Best in Business I Winner
Roofing company takes high road to success
Premium content from Pacific Business News – by Curtis Lum
Date: Friday, October 22, 2010, 12:00am HST
Guy Akasaki isn’t your typical pitch-and-gravel roofer.
When he formed Commercial Roofing & Waterproofing Hawaii Inc. in March 1993, he often drove to prospective clients on a motorcycle, with a ladder strapped to its side, to pitch his fledging company. He turned down lucrative jobs, even
though his company was struggling, because they went against a commitment that he made to himself when he first started.
And he would constantly ask questions such as, “What is the black stuff that you put on the roof?”
Some of those questions and business decisions may have raised eyebrows, but Akasaki said they were all part of a growing and learning process that would make him and his company one of the most successful in the state. Commercial Roofing & Waterproofing has offices in Guam and the Philippines, and Akasaki also is part- owner of six other companies.
His inquisitiveness led him into other fields, including the installation of photovoltaic systems. He said he offers customers a complete package of services because he combines his knowledge of roofing and alternative energy with tax credits and subsidies.
Commercial Roofing & Waterproofing was able to make an 8 percent profit during the past two years, despite the downturn in the economy.
For its ability to grow in times of trouble, Commercial Roofing & Waterproofing Hawaii is PBN’s 2010 Business Leadership Hawaii Best in Business I award winner.
It hasn’t always been a smooth ride for Akasaki. Before forming his company, he was president and chief operating officer of Hawaii Roofing until a “difference in intended direction” caused him to leave the firm.
He said he did a lot of “soul searching” while he considered his options, which included getting into the fast-food business. But he returned to what he knew best and formed Commercial Roofing.
Hawaii was in the midst of a nasty recession then, and work was hard to find. It didn’t help that Akasaki made a pact with himself that he would not solicit work from clients of Hawaii Roofing for one year “in order to be fair.”
“It was difficult to get jobs,” he said. “In many instances, I would actually see them take my flier and, as I’m walking out, put them into ‘file 13′ — into the trash can. For that whole year, it was actually like that. It was really, really tough.”
It wasn’t that Akasaki didn’t have job offers. He said he turned down a $1.3 million contract offer from a company that he had worked with while at Hawaii Roofing, and he also rejected an offer to help finance his company because he didn’t like the source of the funds.
But he said he had to stay true to the vow he made to himself when he formed the company.
“It’s one thing to make a statement, it’s another thing to actually live it,” Akasaki said. “I could have gone ahead and reneged. Who would have known? Nobody would have known except me. But I had to stick by those values, even during tough times.”
Akasaki continued to beat on doors in search of new accounts, and his hard work began to pay off in the last quarter of 1993. He said he picked up a “hodgepodge” of jobs, and by the end of the year his company had broken even.
The work began to trickle in at a faster pace and Commercial Roofing ended its second year 35 percent ahead of 1993. Year three saw an opportunity to work with the military in the Philippines, and Akasaki set up operations there.
From then, constant growth led him to form another roofing company and a general contracting firm. He then began to do research on renewable and clean energy and moved in that direction.
Akasaki’s company designs and installs solar-energy systems on commercial, government and residential buildings. He said these systems benefit the building’s owner, as well as the environment.
“In any commercial real estate or house, what is the one floor that generates no income for you?” he asked. “That’s the roof. If you can take a floor that generated no income and sell the energy from that to the tenant or reduce your operating cost, what does that do to the value of your assets? It raises your asset valuation.”
Shelley Morisaki, principal broker and property manager for Gentry Properties, said Gentry has worked with Akasaki for eight years. She said Commercial Roofing has installed several types of roofing systems on Gentry properties, including the Gentry Waipio Business Park.
“They have also completed work on our historic Gentry Pacific Design Center, where forensic research was crucial before undertaking any steps,” Morisaki said. “Not only did they do an excellent job on the repair, but their recommendations and ability to bring high technology and installation of modern roofing materials into a fragile Honolulu structure blended seamlessly into our treasured property.”
Commercial Roofing also re-did the roof of the J. Walter Cameron Center on Maui and helped with the installation of a photovoltaic system. Both projects are helping to save on electricity costs at the center, which houses 20 nonprofit organizations, said Cesar Gaxiola, the center’s executive director.
Gaxiola said the project was put on hold for several years because the bids were too high. But he said Akasaki’s bid came with a discount and the center proceeded with the work.
“That has been great for us, and the fact that we save every month, it’s a good thing,” he said.
Although Commercial Roofing is doing well, Akasaki said he’s always planning his next step. During a good economy, he said he prepares for a downturn, and he does the opposite when times are bad.
Four years ago, he began doing business in Guam, despite a poor economy there. He set up a company, bought 15 acres of industrial land and a 60,000-square-foot warehouse, and acquired a 50-unit apartment building, all in anticipation of the U.S. military’s relocation of thousands of Marines from Okinawa to Guam.
Roofing, waterproofing, maintenance, photovoltaic installation
President & CEO: Guy Akasaki
Address: 2002 Kahai St. Honolulu, HI 96819
Phone: (808) 841-7246
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