Leading With Heart

Mack Kirk Roofing & Sheet Metal
Written by Pauline Muller

Christina and Gino Laplante, owners of Mack Kirk Roofing & Sheet Metal Ltd. bring passion to their team and customers. The results prove that nothing wins in life like being genuine.

Having advanced a long way from its roots as a roofing company, this general contractor and project management firm has tradespeople who self-perform every job needed on most building projects in addition to providing specialty roofing. The company has a penchant for complex work and takes pride in successfully completing projects so challenging that other contractors typically avoid them.

“When you hire Mack Kirk, you hire a well-rounded general contractor. Mack Kirk is no longer a roofing company; we passed that years ago,” says Gino Laplante.

Beyond self-performing all trades and general contracting, the company also supplies customized sheet metal and all other roofing requirements. Laplante points out that, considering the complexities of seismic and safety codes, asbestos removal, and waterproofing installation, it is far more practical to have control over every process so that all aspects of the roofing project are done correctly and to industry standards to ensure the longevity of the buildings and roofs on which the company works. The company has also won several awards for Lower Mainland and all of BC.

Mack Kirk, based in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, has a track record of 115 years, having opened its doors in 1908. Although much has changed since then, the company’s current team of over 150 employees is as committed to delivering quality work as its predecessors, and customers have benefitted tremendously from Gino and Christina Laplante’s years of industry experience.

“We have achieved a great vision. We weren’t sure how to get there but just created our own path, and it became what Mack Kirk is today,” says Christina Laplante. The company now has multiple divisions including flat, sloped, parkade waterproofing replacement, metal roofing and wall cladding, coatings and PMMA, custom fabrication, new construction, and repairs and maintenance. Typical projects include hospitals, universities, multi-family complexes, parkades, commercial, and industrial buildings.

The company’s fleet includes pickups, flat decks, dump trucks, cranes, Genie lifts and manlifts, demolition machinery, specialized tools and equipment—plus everything else needed to complete projects. It even has a landscaping team. Its evolution was driven by necessity. Working alongside consultants, engineers, and architects to erect weather-resistant buildings meant taking control of all variables and adding to its services whatever trades were needed to complete a job. “We always learn from our last job. If you are not learning from your jobs, you are not evolving,” says Gino.

With thousands of projects under its belt, Mack Kirk Roofing & Sheet Metal offers a fully qualified team of tradespeople who fully grasp how each trade process fits into the other, leading to better orchestrated, quality projects where detail matters. “That makes the production, which is what we excel at, phenomenal. We’re a well-oiled production machine,” says Christina, quoting her husband, who is famous for reminding everyone that “In life you are only acknowledged for what you successfully complete.”

As well as giving the firm the ability to execute better quality control and tighter timelines, this self-performing system also makes it far easier to trace any issues back to their source and correct them. The emphasis placed on building healthy relationships between teams and with customers is of the utmost importance. Naturally, the team is also acutely aware of how its presence affects surrounding residents and stakeholders and goes out of its way to ease the process for everyone involved.

Owners of unique or older buildings turn to Mack Kirk’s team of experts to repair and waterproof older concrete-based buildings where cracks caused by rusty rebar can cause structural damage over time. Here, too, the company’s operational swiftness results in clients returning to business as usual much faster than when projects are undertaken with clumsy collaborations of teams unfamiliar with each other’s systems and processes. Another benefit is the cost savings from getting back to business faster. Since its implementation, the approach has served the firm well.

In 2020, of course, the pandemic happened. Following a brief moment of regrouping in the initial stages, and despite the uncertainty of what was to come ahead, the company demonstrated resilience and innovation to survive and thrive in the face of unprecedented challenges. As always, Christina put a team together and came up with solutions. The company made and provided everything it needed for its employees while ensuring production deadlines were met.

Mack Kirk once again demonstrated its long history of tenacity, and that tenacity is even more evident in its initiative to welcome unskilled and skilled workers from other parts of the world in the wake of Canada’s severe labour shortage. By further training these professionals in local practices and helping them hone their skills, the company has established a solid labour base in tune with its ethos.

The solution has enabled Mack Kirk to develop its footprint and capabilities. By making the effort to bridge language barriers and cultural differences, it has also proven that the risk is worth it. While having a great team is certainly a plus, for Christina and Gino, the gift is improving lives through meaningful, gainful employment, especially when families start reuniting.

After more than three decades in roofing and construction, Christina sees being a woman in construction “as an opportunity for a hardworking person who really enjoys and loves what they do and does it well. I am very grateful to be in it and truly enjoy it,” she says. “Of course, there is the gender difference, but I have always felt very respected within the industry. I believe women face obstacles at times that can be rectified by promoting a healthy culture of fairness and inclusivity. Women bring a unique perspective into the workplace and given the chance can make significant impacts and thrive in fields where they are underrepresented,” she continues, highlighting that for her, construction is a rewarding place of camaraderie and friendship.

