we work on for them,” McDowall said.
And that means finding the best solution possible on all projects, even the puzzling ones.
“We seek the challenging projects,” said McDowall. Including one at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., where the team completed the removal and replacement of a Corten standing seam, steep slope roof with a new copper standing seam roof. The new roofing system, coordinated by multiple sub-contractors, was designed to last 100 years and includes lightning protection and tuck-pointing.
Other notable projects include a roof replacement on Xcel Energy’s St. Anthony Falls hydro dam, and work on the CentraCare St. Cloud Hospital expansion in 2012, one of the largest new construction projects in Minnesota following the completion of Target Field in April of 2010.
McDowall Company’s powerful focus on fostering customer relationships means being there not only from start to finish, but also long after the job is complete. McDowall explained the importance of educating building owners, and growing that connection with them as customers. “Develop strong relationships with the building owners and contractors. Focus on earning their trust that you will provide a product that was properly installed and that you will be there for them in years to come.”