Running a roofing business like a division of the U.S. military may not sound like a very good idea or practical business model to follow for some people.
But Al Di Pasqua, founder of Di Pasqua Construction, Inc. (DCI), in West Palm Beach, Fla., doesn’t see it that way.
A former member of the U.S. Marine Corps with eight years of active-duty service under his flack jacket and utility belt, he’s found a way to blend the order, communication and determination necessary to win on the battle field with a customer-first, and family-building philosophy that’s led to success. Together, he said that’s helped him retain workers while continuing to gain market share in both residential and commercial sectors.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Di Pasqua’s business journey started shortly after he attended Villanova University and took a job doing construction work in upstate New York. Though he didn’t see himself doing it forever at the time, construction work paid well and allowed certain freedoms other jobs couldn’t. He said his mindset shifted when a completely unrelated and unforeseen event changed the entire world — including his personal and professional journeys.
Disgusted and motivated by the tragedy of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Di Pasqua joined thousands of other young and able-bodied patriots and volunteered for U.S. military service. Not long after 9/11 was the first of multiple deployments overseas during nearly a decade of total service to his country.
In 2004, Di Pasqua was in south Florida and contemplated another tour of duty in Iraq while waiting for a spot in Officer Candidate School to open up. Then fate intervened again. He, his future wife, Angela, and two good friends were involved in a horrific freeway crash where he relied on his rescue training to pull everyone to safety from the wreck. All four survived the crash without major injuries, but Di Pasqua said his back bore the brunt of the impact and was seriously hurt. That effectively ended his active-duty military career and started Di Pasqua back on an entrepreneurial path.
Content with recovering in Florida and seeing the opportunity in the construction market, he soon earned his general contracting license and started working any and all jobs to garner experience and build a reputation.
“I started with just me, my truck and a bag full of tools,” he recalled. “When I got hurt, when all of that happened to me, it was easy to get down on myself. You feel like you want to quit when you’re told you can’t do the things you used to do.
“But, as a marine, you fall back on your training that tells you: “No matter what happens, you don’t quit! You always accomplish your mission, come hell or high water.”
During peak season, DCI has roughly 25 full-time employees and three in-house crews that are considered subcontractors, but work with him exclusively. The company is divided up into a residential division that accounts for roughly 40 percent of its workload, a commercial division (60 percent) and a separate maintenance division.
They work on shingle, tile, metal and flat-roof installations year-round, and also incorporate some waterproofing and coating services. While he hasn’t completely abandoned general construction work, Di Pasqua said his company started specializing in roofing in 2010 when he realized the market was saturated with construction contractors, but there were very few choices when it came to hiring reliable and reputable roofers.
“After the housing bubble burst, all of sudden there were GC’s popping up everywhere around us,” he said. “One thing I found was that everyone was struggling to find a good roofer. There were just a few, who were likely busy, or you had to go with the ‘big-boys’ who would cost you a fortune.”
Di Pasqua shifted focus and he said business took off. A commitment to high-quality workmanship and customer care paid dividends, as expected. But Di Pasqua said he wasn’t really anticipating the creation of an extended family through his business.
“I’m Italian, so family is everything,” said the 38-year-old father of two. “My business is no different, that’s my family. My mentality is that if I feel I take care of my family, I’ll be taken care of financially in the end. If they’re happy then the company as a whole is happy, my customers are taken care of, the money side of things takes care of itself.”
The majority of company leadership has been with DCI for more than five years, and some crewmembers even longer. Di Pasqua said he knows he’s lucky that he found honest people that care about what they do and are willing to sacrifice in order to be part of something bigger, much like marines.
In addition to the family feel, another company bedrock that Di Pasqua said he tries to instill regularly with his employees is that being honest in construction work goes a long way.
“You’ve got to tell the truth, even if you’re going to lose a customer,” he said.
In July, a crew installing metal roof flashing on a restaurant jobsite lost the handle on a panel that fell, damaging and essentially knocking out an air conditioning unit in a place where the heat index regularly eclipses triple-digits during the day. The crew foreman called Di Pasqua right away, allowing him critical time to address a repair plan, and more importantly — giving him a chance to tell the customer first before anyone from the restaurant could.
“This was a high-profile client with lots of businesses across the state and I tell my people it’s always better to make the call than to get the call,” he explained. When he learned the essential part for the repair was only available in Tallahassee, Di Pasqua said he personally drove there to get it rather than wait 3-5 days and place his client’s business in jeopardy.
Di Pasqua said the foreman and roofing crew were afraid they’d be disciplined or fired. Instead, he handed out bonuses.
“I said ‘thank you’ because he called me like I asked him to, and the client was thrilled that we called them first and were addressing it,” he explained. “I don’t mind losing money on a job … I can make that up down the road. I mind losing a client.”