By Linda Schmid

Greg Kazmierczak had a unique background for someone founding a roof coating company. With a degree in International Business, he began his career at an auto loan company; they created the first online auto-loan decisioning software. This made him curious, and he began learning all he could about internet marketing, banner ads, SEO, pay-per-click, and more. He went to work for a roof coating company, expanding his online marketing skills and ramping up sales. Then he purchased the company in 1996. 

Eventually he and his team realized there was an unfilled niche; a new roof coating was needed. Companies they worked with had to use primer or multiple coats which was labor and cost intensive, so they were looking for something new. Kazmierczak’s team couldn’t find what they were looking for on the market, so they began looking at developing a new coating. While they were at it, they wanted this coating to be usable on 90% of roofs with a mildewcide incorporated, a good tensile strength, and longevity with just one application required. That was 25 years ago, and EPDM Coatings has been marketing this winning formula ever since! 

Early Challenges 

In the beginning, the question was, do we raise capital or try and move the company forward on a shoestring? They opted for the shoestring; once you bring others’ money into the process you can find that they have a seat at the conference table, and you may not have much to say about how the company operates.  

A second important decision was, do we go commercial or residential? They opted for both.  

“It’s better not to put all your eggs in one basket,” Kazmierczak said. “You don’t want to end up with 80% of your sales coming from one company.” 

With this in mind, the company is happy to deal with businesses of all sizes. Some are small and just transitioning into technology. EPDM Coatings helps those small companies with their marketing and SEO efforts through its subsidiary company, 

Taking Care of Business 

Kazmierczak, Senior Vice-President of Sales, runs his company like a think tank. “It’s a lean machine without a lot of layers and we don’t do politics. Everyone checks their ego at the door. We listen to our customers and each other, evaluate ideas based on common sense and then we can easily incorporate those ideas that pass the test into our system.”  

To ensure that they are in touch with what their customers want, think, and need, the company does an annual customer survey. 

One way the team exhibits the benefits of being lean and agile is their shipping; whether a customer orders five or five hundred items, it is turned around within three business days. That came in handy during the Covid pandemic. When many companies had difficulty getting the supplies they needed to make roof coatings, EPDM continued to go strong because its components are not shipped across the ocean; they are from within the United States and Canada. Many roofing companies tried EPDM’s liquid butyl coating at that time simply because it was available. The company gained a lot of customers during that period. 

Further, it’s not just about selling its roof coating to someone and saying goodbye. Kazmierczak said their product has an expected lifetime of 18 to 20 years, and the company wants the building owner and/or contractor to recommend the product to their friends and colleagues. Employees do not look at their work in the light of selling roof coating; they believe they are solving problems, important problems. When people call for help with their leaky roof, employees are understanding and do what they can to solve the problem as empathetically and as quickly as possible. When contractors come to them because they want a product and customer service they can rely on, employees deliver.  

Working It Out  

Recent challenges have included the rising cost of supplies, equipment, insurance; the price of everything is going up. Kazmierczak is thankful that they did not have to raise their prices during the covid challenges, but more recently they have had to decide whether to raise prices or allow expenses to consume profits. The solution: raise prices a little, but don’t make customers absorb all of the rising cost. Work with your partners so you can both be successful. 

They’re Not Just Employees, They’re Partners 

When a company operates like a think tank, it helps level the playing field when it comes to offering ideas and making group decisions. That makes it important to hire good people. 

“Hire smarter people than yourself,” Kazmierczak advised. “When you are looking at things for years, like your company processes, you begin to think they are perfected; you need someone to challenge you. It is okay to have more than one chief,” he added. 

In that light, Kazmierczak started round-table brainstorming sessions. “We have made decisions on everything from the office coffee to our internet-based tracking system.”  

When it comes to how to get those smart employees, Kazmierczak said, “Ask open-ended questions in interviews. Offer hypothetical situations and ask the prospective employee how they would solve it.” 

The candidate may not have the perfect solution immediately he said, but they should have a plan regarding how to use the resources at their disposal to find the solution. Everyone you hire needs to understand the ramifications of how their work will affect the company and its employees, Kazmierczak continued. And everyone must have a healthy appreciation of each person and their contribution to the team’s success. 

Where Employee Relations Intersect With Customer Relations 

If the guy in your warehouse makes a mistake or the company you hired to deliver the order is in error, you need to take responsibility for it, according to Kazmierczak. Apologize and make it right. On the flip side, when things go well, pat everyone on the back for a job well done. This is what a leader does, and this mind-set will make both employees and customers want to work with you. 

Giving Back 

Every December EPDM donates products to non-profits, and they receive letters of thanks in return. Last year they donated Pond Pro, another of their products, to a nearby school and they received a video of the students enjoying the pond that they built using Pond Pro for the liner.  Kazmierczak said it is always heartwarming to see the impact these donations make. 

Looking Forward 

Kazmierczak said that furthering EPDM Coating’s international presence is his goal. He sees a lot of potential in Central America and the Caribbean where people tend to use roof coatings that only last a few years. The company is looking for new distributorships in Canada and South America as well. And with new growth, Kazmierczak is looking forward to expanding his staff in 2024. May the company experience the success and longevity that their coating brings to roofs. MR