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T&K Roofing building in 1969

On April 1st, 1962 Tom and Karen Tjelmeland founded T&K Roofing Company with a simple plan: to do primarily building construction and some roofing work. Running the company from their Ely, Iowa home, they converted a small building in the backyard into a warehouse. It was a booming time, as the expanding economy was fueling an aggressive construction industry which in turn created the demand for more roofing contractors.

By 1965 the demand for quality roofing had increased so much that Tom and Karen expanded their roofing operations and phased out the building construction business. This allowed the company to concentrate on the quality workmanship and professional service the Tjelmeland's believed so strongly in. Four years later in 1969, T&K Roofing Company became incorporated.

The workmanship and service that Tom and Karen were building their business on was paramount to the continued success of T&K Roofing, even during the turbulent changes over the next decade. The shortage of petroleum products created changes in available materials and required T&K to readjust pricing strategy. An intense move towards organized labor, coupled with a barrage of new government regulations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) complicated things further for roofing contractors in the 1970s. However, T&K continued to look toward the future, building and expanding new offices and warehouses and installing the company's first in-house computer system.

The 1980's brought further cycles of inflation and recession, but it was also the beginnings of a new age in roofing technology. The events of the 1970's, as well as the discovery of the danger of asbestos found in many roofing materials, forced the industry to find new ways to provide safer and stronger products. Through the 70s and 80s, a period which witnessed the demise of numerous roofing contractors, T&K was able to survive and grow thanks to a focused strategy and dedicated employees.

Company vanThe impact of this strategy was most evident in the mid 80s. The need to create a stronger presence in the market was identified. When customer calls virtually stopped, T&K increased their advertising in an effort to better sell themselves. A billboard advertising program was tested and the calls for business began to steadily increase. The move towards advertising was successful enough that in 1985 a marketing and sales department was created at T&K. This was the beginning of a dramatic change in T&K, which continues to this day. The marketing effort during the second half of the 80s prompted record growth in sales, employees, facilities expansion and broadened geographical coverage. This eventually lead to many future awards including being named Roofing/Siding/Insulation Magazine's National Contractor of the Year both in 1988 (under $2 million in sales) and in 1989 ($2-5 million in sales).

EmployeeAs T&K entered the 1990's it did so with some aggressive goals in mind. The new focus was on becoming a completely customer driven organization with a eye on marketing. As a result the company grew from a small to mid-sized roofing company to a mid- to large-sized roofing and sheet metal company (in 1995, T&K created a Sheet Metal Division).

T&K expanded its geographical market now serving all of Iowa and western Illinois, with fully operational locations in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and the Quad Cities (Bettendorf & Davenport, Iowa and Moline & Rock Island, Illinois).

It broadened the number of roofing systems it applied specializing in all roofing systems and sheet metal.

Breakdown of Systems:

    35% Modified Bitumen-APP
    20% Built Up Roofing
    20% Single Ply Systems
    14% Sheet metal (includes specialty projects and metal roofing)
    8% Modified Bitumen -SBS
    3% Service/Maintenance

T&K expanded its customer base to include small, medium and large customers including:

  • Residential low sloped
  • Commercial and industrial accounts
  • Institutional accounts
  • Consulting and Architect firms in all aspects of project design

Subcontracting was reduced, now limited to plumbing, HVAC and various related services, amounting to less than 3% of total volume.

Industry and community involvement at T&K was at an all time high, and continues to grow with several employees of T&K Roofing, not just management.

T&K continues to provide opportunities for employees to grow and enhance careers including 20 year roofing foreman promoted to Safety and Production Coordinator and Foreman/Serviceman promoted to Project Manager.

Transition has been made from a family-operated business to a larger non-family operated business, yet family business principles and culture remain intact.

Project Manager approach implemented in 1992 promotes higher degree of quality workmanship and customer care. There are currently seven Project Managers on staff.

While "bidding' has increased, negotiation has increased as well. Every attempt is made to turn a "bid" customer, including general contractors, into a negotiated customer handled by a project manager.

Employee group photoCurrent work force over 100; nearly half of all T&K employees have been with the company for at least five years.

Safety record has continued to improve with only one lost time accident each year the last two years. The number of minor incidents has also decreased.

Concern for proper and timely disposal or recycling of re-roofing and project debris, T&K purchases a waste and recycling vehicle and begins a waste and recycling program in 1998. This action proves beneficial for both T&K and its customers. Projects now continue without shut down (waiting for dumpsters to be emptied) improving productivity by 20-30% allowing T&K to be more competitive and pass the savings onto its customers.

Along the way T&K celebrated its 35th anniversary and received several national recognition's including the Inc. 500 list of America's Fastest Growing Companies in 1990, the Small Business Administration's coveted Blue Chip Enterprise Award in 1991, and most recently Roofing/Siding/Insulation Magazine's 2000 National Roofing Contractor of the Year Award (over $6 million in sales), making T&K the only three time winner of this distinguished honor.


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