Frank Lopez joined the roofing industry fresh out of college, and while it was good money, he knew roofing represented more than just making a good living.

After two decades of working for a roofing contractor that prioritized profits, Lopez broke away to start his own company. He formed JF Lopez Roofing in 2013, an authentic "garage start-up," and within five years, purchased a building in Fond du Lac, Wis., where the business continues to operate today.

The company has since tackled significant commercial and multi-unit family projects, including assisted living facilities, historic homes and a shopping mall in Texas. The company's rapid growth driver is Lopez, and his passion for providing superior roofing solutions while creating a legacy his and his employees’ grandchildren can be proud of.

As part of that legacy, Lopez and co-owner Mark Bartolutti embrace giving back to the communities that helped support their company. Last June, JF Lopez partnered with Habitat for Humanity and GAF to donate a roof for a local family in need. The project marked the company’s 50th donation on its goal of completing 100.

RC spoke with Haley Volstad, a marketing representative with JF Lopez Roofing, about the company and its continued success.

RC: What’s Frank’s origin story entering a career in roofing?

HV: Frank got started in 1991 right out of college and worked for a no-name company for over 20 years. He knew he could make a bigger difference if he started his own business while forming relationships with the customers and other people he worked with.

RC: Striking out on one’s own can be fraught: What was so appealing to Frank that its reward outweighed the risks?  

HV: He started this company in September 2013. When he was working for a no-name company, he realized that all they cared about was making more money and growing as a business. They didn’t care about their customers at all and didn’t form relationships with them, along with partnering companies. This caused him to have bad health and create a stressful life for him and his work. He knew he had to make a change, and that change started with not having to answer to anyone and believing that what he was doing was the way to grow a business.

A commercial roofing project The majority of JF Lopez Roofing's work is in the commercial market, though it also completes residential roofing.

RC: Learning what he wanted to avoid, how is his company organized?

HV: The company is structured with separate divisions. We have designated flat roofers, shingle roofers, maintenance crews, and the office, which handles the [operations] side.

RC: Safety is a guiding principle in roofing: What protocols does JP Lopez have to keep its workers safe on the job?    

HV: One thing we do to keep our people safe is allowing them to go with their “gut feeling.” If someone doesn’t feel safe, it’s not worth it to put someone at risk of getting hurt. There is no dollar limit on safety when it comes to our employees. For example, if they feel safer with a harness, we will go out and purchase one to reassure them of their safety. 

RC: All business is local; what are some challenges in the Wisconsin market?  

HV: Some key challenges in our market are hiring employees and materials. It is challenging to keep growing the company when having a limited amount of employees. Getting materials can also be a challenge because sometimes they can be on back order, and that can be a problem when finishing a roof in time. Another challenge is increasing brand awareness. Increasing brand awareness has its challenges because you have to come up with new ideas to get your brand across.

Company: JF Lopez Roofing
Location: Fond du Lac, Wis.
Specialty: Roofing solutions and repairs
Number of Employees: Up to 50; non-union
Brand awareness is an evolving process. What marketing strategies does your company use to grow your brand?  

HV: We hire marketing interns throughout the year. They bring in new ideas to challenge our company ... we give them freedom on most tasks, but also approve other tasks that have been asked to be done. We update our social media weekly and bring new ideas that have never been done before. For example, we create memes that can be viewed as comical but also increase our audience, along with sentimental posts for special events and/or holidays; creating TikToks is a new one we are getting into to also increase our audience, and have a little fun in the office.  

RC: The roofing industry is relatively well organized when it comes to collective actions. Is JF Lopez a member of any roofing associations or networks? 

HV: We are affiliated with NRCA, the National Association of Home Builders, the Better Business Bureau, the Wisconsin Builders Association, and the Eastern Ridge Home Builders Association.

A commercial roofing project The company's mission statement is “Creating a Legacy of Which our Grandchildren Would be Proud,” which is incorporated into everything from its work to marketing and connecting with customers.

RC: Getting back to brand awareness and the intricacies of the Wisconsin market, what sets your company apart from the competition?

HV: The key attributes of our company that make it successful are taking risks and not taking the easy way out when completing projects. We also create new ideas to get our name across and out there. We try to not do what other companies do when advertising. We also build relationships with the customers and create lasting relationships with other companies we work with. Our mission statement is “Creating a Legacy of Which our Grandchildren Would be Proud.” We try to incorporate this in everything we do, whether working on a roof, connecting with customers, or even creating social media posts.

RC: You forwarded our request to ask Frank for any advice he could offer to contractors looking to break out or grow their business. What were his words of wisdom?

HV: "The advice I can give is simply do the right thing. Avoid any cash payments when working with people, and avoid shortcuts. Never take the easy way out. Learning from your mistakes is huge when it comes to growing a business. We are all human, and humans make mistakes. What you do with those mistakes will determine if you will succeed or fail. Also, we own up to our mistakes; that has grown us in a huge way with the customers and as a growing company."