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Company of the Year (16-50 Employees): Designed Roofing Inc.

“We’ve been known throughout the years to sometimes sacrifice a bit of profit on the job or change things around to do it properly, even if it’s not as cost-effective for us, to make sure the best possible job gets done,” says Michael.

Going green may be a modern concern for many, but it’s something that has been top of the Valenti family’s mind for
more than 20 years as they’ve vaulted Designed Roofing Inc. to province-wide success.

Specializing in roofing systems by Sarnafil, a Swiss manufacturer of weldable thermoplastic membranes, has allowed the North Bay company to impact their clients’ energy bills and their own
bottom line.

These reflective white surfaces are accredited to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, reducing heating costs and enhancing durability on projects big and small.

Designed Roofing’s handiwork can now be seen at the new North Bay Regional Health Center and the Wal-Mart in Timmins, as well as at southern Ontario locations such as the University of Guelph Academic Complex and the Toronto Pearson International Airport Pedestrian Walkway Bridge.

“I think we were ahead of the curve years ago, and even now we’re seeing a lot more interest in these white reflective surfaces all across our industry,” says Frank Valenti, family patriarch and majority owner.

“And being specialized in it, our labour costs on a job are less because of our efficiency. We can go down as far as Windsor and do the airport terminal, or Chatham and do a government complex, because of that specialization and efficiency.”

As a professional engineer, Frank hadn’t always seen roofing as a lifelong career. His involvement with the industry first began in 1987, four years after founder and former childhood acquaintance Gil Souliere first incorporated Designed Roofing.

The two reconnected when Souliere was contracted to perform roofing work at Abitibi Consolidated’s Iroquois Falls mill, where Frank handled project engineering and civil projects.

After rapidly rekindling the fires of friendship, Frank was invited to join the business. The appeal of moving to North Bay proved too strong to resist, leading Frank into an entirely new career path as 50-per-cent owner of Designed Roofing.

After a decade-long partnership, Souliere moved on, selling Frank his half of the company. By then, Frank’s son Michael, 34, had begun working there full-time, and now serves as project manager. He has since bought into a 30-per-cent stake in the business; similar ownership buy-in plans are in place for Frank’s younger son, David, who at 31 works as a full-time estimator for the company.

Ninety per cent of Designed Roofing’s business is in weldable roofing membranes, which are single-ply, or a single layer of durable plastic resin, rather than the traditional four layers of asphalt and felt paper. This approach translates to a much lower margin of error during the installation process.

This has led to all manner of technical challenges for many
companies looking to capitalize on the growing popularity of this style of roofing. Meanwhile, Designed Roofing emerged from the decade-long learning curve many years ago, making them an industry leader while others hurry to catch up.

“I think anybody in Northern Ontario or even Toronto knows if we’re there for a single-ply job, that we’re going to be pretty tough to beat,” says Michael. “They know we’re used to that membrane, that we’re skilled with it, and that we’ll do it right, but we’ll be competitive doing it.”

This success led to the company being named as a Sarnafil “Elite” Contractor in 2000, and remains just one of three companies in all of Canada to hold this designation.

Key to this internal wealth of knowledge is the company’s 35-person staff, two-thirds of which has been around for 10 years or more.

While this employment longevity is a rarity in the industry, Frank credits premium wage packages and competitive pension plans, where Designed Roofing matches employee contributions of three per cent of their wages.

Another contributing factor is that the strong sales seen in recent years have been accomplished without sacrificing worker safety. The company has not had a single lost-time accident in nine years.

This staff loyalty has helped keep the company afloat during leaner times. When company workload and profits both saw a significant drop-off during the recession of the early 1990s, staff consented to take a modest pay cut, rather than see anyone let go. As fiscal fortunes returned, so did pay levels.

Time and time again, this considerable goodwill and dedication has filtered through to clients, even from the uppermost levels of management.

“We’ve been known throughout the years to sometimes sacrifice a bit of profit on the job or change things around to do it properly, even if it’s not as cost-effective for us, to make sure the best possible job gets done,” says Michael.