For the lofty heights he has taken his South Shore metal roofing company during the past six years, Johnny Wall deserves a good measure of respect, maybe even an award for successful entrepreneurs.
In 2012, Wall helped his future father-in-law complete some reno projects on his rental properties, including a few metal roofs.
Wall enjoyed the experience, so when those projects were finished, he convinced his uncle to assist him with installing metal roofs.
During the fall of 2012 they installed six roofs together.
Walls Metal Roofing was launched the next year and the young entrepreneur — equipped with a rented truck, a few basic tools, a strong work ethic and his faith — was on the fast track to success.
In 2013, the company completed 35 roofs. Homeowners faced with replacing their asphalt shingle roofs began to consider the benefits of a long-lasting metal roof and asked Wall to provide quotes.
A year later, Wall and his team installed 75 roofs. In 2015 they did 120, followed by 200 in 2016 and 300 in 2017.
Last year the number of metal roof installations soared to more than 425.
For those keeping score at home, that’s 1,155 installs in just six years, a phenomenal market share.
Growing up in a close-knit, hard-working Mennonite family in Manitoba, Wall and his four brothers didn’t spend time watching TV or playing video games. Their world was the outdoors.
“I spent my youth being constructive and creative, building things that will stand the test of time,” said Wall, in a recent interview.
“When I was eight years old I built a treehouse. Someone sent me a photo of it recently and it’s still safe to use. During my teen years I built two black spruce cabins.”
Three of Wall’s brothers now own their own businesses, while the fourth brother works with Wall.
“Our work ethic was instilled in all of us at an early age and it remains strong today,” said Wall.
“My brothers and I work hard, and we attract that type of person to our businesses.”
During the summer of 2017, Wall’s roofing business operated with three to four installation crews.
Last year five crews were deployed, and Wall expects to run six or seven crews this year.
“Only three or four people in our company don’t have Mennonite backgrounds, but they are friends who have a strong work ethic as well,” said Wall. “Everyone is driven. They don’t have a problem getting out of bed in the morning to go to work. We surround ourselves with people like this.”
Wall said he has never had to look for workers. Rather, people approach him.
At the height of the season Wall employs 25 workers and sub-contractors, most with carpentry or cabinetry experience.
“We look for many qualities and behaviours when people come in for job interviews,” said Wall.
“Self-motivation is key. Also important are efficient time management, friendliness, being respectful and courteous to clients and each other and thinking outside the box to solve problems.”
The installers are expected to be physically fit and, of course, not afraid of heights. “A positive attitude certainly helps because it rubs off on the other workers,” said Wall.
“We strive to be professional at all times,” he said.
“You won’t hear any swearing on the jobsite, and no loud music blaring either. The crews have to clean up the jobsite at the end of each day, and take care not to disturb the clients’ shrubs, flower beds and anything else on their properties.”
Wall ensures compliance with the province’s Workers’ Compensation requirements and carries liability insurance. And at least one person on each crew is proficient in basic first-aid procedures.
All Wall’s jobs come with a five-year workmanship guarantee and a 40-year metal warranty.
The 25-acre company property in Blockhouse runs from Highway 325 to Highway 103, so there is lots of room for future facility expansion.
“I was told more than 16,000 vehicles pass by our property each day on Highway 103. That helps with visibility and recognition,” said Wall.
Wall began building an 8,200-square-foot wood-frame, steel-clad structure on the property in 2016.
Today, the 6,000-square-foot main floor houses material and machinery, and will include a showroom, while the 2,200-square-foot second floor will have meeting and training rooms, a gym, a pool table and shuffleboard.
“We built our structure larger than we needed at the time, but we wanted to produce our own product some day. We are already manufacturing some trims, and within a year or so we should be making all our metal roofing products right here,” said Wall.
Wall imports his metal roofing from an Amish-owned company in Pennsylvania
“It’s an incredible product with excellent specs. At first, we wanted to use a Canadian product if at all possible. When we did try a batch from another province, we could have cut the metal with household scissors, so it was unacceptable to us,” said Wall.
Wall uses a standard full-length metal panel with three-quarter-inch ribs. He offers a 28-gauge panel or a heavier 26-gauge panel. The smoother panel is available in more than 20 colours, while the textured panel is offered in a dozen colours.
“Ninety-eight per cent of what we sell is the heavier panel which has a slight rough texture. Our customers are attracted to it because it has a matte finish and the sun doesn’t glare off it,” said Wall. “Our installers love it because it’s not slippery to walk on, even when wet.”
Wall said going forward he will be involved more in research and development of new products.
“I’m looking at metal siding that gives the appearance of log siding, and I want to explore board-and-batten metal siding as well,” he said.
“We already have the roll-form and coil-cutting machinery in place. We want to look at a coil of metal and ask, ‘what can we make with that?’”
A Bridgewater resident, Wall, just 32 years old, looks at life through a family-focused lens. He and his wife of five years have two young sons, and family is top of mind with his employees as well.
“We invest in team building and family events. We host monthly breakfasts with staff, and every three months we have a supper for staff, spouses and children, complete with entertainment.”
During the winter, Wall and his family travel to the small house they built in Belize in Central America, where he is involved in programming and production for a Christian radio station.
“I never studied business and Walls Metal Roofing happened by accident. I firmly believe God had a hand in it. It’s a blessing really. This business supports our ministries,” said Wall.
“We’ll be more than just a metal roofing company. I have a big vision, but I’m not ready to share it.”