A FAMILY AFFAIR
Innovation has kept Barr’s Roofing in the family for three generations
Some people would balk at the idea of being in business with family, but for the Barr family of Newcastle, Ontario, it works.
In 1987, founder David Barr was working with a Toronto company when it was awarded a contract with Skydome. Because of the long commute from Blackstock, Ontario, where David lived, Barr and his wife, Nancy, teamed up with their son, Corey, and his longtime friend, Greg Stapleton — both boys had worked in construction — and Barr’s Roofing, Siding and Sheet Metal was born. In fact, for the past 28 years, two generations (and soon to be three) of Barrs have owned and operated Barr’s Roofing, Siding and Sheet Metal Ltd. (barrsroofing.com).
Today, the business — which is managed by Corey and his wife, Krista — has up to 15 employees — including Corey and Krista’s son, Brolan, 23, a recent graduate of the sheet metal apprenticeship program at George Brown College. “My husband’s chair is within three feet of mine,” says Krista, whose own family ran a jewellery business. “This is what we do 24/7. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Barr’s works with single-ply flat and sloped roofs — shingles, metal, cedar, slate, copper, zinc — and exterior cladding systems in metal, vinyl and aluminum, as well as made-tomeasure seamless eavestrough gutter systems. Its speciality products include skylights and replacement doors and windows, though its forte is custom sheet-metal fabrication. Barr’s is one of only a handful of companies with its own Z-Panel Standing Seam Roll Form Machine, which lets workers produce metal roofing onsite, saving on manufacturing costs and cutting down on material waste and the time it takes to finish a job.
“Some days you can tear your hair out,” says Krista Barr. “You have your ups and downs and changes in terms of how the business runs, education around new products, safety legislation, new equipment & machinery, and always a mountain of paperwork. But I love it.”
Barr and her family have had plenty of support from their CIBC business advisor, in Newcastle. On CIBC’s advice, Barr’s recently adopted Payfirma — one of CIBC’s partners for payment processing for businesses (see box) — jumping in “with both feet with the new technology,” says Krista Barr. “Monthly NSF cheques had become part of our business reality. And trying to chase down funds and going through collections is not efficient. It costs us all.” At the end of this summer, 90 per cent of Barr’s invoices were being paid by credit card, reducing operational costs and increasing the company’s cash flow.