Columbia Roofing looks to reach new heights
Columbia Roofing & Sheet Metal owner Mark Carpenter began an effort six years ago to
connect the dots between the company’s performance and how well employees adhere to core
values. The results, reached after surveying employees, show that “it’s certainly improved our
bottom line,” he said.
Aug 21, 2014, 12:35pm PDT
Jennifer Meacham, Contributing writer
(Editor’s note: This story was first published in the Portland Business
Journal’s July 25, 2014 edition)
Most companies measure progress based on two metrics: sales and
But by taking a deep dive on a typically unmeasurable metric — cultural
values — a Tualatin roofing company discovered a formula for improving
operations from the rooftop to the bottom line.
Columbia Roofing & Sheet Metal’s revenue has grown more than 50
percent in the past two years to more than $9 million. Owner Mark Carpenter believes a big part of that success comes from a
more than six-year effort to link core values to performance. To do that, the
company began conducting surveys of its 60-plus employees to measure
how they related to the company’s core values of integrity, relationships,
respect, results and safety.
The 60-item Denison Organizational Culture Survey was created by Daniel
Denison of the International Institute for Management Development. It
highlights what Denison considers to be the four essential traits of all
organizations: adaptability, mission, consistency and involvement.
“It’s a questionnaire you fill out: do you agree, disagree, strongly disagree,
neutral,” said Bob Bruce, Columbia Roofing & Sheet Metal’s production
manager. The questions, he said, related to the company’s core values:
“Are we working with integrity, that sort of thing.”
This wasn’t merely an exercise to improve the company’s work
The quality of that environment, Denison wrote in an article for Psychology
Press, “is an important driver of customer satisfaction.” It also plays a key
role, he wrote, in higher profit margins, greater employee satisfaction,
customer retention and repeat purchases.
The company hired Portland-based organizational consultant Leb
Tannenbaum, to administer the survey.
“When you have a level of integrity and honesty built into the culture, they
say they’re going to start on a Monday morning and they actually show up
on a Monday morning,” Tannenbaum said. “All of that leads to financial
results. It also leads to referrals.”Conducting the survey immediately showed areas for improvement.
“We found there were areas where we weren’t clear and we weren’t
aligned,” Tannenbaum said.
Using the results
Results of the survey are shared in a company-wide debrief.
“It’s about who we are together, there’s nothing to hide,” Tannenbaum
said. “So when we saw some room for improvement, between the way
that the field and office were linked to each other (for example), we follow
Two and half years later, Columbia Roofing’s scores were up in all four of
the survey’s measurement areas — including integrity and customer
“We can definitely know what changed,” said Carpenter, a PSU marketing
major and roofer who founded Columbia Roofing in 1996. “It’s certainly
improved our bottom line.”
Revenue grew year after year, along with the workforce. Quality and safety
metrics also improved and the company “attracted and retained top
talent,” Tannenbaum said. “Customer satisfaction and service scores also
In an industry where nearly 15 percent of construction workers are
represented by unions, Columbia Roofing manages to thrive without
workers requiring union protection.“The place is non-union, all open shop,” Carpenter said. “If you’ve got the
home-front covered, people work a little better. It’s part of our culture.”
That plays out well for workers like Bob Bruce.
“It’s opened up my eyes on how field personnel perceive how things are
done,” said Bruce, now in his 16th year with the company. “When I started
we were a small family company, and we’ve grown quite a bit. It’s a good
A CLOSER LOOK AT COLUMBIA ROOFING
Company: Columbia Roofing & Sheet Metal
Business: Commercial roofing contractor
President: Mark Carpenter
Revenue (2013): $9.2 million