Bursting with sincere enthusiasm for people and the industry, Christina’s contagious positivity could spark even the most jaded construction professional. The couple’s shared integrity and commitment to excellence is a rare combination. “I have never considered myself the boss; there has never been a day where it comes across like that,” says Gino, who takes care of operations in the field. “Having a partnership where the trust is endless and knowing that everything Christina does is for the best of the company—it’s not a job for her—it’s the best way to do it.”

He also points out that part of the company’s health can be ascribed to the couple’s roles as field and office leaders, respectively. In this way, the pair ensures consistency across all systems, leaving no job or relationship under-served. As a result of her hands-on approach to working in the industry, Christina Laplante was honoured to become the first female Member Director to serve on the Board of Directors of the Roofing Contractors Association of British Columbia.

“As an insider, I am not surprised at all,” says Gino. “It is incredible. She has given the Roofing Contractors Association of British Columbia 15 to 16 years of service. Christina earned her vote on merit. She currently also sits on the Educational Committee.” Christina appreciates the opportunity to help make a significant difference and is spurred by the change that the association can realize for the greater good of the entire industry.

Mack Kirk Roofing & Sheet Metal has changed ownership only four times in over 10 decades. Buying the company in 2003 when it was considerably smaller, the Laplantes are joined by their three kids as the family works side by side. “Our children have been working in the company for numerous years now and are very keen and interested in growing and taking on bigger roles. To be honest, we are very grateful for this industry that serves us well, both professionally and as a family. We are proud of raising three good humans who understand what hard work is. We come from humble beginnings and started from nothing. We want to make sure that the legacy we leave behind is solid,” says Christina.

Their children have had a long introduction into the industry, as their father became a roofer at 16 and has built on his expertise since then. “Gino is a force to be reckoned with. He is the hardest working and toughest human I have ever met or seen in my life! He is often still found on worksites and the employees look up to him and admire his unique ability to complete projects so efficiently and effectively,” says Christina.

In a move toward further establishing itself as self-sufficient, the company recently appointed a civil engineer and licensed builder. Having a “civil engineer on our team is groundbreaking,” says Gino. “The reason people stay is because they know there is no limit to how far they can develop. There is space to be successful.” As everybody here is cross-trained, no two days are the same, as the company’s multi-disciplinary approach allows for a much wider scope of work than most general contractors offer their staff.

The company also sees its relationship with the RCABC, its external consultants, and engineers as a genuine partnership without which it could not do what it does as well as it does—or at all, for that matter. “The engineers and consultants are the ones who are brought to the table by their customers, and then we are the one solution for them. We send out a big thanks to our engineers and consultants and industry members who support us,” Gino says of the relationships that enable Mack Kirk to complete more than 50 complex projects every year.

To be sure, taking care of its people is vital to the company’s longevity. An in-person annual review of employee satisfaction also considers people’s work goals and where they would like to go within the business. The result is that Mack Kirk’s ownership is well-informed on what is needed to keep its people engaged and happy at work. The team is also proactive about feedback from its people; these discussions are good indicators of what is needed on-site to help the company grow. By ensuring that everyone is in alignment, the team can turn complex projects around efficiently.

Based on the unshakeable decision to remain the personable, warm, and friendly family team that it has always been, Mack Kirk’s future is gleaming. A gargantuan new facility is on the horizon within the next couple of months, and the company is currently looking to hire a top business development leader to take care of its professional relationships full-time—but Gino and Christina are adamant that the company will not become another corporation. For them, the heart of the business is about bringing genuineness to the table.

“What makes us successful and has helped us grow to this point is that we have a very skilled and knowledgeable management and estimating team bringing the jobs in. In my humble opinion, I believe we have the best estimators in the industry. Not only are they skilled with their estimates but they are personable and caring. From the top down to our newest field workers, we are a phenomenal team,” says Christina with a smile, noting how much it means when employees bring their family and friends to join the company.

“Sometimes in this line of work you have to make tough decisions, but ultimately, I like to lead with my heart. When you put your heart into it, you know the outcome is for the right reasons,” she continues. After all, there are not all that many workplaces with a red couch and a smiling director with broad shoulders ready to listen to whatever personal challenges staff face. “When they come out of her office, they’re fixed,” says Gino.

To the Laplantes, giving staff members a supportive and dynamic workplace and having happy customers are imperative aspects of being indispensable in business. As such, ensuring that employees’ mental health is taken care of is essential to their management approach.

To the Laplante family and for Mack Kirk, giving back is part of the family and company’s core values. Gino, a cancer survivor, along with Christina and with the help of their family, friends, and industry members, have raised over 1.5 million dollars for the BC Cancer Agency for cancer research. Gino and Christina, philanthropists by nature, continue to support and have donated hundreds of thousands to various local charities and other causes including Red Cross, Covenant House, Children’s Hospital, and Salvation Army to name a few.

As the company slogan, “Between the World and the Weather since 1908” says, Mack Kirk Roofing & Sheet Metal Ltd has stood the test of time, showing it can endure and withstand challenges and changes. “As leaders in the industry for over a century, we anticipate further success and growth in the many years to come.”

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