Conversations around the Bliss family dinner table have included roofing ever since Art Bliss founded Bliss Roofing Company more than five decades ago. As a result, his son, Don, entered the family business.
“I worked for my dad for as long as I can remember,” recalled Don, president of the residential roofing company that serves greater Portland. “In high school, I worked after school and on weekends learning everything I could about the roofing industry. Bliss Roofing is the only job I have ever had.”
Don worked as a laborer and loader before becoming a roofer, and in 1985, purchased the roofing division to form Bliss Roofing Inc. Five years later, the company moved to its current location in Clackamas, just southeast of Oregon’s largest city. That same year, the Bliss family welcomed their daughter, Kaitlin, into the world.
History has a funny way of repeating itself, as years later, Kaitlin remembers growing up listening to “shop talk” at dinner and spending Saturdays at jobsites or in the office with her father. She split her time working at a local salon and Bliss Roofing’s offices, and in 2010 joined the family business full time.
Now, this father-daughter duo is ensuring the family business stays prosperous and successful, as Kaitlin appears well on her way to becoming the third-generation owner of Bliss Roofing with a well-established staff supporting them every step of the way.
“We’re a small, family-owned company, so there is a lot to learn, so I’m doing my best to get into every department ... and learn more about the company each day,” Kaitlin said.
A Family Tradition
Art established Bliss Roofing Company in 1969 after doing roofing work with his friends on weekends and realizing it was a promising venture. In the mid-1970s, he began installing concrete roof tile, which led him into the trucking industry to transport tile from the plant to jobsites. In 1985, he turned the roofing side of the business over to Don and went into trucking full time.
“Bliss Roofing is a second-generation family owned and operated roofing contractor committed to providing our customers with quality roofing services and products at a competitive price,” Don said. “We find the most practical solutions to business and job related problems.”
Don continued to expand the company, which specializes in steep slope roofing in asphalt shingles as well as tile and shakes. He prioritized being a hands-on manager with a deep knowledge of roofing systems and ensuring employees were taken care of, offering benefits packages that include profit sharing.
Like his father, Don grew the business while raising a family, but Kaitlin, 30, wasn’t always on the path to succession. Going to jobsites and spending hours at Home Depot with her father had turned her away from the industry in her younger days, but eventually she decided to give it a fair shake.
“Did I know I that I wanted to be a roofer, was it my calling my whole life? No, but I did always know that I wanted to give it a shot and see if it was something that I enjoyed doing,” she said.
Kaitlin began working at Bliss Roofing at the age of 16 with various office duties. She grew more familiar with the ins and outs of the business as time wore on, and jumped in with both feet in 2010. She is now in charge of new construction sales, managing the company’s largest volume builders from start to finish, in addition to overseeing the maintenance departments.
The third-generation Bliss takes her role seriously. She enrolled in the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) University’s Future Executive Institute to sharpen her management and communication skills. She’s scheduled to graduate from the course in February 2021, and her goal is to take over the business in the next 10 years.
Women serving in managerial positions is nothing new for Bliss Roofing. Stephanie Baird has been with the company since 1995, starting as a receptionist and working her way up to general manager, where she oversees all departments and operations.
“There’s challenges to working for a family-owned business, but I consider myself a part of the family in a different way,” Baird said. “I treat this business as if it was my own, and Don appreciates that and respects me for it and gives me a lot of rein to make decisions. He knows I always have his back.”
Baird has witnessed Bliss Roofing’s growth in the past two decades, noting that its involvement with National Women in Roofing (NWIR) has been a factor in the company’s progressive practices. In addition to female inclusion, the company celebrates the cultures of its workers.
“We’re definitely progressive in the company culture,” Baird said. “We work with the Spanish culture – you need to celebrate those holidays, you need to participate with them, they need to feel like they are a part of the family. If you have that separation in your company…you’re going to have problems.”
Both Kaitlin and Baird are heavily involved in the NWIR Oregon Council. Baird is the council chair and Kaitlin has served as the secretary for the local chapter since September 2017. Baird is also a member of the national board of directors for NWIR.
“She (Stephanie) has been our GM for 25 years and makes everything go around in the day-to-day,” Kaitlin said. “Stephanie is a big reason why we are where we are, and I look up to her a lot.”
