HONOLULU (KHON2) — Commercial Roofing and Waterproofing was founded in 1993 by Guy Akasaki and started with a couple of little broken-down trucks and a tiny public storage unit. No pun intended, but it was difficult to put a roof over his family’s head.
“Today I would say we’re one of the largest companies in the islands,” said Guy Akasaki, the company’s president and founder.
The company is also about 90 employees strong and has dozens of vehicles and pieces of large equipment scattered throughout the Hawaiian island chain — all the results of a guy named Guy who had a totally different blueprint for life.
“Actually, I went to high school in Okinawa, graduated Okinawa; when I came back to Hawaii to study architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright was my inspiration. So, I came back, went to school and then I got tired of it. So, I’m actually a failed architect,” Akasaki explained.
Turns out that Akasaki’s failure set the stage for what would become a thriving business. Along the way, he discovered there were many similarities between the roofing business and his failed dream career.
“I saw a lot of the things I learned in school and architecture and drafting, just fit,” Akasaki said.
Initially, he worked for another roofing contractor where he eventually helped guide discussions to form an ESOP — an employee-owned company. However, at the 11th hour, the contractor had a change of heart and pulled the carpet out from underneath everybody.
“I said ‘you know what you can’t make promises and then turn around and renege on it right?’ This is really a decision that you have to make, and I was at that point; it was a defining moment between values, a difference of intent and direction,” said Akasaki.
After 16 dedicated years, Akasaki’s new direction was to set out on his own. But on the verge of bankruptcy, he said he relied on three things: vision, values and a belief that hard work and honesty will carry him through.
“The first year is the toughest year,” said Akasaki. “And all of a sudden, clients started to come — institutional clients that we never even heard of.”
Currently, with two of his daughters working by his side, Akasaki said the company is busier than ever; one thing that has never and will never change is his vision and, more importantly, his values.
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“It’s those core values that you’ve established to become the moral compass and allows you, like in Karate Kid. He navigated to be able to navigate that grasshopper; close your eyes and make it through the treacherous channels in business and define. Be able to shape and define what and who you want to be,” Akasaki explained.