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Keeping Your Balance: Westside Roofing

From The Roofer's Edge: West Side Roofing shares how you can navigate the peaks and valleys of the roofing business.
Keeping Your Balance: Westside Roofing

Early History

In the spring of 1931, when Cleveland Indian Wes Ferrell threw a 9-0 no hitter against the Saint Louis Browns, Cleveland West-sider Greg Murphy threw in with his brother Ed and opened West Side Roofing, slowly building the company up year by year.

Fast-forwarding to the late ‘50’s, and slate roofer Frank ‘Bud’ Spacek, a family man with three young sons, takes over the reins of WSR. Mostly through word of mouth, the company’s reputation and business grow along with the burgeoning suburbs of northeast Ohio. Even as Bud’s sons Jamie and Chris graduate college and take over as WSR president and vice-president, they still rely on their father’s steady hand to help steer the company.

The Unexpected

Ask any entrepreneur, and they will tell you that the greatest test to your leadership is not in the good times, but the hard ones, when adversity—which can arrive in many different forms—strikes your business unexpectedly and forces you into action. So it was with WSR, when Bud’s sudden death rocked the company, leaving his sons to continue on without his steady hand and decades-long involvement in the community. Jamie’s son Jessie, WSR project manager and now third-generation Spacek in the business, was witness to the abrupt changing of the guard.“I had a first-hand seat to see how my dad persevered and ‘rolled with the punches’ during that tough time,” Jamie says. “Bud’s knowledge and presence at West Side could never be replaced, but it forced us to fill his role, which we saw we could eventually do. It certainly stretched us. Jamie’s willingness to forge ahead and continue to lead and grow our family business is something I will never forget. I hope to be able to do the same thing one day.” 

Building the Business

Under the sons’ tenure, West Side has branched out to other aspects of homebuilding, such as siding and skylight installations, though roofing remains their main focus. “While the backbone of our company is shingle work, we also maintain a strong commercial presence,” says Chris. “We like to keep it about a 50-50 mix. Our highly skilled team of experts has over 150 combined years of experience in both the residential and commercial roofing industry.” From the start, West Side Roofing has had the experience to handle any type of roofing job that came its way. With Bud’s background in slate and tile roofing all those years ago, the company has maintained its ability to tackle these jobs. “While the industry has changed a lot since my grandfather’s time, and nearly all roofs now are asphalt, we still get slate and tile jobs, though most of them are repairs,” says Jesse Spacek, Jamie’s son and company project manager. “But there are a fair number of high-end homes being built in the area with slate roofs, and we do a good share of them each year. A brand-new slate roof with its all-copper flashing is a beautiful way to finish off a house. And of course the slate lasts forever.”

West Side admittedly does very little advertising, relying on word-of-mouth and their reputation for many of their jobs. But word-of-mouth does not apply solely to residential jobs. Over the years and up to the present time, West Side has done more than their share of church jobs. While many aspects of a church roof is pretty much standard—many churches have flat-roofed education wings—other parts of the job can prove a challenge. “Being thirty, forty feet up on a steep-pitched church roof doing slate repairs can be quite an exhilarating experience”, says Jesse. “But if we have to go get a crane or anything else to finish the job, we will.”

And West Side Roofing is pleased to have Willoughby Supply as their partner in the business. “Willoughby has been an integral part of our success throughout the years. From product knowledgeable to superior customer service, Willoughby Supply has given us the tools to keep our business moving in the right direction,” says Jesse. “Their customer service and family-based values have always been something that we have admired since our partnership began many years ago. They fuel us to be the best we can be and we’ve always appreciated their ‘go-get’ mentality. Willoughby is a first-class company and we’re honored to be able to work with them on a daily basis.”

Overcoming (your own) Mistakes

Sometimes, the obstacles you have to overcome are those you create yourself. Not getting a job right for a roofer means a guaranteed upset phone call when the next rain falls. A mistake?–sure, no one gets it perfect 100% of the time. But what you do next reflects the measure or the lack of your integrity.

So it is with WSR. On one memorable occasion, Jesse was on the receiving end of such a conversation. “One job in particular I diagnosed and we made the repair —– the next storm to pass by I received and call from the homeowner screaming at me that he still had the leak! My heart sank, you take it personal and feel horrible. Long story short, we made an additional repair (a bigger / more thorough repair) and the leak stopped.”

Occasions like this—though you hate to see them happen at all—can actually end up helping you if you can unearth a take-away. Or, as Jesse says, “Looking back, it was a true learning experience. I thank my dad for not overreacting to the lost money in repairing it a second time, and I thank the homeowner for letting us come back to make things right! At West Side we give our best, but we certainly aren’t perfect. As I’ve grown here at West Side other mistakes have come, but it is an unbelievable feeling knowing that Jamie and Chris have my back and are willing to always make things right. We take pride in that we’ve never walked away from a job.”


The Future

West Side’s dedication to a job well done and the excellent reputation their faith-based philosophy has provided them also positions them for continued growth. “God has blessed our family in so many ways”, says Jesse. “Though sometimes we think Bud left us too soon, we know that God has a plan for every one of us. We would all agree that Bud would be shocked to see how the roofing industry has changed over the years, but we know he would be honored to see that the third generation has joined the family business. Just seeing his family keeping the West Side name alive would definitely bring a smile to his face!”

West Side Roofing is keeping up the quality. Project Manager Jesse is involved in every aspect of the job, and is committed to continuing the family’s dedication to their work. “We believe quality and service starts from the top down,” says Jesse. “From our office to our laborers, each employee knows the importance of quality. People in Northeast Ohio have grown to know the West Side name, and we do our best each day to keep that name in line with great customer service and quality workmanship.”

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