Meet a family that’s maintaining its longtime business philosophy of pride and satisfaction in providing a job well done.
Human needs don’t get much more basic than a roof over one’s head.
That’s not lost on the people at Lask Roofing & Siding Inc., 1101 22nd St., Rockford. They’re celebrating the company’s 35th anniversary this year, and their 10th year at the present location. What guided the company from the beginning continues today: Pride and satisfaction in providing a service that people need – sometimes urgently. A damaged roof places everything underneath it at risk.
“When someone calls us for work, we’re fixing their problem,” says Adam Lask, the company’s secretary-treasurer. “They come to us with a problem, we offer a solution. … To be able to offer that product, that service, to people, is pretty nice.”
Any roofed structure needs a solid foundation. Paul H. Lask founded the business in 1978. His father, Paul Sr., provided a pickup truck and a slogan the company still uses today: “Call Lask First.” A year later, Paul was joined by his brother, Tom Lask. Paul would do the estimates and both brothers would do the installations. Their mother, Alice, answered the phone for the home-based business. Their sister, Lora Lask Matthews, now the company president, joined them in 1984.
During those early years, the family built a reputation for quality work, and for standing behind that work with top-notch customer service.
“I spoke with a lady last week and she said the whole reason they called is because of our reputation,” says Lora. “We want to stand out and be different than other roofing companies. So when someone tells us that they called us because of our reputation, that’s really a huge compliment to us. That means someone they have spoken with told them that we did the job to their expectations. And our expectations are to do the job as if it were our own home.”
The family aspect of the business has weathered tough times. Paul died unexpectedly in January 2008, and Tom died in November 2009. Their father, Paul Sr., died in November 2009. Emerging from that difficult time of loss, Lora assumed the company presidency. Tom’s sons, Toby and Adam, also took on leadership roles – Toby as vice president, Adam as secretary-treasurer.
Not a day passes when they don’t think about the legacy that’s been passed to them.
“It’s very special,” Toby says. “Words can’t even express it. I’ll never forget riding around with my dad when we were younger. He’d just point – ‘Hey, I did that roof, I did that roof, I was up on that steeple.’ It’s nice to be able to go around town, knowing you helped that family or you helped fix that structure.”
When a company name is also the family name, much more than a business reputation is at stake.
“It’s our name on that roof,” Toby says. “We want people to be satisfied and know they got a good, quality roof with the best workmanship possible.”
Today, Lask employs about 33 people, including sales people and work crews. It handles about 700 jobs a year – roofing, siding and Gutter Helmet installation, a service added in 2004. Those services help to keep homeowners off ladders and out of danger.
Lora still shudders when she tells the story of one Gutter Helmet customer, an elderly woman who owned a two-story home.
“She told the salesman that the way she had been cleaning the gutters was to shimmy out of her upstairs window, onto her roof, and then shimmy down the roof, clean the gutters, and shimmy back up, into the window. In her mid-80s! That one was a shocker.”
The woman needed just one section of Gutter Helmet to keep leaves out of her gutters and herself out of geriatric gymnastics.
Lask tries to protect its customers and potential customers in less dramatic ways, too. Whenever a major windstorm, or especially a hailstorm, strikes the area, the seamier side of the industry shows itself.
“There are so many storm chasers,” Lora says. “Several times we’ve gone to do an estimate, and customers have called because someone knocked on their door and said they had hail damage. We’ve had many times when we’ve gone up and inspected the roof and have not found any hail damage.
“These storm chasers will come in and do these large numbers, and they’ll leave. Then a year or two later we get calls: ‘We had this company out, and now we can’t find them. We can’t get hold of them. They won’t come back.’ Some of them can be shady. You really feel bad.”
Lask, and most other reputable local roofers, will not be the ones knocking on doors after storms, Lora says.
“We wait for calls. We’ve always believed in that. We’ve never really cold-called at all. We don’t try to push anything on the consumer. If they’re interested, hopefully they find us with whatever venue they’re using to search. We’ll give the free estimate, we’ll meet with their adjuster, whatever’s needed. But we don’t go out searching for it.”
Weather impacts the roofing business even more than the economy, she adds – especially a company like Lask that doesn’t do much new-construction work. The 2011 hailstorms kept them busy through most of the next winter. Business stayed fairly steady even during the economic crash and slow recovery of the past five years. “To be honest, last year’s drought was probably worse for us than the economy,” Lora says. “Nobody knew whether their roof leaked, because there was no water.”
Weathering storms, or a lack of storms, becomes easier when the business is also your family. Not only do Lora and her nephews run the company, but several more relatives work there.
“I love what I do,” Toby says. “I love being here every day with my family. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Yes, you see each other every day, so you’re not quite as excited to see each other at a family get-together. But all of us are really good about keeping business at business and home at home.”
“You have to keep it on an even keel,” Lora adds. “I can remember back in the day, with Paul and Tom, as brothers, having arguments and stuff. And 10 minutes later, you’d never even know it. We all respected each other and we all knew that this is the business. We are all working for the same goal.
“At the end of the day, when you go home, and the next morning, you look forward to coming in and seeing each other again. Honestly, when one of us would go on a vacation, we’d come back and we’d actually have missed each other. It’s a really good thing.”
Customers appreciate that, too. There’s a sense of comfort and security in hiring a family-run company that’s not going away anytime soon. Some of Lask’s customers had the same roof done by Lask 25 or 30 years ago.
“That makes you feel so good,” Toby says.
“We plan on being here forever,” Adam adds. “We don’t ever plan on leaving. We’re the second generation. We’re expecting a third, fourth, fifth generation. Who knows?”