This month’s cover feature focuses on a Kentucky firm that is a full service insulation contractor. The bulk of Louisville Spray Foam Insulation’s business is in open- and closed-cell spray foam but the contractor also does traditional insulation and insulation extractions.
Before the Owner Matthew Gilles joined the business, he was in the general contracting and real estate development business and ended up buying the assets of Louisville Spray Foam Insulation. It seems work is going well, as he has been in business (as the owner) pushing five years; and the company has been around for about ten.
“My background is real estate development and general contracting. I got involved in that business by basically ‘swinging a hammer,’ and doing renovations of Shotgun- and Camelback- style houses here in Louisville,” says Gilles, explaining that he wasn’t born into the trades. “I think that has both helped and hurt me. I did grow up in a family manufacturing business and there is pretty much not a day that goes by that I don’t think about those early years and learning from my dad and brother.”
The company is a member of several associations: National Association of Homebuilders; the local Building Industry Association of Louisville; Building Industry Association of Southern Indiana; Louisville Independent Business Alliance; and the Portland Investment Initiative, which was founded with the belief that the Portland neighborhood (in Louisville) has assets that are worth investing in — from businesses, to buildings, to people.
The company is deeply rooted in the largest city in Kentucky and Gilles sees that business is busy.
“We [have] experienced tremendous growth. Our growth has run somewhat parallel with the growth of the national economy and local housing industry.”
Gilles adds that the region of Kentucky in which the company works is a desirable part of the country to live in for a variety of reasons. And what gives him the most satisfaction from his job? He says the joy of giving the client an energy efficient structure.
And what is the hardest aspect of the job?
“Getting my team to follow through on an ‘agreed upon action.’ I think human nature lends us to thinking we can deviate from the plan,” says Gilles. “That is true at times and I can ride the waves better that anyone but there seems to be something about the contracting business that makes everyone an independent thinker and a desire to be ‘the lead dog.’ My preference is to get an agreed-upon plan with the staff and client, then executing that plan. But that is a huge challenge in this business. So in reality, my management style tends to be more of keeping the ship between the navigational beacons and making sure that the clients are satisfied with our actions.”
Gilles says 2019 is going to be a good year. But that being said, the company will not be caught off guard if things slow down after the rapid growth of 2018. He says the company won’t be resting on its laurels.
Friends and Foes
It seems Gilles has much respect for the local competition. He reports that there are multiple insulation contractors out there doing the right thing, day in and day out. Yet, he says there are a handful of things that set Louisville Spray Foam apart from others in the group.
For one, there is the fact that the company is locally owned and also owner-operated, those two things are a big part of what the company does and does well. Its staff are able to make decisions without the fear of business partners or other outside interest, and that really affects how it interacts with its customers. Insulation contracting has become very regional in this market, says Gilles. He understands how that provides some economy of scale to a company, but he likes the fact the company is able to help its local economy and have positive effects on the lives of many people in Louisville. And according to Gilles, “An out-of-town contractor is not able to do that.”
For Gilles, Icynene-Lapolla is the manufacturer that the company has its most close and important relationship with.
“We have sprayed some SWD recently and that went well. The chemical companies and chemical reps can wear you down, so while it is nice to have options, it is also nice to establish long term relationships with manufacturers.”
Full of modesty, Gilles believes that his company (despite its modest size) is among the best in the country.
“Comparing my company to others is not something that I wake up and do,” he says. “I feel like we are a strong company for both now and the future because we do not rest on our success. We understand that every day is a new day and you need to make that specific customer feel happy and that we are a good value. The client that we are working for today does not really care about what we did last week or yesterday. So it really just comes down to digging deep on a daily basis and doing the things to maximize everyone’s chance for success.”