Relationship Building In Chicagoland
Viking Roofing & Construction Corp. charges boldly into the future
Patrick Marshall, the President of Viking Roofing & Construction Corp. (VRCC), never thought he would own a roofing construction company. Patrick, or Pat as his friends and family call him, had spent most of his professional life in manufacturing for large international companies, including Dow Chemical Company and Armstrong World Industries. After corporate America, he entered Chicago’s competitive real estate market. Buying a 43-year old company in Chicago’s construction market was not part of the plan.
“There’s no way I could have known that VRCC was my future,” Pat says. “There’s no way I could have known.”
But knowing or not, Pat is at home at VRCC, a full-service roofing and rehabilitation company headquartered in Mokena, Illinois. The company specializes in flat roofs, shingle roofs, and repairs and maintenance for the commercial, industrial and residential markets. Most importantly, VRCC is Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certified and is anticipated to be an 8(a) certified company by 2021. It employs eight roofers full time but can swell to 20 during the summer.
VRCC offers many roofing services, including tear offs, reroofing, general repairs, maintenance and inspection services.
“I say that VRCC is a purpose-driven construction company,” Pat says. “What most companies consider as their customers, we consider our partners. As such, we pride ourselves in meeting the specific needs of our partners, and thus, building lifelong, lasting relationships.”
VRCC was started in 1970 by Chicagoans Al Norris and Bart Maguri. In 2013, after successfully running the company for 43 years, Al and Bart decided to sell it.
At the same time, Pat was also making life changes. “I knew I wanted to transition out of the real estate market,” Pat says. “I have always wanted to build a business for myself. I just wasn’t sure where or what.”
Being entrepreneurial is in his DNA. Pat’s grandparents moved out of their respective states in the South during the Great Migration, one of the most significant and rapid mass internal movements in human history. The historian Nicholas Lemann says that for African Americans, “the migration meant leaving what had always been their economic and social base in America and finding a new one.” Pat’s grandparents met in high school in Chicago. They fell in love, married, had children. Pat’s father, their son, joined the military. In 1973, Pat was born in Chicago; soon after, the family relocated to Pasadena, California. After leaving the military, the family moved back to Chicago. From there, Pat went to Norfolk State University and entered corporate America.
In the meantime, Pat’s grandfather had built a successful real estate business. “Over the years, I saw my grandfather using many contractors to make repairs on his buildings,” Pat says. “It was my lightbulb moment.” Pat found a business broker, who connected him to four or five businesses before introducing him to VRCC.
“There was a connection to the VRCC owners from the beginning,” Pat says. “VRCC felt different from other companies I had considered; more welcoming. There were no odd glances or awkward moments. I could see myself here.”
After Pat bought the business, he was encouraged to learn that most of the team—including Al—wanted to stay with the company. “He is the more aggressive of the two owners and was excited to see the new energy we brought into the business,” Pat says. “He would even admit that the company was stuck in the 1980s.”
Pat explains that the answering machine was the most technologically advanced tool in the company when he purchased it. “The entire company was run off that thing. Oh, and an old fax machine,” he adds. “It was not a sad day when we disconnected them.”
Pat worked hard to bring the company to the modern age, including launching a content-rich website and comprehensive digital makeover, including social media accounts and communications technologies. “Using a computerized customer management system, we can now vet our leads to make sure we are taking projects that fit our expertise,” Pat says. “While we can work across the residential and industrial markets, our area of focus is the commercial market.”
The most critical change Pat made was within the organization. “I identified some processes that we could implement to streamline our work to save our clients time and money while increasing workplace safety,” Pat says. “This included holding operational meetings daily to make sure everyone knows what projects we have going on at any time. And, we’ve tied raises to performance.”
The company seemed to be ready for the changes Pat implemented. “Even though I didn’t have a background in construction, the established team trusted me to make these changes. I didn’t get much pushback. I feel like I was welcomed with open arms.”
Pat is passionate about building lifelong relationships with his partners. “Many of our residential partners have been with us for years,” he says. “And as we grow into the commercial market, we want to form lifelong relationships with them as well. We’ve been here for 50 years, and I want to continue the legacy for the next 50.”
Relationship building is Pat’s expertise. One of his favorite stories is about his first sales call with Viking. “I had just bought the company and wanted to see how the process works. Now, I am an African American, and I was called out to a potential project about 40 miles from here, in an area that is almost 100% white,” Pat says. “Everyone was telling me that they wouldn’t buy from me and that it was a waste of time even to try. But I went out anyways and talked to the homeowner, and we ended up getting the contract. Today, almost six and a half years later, that client is still my friend.”
Today, VRCC is thriving through the combination of passion and pride. “When we do a job, we take ownership of that project,” Pat continues. “I remember my foreman telling a client partner, ‘That’s not your roof; that’s our roof.’ We take responsibility and inject pride in our work. It was a touching moment.”
“At the end of the day, we are not trying to flip the business,” Pat says. “My son works here. I work every day from 8-6, and I’m having fun. We have another 50 years to go.”