The Bright Side of Business bimonthly column is presented by Star Motors.
Who is the unsung hero of the construction world? If you ask the leaders of DWS Roofing & Waterproofing, they’ll tell you it's roofing – but they’re on a mission to change its understated profile.
Having celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, DWS is a family-run business providing commercial roofing, as well as flat-roof and waterproofing services for industrial, institutional and multi-residential buildings. Its handiwork can be seen on buildings housing Canopy Growth, Ciena in Kanata as well as the Ottawa Paramedic Service headquarters, among others.
President and founder Doug Stalker launched DWS in 2000. First breaking into construction in the 1970s, Stalker always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. After selling his share of his first roofing business – his partners didn’t have the same vision as him, Stalker explains – he was ready to move onto the next venture.
A challenging start
Stalker got DWS off the ground using his personal savings, a loan from his parents and plenty of elbow grease.
“It was pretty tough at the beginning, keeping up with payroll, paying suppliers on time,” he says. Some weeks, payroll was a day late, “but we got through those hard knocks.”
Despite being headquartered in a spare bedroom – and later, a converted garage – the company grew quickly, seeing a 10 to 15 per cent increase in sales annually. By 2012, Stalker was able to create an addition to his home, with enough space for five employees.
“It was very cosy,” he jokes.
By 2016, DWS was large enough to occupy a 5,000-square-foot office and a three-acre lot in Gloucester. Two years later, a 2,800 square-foot addition was built.
At the start of DWS, Stalker roped his wife and sister into the business, who supported him with administration. In 2009, Stalker’s son, Cody, joined the team. Today, he’s the vice-president of field operations.
“Seeing pops work so hard, we would be constantly around it,” Cody Stalker says. By 2014, his brother Carson came on board, too, later going on to become vice-president of estimating and project management.
In 2016, DWS had 35 staff. Today, that number has jumped to 100 employees, completing around 150 projects annually – or about three million square feet of roofing per year.
One major client was Amazon, hiring DWS to complete 23 acres of roofing in 50 days for its Boundary Road location.
“The timeline that we had to do it in was extremely tough,” says Carson Stalker, adding that the team had to weather an early snowfall – making it a project that they’re particularly proud of.
Doug Stalker says that, had someone asked him to take on these kinds of major projects before his sons worked with him, he would have said no.
“Now these guys here, they take the challenge on, and they're taking this company to the next level,” he says.
Even though construction was deemed an essential service throughout the pandemic, largely allowing work to proceed, DWS still took a hit as many clients pressed pause on their large projects. To stay afloat, the company pivoted to re-roofing essential businesses, such as supply chain warehouses, grocery stores and condominiums.
“Anything we knew that would keep going through this pandemic is where we really had to focus,” says Carson Stalker.
Since 2018, Doug Stalker has slowly been preparing for retirement, passing more and more responsibilities onto his two sons. Their vision for DWS?
“Solidifying our spot as being one of the best and most reliable roofers in the region,” Cody Stalker says.
The Bright Side of Business is an editorial feature focused on sharing positive stories of business success.
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