Bone Roofing Supply was founded in 1971 by Clay Bone when he decided to finally follow his entrepreneurial dream of owning his own roofing supply business. He immediately recruited his twin sons, Jack and Jim, who both left college in the first week of their sophomore year to join the business. Together the trio launched what has become a successful business for more than 40 years (and counting!).
Although the timing may be a bit startling, it was really no surprise that the twins would join with their father in business since when they were just nine-years-old they started a business delivering newspapers. That entrepreneurial spirit was alive in all three of them and when Bone Roofing first started, Jack and Jim drove the trucks while Clay made the sales.
Right off the bat, Jack gravitated toward the mechanical side and Jim was more inclined to sales which made them a great team. As the brothers began to transition into leadership roles, their parents allowed them to make their own decisions (and mistakes) because, as their mother Hope pointed out, it was their business too. These decisions included purchasing a $30K truck with a crane. Even though Clay thought this would be a mistake, it ended up being one of their best purchases as it greatly reduced injuries from physical labor.
When Jim and Jack took over the business after their parents passed away, there were some surprises in the succession plan that presented a great deal of challenges for the brothers as they took full reins of the company. This difficult period would influence the way they decided to transition their business in the future.
As Jack points out, the roofing industry (like any industry) is a tough business with days beginning at 3:00 am. On this schedule, it is challenging to maintain a healthy balance between work and family. Jack and Jim quickly knew they had both made a huge sacrifice with their families in order to run Bone Roofing, and this was carefully taken into consideration as talks of bringing in the third generation began.
The very first discussion of the third generation began in the mid-1990s when Jack’s daughter, Jackie, and Jim’s two sons, Dennis and Jason, were still young. It had always been presented to them as an opportunity and not an expectation to work for Bone Roofing. However, if they wanted to enter the business there was a strict policy set in place. Each had to finish college followed by two years at another company outside of the roofing industry, including a promotion within that company. Only then could a third-generation member work for Bone Roofing, and only if there was availability.
Initially, none of the children had any interest in working for their parents. But right about the same time that Jim and Jack were looking for young energy to liven up Bone Roofing, Jason and Dennis realized that it was important to them to keep the family name in the company. They wanted to be part of upholding a family business that had been successful for more than 30 years.
How has the third generation taken on leadership roles within Bone Roofing? What is the relationship between the second and third generation? And, what does the future look like for this 44-year-old family business?
In 2008, Dennis became the first member of the third generation to enter Bone Roofing Supply. Because he worked at Bone Roofing in the summers as a teen, he was already familiar with the products and systems in the warehouse. However, he needed thorough training in the office in order to understand the inner-workings of the business. After getting a feel for all sides of the company, Dennis gravitated toward sales and vendor relations which he is still involved with today.
Just one year later, Jason joined his brother, father and uncle at Bone Roofing in 2009. Like Dennis, he had worked in the warehouse for several summers but he too had to get acquainted with the office operations. He began working primarily on quoting and he eventually took over the banking side of the company, where his strengths were apparent.
By 2013, Jackie was the final member of the third generation to enter the company. Initially, she struggled with where she fit in the business and ended up creating a role for herself. Jackie has taken over HR, interviewing, internal operations and implementing a company culture. This position was the first of its kind at Bone Roofing, and a much needed role.
Dennis, Jason, and Jackie each bring their own strengths and backgrounds to Bone Roofing which is helping them guide the future for the company. With Dennis’ background in accounting, Jackie’s background in law, and Jason’s background in banking, they all bring important education and support to the business. Since they all come from corporate backgrounds, they see eye-to-eye on many issues and have the same vision for the future. Even so, they do sometimes struggle to implement their changes with their parents as Jack and Jim remain advisors yet slowly transition out of the business. Like Clay and Hope guided them, Jack and Jim know it is important for them to let the third generation make their own decisions – and even their own mistakes.
The third generation is currently focused heavily on implementing an organizational structure the company has never had before. They are shifting from working in the business to working on the business and improving the day-to-day operations. It is important for them to empower the employees to be leaders and play an active role in the company. They also have taken on the responsibility of a larger 88,000 square foot facility which was opened in 2014 – a responsibility that they all take pride in.
They are also finding it to be challenging to change the internal culture. With two different generations and two different management styles, it can be difficult to make decisions as a cohesive group of five. But they work hard to make this a priority. Both generations know they don’t have all the answers as they navigate the transition, and they have relied on several outside resources for support. The Chicago Family Business Council and Forum experience have also helped the family with listening skills and changed the way they talk and interact.
It is crystal clear that no matter the generational and leadership differences, the Bone family still places the top value on family. When asked years ago if their family was deteriorating, would they save the family or business, they unanimously chose the family. This was a true sign to the Bones that it is most important to all of them that the family has no hostility and maintains strong relationships and a teamwork attitude. There is open communication among all and they meet frequently to discuss the estate and succession plan of the future.
When asked about the possibility of passing Bone Roofing Supply to the fourth generation, they say that it is still too early to tell. The Bone family is primarily focused on the next ten years and the opportunity to expand and diversify the business. At this time, the third generation just feels fortunate to be in the business and work with family that they admire, trust and consider true friends. As for the second generation, they are completely optimistic for the future of Bone Roofing and proud of what the third generation has already accomplished.