A Century of Skill

Olsson Roofing
Written by Mark Golombek

Based in Aurora, Illinois, Olsson Roofing is one of the leading roofing contractors in the U.S. Although it has been in operation for over one hundred years, the last few have seen incredible growth due to its new foray into furthering to develop its sheet metal division. It is also one of the safest companies for which to work and has an employee retention rate that is the envy of the industry.
Olsson Roofing was founded in 1914 and was family-owned until 2003 when the company formed an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). The employees have a vested interest in the success and the future of the company in the decisions they make on a daily basis.

How does a company become a leader in the industry it serves? “It’s partly due the dedication we show to our customers,” says Mike Reynolds, one of the principal owners. “We have a very dedicated workforce in the field as well as the talent that we have within the office and shop. We really care about our employees, and that can be seen through the longevity of people whose careers span up to forty years.”

Don Wilkinson, one of Olsson Roofing’s superintendents, knows why the company is seen as one of the leading roofing contractors in the US. “It’s about our commitment to doing things the right way and providing quality workmanship to all customers. Training and safety are top notch, and we possess good management and field employees.”

Olsson’s commitment to its employees grows from its family culture and atmosphere. There are employees who have been with the company for thirty to forty years. Mike has been here for fourteen years and is still considered one of the newer guys. The retention rates are certainly not industry standard. People want to work for Olsson.

“I believe people that choose to work at Olsson Roofing quickly come to realize that they are working for a very special company,” says Finance Administrator Pam Daly. “The employees are treated with respect and rewarded for their accomplishments. I am proof positive as I have been here for thirty-three years.”

Olsson also separates itself based on meticulous attention to quality and safety. The quality of its installers is measured by the manufacturers, which perform inspections on the work done. It is graded on completed projects with a manufacturer’s warranty. For years, Olsson has ranked at the top of all manufacturers with quality inspections.

Indeed, this is one of the most safety conscious companies in its field, as measured by an experience modification rate (EMR). Insurance companies measure the past cost of injuries or accidents and determine a number that predicts the future chance of risk.

“Ours is one of the lowest in the industry, not just the roofing trade. It is an accomplishment that we are proud of and is a tribute to our workforce and their leadership.”

Phenomenal growth has been seen over the last few years, and Mike explains that it is, in part, due to recognizing what the market wants. When the recession hit, construction work slowed dramatically, and clients were not looking to build additions as money was needed for existing facilities. So, Olsson shifted some of its resources to focus on re-roofing, service and maintenance.

The economy has now bounced back, and Olsson has the workforce in place to expand and support that growth. The company has traditionally been amongst the largest roofing firms in Chicagoland. In addition, it has the largest service department who works specifically on leak, repair and smaller renovation projects.

Another significant contributing factor to its growth is the company’s expansion into sheet metal and metal wall panel systems. It has attacked that market and seen business more than double in the last five years.

“If you are not growing, then you feel like you are dying. So, we are always looking to expand and grow our business and recruit new talent, constantly sharpening our pencils and to have better-trained and highly-skilled employees.”

Tom Brueck is another principal owner and manager of architectural sheet metal division Metal Edge, which began as an acquisition the company made in 2011. “The US is about twenty years behind Europe as it relates to metal wall panels and architectural metal panel work. As other building industries play catch up, we placed ourselves in a position to offer our customers the various metal panel systems that are taking the US by storm. We have done this through design and budgeting assistance and then followed that up with competent and professional installation services. We are the tip of the spear, so to speak, and our customers have taken notice. That has resulted in strong growth within our metal division.”

Two key projects by the Metal Edge division are the huge campuses of global healthcare company Abbott Laboratories and pharmaceutical giant CSL Behring. The work on the CSL Behring project was Olsson’s biggest metal division project.

The future of the metal division has no bounds, and Olsson will continue to explore new building systems while expanding its client list and region of operation. As energy codes change and metal systems become more desirable, Olsson will be there, leading the charge.

Receiving Firestone’s President’s Club and Master Contractor Award as well as Carlisle’s ESP Award highlights the company as a premier installer and top quality contractor in the Chicagoland area. “You don’t receive those accolades being mediocre or even a B+ player. You have to be excellent! So, it’s something that we take very seriously, and we are very proud of it.” Top-tier manufacturers are a crucial aspect of any roofer’s business, and the reputation of these manufacturers depends on how products are used and installed. Top manufacturers want to work with Olsson due to its history and reputation, and these manufacturers will not work with just any company.

“Opportunities are awarded to us, because the customer knows that they are going to get a high quality roof system installed by a company that truly cares about the work we do in order to meet their expectations. We truly look at it as an invaluable partnership that we have formed with our suppliers and vendors.”

One of the latest projects is the roof of Chicago Premium Outlets, a mall in Aurora where Olsson is based. This $2.5 million project involved 320,000 square feet of roofing and sheet metal that was produced through the Chicago winter. In retail, every day a store is not open is a loss of potential sales. This meant that Olsson worked on a very strict schedule and maintained deadlines with an excellent supervisor and job crew managing all of the building activity and trades.

“It wasn’t just one roof, it was a combination of 34 to 35 different roof areas, and it was a very high-profile job built by Graycor Construction that partnered with us. Graycor is a general contractor based out of Oakbrook whom we are very proud to be working with.”

A recently completed 1.6 million-square-foot tire distribution plant in Wilmington, Illinois was the single largest project in Olsson’s history. It was a TPO Rhinobond roof system and used a very heavy and unique fire resistant insulation called Roxul that was required by the building owners. It included 50,000 labor hours, 100 crane days and 300 trucks of material with a very stringent schedule. Olsson had the equipment and the manpower to support the project.

Whether it is in the field with safety training, or manufacturer training with new products or equipment, Olsson recognizes that making investments in the company and its employees is vital to maintaining a strong reputation as a leader in the marketplace and promoting future expansions.



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