A Conversation with Doug Kramer, President and CEO, Lapolla Industries, Inc.
By Ryan Spencer
One of the biggest names in spray foam insulation, Lapolla Industries, Inc. has been at the forefront of innovative SPF products in recent years. Spray Foam Magazine talked with Doug Kramer, President and CEO, about Lapolla’s past, present, and future.
Spray Foam Magazine: What’s your background in the SPF industry?
Doug Kramer: I’ve been in the industry for over 25 years and I’ve been involved in foam and coatings the entire time. It’s been great because I feel like I’ve been a part of pioneering a new industry that continues to evolve.
SFM: When did you come on board with Lapolla?
DK: Angelo Lapolla was interested in retiring and asked me to get involved with the business. We centralized it out of Houston, Texas instead of Tempe, Arizona and took the company national–that was just over 10 years ago.
It’s funny because we were kind of seen as the new guys on the block, and it’s a competitive space, so it was a challenge. But today we are one of the largest and most stable companies in the industry, actively doing business in 40 countries around the world. We’ve had aggressive growth and become a major player in the industry.
SFM: What has the international growth been like?
DK: One interesting thing is as we’ve expanded internationally, this industry is largely the same, just with different levels of evolution around the world. The demand for foam is growing globally, and some markets are more mature than others, but the challenges and the value are consistent. The contractor challenges are the same here as they are in the Czech Republic just as the consumer desires are the same here as they are in France.
SFM: What makes Lapolla such a competitive company in the industry?
DK: There are a couple things; first and foremost is technology. Our focus is very specifically on spray foam technology for construction. There are a lot of different ways that foam can be used, but that’s our space, and that’s where we’re best in technology and support.
The second component is having the best people in the business–people who are experts in their field, and that’s at all levels. From our CFO to our sales people to R&D to our administrative staff, we have 70 employees with about 700 years of combined industry experience. It really helps differentiate us because we really understand this business.
SFM: How do these factors impact Lapolla’s products?
DK: We are always looking to raise industry standards. We’re going to continue to drive technology and innovation. That’s one of the things about being a small, dynamic company: my office is right next to the laboratory, and I work closely with them. We know what the demands are, we understand the downstream desires of end users, and we’re going to continue to innovate and develop new technology to provide solutions.
And that’s really the answer to how Lapolla brings great value: we really understand the downstream flow of the value chain, and we know it starts with technology, but we understand what contractors and end users are looking for and deliver it with great customer service and a superior product.
SFM: How is Lapolla’s relationship with its applicators?
DK: We really feel like we understand the applicators’ challenges on a daily basis, and at the same time we feel that being good product stewards has to be first and foremost. So, we work very closely with our contractors and make available in-depth training, both in the field and at our training center in Houston. Our goal is to provide them with full turn-key service: we’re one of the biggest in equipment and we have the largest tech sales force in the industry. We want our customers to rely upon us when they have challenges. We know that they’re not making money when the trigger isn’t being pulled, and frankly it’s the same for us. So, our goal is to help them be stronger and better, along with being good industry stewards and bringing value to the downstream customers who will ultimately dictate our future.
SFM: Speaking of consumers, how have they responded to Lapolla’s partnership with Ty Pennington?
DK: Ty’s a great guy–what you see is what you get. He’s the real deal. Ty is well recognized as an icon at the consumer level, specifically related to remodeling and quality construction. It was a great opportunity for Lapolla to partner with someone who will help raise the profile of not only Lapolla, but also the entire Spray Foam Industry. And what the entire industry needs is more recognition and credibility at the consumer level, which can help create growth and pull for the entire industry.
SFM: In 2014, Lapolla was involved with the net-zero ReNEWW House project–how has that gone?
DK: It was a great opportunity for us to partner with some very big consumer names. Because of the resources and the partners we had on this project, like Honeywell and Purdue University, we had the ability to take a home built in the 1930’s and retrofit the entire home without compromising the architectural integrity of the home, and then continue to monitor the house with sensors and regular data feed to bring back information on the value and the swing in energy efficiency. It’s going to give us a great comparison on the same structure with and without foam. One of the biggest challenges we have in the industry is creating empirical data–not just rhetorical data–about the value of foam.
SFM: What has the preliminary data shown?
DK: We’re waiting a little longer to reveal the initial data, but I do believe that we’ll be able to start revealing facts and figures in the near future that will be very positive, and it should be ongoing for several years. The results are certainly expected to be very positive.
SFM: That project incorporated the 4th generation Foam-LOK 2000–what’s that product’s status now?
DK: That product is now approved throughout the United States, Europe, Scandinavia, and into the Middle East, so we’ve got essentially global approval. At this point, we’re working with the EPA and the White House to explain the advantages and benefits of this product.
SFM: What is Lapolla’s involvement with the White House?
DK: Approximately 17 companies were invited to participate at the White House in a roundtable discussion on the President’s Climate Action Plan. I was the only one representing the foam industry along side other multi-billion-dollar national companies like Coca-Cola. So it was just more opportunity to wave the foam flag–not just because we’re proud of that, but because a large part of our goal is to be good representatives and try to help advance the industry as a whole.
SFM: What do you think the future looks like for Lapolla, and for the SPF industry?
DK: The good thing for Lapolla is that we have a very strong foundation both in technology and contractor support, and we’re going to continue to grow, so we feel very strongly about our future and our position in the market.
The industry is at a tipping point into the mainstream and the reality is consumers are now aware of the value of foam on a broad basis. The biggest change that’s going to occur in the future is when homebuilders and architects realize that they can build a foam structure for the same cost as a traditionally insulated structure, and at that point, foam will become the dominant insulation in the marketplace.
With good product stewardship and proper installations in the field, our industry is going to continue to grow at a rapid rate – which it must do. If we’re all good stewards of technology in the industry, it will absolutely advance our cause because the products themselves bring great value. It’s really an exciting time. •