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Rain Proof Roofing

Mar 1, 2018 | Construction, Manufacturing, Small Business

The Rain Proof Roofing team. From left to right: Brion Hines, Misty Stoddard, Chris Reilly, April Reilly, Patrick Reilly, and Jason Dial.
PHOTO BY JUDY PATRICK

By Tasha Anderson

Patrick Reilly is a lifelong Alaskan. When he graduated from West High School in the early seventies he was “working odd jobs in construction” while dating April Markley, who would later become his wife and business partner.

Pat Reilly, majority owner of Rain proof Roofing.
Photo by Judy Patrick

An Alaskan Success Story

Patrick Reilly is a lifelong Alaskan. When he graduated from West High School in the early seventies he was “working odd jobs in construction” while dating April Markley, who would later become his wife and business partner. April’s father, Jack Markley, then-owner of Rain Proof Roofing, needed short term help in September 1973 and asked Reilly to be a laborer on one of his crews for a couple of weeks. “I didn’t really want to do it,” Reilly laughs, “But I did it, and ‘the rest is history.’ I didn’t really want to work for him because I was dating his daughter, but it worked out. It’s worked out.”

Reilly knows the business from top to bottom, which makes sense because he worked his way from the bottom up. “I started as a laborer on one of the crews, [moving on] to shoveling gravel, then to shingling, and then running a crew, and when my father-in-law decided he wanted to retire he turned the business over to me and my brother-in-law,” Reilly says.

Markley founded Rain Proof Roofing in 1962; in 1978 Reilly began running the company and in 1983 the Reilly’s bought out Markley and Pat became Rain Proof Roofing’s president. The company has grown in almost every aspect since ’62, when it primarily provided residential roofing services. As just one indicator, when Reilly began work in ’73 the company had six trucks, when he took over as president it had fifteen, and today it has about fifty.

On the Business of Roofing

Rain Proof Roofing provides residential and commercial roofing services. “We cut our teeth in the residential market and the new construction market back in the sixties and seventies when it was booming,” Reilly says. Shortly thereafter “we had that big surge of construction in the seventies and then again in the eighties,” and as opportunities presented themselves Rain Proof Roofing expanded into the commercial market. At present approximately one-third of the company’s business is residential and two-thirds is commercial. “About half the residential is new construction and half is reroof,” he clarifies. The average lifespan of a roof is about twenty or twenty-five years, Reilly says, so there’s a steady supply of roofs needing to be repaired or replaced.

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On a day-to-day basis one of the first things Reilly does is check the weather, which has a significant effect on the company’s workflow. Rain Proof Roofing’s work is highly seasonal. “We don’t do reroofs in the winter; it’s not cost-effective and you don’t get the same [quality of] job as you do in the summer. Roofing doesn’t perform well in the cold.” Typically the roofing season kicks off in May and runs until the snow begins to fall. “Halloween, Thanksgiving, somewhere in there is our big push, and then between the darkness, the cold, and the snow, it forces you to slow down,” he says. Winter work at the company generally includes some new construction, finishing up jobs that can’t be halted, or performing emergency repairs or maintenance.

The business scales down in winter to approximately sixty employees, building up to about 100 in the summer months, Reilly says. Once summer hits, even with an expanded crew, the company works long hours and employees clock in quite a bit of overtime. “The crews are working six or sometimes seven days a week up to ten or fourteen hours a day when we can.”

Even with this yearly fluctuation, Rain Proof Roofing has a good number of long-term employees, which can be unusual for the industry. Reilly says retaining quality employees often boils down to just treating them well. “We offer health insurance, and we’ve always been a company that pays a fair wage. We have developed a lot of good, loyal employees and we treat them fair.” It helps that Rain Proof Roofing does have continuous work throughout the year, allowing the company to retain a good number of employees outside of the busy season.

Reilly’s philosophy of leadership contributes to the company’s ability to retain quality workers. “[As a leader] you have to lead by example. I’m an old-fashioned guy: you just be polite, treat people with respect, and don’t ask them to do something you wouldn’t do or haven’t done.”

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On Working with Clients

Reilly says the amount of design work that Rain Proof Roofing performs varies significantly from project to project. However, for residential new construction work, the roof is generally already designed by the time the roofing company is brought on board, though Rain Proof Roofing will work with homeowners on color choices or grade of the shingle. “We do work with builders, if they have a complicated roof, on how to make sure that it performs properly so there isn’t snow or ice build-up or drainage problems and to make sure we get the right product in the right area.”

For example, on the Hillside in Anchorage, two significant risks to a home’s structure are high winds and the potential for fire damage, so Rain Proof Roofing would suggest a high wind-rated roof that’s at least Class-A fire-rated or better.