Caring for Community and Customers
At the end of February, Bliss Roofing teamed up with the NWIR along with other roofing companies to build the roof for Anisa’s Place, a shelter for victims of sex trafficking. Prior to that, the Oregon chapter took part in a women’s build for Habitat for Humanity in December 2018, where it donated all labor and materials for the project.
Bliss Roofing has also donated labor to various other Habitat for Humanity projects, the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and Homes for Our Troops. Outside of roofing-specific projects, Bliss Roofing sponsors a local 5K/10K and donates to various food and toy drives.
Community outreach is a natural extension of the company’s dedication to its customers, something the Bliss family says it has concentrated on since its founding.
Don recalled an instance where a client attempted to use a warranty claim on failed shingles from a 2006 manufacturer defect. She struggled and failed to do so for a year, but when Bliss got involved, the client finally succeeded.
“We understand that our service is only as good as the customer says it is,” Don said. “Since referrals are our number one source for new sales, we realize that happy customers are vital to the continued success of our company. Our mission is to serve the community with the most qualified and uncompromising workmanship and service.”
This dedication to customers has led to some interesting and challenging jobs. Two years ago, Bliss Roofing was tasked with roofing a church with a difficult slope and skylights that encompassed the entire lower roof. Through a combination of safety and proper installation, Bliss Roofing succeeded, and was invited to the church’s roof blessing ceremony.
Perhaps the most high-profile job, however, was one of the most unique. Bliss Roofing installed a raw cedar shake roof on a treehouse that was featured in season 11 of Animal Planet’s TV series “Treehouse Master.” Bliss Roofing installed the roof for the main house, the toilet shed, and hammock perch of a treehouse lodge installed 30 feet from the ground at an alpaca farm.
“It was a pretty cool project to be a part of,” Kaitlin said.
Challenges in the Northwest
Bliss Roofing has continued to see success, with 2015 being a record-breaking year at $15 million, making it one of the best financial years for the company since its founding. This earned it the 60th spot in RC’s 2016 Top 100 Roofing Contractors list.
Even with this success, the labor shortage has taken its toll. Like other roofing contractors in the Northwest, Bliss Roofing has seen a downturn in the market in the past year. Baird said their revenue numbers aren’t what they were compared to a few years ago, but the company is still thriving.
“We’re doing okay, we’re going to have a good year,” Baird said.
Don said this past year’s downturn has been the first the company has experienced thanks to a combination of the workforce shortage, transportation and the cost of goods. To mitigate any losses, the company has combined multiple positions since the individual positions weren’t resourced to their full capacities.
“We have had to tighten our belts, make sure that materials aren’t wasted and that we don’t have any damages on the jobs,” Don said.
But Bliss Roofing isn’t alone in its struggles. It has maintained active roles in the NRCA, the Associated Roofing Contractors Association of Oregon & SW Washington, and the Western States Roofing Contractors Association. Don said these associations are helping his business keep up with code, legal and technical changes.
He also credits Bliss Roofing’s partnerships with Roofline Supply (SRS Distribution) and CertainTeed Roofing Products as helping them succeed over the years. In fact, Kaitlin’s sister, Madison, works for Bliss Roofing’s supplier, further extending the family tradition.
To maintain visibility in a competitive market, Bliss Roofing has invested in multiple marketing angles, including Google Ad Words, search engines, local directories and industry periodicals. It also takes part in Streets of Dreams, an annual custom home showcase event.
One area where Bliss Roofing isn’t challenged is keeping workers safe on the job. Don says the company invests in the latest equipment in addition to training employees and recertifying them annually. In addition, the company hosts monthly safety meetings covering various topics and updates. Safety monitors visit jobsites in random intervals to ensure workers are complying with what they’ve learned.
“Twenty-five percent of our job pay is for safety,” Don said. “I believe that every dollar you put into an employee you get out.”
This includes caring for employees aside from safety. Bliss Roofing’s workers are offered medical benefits, profit sharing, paid time off and direct deposit, among other perks and benefits.
“If you take care of your customers and employees, it will only benefit your company,” Don said. “One of my mottos is, ‘You have to spend money to make money.’ Invest in the trucks that are reliable and that have the curb appeal for your customers. Pay your employees well. Charge your customers fairly.”
It’s a mindset that Kaitlin aims to continue practicing well into the future.
“I just try to learn something new every day on how I can better it now, better it in the future, and make the transition as smooth as possible, because I’ve got some really big shoes to fill,” Kaitlin said.