Software Developer Tries his Hands at Roofing

AllNova June 15, 2023 

Roofing isn’t exactly the obvious career evolutions for a software developer, but John leahy says his skillset is shining through in a different industry.

His new company, TopClad Metal Roofing, is using website development tech he pioneered to make the job as efficient as possible.

Roofing, he said, is “ a software business”

He and his team at immediac, the Halifax we design company he founded, designed systems for time-logging and managing recruitments, as well as an app for recording measurements and calculating quotes hands-free while on a roof.

And the havelock, N.B, native is getting hands-on experience. He’s on a roof at least once a week helping his installation crew.

“People say, You’re roofing? Are you outta your mind? You have a cushy office job building apps for AT&T and Verizon, ” said Leady, 56.

“I’m out there at least once a week and I’m in the best shape of my life,” he said.

Leahy launched immediac in 1998 after attending the University of New Brunswick for business. Not long after, he helped develop a document management system still in use at the QEII Health Sciences Centre.

He developed one of the first content management systems for the web, servicing early clients such as the provincial government, Ledgehill and Core Networks. As web-based applications grew, so too did immediac. 

“You drive down Akerley Boulevard and every third business has a website we built,” said Leahy . To date, the company has built apps and websites for over 3,500 clients across Canada.

So far, TopClad has installed around 20 roofs across the province and is currently averaging two roofs a week, typically costing $10,000 to $50,000 an install, depending on size.

Having only started late last summer, Leahy declined to get into margins, but said starting the business from scratch ran somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 for all the tools, saws, scaffolding and falling protection. 

Demand for metal roofing is as high as new homes are built, damage from post-tropical storm Fiona is repaired and projects shelved due to COVID-19 continue to boost the construction and home improvement industry, Leahy said. 

Back in the 1990’s, Leahy designed content management software for the Halifax-born Massage Addict chain, which grew from 10 to 100 franchises, inspiring him to one day try the same.

He said his end goal with TopClad is to franchise our similar operations across the country, all using the same tech to make the process easier.

Currently, TopClad employs around seven and was initially utilizing the team at immediac, of which there are 18 employees - even sending some of the developers and office workers up on the roofs. By the end of summer, Leahy estimates he’ll have around 20 employees for TopClad.

He said he’s paying his roofers $30 an hour, which he estimates is higher than the competition. 

“I get asked, ‘Your guys show up everyday? Oh yes, they do. It’s a real team,” he said.

Both companies share office space at 1601 Lower Water Street in Summit Place, which Farhad Vladi and his investors own 50:50 with Mani Sissa-led Universal Properties.

During the pandemic, immediac built online shopping sites for everyone from breweries to office equipment suppliers and home garden centers, including Baddeck’s Big Spruce Brewing and Dartmout’s Spindrift Brewing (now Burnside Brewing Company).

In 2011, he and co-founder Debra Fraser started Imagine That Technologies, which designed virtual fitting room tech that allowed consumers to find and try on garments through on-site kiosks or company websites, but Leahy said that venture didn’t take off.

Leahy also started up Sigma Computer Training and sold it in the early 1990’s to Keltic Technologies.