Failure Is Not An Option

Failure Is Not An Option
Matt Mader – Mader Insulation (Waterville, MN)
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Spray Foam Magazine – Winter 2020 – The Spray Foam Magazine team has been hearing the same name mentioned by numerous SPF contractors. They all said the same thing: they were “impressed with this contractor’s willingness to offer them guidance from equipment issues to business advice.” This praise was followed by a nomination from Jonathan Fredkove of Graco Inc. This put the owner of Mader Insulation LLC on our radar and after reviewing all of the amazing contractor entries, Spray Foam Magazine’s Contractor of 2020 is…. Matt Mader.

There is no bull-manure with Matt Mader, only enthusiasm for his job and a willingness to help and educate others in the spray foam industry. Before Matt and his crew headed to their next job, we caught up with him to ask why and how he became a spray foam installer.

Matt is based in Kilkenny, Minnesota, a very small city of less than 200 people, where the name derives from the original Irish settlers, many of whom came from Kilkenny in Ireland. There is intention when mentioning a person’s hometown because many believe that one’s environment can affect actions and behavior, like “A New York State of Mind.” Chatting with Matt, it soon became apparent that he is used to hard, manual work, and he is a straight talker. Could this in fact be the “Kilkenny state of mind?” We were eager to find out.

Matt and his crew of two apply spray foam insulation as well as complete concrete lifting projects. Matt elaborates, “I have been doing the concrete lifting part of the business for three years and it is becoming increasingly prevalent. Yesterday, we worked in a house which had frost under a large part of the flooring and the floor had sunken down four inches in some spots. It was going to cost the builder around $50,000 dollars to tear up and replace the flooring and we got it done for a fraction of that price.”

Matt really enjoys being able to save people money with spray foam insulation and preparing concrete. Ever since he was young, he was fascinated by how things worked and came together. His mom used to tell him that his favorite show growing up was This Old House. Matt is pensive, “Maybe that’s why I won the gun rebuilding championship three years in a row.” Matt’s confidence is self-evident and somewhat captivating, making it easy to see why people are inspired by him.

Matt went to college for carpentry and cabinet making. In college, he also worked for a carpenter who then sold the business when the economy crashed. Soon after Matt graduated in 2007, he went to work for his dad for 10 years. His dad’s company specializes in custom manure pumping for farms as well as building a lot of their own machinery and related equipment. Unbeknownst to Matt at the time, it was this hard-manual work that was going to prove invaluable in the spray foam industry. 

When Matt married his wife, they purchased a 100-year-old house in Kilkenny. Matt reminisces, “Once we started gutting the house, we discovered a ton of bats in the attic. The quickest way to solve the situation is to seal the building with spray foam. I’m very capable, so I decided to buy a spray foam machine and do it myself.” Matt laughs and goes on to say, “That was a terrible idea. We used two sets of foam and obviously on your first day you are not going to be a good sprayer.”

Learning quickly from his initial slip-ups, he zealously researched all aspects of the industry and then went on to do a few small projects for people he knew, educating himself the entire time while learning on the job. He then sprayed a new-build and soon realized he needed a larger machine as the jobs suddenly came pouring in.

Matt and his crew mainly use spray foam with the occasional fiberglass used in attics, alongside the foam, with their favorite foam to work with being Lapolla. “I started off by using a Graco e-10 and now we have a Graco Gusmer 20/35 for spray foaming and an e-20 for concrete lifting.”

Matt’s business was starting to do very well, with Matt still working with the family business and managing both jobs. “That Fall my dad had jobs lined up for me and it was difficult to juggle that and the spray foaming. After that season ended, my dad said, ‘I’m not firing you, but you’re quitting with me because you are now doing great with your own thing.’”

Matt’s grandparents started the farming business, so it was hard for him to walk away from it, but with his dad’s support and encouragement it made it a little easier. Matt’s cousins now help with the farm jobs, so Matt is happy that the business is still in the family.

Matt has completed small jobs and also some incredible custom new homes, which he has worked on over the course of six months. He has also gained a reputation throughout the industry and from clients for his communication and reliability skills. He stresses, “If I tell you I’m going to be somewhere at a certain time, I’m going to be there. If I can’t be there, I’m going to communicate with you. I think that’s super important in any business. If someone takes time out of their day for you, then it would be very disrespectful to forget about an estimate or not put it in your calendar.”

It soon becomes evident that Matt has a vast amount of expertise in the industry, and he delivers all of this understanding with a dry sense of humor. When asked what he was most looking forward to in 2021, he replied, “The end of 2020”. After having a good laugh about this somewhat obvious question, Matt swiftly switches tune to describe why he is excited for the future of the industry. “In the next ten years, this industry is going to get even bigger and better. Opportunities are opening up everywhere; for example, with the concrete lifting. As the pandemic started, I panicked and laid people off for a few weeks. That was a terrible decision as we had plenty of work. I was just scared that the work was going to stop, and money was going to run out. We are actually having a better year than when we did in 2019. People have had projects on the back burner and now they are at home and getting these projects done.”

Matt laughs when asked what he does with his free-time,

“I seriously don’t have much free-time. I have three kids ages 2, 4 and 6. I do like to hunt and fish, if I ever get the time to do so.”

Matt is someone who loves his job, but above all else he takes pleasure in helping other people solve issues. He modestly states, “As spray foamers, we really are ‘get it done kinda people’. We don’t complain, we just get our heads down until the job is completed.”

Matt is full of advice for anyone entering the industry and specifically says, “Don’t be the cheapest one out there, or you won’t make it. When I started, I thought, ‘I have no overhead. I can bid this lower than everyone else and get the jobs.’ That doesn’t work because you can’t do the volume that a glass fiber company can do per day. ‘Don’t be afraid of growth,’ would be my other piece of advice. That was my hurdle for the first five years. I sprayed by myself because I was scared of having employees and extra costs. I then started hiring people and my life got harder and easier all at the same time. It really is invaluable to have someone else to help take the load off and I have had my crew now for two and a half years.”

Matt pauses as if collecting the snippets of advice he thinks most relevant, from the storage box of spray foam knowledge in his head, then goes on to say, “When you first start in spray foam, you really don’t know anything so don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s equipment, bidding or anything else. It’s good to have a network to turn to for advice.”

Matt is both educated and experienced with maintenance and building science, and he is an active moderator on SFWW social page. He loves to help other contractors answer problematic questions and is always improving his own knowledge of the business. He also admits that he is obsessive in whatever he does, from hunting and fishing to spray foaming and it doesn’t take him long until he is an expert on whatever he focuses on. This has really helped him be a master in his business.

The words he lives by are, ‘Failure Is Not an Option’. He clarifies by speaking to all spray foamers, either veterans of the industry or foamers just starting out and speaks aloud as if they are in the same room, “Don’t allow failure to be an option.”  

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