Rain Proof Roofing has adapted as materials change, and shares that knowledge with their clients: “Years ago we used to do a lot of hand-split cedar shake roofs, but we don’t do that much anymore because they are flammable.” He continues, “Flat roofs have evolved from what you would know as a typical built-up tar roof to a single-ply roof today, which is a membrane roof that’s either glued or heat welded together.”

For commercial clients, he says, Rain Proof Roofing’s participation in design runs the gamut from bidding on designed projects to being approached by a client looking for roofing options on a new strip mall. Whatever the job, “We make sure it performs to the expectation that they have,” Reilly says.

On Longevity and Awards

Rain Proof Roofing has been operating—and expanding—in Alaska for more than half a century. “I think what’s made our company successful is the fact that we’re diversified. I tell everybody we do everything from a dog house to an industrial building.”

Reilly says he always keeps an eye out for good opportunities for the business. “I’m one of those people that just never says no,” he explains. “If you’re not looking for opportunities, then you’re going backwards. I’m always looking for what’s next, what’s a trend.”

But more than offering a wide range of services, Rain Proof Roofing values their clients and industry relationships. Reilly says, “Treat everybody fair and with respect, and do a good job, stand behind what you do, and give them what you’re telling them you’re going to give them, and it all seems to work out.”

Following this philosophy of customer service and integrity, Rain Proof Roofing has been able to weather Alaska’s tumultuous business climate, including the highs of population influx and infrastructure booms as well as the lows associated with the state’s economic challenges, including the current down economy. “We’ve been pretty fortunate over the years that we’ve survived, and we’ve not overextended at any one time.”

Rain Proof Roofing has been recognized for their work routinely through the years, both through commercial manufacturers as well as industry awards. The company won the Park Smith & Feek Excellence in Construction Award in 2014 and 2016; it was recognized in 2012 with the ConocoPhillips HSE Excellence Safety Award, and in 2014 with the Wells Fargo Excellence in Safety Award.

This year Rain Proof Roofing was named a Firestone Master Contractor, in recognition of the company’s high-quality workmanship and commitment to long-term roofing system performance, an honor Rain Proof Roofing also received in 2000, 2004, and 2014. In 2015 Rain Proof Roofing achieved the Carlisle “500” Hall of Fame, recognizing the company had completed 500 consistently perfect roof installations. The company also received the Carlisle Perfection Award in 2014 and 2017, which celebrates roofers “whose exceptional installation quality results in a warranty claim performance that ranks in the top 5 percent of all US and Canadian roofing applicators.”

Reilly himself has been involved in the Alaska construction community for decades. He was the president of AGC of Alaska in 1999 and was honored with that association’s Hard Hat Award in 2000, which recognizes an individual “who has demonstrated outstanding contributions to the Alaska construction industry,” according to the organization.

On a Lifelong Partnership

Reilly attributes the company’s long-term success in large part to his wife and business partner, April. “She always kept me in check,” he says. “She was the brains and the beauty and kept things going. I’d go do the physical work, but she did everything else.”

In the early days when Reilly stepped in to run the business, he’d be in the field all day while she was in the office, and they communicated primarily through two-way radios. “I would go out and find the work and get the work done and she’d make sure the bills were paid. She’s always been an important part of our organization, and she kept the money in the bank.” April is semi-retired, working one day a week to keep an eye on the overall picture.

On New Leadership

A Graying Workforce

Pat credits much of his company’s success to his wife and business partner, April.
Photo by Judy Patrick

Starting April 1, Rain Proof Roofing will move forward with its current leadership team comprised of family members Misty Stoddard (Reilly’s niece) and Chris Reilly (Reilly’s son) as well as Brion Hines and Jason Dial, who are not blood relatives but have strong ties to the company. Reilly, who is and will remain the company’s majority shareholder, will step back, transitioning from president to chairman of the board, handing over the reins of day-to-day operations to its current leadership, with Brion Hines serving as the company’s president. “I will be the ‘big picture’ guy helping them be successful, but it’s time for April and I to move on,” says Reilly.

A Graying Workforce

Starting April 1, (from left to right) Chris Reillt, Jason Dial, Misty Stoddard, and Brion Hines will be operating Rain Proof Roofing, with Hines serving as the company’s president.
Photo by Judy Patrick

The best part of his job, says Reilly, has been meeting good people and the satisfaction of getting the job done well and on time—“making the deal and getting [our clients] taken care of. And they know that they can pick up the phone and call us if there’s a problem and we’ll come fix it.”

He takes pride in having built up and expanded the family business, as well as being engaged in the community by supporting a plethora of projects, primarily to benefit Alaska’s youth. “We’ve roofed a lot of dugouts on Little League fields,” he says. “I also believe in being politically active. You have to stay engaged in everything about the community, be involved, get out there and say your piece.” Reilly summarizes: “I’m proud of being Alaskan, I’m proud of being successful, I’m proud of my operation, and I’m proud of my crew.”

Tasha Anderson is the Associate Editor for Alaska Business.

Alaska Business Magazine December 2019 cover

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