IDI Distributors have made a name for themselves by providing diverse insulation solutions to contractors across the country. Spray Foam Magazine talked with Chris Novogratz, Vice President of IDI Distributors, about IDI’s beginnings, present endeavors, and future outlook.
Spray Foam Magazine: Tell me about IDI Distributors. How have you become one of the biggest names in distribution in the spray polyurethane foam industry?
Chris Novogratz: At IDI, we have a shared mission and values, and it all starts and ends with our customers. We put the health, safety, and well-being of our customers ahead of everything else and strive to be not just their one-stop shop for all of their insulation products, but also a partner and a resource. That means next-day delivery, on-the-job training, and access to field technicians, for starters.
We also made an investment in the training of contractors in this industry. Our growth in the industry wasn’t an overnight success, but we knew adding spray foam and the training to support it would bring a lot of value to our customers, so we stuck with it. We made a substantial financial commitment to expand the foam business with personnel, technicians, and foam experts, and we’ve grown our business over the years through hard work and excellent service. Our national spray foam manager, Don Clymer, deserves special recognition for his efforts in growing our spray foam division as well. Don was instrumental in helping IDI enter the spray foam business.
Just like we did with fiberglass, when we added spray foam in 2005, we partnered with the top names in the SPF industry and will continue to do so to benefit our customers. We truly believe in supporting our contractors, and have made a commitment to them by stocking all the top insulation brands in the business and by offering not only classroom training, but on-site spray foam training as well. We strive to help our customers be the most knowledgeable and best trained in the business, and in the past year alone we’ve trained more than 800 contractors.
SFM: When did you join the IDI team?
CN: Where do I start? I’ve been around the insulation business since I was a kid. Joe, my father, started the business in 1979, and I got my start by sweeping the warehouse and folding vent chutes for my allowance in grade school. In college,
I insulated for a local contractor, and in 1995 I joined the IDI team full-time.
By then, IDI had several locations, and on my first week on the job I was shipped out to the new location in Chicago. There, I spent a lot of time in the car attempting to sell product and getting to know the ins and outs of insulation. I was green and right out of college with a lot to learn about the insulation business and contractor base.
SFM: Why is distribution, and more importantly, the distributor a company chooses such an important factor for success in this niche industry?
CN: Distribution has been proven to be a successful model for manufacturers and contractors alike. As a distributor, we can offer services, such as our training and in-depth customer support. We have products on hand so you don’t need to fill your own warehouse with inventory. Our next-day deliveries can come straight to your warehouse or job site, so you can get your jobs done faster and more efficiently. We truly are a one-stop shop to help increase business efficiency and, in return, our customers profit.
When it comes to choosing a distributor, I would suggest you look for one that carries the depth and breadth of products that you need so you can always find the right product for each job. Part of that is also looking at what partnerships they have developed within the industry. Training is another big one. Distributors are essentially an extension of manufacturers on a local level, so they should be able to train you on their products and provide support. Speaking from our experience, our customers have always appreciated the fact that IDI is a true distribution partner. IDI has always stayed true to this philosophy. Our model will always be to distribute products and never install.
SFM: As IDI’s Vice President, what is your day-to-day objective and what steps do you take to achieve it?
CN: One of our day-to-day objectives is to serve our customers to the very best of our abilities. We do that by always looking for ways to innovate, provide value, and solve problems. We also strive to create opportunities for our employees and support them. Each employee is
a vital part of our operation and part of our family. We support each other and celebrate every success because we know passion and enthusiasm in the workplace breeds further success. We attribute 100 percent of our success to our employees. These are the values my father Joe founded the company on back in 1979, and it’s the philosophy that’s carried IDI from a one-room office to more than
45 locations nationally.
SFM: IDI continues growing. Do you have a strategy in place going forward to ensure momentum and growth?
CN: Let me say this: Like any business, it’s about commitment to your customer. Once you lose your commitment to them, they have no reason to stay loyal to you. Above all, IDI has always had the “whatever it takes” mentality. Our contractors are everything to us.
Whether the housing market is growing or declining, we want to help our customers succeed. It’s coming through in a pinch or helping them through rough spots that bond us. Just to give you a few examples: We have worked with code officials on their behalf, stocked special products for contractors, and stocked material by hand 40 stories up.
So we’ll continue to invest in our customers, our training, and our people. We’ll continue to align ourselves with strategic manufacturers and top products in the industry. This year, we’ll also increase from one dedicated training facility (in Dallas) to three around the country with the addition of Shelby, Montana, and the expansion of our corporate office in Chanhassen, Minnesota.
SFM: Are there any important relationships/partnerships that IDI’s success as a distributor can be attributed to?
All of our partners have been critical to our success, and without these great partners our business wouldn’t be where it is today. Our philosophy is to partner with industry leaders. That doesn’t always just mean name recognition and size of the manufacturer, but also being partnered with an innovative company; a company that sees trends and will work to ensure that our customers have the best products available. When looking at manufacturers, we do proper due diligence to determine if their business model fits not only for us, but also for our customers.
SFM: Looking ahead, what does the future look like for IDI in the eyes of its V.P.?
CN: We see momentum in the industry as a whole, and we’ve got a lot of exciting things in the works. The housing market looks good for the next decade and we’re thrilled to be creating a dedicated state-of-the-art training facility at our corporate office where we’ll be able to highlight and educate on all types of insulation in new and exciting ways.
SFM: What is your outlook on the spray foam industry and how will it affect IDI?
CN: It’s a very interesting time for the spray foam industry, and I would say the outlook is very good. With the market on it’s way to reaching one billion dollars over the next few years, we’re seeing mergers, buyouts, and more money going into research and development. Over the last 10 years, spray foam contractors have gone from being the cowboys and pioneers of new building methods to redefining the importance of air sealing the building envelope.
With the new codes focusing on thermal bridging and air changes, spray foam offers one of the best solutions for contractors. When we look at new benchmarking requirements for existing buildings across the country, and the fact that the average home is around 40 years old, we believe the retrofit market will stay strong into the next decade.
As far as how that affects IDI, there is no doubt spray foam has made our entire organization and our contractors better in terms of building science, understanding the codes, air barriers, and even their understanding of other products. The growing world of spray foam attracts many business professionals from outside the construction industry.
Many of them, and even other insulators coming into the trade, underestimate how complex and challenging spray foam can be. This, specifically, is the reason we have created the technical and training department we have today. It is also why we work together with the SPFA, our suppliers, and our contractors, doing everything we can to help them succeed.