On Top of the Industry

Written by Mark Golombek

For over thirty years, McKinnis Roofing and Sheet Metal has earned a reputation for quality residential and commercial roofing projects. Its commitment to top-notch products and installation means it has come to be a reliable contractor upon which the people of Nebraska and Iowa can rely for full-service roofing, siding, window, gutter and sheet metal work.
From the age of twelve, owner, Dave McKinnis was paid one dollar per bundle to take shingles up a ladder and put them on a roof. When he was fifteen, the state’s department of labor found he was hired to work construction jobs while underage and made him quit. That did not deter Dave or his older brother, as they worked for themselves throughout high school. After Dave graduated from school, he roofed in different states.

“I lived in a truck and shingled apartment buildings before ending up in Seattle and working for the American Roofing Company,” he says. “The owner fell off a roof and was hurt badly. So, at the age of twenty, they made me the manager. I ran the company for a year and a half before the owner came back with some violent tendencies due to the brain damage incurred from the fall.” Dave worked for other roofing companies before moving back to Nebraska in May of 1981 to start McKinnis Roofing & Sheet Metal. “It’s fun to look back at those times and now look at the company and seeing my three sons and daughter working here along with a daughter-in-law, son-in-law and a brother-in-law.”

Many of the current employees were trained by the company and can step into different roles within the company when needed. As it is always growing, it is also giving them opportunities to move up into better positions. McKinnis Roofing & Sheet Metal has retained many long term employees quite simply because they feel valued.

Experienced employees help the younger ones with training and honing skills on site. As they progress, there will always be someone more experienced from whom they can learn. The younger workers get a mentor and more.

“I think that is an area of satisfaction for them – that they are learning something and able to do something with their hands. We want to make sure that our employees all recognize that they have various opportunities for advancement.”

McKinnis Roofing & Sheet Metal’s corporate office is located just north of Omaha in the town of Blair, Nebraska. The county is mainly rural, with quite a few small towns, but not as much opportunity for employment as the larger cities. McKinnis Roofing & Sheet Metal advertises in these towns, looking for the right employees. It also has smaller branch offices in other cities in Nebraska; including Omaha, Lincoln, and Norfolk.

McKinnis Roofing is a full-service roofing company. It performs commercial roofing, residential roofing, siding, gutters and windows, as well as sheet metal work and copper work on many historical buildings. There is a great deal of variety here, so employees can choose different types of work if one area does not suit them. Some of its workers install flat roofs, some concentrate on sheet metal work, and still others work solely on shingling and home improvement trades.

“There is a chance for them to move to a different area of the company. Instead of losing them, we try to put them in an area that they would like to work. I’ve had guys who have started on flat roofs and ended up as sheet metal superintendents before moving on to project management. We are diversified in what we do, and that promotes a lot of mobility if necessary to help keep our good, skilled workers. After all, it would be a shame to lose out on them for a variety of reasons, including the fact that we trained them to begin with.”

Looking after this skilled workforce starts with safety programs and procedures. Weekly and monthly safety meetings take place, and there are always people on site to make sure that the workers are not putting themselves in jeopardy.

“We spend a lot of time training them, and we want to keep them safe. We let them know that if they see a potential safety hazard, work should not commence until it is dealt with. It can be overlooked at times, but we constantly remind them. Our track record is very good.”

For a roofing company to succeed, it must have many variables covered. One of the most relevant has to do with its relationships with suppliers. “Sometimes, when you are with a supplier for a long time, they may start to take you for granted. We buy a lot of materials, and we want to be serviced well. Also, what they give us for terms of payment makes a big difference as far as our cash flow.”

McKinnis has been designated a Master Contractor by Firestone Building Products and has received their ‘Inner Circle of Quality’ award many years in a row. This is one of the most prestigious awards in the commercial roofing industry. Firestone uses a formula that calculates the number of callbacks that occur per square foot of project to track the quality of the work. If it is done right, then no calls should come back. McKinnis Roofing & Sheet Metal spends time on details to make sure that the job is correct. Firestone will then inspect it.

“We spend a lot of time on the quality of the project. We work very hard to attain this designation, so I hope that it will continue. It is a very well recognized award and achievement.”

McKinnis Roofing has also received second place in Omaha Magazine’s 2015 Best of Omaha contest for ‘Best Residential Roofing’.

Some of the projects on which the company works involve unique metal work – sometimes in materials such as copper – and this, says Dave is where the company has the most fun. The company’s work is not limited to residential or commercial, but also extends to government buildings, churches and industrial facilities. Church steeples and courthouse cupolas offer exciting challenges.

As for the future, Dave says that customers can expect more of the same quality they’ve come to expect. “It’s about maintaining what we have with smaller growth than we’ve had in the past and keeping things organized in order to flow smoothly. The methodology now is to ensure the quality of service and product by not expanding beyond where we are now. Otherwise, what happens with a lot of companies is that they overreach and inevitably the product and service suffers under the weight of that expansion.”



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