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Owner Invests in Worker Loyalty With Education

Owner Invests in Worker Loyalty With Education Best Small Business Employer – Mike’s Roofing Service Inc. By SLAV KANDYBA Staff Reporter Marcelo Quiroga, better known to his clients as Mike, sits behind a desk inside a nondescript office on a street tucked in beside the Van Nuys Airport. The walls are covered with at least two dozen certificates of recognition from city council members and state legislators. In the hallway are photos of Quiroga with Tom Bradley, Richard Riordan, Mayor James Hahn and other politicians. Quiroga’s Mike’s Roofing Service Inc. has serviced roofs of hundreds of clients for more than 30 years, since the Bolivian immigrant founded the business. He started it by himself and when he started it, only had one truck. The company is now up to 15 roofing professionals and has several trucks, including a red Chevy Suburban with “Mike’s Roofing Service” emblazoned on the side. In a labor-intensive industry dogged with high worker’s compensation rates, Quiroga realizes his employees mean everything to the company. “My niche is the employees,” Quiroga said. “The best advertisement is well-educated employees.” And he is not just saying that, he is proving it with a financial investment above and beyond what’s called for. He is paying for them to get more education. After meeting a representative of Los Angeles Mission College at an event hosted by the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley, Quiroga told that person he wanted to get training for his employees. Mission College then put a curriculum together specifically for Mike’s Roofing in Spanish the language commonly spoken by his employees. Called modules, the training sessions take place twice a week for two-and-a-half hours for eight weeks. They focus on such topics as team building, leadership and conflict resolution, said Allen Aghajainian, program director at Mission College who oversees the contract education department and has worked with Quiroga since December 2003. No absences Employees have responded well, Quiroga said. They have attended the classes regularly, without any absences whatsoever that’s despite the fact that the classes are held at night. Aghajainian said it is “rare” for a small business like Mike’s Roofing to approach his office seeking training, because the $100 to $200 per class hour is not something cash-strapped companies can shell out. “Some of them, to be honest, don’t care,” Aghajainian said. But Quiroga is different: “He is a visionary man (who) wants to invest in his employees,” Aghajainian said. “I think he sees a return in his investment.” Quiroga said he has seen “total improvement” in how employees communicate. Next, he has plans to have his employees train in computers at Mission next. “Many construction people don’t know about computers,” he said. “Now many are going to be able to use their computers in the right way.” Mike’s Roofing employees have been a loyal bunch, so Quiroga isn’t exactly investing in people who are at risk of fleeing the company. Five employees have worked there for more than two decades, while the sales manager has 15 years under his belt with Mike’s Roofing. Quiroga’s compassion to his employees likely comes out of his own start in the business. In the early 1970s, he attended the West Valley Occupational Center and studied accounting. He tried looking for a job as bookkeeper, but didn’t find one. At the time, a friend of his said a roofing company was looking for a driver. Quiroga applied and got the job, and eventually realized that getting a license and starting his own business was the next logical progression. After a rocky five years, he hired his first employee and the business began to flourish. Over the years, Quiroga has been involved in a number of charities and nonprofit organizations. Just a sampling: Van Nuys Rotary Club, Mid Valley YMCA and the Los Angeles Valley College. Jim Tanner, president of the Van Nuys Rotary Club, called Quiroga a “nice, outgoing, sweet man.” About 15 years ago, Quiroga was “one of the driving forces” in the club’s move to build a school in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, Tanner said. Quiroga had served two terms as president. “He’s a very dedicated man, dedicated to the community that I do know,” said Carlos Rivera, the incoming president at the rotary club.

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