The U.S. may be the single largest spray foam market in the world, but international markets are leading the way in terms of growth, presenting an enticing opportunity for enterprising suppliers and distributors throughout the industry. Companies large and small are taking part in the globalization of spray foam, with companies like Louisiana-based SPF equipment manufacturer and distributor SPF Depot making considerable efforts to do business overseas.
SPF Depot has grown from a small garage startup operation to distributing spray equipment all over the world from a 10,000 sq. ft. warehouse and manufacturing center. Much of the company’s success in recent years meant doing business in places Owner Pat Gililland hadn’t even considered.
“We’ve shipped orders to countries where I didn’t even think there was demand,” said Gililland. “Malta was the very first country we shipped to.”
While SPF Depot’s geographic reach grew rapidly from there, it wasn’t always an easy process to get products in the hands of SPF Depot’s overseas distributors.
“Just getting your products over there is a hurdle,” Gililland said. “If you don’t have your products properly marked and have the proper forms, you’re going to get held up in customs.”
Even when shipping to a seemingly trade-friendly country like Canada, red tape can still be problematic.
“The paperwork involved makes it difficult,” said Gililland. “Whenever I hear ‘free trade agreement’, I laugh because it’s not free when I have to spend hours of my time doing paperwork.”
Aside from the inherent obstacles to exporting, Gililland has been overall extremely pleased with how SPF Depot’s exporting operation has progressed over the years, and much of it has been due to the company’s relationship with Louisiana Economic Development Corporation (LED). From networking events to workshops to travel, SPF Depot was able to capitalize on everything LED had to offer. The organization’s business development initiatives, particularly attending trade shows, were critical to driving SPF Depot’s expansion, as LED grants paid for events in Panama, France, Japan, and Hong Kong. One uniquely structured trade show stood out in Gililland’s mind:
“It was a trade show, but I call it ‘speed dating’,” he said. “Businesses from all over the world came to the show…you present your business and then you arrange a 30-minute meeting at your table.”
Gililland noted that there were several companies from around the world who were interested in SPF Depot, and after a number of meetings, he locked up a deal with a Polish distributor who loved the company’s product line.
“We did really well, I was pretty impressed,” Gililland said. “I haven’t seen anything like it in the U.S.”
Additionally, SPF Depot has been an avid proponent of UTECH events, exhibiting at the most recent convention in The Netherlands during April, as well as the upcoming PU China in August.
“We will be showing our solvents, OEM parts and our aftermarket gun parts,” said Gililland.
East Asia has been a major focal point of activity for SPF Depot. In fact, Gililland’s first trip with LED grants was to Shanghai, in order to meet a customer wanting to be a distributor as well as trying to source tools, drill bits, spray suits, and gloves. More recently, Gililland was able to network with that new distributor he met in Hong Kong to partner with a Swedish distributor for packaging and labeling SPF Depot’s SPF Release in Sweden for distribution in the EU region. As Gililland sees it, SPF Depot’s success hasn’t been a matter of coincidence or luck, but rather a consequence maintaining valuable relationships and putting the customer first.
Beyond major markets like Europe and Asia, Gililland noted that other high-growth regions, from his experience, include: Poland and Russia; Ireland and the U.K.; Australia and New Zealand. Even in these smaller markets, Gililland has been pleased with the process of finding customers who possess a thorough understanding of spray equipment.
“Most everybody is already using this equipment, so we’re not dealing with market newcomers,” Gililland said. “They’re already in the business, familiar with it, and using it.”
Although Gililland has been able to work with people who have experience with spray foam and SPF equipment, that doesn’t mean conducting business is a hassle-free process. It’s really about finding the right fit.
“I guess the difficult part is finding a distributor that can put enough product on the shelf, but that’s a good problem to have,” Gililland explained.
Whenever Gililland has located the right distributor, sales have taken off, translating to robust, organic growth worldwide. Indeed, SPF Depot’s success has contributed to it becoming something of a model company for LED.
“Louisiana Economic Development Corp. had me as a guest speaker at an export program event to meet with manufacturers in the state because we’ve done so well on export growth,” said Gililland, who also mentioned SPF Depot’s recognition hasn’t only been at the state level.
Gililland recently completed an interview with the U.S. Dept of Commerce (DOC), which is writing a book on exporting and e-commerce, and wanted to find out more about SPF Depot’s marketing efforts to a global market, as well as its experience with LED. Actually, it’s not Gililland’s first time dealing with the DOC, as SPF Depot was presented the Presidential E-Award for export growth last year, traveling to Washington to receive the award from the Secretary of Commerce.
While SPF Depot’s achievements have sat well with Gililland, it’s only an early chapter of his company’s story. There are always new places to visit, new people to meet, new relationships to foster, and new business to close.
CONTACT SPF DEPOT:
Direct any questions about international distribution opportunities to SPF Depot: