Rockweiler Insulation, based in Madison, Wis., specializes in insulating/air sealing new and existing single-family homes. The company was founded 40 years ago by Gary Rockweiler. In 2012, Gary’s daughter Renee Wilson took over the helm as president.
“As a kid peering through the porch window, watching my dad move trucks of insulation on evenings and weekends, I developed a passion for the family business, so joining was the perfect fit for me, and still is,” says Wilson. “Having started with one man and one truck in 1983, Renee saw first-hand the hours and hard work her dad put in and what it took to run a business.
“My degree in business administration provides a great foundation to meet the challenges of operating a family business,” she says. “Knowing how to use financial statements to spot trends and determine a course of action is invaluable. For example, you can utilize a break-even analysis, conduct a sensitivity analysis, or determine cash flows.”
“We are a second-generation independent insulation contractor that focuses on making homes more comfortable and energy-efficient,” Wilson says. “My father founded our company in 1983 with three things in mind—honesty, integrity and positivity. We insulate new and existing homes and have positioned ourselves as the energy experts in our market.”
Retrofit insulation and remodeling work is definitely on the rise. Many people are seeing their home equity increasing with inflated home values, so rather than try to build or buy a new house, they are using that equity for remodeling projects and staying in their current home. Wilson says the company is also seeing an increase in retrofit insulation work because of poor workmanship from other insulation contractors during the building process. Upgrading attic insulation is an easy way to increase the comfort and energy efficiency, and it usually is more affordable compared to other home improvement projects.
“The biggest challenge for the construction industry is obtaining labor—especially installers—during a time when many people are choosing to work from home,” she says. “Our work cannot be done from home, so figuring out how to make working on job sites attractive to potential workers is a priority.”
Low Winter Sun
With average January low temperatures bitter cold, the market for retrofit work is robust, considering Wisconsin’s adoption of the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code. As Wilson notes, “Homes built or retrofitted in Wisconsin to the 2021 code can save an average of $651 annually on their utility bills,” which point to a significant opportunity for Rockweiler Insulation to help homeowners save energy, lower utility bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Although Wisconsin winters are extreme, the retrofit market helps keep Rockweiler “insulated” from extreme cycles of the economy. Wilson adds, “our business is pretty stable throughout the year, year-after-year, without the large economic hiccups like in other U.S. metropolitan areas. I anticipate the Inflation Reduction Act will really bolster that part of our business.”
A member of the Insulation Contractors Association of America, Wilson credits the association for connecting her to many different facets of the business—from the vendors at the association’s trade show to other insulation contractors with differing needs, management structures, and suppliers.
“There’s always something to learn and new vendors to meet,” says Wilson. “The exposure provided by an ICAA membership to all types of insulation contractors (not just the independents), and to see all the vendors (not just the ‘preferred’ vendors) is worth its weight in gold.”
The association recently led a roundtable of insulation contractors focused on the challenges of securing an army of new installers.
“Replacing installers, this is our biggest challenge, as our average length of employee service is 15 years,” according to Wilson. The ICAA roundtable resulted in a published booklet with suggestions from over 100 insulation contractors. (It is available to members through its website insulate.org/member-site.)
As for her personal achievement in business, Wilson says, “transitioning the business to the second generation is a privilege. Only one-third of family businesses make it to the second generation, so we are very proud to keep our company in the family. Another priority is staying independent so we can be nimble in our decision making, especially in this environment where so many independents are going through acquisitions.”
Another challenge is balancing consumer demand while managing labor and supply constraints.
“It is really important to have peer groups—especially in an industry where you are the minority,” Wilson says. “Women approach things differently, so it’s nice to have a network of colleagues to exchange ideas with and help each other be stronger leaders.
“The exchange of best practices and information with fellow contractors is invaluable,” she says. “I am not the owner of all the good ideas, so I appreciate hearing what has been successful for my colleagues.”
After work, Wilson likes to clear her head running on local trails or relaxing with a good book.
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