West Edmonton Mall’s Phase 1, Phase 2, and the World Water Park. The Winspear Centre. The Butterdome. The Cross Cancer Institute. What do these and countless other schools, hospitals, shopping malls and industrial buildings in Edmonton and across Alberta have in common? An excellent roof system that has been installed, repaired or re-roofed by Christensen & McLean Roofing Co. Ltd.
“My dad was one of the owners,” says Chris Ellingson, director, of how he came to co-helm the company that was launched in 1958. “My father bought out John Christensen in the early 70s. I had been working here during the summers. I graduated from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) as a building construction engineering technologist in 1984, but the economy wasn’t very good and I couldn’t find a job in my chosen field. I came back to work here and later was invited to take a position in the office.”
Phil Roy, also a company director, joined in 1976. “I came here from Winnipeg after taking one year of business administration. With no financial support for further college education, I started looking for a job. My younger brother was working in Edmonton and he liked the area, so I came out here. First, I worked at Eaton’s but one day my brother said someone didn’t show up to work at Christensen & McLean, so I went to help out. That day turned into a year in the field, and then I obtained a position in the office.”
From young men looking for good jobs to being co-directors of a thriving company, both are quick to agree on one thing: time flies. Christensen & McLean Roofing Co. Ltd. turns 60 this year.
Six decades ago, the company was the dream of two entrepreneurs. Today, the roofing company provides 24/7 leak response, new roofing, re-roofing, maintenance, repair, waterproofing, roof asset management and consulting. Open, ready and willing to respond to roofing emergencies any day of the year, including Christmas and during the Grey Cup, the company has swelled to 146 in the field and 14 in the office, a huge leap from the 40 in the field and six in the office on the day Roy signed on.
“We’ve provided a home for a lot of guys’ entire careers here. That is something we are both proud of,” says Ellingson. “Some of the guys have been here for over 20 years, others, for 40.”
Ellingson nods, “We feel that we have the cream of the crop. We attract top talent, and the good ones stay. There is a lot of loyalty and dedication.”
The directors cite both the team and the company’s longstanding reputation as key factors that distinguish them among the competition. Another reason? The company’s absolutely outstanding safety record.
“[Safety] is one of the things that we focused on right from the start,” says Roy. “We were one of the first, for our size and longevity in the industry, to hire a full-time safety officer.”
While one can drive around Edmonton and see examples of Christensen & McLean Roofing’s exceptional work, you may find yourself under the protection of their signature strong and durable roofing when you travel abroad. After all, who says roofing can’t also be adventurous?
“We did a hospital [roofing] job in Siberia, Russia,” confirms Ellingson. “We’ve also tendered work in Brazil, Mexico, and the Bahamas, and we have completed projects for the United States Department of Defense.”
“We’ve worked all over the arctic, from coast to coast,” Roy says with excitement. “From Pangnirtung to Tuktoyaktuk and from Whitehorse to Alert (north of the North Pole!)” He remembers the adventure of being in a plane with a bush pilot who had to take three swipes to try and find a fog-shrouded runway in the frosty north.
No matter how far they roam, however, Ellingson and Roy ensure that each and every project receives the Christensen & McLean Roofing touch that they have become known for. It doesn’t matter if that project is right here in Edmonton, under the sun in the Caribbean, chilling up north or anywhere in between. The company brings quality, expertise and experience to every job, every time.
Roy points out, “When you’ve been here for 60 years, there is a reason. We’ve seen a lot of roofing companies come and go. The fact is, you can be a long-term roofer, but that’s different from running a company.” He goes on to note that Christensen & McLean provides expertise both in the field and in the office. A well-run company with happy employees and sound business practices is what makes each project a success.
“We care,” stresses Ellingson. “We care about the whole package: the employees, the client and the end result.” The care is seen in the six decades of being one of the most trusted and respected names in the industry – and that’s just the beginning of the company’s journey.
“You have to keep moving forward. You can’t stand still or you’ll be going backwards,” Ellingson says.
“We stay ahead of the curve in safety, equipment and best practices,” Roy adds.
They are not afraid to keep up with any technology or practice, even if it’s new and unfamiliar, as long as it helps the staff do their job better and adds value to the end result. Social media? Electronic time management? Digital safety management? It’s part of the process. The company started pre-computers, pre-fax machines, pre-emails, pre-direct deposit and pre-Internet, but every change was explored and embraced to keep the company progressive.
With a base of experience and knowledge, a core of ongoing training, a future that embraces new practices and technology and the fact that the company is among the founding members of the Alberta Roofing Contractors Association, setting the standard of roofing in Alberta, Roy and Ellingson know why their customers keep coming back, and why new ones are added every year. The Christensen & McLean name means trust; it’s a promise of quality and service that goes above and beyond the norm.
Christensen & McLean Roofing is also known outside of the construction industry for its wide range of community involvement. Second Chance Animal Rescue Society (SCARS), the Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree, causes their employees are passionate about, donations to local sports teams, supporting the next generation – the company, and everyone within it, loves to give back.
For the team, giving back means internally, too. When an employee had to take an extended leave of absence due to a non-work-related injury, the company passed the hat to collect donations, and the management team tripled the amount collected.
As 60 years draws to a close, Christensen & McLean Roofing, the present and past management and the teams in the office and the field, have a lot to be proud of. The company has effortlessly moved from decade to decade with finesse, its reputation increasing with each passing year. The management is grateful to the Edmonton Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO Edmonton), the Edmonton Construction Association, the team, vendors, clients, supporters and everyone that helped them reach this anniversary milestone.
“When we took over this company, we went, ‘wow,’ laughs Roy. “WCB? Liability insurance? What’s all this? Nobody came and said, ‘this is how you do it.’ We had to learn, and we are still learning.”
“But we’re not slowing down,” Ellingson concludes with a smile. “We are seeking growth in a down economy where only the strong survive.”
With 60 years come and gone, the strength and vitality of the company is not in question. As the directors are happy to note, “We’ve been successful so far. If we continue to do what we are doing, including recognizing when we need to make adjustments, we will continue to be successful, and we will always continue to care.”