The Roof Hospital

A call to better serve bolsters record growth amid record economic lows
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
James Logan

Calgary’s fastest-growing companies have survived everything from a brutal recession to a volatile local economy and devastating flood in 2013 all while building innovative, thriving businesses. The Roof Hospital tops this list, claiming the No. 1 spot in the 2014 Profit 500 rankings as Calgary’s most booming business.

The Roof Hospital has experienced tremendous growth of more than 2,594 percent in revenues when comparing top line revenues from 2008 to 2014. “We started in a boom time, but it was in the recession that we started to see our strongest growth,” reveals Eric Gilbert-Williams, founder and CEO of the residential roofing, siding and eaves trough company.

“Throughout all the fluctuations in the past few years, we have had a steady increase in sales, our growth has more to do with capturing larger percentages of market share than to do with ever changing market conditions,” continues Gilbert-Williams. “Our growth is about a commitment to our core values: quality, team work, being organized, behaving proactively and learning every day. As we focus on quality and don't deviate from it, we end up with more work. Residential construction in general often is very loose; we are doing our best to tightened it up a bit and make it better for everyone.”

A proactive approach

Gilbert-Williams started his roofing company in Calgary during 2006 at just 21 years old and registered accompanying trade name The Roof Hospital in 2009 in an effort to provide Calgary homeowners with hospital-like efficiency in the realms of residential roofing, siding and eaves. “Having spent multiple years specializing in the repair and restorations side of the city’s roofing industry, it became apparent that homeowners would likely benefit from proactive solutions; instead of the reactive ones,” he explains.

At an early age, Gilbert-Williams realized that roofing was the business for him. “I became interested in roofing while in high school,” he details. “I dropped out of 10th grade and never went back, so I gave roofing a try and loved it. Although I didn’t have formal business education, I started doing independent sales door to door for a top regional company and learning about businesslike a sponge soaks up water.”

Even after dropping out of high school, Gilbert-Williams took every opportunity he could to learn more about personal development, marketing, sales, business management and the roofing industry in general. “I got myself into every professional development course or seminar I could and eventually, I had developed a network of multi-industry connections for myself,” he explains.

At the end of 2006, Gilbert-Williams delivered his first personal roofing contract for his friend’s grandmother. “I had to deal with everything from heat and humidity to rain, wind and even hail, I never felt better to do a good job,” he details. “It was fun, challenging and fulfilling. It made me realize that roofing was my calling and the need for better roofing solutions in Calgary made me see that it was the right place to start my own business.”

In late November 2006, Gilbert-Williams used up his last dollar to load up a rusty van of supplies, moved across country and started toughing it out through a bitter cold Calgary winter. “I was an incorporated subcontractor up until 2009 then took the plunge to become a primary contractor with the trade name The Roof Hospital,” he recalls. “That same year, the company went from $120,000 annually and one person to $500,000 and five people.”

The growth patterned continued and by 2013, The Roof Hospital was pulling $5.4 million with over 60 people in peak seasons. “We’re now recognized as the No. 20 fastest-growing company in all of Canada,” says Gilbert-Williams proudly.

Growing pains

Such rapid progress doesn’t come without sacrifice, assures Gilbert-Williams. “I spent the first six years working 75-plus hours a week with no general manager or office manager,” he says. “Now that we are at this size, I can sustain salaries and have created full-time office positions so there is less multitasking for me and I have more time to go over our processes and focus on business development.”

Hands-on ownership is a priority for Gilbert-Williams even as The Roof Hospital reaches new heights. As a young, fast-growing and innovative Calgary-based company, Gilbert-Williams says it’s about the ongoing challenge of enforcing the highest quality and safety standards every day.

“Quality is what we stand for; on the roof and off the roof,” he assures. “Our goal is for everyone we come in contact with to have a quality experience from start to finish; always.”

This begins with a rigorous quality control process, identifying and repairing all potential issues in the roofing system before damage is incurred and distributing important, dollar-saving information about the roofing industry.

“We are a GAF master elite contractor,” says Gilbert-Williams. “We have patented our own safety guard rail device, investing $60,000 into prototyping development, which is one reason why homeowners and insurance companies want us. We have also invested over $100,000 in custom in-house developed software to help our team members be more effective. We’re aim to continuously be more innovative than our competitors by constantly investing in development and new solutions.”

Beyond Calgary

The Roof Hospital’s model started with single-family sloped roofs but has now evolved into relationships with property managers, consultants and architects of larger residential and commercial complexes. According to Gilbert-Williams, the company is also looking to bring its model to markets outside of Calgary.

“Everything I’ve done has been designed in a way that can be duplicated and expanded across Canada or North America for that matter,” he continues. “Our systems are working, there are training tutorials for our internal team and there are educational videos for everyone posted on our website. I’ve focused on continuing education, because that’s what has helped me get where I am today.”

Gilbert-Williams is proud to note that The Roof Hospital has welcomed such phenomenal growth due to the company’s single, simple goal: change the industry for the better. “There might be older roofing companies out there with more experience, but years of experience means nothing without an absolute commitment to quality workmanship,” he weighs.

Starting from the drawing board, Gilbert-Williams has launched record success for the Calgary- contractor. Based in better service and a proactive approach to the same old roofing problems, The Roof Hospital is changing the industry, enjoying the view from the top.