Growing Up Roofing: General Roofing Co.

Wakerling swears he had a choice when choosing his profession: no
matter that his grandfather, Jacob, started General Roofing Co. in
Northern California in 1924, only to be succeeded by his son, Howard —
Mike’s father — in the mid-1960s. 

Mike planned to go to college
and got on the rooftop the summer after high school to make some extra
tuition money. That was 30 years ago, and he still hasn’t gotten off
rooftops for a living. 

“I worked over that summer … and just
never went to college,” Wakerling explained with a smirk. “I just
enjoyed it so much that I stuck with roofing. There was never any
pressure, but I think Dad was kind of relieved when I did.” 

Roofing is a mainstay in the Oakland area, installing and repairing
residential, commercial and industrial roofs throughout the Greater East
Bay for nearly a century. He established it with three core principles:
craftsmanship, integrity and reliability, which remain the mission four
generations later. 

Having someone his father could trust and
lean on in the business positively impacted the company — and their
relationship. Yet, Wakerling still paid his dues, working closely with
his father and veteran crews for roughly a dozen years before taking
over the company in 1987. Still, that didn’t mean he was exactly ready
for the challenge. 

“It was kind of scary because I worked on the
roof; I didn’t really know the business end of things, which was really
eye-opening,” he said. 

The installation crews with General Roofing

The installation crews with General Roofing have become a mainstay in the Oakland area by adhering to three core principles established by company founder Jacob Waklerling: craftmanship, integrity and reliability.

Getting ‘Unstuck’

business was growing, but after about five years at the helm, and with
his father semi-retired, Wakerling distinctly remembered feeling lost.
Not as a contractor — the self-proclaimed “roofing nerd” knew the
roofing systems crews installed and was a quick study on new materials
entering the marketplace. But when it came to entrepreneurship and
running a sustainable enterprise, he needed help. 

He wasn’t
afraid to seek it out and ask key questions from the right people. He
started regularly working with Monroe Porter’s PROSULT Roofing
Networking groups, and the transformation from roof installer to roofing
businessman was underway. Slowly. 

Wakerling and his team had to
dive into their operating numbers to develop profit/loss statements,
accurate balance sheets, and long- and short-term projections. They also
revamped the company’s safety program, implementing quarterly training
and reviews. Paying attention to the details was laborious, but it
ultimately paid off. 

“Before, I just didn’t understand it — all
the business stuff that came with the job,” Wakerling said. “Then it all
clicked, and it made sense and became much easier.” 

He may make
it sound easy, but Porter said the inquisitive roofer’s commitment to
the process and desire to constantly make progress made Wakerling one of
their group’s top success stories. 

“He was the perfect
candidate: smart, curious, technically proficient, and hardworking,”
recalled Porter, who recently retired. “He just needed to learn and gain
confidence in his business skills.”

Not a prototypical closer in
sales, or slick talker, Wakerling developed into one of the program’s
best salespeople because of his listening skills and knack for
problem-solving, Porter said. 


Retired business consultant and RC columnist Monroe Porter
helped Mike Wakerling work on his roofing business for more than two
decades as part of the PROSULT Roofing Networking groups. He said if
other roofing contractors want to succeed and be like Mike, the formula
is simple:

• Put your ego aside and seek guidance.
• Listen and gather facts.
• Be willing to make informed and tough decisions.
• Gain joy from helping others

Find out more at

Monroe Porter

He wants to listen, get the facts straight and then solve the
problem,” Porter continued. “His unique listening ability and
problem-solving skills … make him a great leader.”

Wakerling said
he also benefitted from the relationships made through the program over
the years, noting he has great friends to call anytime with any
question, business or personal. 

He found similar comradery and a
host of other roofing experts by becoming an active member of the
Western States Roofing Contractors Association (WSRCA) early in his
career. Wakerling will cap two terms on the WSRCA executive board when
officially named association president in Las Vegas at the Western
Roofing Expo, Sept. 23-25, 2023. 

Over the next year, he said he
plans to help members improve their businesses just as he did, through
education and further technical study of roofing systems. That includes
taking education seminars offered at the expo on the road to cities
throughout the West. 

“We felt there was quite a need for that
because people know how to put on roofs, but a lot of people don’t know
the ins and outs of the business part,” Wakerling explained. “If we can
educate them to be better businesspeople, or put a safety program in
place to protect everybody. That’s what this is going to be about.”

said he has no doubt Wakerling will be a great leader for the
association, not just for what he knows, but what he’s not afraid to

“He is not an egotist and is willing to seek counsel,” Porter
said. “We’ve had lengthy conversations regarding employees, business
strategy, life and other topics. His style is to listen, seek out the
facts and make an informed decision. He quickly emerged as a leader in
his peer group.”

solar reflective shingles

Since 1924, General Roofing Co. has installed and repaired various roof types in California, including solar reflective shingles, slate, shake, tile, and metal shingles as well as commercial systems like PVC, TPO and standing seam metal.

Future Forward

The company plans to officially celebrate its centennial with employees and the community next year.

going to have a big celebration and customer appreciation event,”
Wakerling said. “I didn’t realize what kind of accomplishment it was
until you start asking around and don’t see many businesses of any kind
get through a third generation and into a fourth. I’m pretty proud of

Despite its history, Wakerling takes great pride in the
company’s hard-earned reputation and knack for being forward-thinking.
He describes the company as an early adopter of equipment and technology
that deliver efficiencies and always looking for the next product or
innovation that could improve operations to enhance the customer

Transitioning to WSRCA president means Wakerling will
relent some duties at his company to the family’s fourth generation of
roofers — specifically, his son Shane. He formally joined the company in
2007 after graduating with a business degree from California
Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

“He brought in a
lot of new ideas that we accepted — kicking and screaming because they
were kind of foreign to us, but they worked out well,” the elder
Wakerling said. 

Over the past year, Wakerling said he purposely
stepped back a bit while Shane got comfortable running the company’s
day-to-day operations as general manager. He officially took over as
president in July. 

To help soften the learning curve, Wakerling
passed on his spot in the still-active PROSULT Roofing Networking groups
to Shane earlier this year. 

It also feels like a full circle for
the younger Wakerling. While other family members worked summers at the
company, it was never assumed that any would join or eventually take
over the family business. 

“Every roof day is different every day. No matter if it’s the same house or same neighborhood, every day there’s always something different happening. And you always have to be thinking. That’s what’s attracted me and kept me in it.”
— Mike Wakerling

Shane vividly recalls going to job sites with his father as a child and
being in awe of how grateful people were for his dad’s help. Fixing
customers’ problems on rooftops and watching his father become a leader,
not just within his company but in the industry, illuminated the
purpose Shane sought. 

He said he also feels distinct gratitude for learning to solve problems beyond just roofing courtesy of his lineage. 

or my grandpa Howard would teach my siblings, cousins, and [me] how to
do certain things or explain why they failed and how to fix them,” Shane
said. “It was an easy everyday lesson, which has helped develop our
curiosity and ability to try and fix things on our own.”  

With the company’s centennial afoot, that sense of gratitude spills over to the customers that have supported them for so long. 

don’t think my great-grandfather ever dreamed the company would be
here, let alone still in the Wakerling family, 100 years after he
started it. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment and means the world,”
he said.

Both said they’re humbled to continue the legacy and
usher in another 100 years. It’s the same spirit that kept generations
of Wakerlings going before. 

“Every roof day is different — every
day,” Mike Wakerling said. “No matter if it’s the same house or same
neighborhood, every day there’s always something different happening,
and you always have to be thinking; that’s what’s attracted me and kept
me in it.” 

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