An Essential Partnership
Spray Foam Magazine – Winter 2020 – The relationship shared by the spray foam contractor and supplier is as important as the chemistry between the A- and B-Sides of spray foam. Neither contractor nor supplier can thrive alone and both are more successful when respectful, transparent relationships are built. The most basic responsibility of the supplier is to produce quality foam chemicals and the contractor must commit to following guidelines to install the foam to spec, but there’s so much more to building a vibrant business than just the basics. When communication flows easily and everyone is doing their job, both contractor and supplier can make more money and have fun doing it.
The supplier must have a great offering of foam products and must always be innovating. Constantly working on new products to make the contractor’s job easier, the yield higher, and each spray foam job more profitable. Not-so-small fortunes are spent by suppliers on laboratory testing to qualify their products for new and different applications so contractors can spray more foam and make more money, but it’s not a one-way street. The supplier relies on the contractor for honest feedback regarding market conditions and for help prioritizing R&D projects and new products. The supplier also shares information they hear from the supply side along with news of the industry and economy. Together, they can be a powerful team and formidable competitors to others in the marketplace.
Both companies have the same basic business requirements to be healthy, and cash flow is at the top of the list for both. The contractor must be paid on time and so must the supplier in order for both businesses to grow. On larger jobs they often work together to make sure everyone gets paid on time and for the normal monthly purchases, clear and timely communication is essential to maintaining trust.
Beyond these basic tenets of business that apply to all companies equally, different contractors have different needs for support from their supplier. It’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of industry any longer. Some contractors need lots of technical support and some need none. Some want to brand their company using the supplier logos and resources and some want to build their own brand. A savvy supplier will listen to the contractor’s requests and help them build their business in the way that best meets their needs.
The contractor who leverages the supplier’s brand has the advantage of national advertising and brand awareness provided by the supplier. This adds instant credibility and can be a powerful approach. It also helps when soliciting projects where the owner or architect knows and trusts the supplier’s products. Use of company literature, and logo shirts and hats also portray a professional appearance to the contractor and crew. Suppliers often offer assistance to contractors who brand their company trucks and trailers with the supplier’s logos so it’s a win for both contractor and supplier. This is a traditional relationship and the only way some “internally-focused” suppliers work with contractors.
Other contractors might prefer to promote their own brand to their customers and an “outward-focused” supplier will understand and respect this approach. When relationships are built over years of good communication and growing trust, the right supplier will know how to support these contractors. These tend to be the larger and more marketing-oriented contractors, and their support needs might be focused on building science, builder and architectural support, including educational seminars, to promote spray foam and the local contractor in the market.
The key to success is for the contractor and supplier to discuss the approach to the marketplace and work to maximize the value for the contractor. Although this is indeed a partnership, the contractor is the front-facing communicator to the final customer in his local market and therefore has the best knowledge of how to approach the marketplace. Strong suppliers who earn their contractor’s trust are comfortable being in the background or forefront, whichever position they are requested to take by the contractor.
The same discussion is important for the approach to builders. Does the contractor want the supplier to open the door with a local builder or would they prefer to have the supplier in the background, or maybe they can collaborate to deliver a joint message. Once again, the strong “forward-thinking” supplier is comfortable with either approach and once again communication is key. Here too the contractor is the local businessman and the one with the most knowledge of their builders so the supplier should follow the contractor’s lead and provide the support requested. The best plan can be formulated through communicating each other’s experience, discussing the marketplace and agreeing on a path forward.
Technical service is an area where the supplier can provide substantial value to the contractor. Although the supplier sells chemicals, you cannot actually service chemicals in the field; instead the tech rep offers processing expertise. Technical personnel need to have strong knowledge of spray foam processing equipment and must understand how his product reacts to changes in temperature and pressure and other equipment issues. Since spray rigs also have generators and air compressors, the technical service representative must have a working knowledge of their function and importance to the application of spray foam. The tech service partnership between supplier and contractor is critically important as the supplier can learn volumes about his product from field feedback from his technical representatives. The technical reps need a strong relationship with the contractor to find out the type and level of service the contractor values most.
An internally-focused supplier might develop products they strongly believe in but might not meet the needs of the contractor. Since spray foam is manufactured on site, the parameters to maximize the performance of the product must be shared with the contractor and the contractor must be able to repeat the process every time he sprays. Strong partnerships enable the supplier to develop products that provide the greatest value to the contractor. The combined efforts of the contractor’s field crew and the supplier’s tech team can truly differentiate a product’s performance, which directly benefits the company’s performance.
Partnerships are not always easy, but those suppliers and contractors willing to respect, trust and communicate have proven over and over to be stronger as a team, a partnership, than they ever could be alone. SES Foam has a solid history of such partnerships that have stood the test of time. If you would appreciate a relationship—a partnership—to help propel you to your goals, give us a call. We love to listen.
Disqus website name not provided.