“Old ways won’t open new doors,” says Chris Rzepkowski, vice president at DeVere Insulation. “For us, it’s all about scalability, collaboration and trust."
“To break it down, scalability means that we are fiercely evaluating ourselves for value and strategic growth,” he continues. “Our collaboration stems from our desire to grow both personally and professionally as a team and to continue to build the business, trusting in each other.”
For a 35-year-old independent insulation company to grow both the top and bottom line is a challenge by the industry’s yardstick. However, the Southland & DeVere Enterprise has done it and continues to move forward in an ever-changing, ever-evolving environment which is a direct testament to its leadership. The team, along with its 500-plus employees, provides the pillars for all of the organization—allowing team leaders to do their jobs without the worry of “What will the owners think?”
That doesn’t mean the company runs like a kindergarten class without a teacher, with employees doing whatever, whenever. The company continually works hard to self-examine itself putting measurables and key performance indicators together that make sense. Managers and individual contributors meet quarterly to evaluate and create the metrics, to in turn use them to hold each other accountable.
Bob DeVere says it best: "The best legacy you can leave is an evolving, growing organization.”
Growth is never a straightforward path; it takes leadership trusting in each other. That trust extends to the people who make up the collection of the 11 companies under the Southland & DeVere Enterprise.
As an independent family-owned enterprise, it indicative that DeVere Insulation carves out strategy planning sessions and executes that in order to be the best.
“We take a hard look at ourselves constantly to continue to work at eliminating any micromanagement culture; we encourage team members to act decisively and become critical thinkers of the global outcome for the company and not strictly their viewpoint,” Rzepkowski states.
“We are not the fuzz and studs guys,” says DeVere Insulation’s Jerry Palmer. “We sell from a building science perspective. We are a RESNET certified, B.P.I. certified and NAHB certified insulation contractor.” Furthermore, “We promote and are proud to support the insulation community as well as a number of charities on the local and national levels."
Independents—while fiercely proud of that fact—most often are hindered by ownership that can’t or won’t let go. They build a successful business, then get stuck in the “this-is-how-we-have-always-done-it” philosophy. Having the courage and forethought, Palmer and DeVere brought on Rzepkowski and Scott Letcher more than 15 years ago to begin to assemble the next generation of leaders in the company—yet keeping their vision and hard work progressing forward. They are still very much engaged in the business, offering coaching and counseling to the teams, attending meetings, pitching in where and when needed; however, have graciously stepped back to let their people do what they were hired to do.
In the Moment
Staying relevant and competitive takes focus and a great deal of hard work. Someone always has to be at the helm and constantly driving it forward. Three years ago, the company took a hard look at what was working and what could be improved. The leadership team and other team members started by process mapping all aspects of the back-office systems, hence looking for inefficiencies and cost cutting initiatives.
The first analysis the team started with was the credit and collection functionality. The team looked at all the processes that internally lead to the AR invoice and payment posting on the client’s behalf. No aspect of the business flow was omitted. They analyzed the front-end processes that dealt with the proposal data entry, scheduling fluency, and invoicing. Through this analysis and collaboration, the outcome was the investment of an ERP platform which enabled us to better leverage technology for the transactional work. As a result, the enterprise improved its DSO from 62 to 41.1 and continues to improve.
Some additional business improvements the company has completed is the accounts payable process—paying vendors and manufacturers. The enterprise has aligned with Lucrotec for payment optimization which has eliminated 98 percent of checks being processed along with mitigating fraud risks. Additionally, the company has leveraged a self-insured health plan in addition to seeking a business captive insurance program in 2022 for workers comp, auto and general liability insurance.
Department heads and leadership work together to improve their respective areas, collaborating with others to highlight what is not working, and finding solutions to challenges that arise. They have reframed the conversations to move from the accusatory, “your team is making issues for us," to a challenge session to figure out what the root cause is and get it solved. Crucial conversations are encouraged to get to the solution and move forward.
“We are not perfect, and we have a long way to go, but the progress and ability of our teams to grasp the goals and growth has been transformational for us as a company,” says Rzepkowski.
The benefits touch all areas of the company with a huge impact on positive cash-flow and the company’s ability to leverage itself to the maximum growth potential.
“We have history, we perform, we have knowledge, and we understand our market," says Bill Dennis, sales manager over five of the entity’s sales teams. “We collaborate internally and with customers."
Companies like to talk about what they bring to the table. This team can prove it.
The eleven entities that make up the company enterprise consist of:
- Southland Insulators
- DeVere Insulation
- Delmarva Insulation
- Foam InSEALators of MD & VA
- DeVere Insulation Home Performance
- Liberty Insulation East Coast Mold Remediation
- The Fifth Fuel
- Delmarva Spray Foam
- DeVere Weatherization and Construction Services
- Southland Insulators of Winchester
Three of the 11 companies are led by women.