A Conversation With Dennis Vandewater – President, SPFA
By Ryan Spencer
Since being elected as SPFA President in 2014, Dennis ”Denny” Vandewater has leveraged three decades of experience in the SPF industry to lead the organization. For its inaugural Executive Spotlight, Spray Foam Magazine was able to speak one-on-one with Denny to get his outlook on the spray foam industry.
SFM: So tell me about your tenure as SPFA President–what has been the big initiative?
DV: Our task is to keep spray foam in the forefront and keep promoting it and make sure we address misinformation or misrepresentation of spray foam, as there has been quite a bit of that lately. This is one element of an overall initiative to deliver value and grow membership. That also includes good advocacy, technical leadership, growing the show and building our professional certification program.
SFM: And that’s going to further the industry’s growth?
DV: Our industry grows every day. More people and more projects. To be competitive as an industry and maintain a high level of performance, product acceptance, and a good reputation we simply need all this being done like every industry we compete with.
SFM: How does it do that?
DV: SPFA, as an example, is really the best advocate we as contractors have for spray foam in dealing with regulations from government agencies, bad press in the media, insurance issues…we go to bat and deal with those things, and it takes a lot of energy and resources for us to do that. We can’t forget SPF is a new thing for a lot of people and they need correct information.
SFM: And a lot of that effort has been expended in California recently, right? How has the DTSC situation shaped up?
DV: The concern was that if California were to enact something like what it started with, it could spread to other states and just cripple the spray foam industry based on a pretty strong misunderstanding of SPF. SPFA was instrumental working with DTSC and building partnerships that righted the ship, corrected some of the language, and at least put the conversation going in a better direction–for now.
SFM: Beyond California, what else is currently challenging the industry?
DV: Insurance carriers often don’t understand spray foam, and they are also influenced by a lot of public misinformation on SPF, so there’s a hurdle that we’re aware of and we’re reaching out to the major underwriters to make sure they understand the benefits of spray foam and that it is a safe product. There’s an education opportunity…we’re looking in the near future at doing some education programs and getting some dedicated literature to them.
SFM: Education has been a big initiative for the SPFA, particularly with regard to training. How has the Professional Certification Program progressed?
DV: The PCP program isn’t even three years old and it’s really had an impact on the industry already. If we can get applicators and companies to keep plugging into that, they’ll have better people on staff and do better work, and in turn they will increase our market share. In a world of varying skills and abilities among contractors, professional certification becomes an “easy-button” for customers to have confidence that they are picking the right person.
SFM: So you think that these credentials are a boon for both the industry as a whole and the individual contractor?
DV: I’ve always been a big believer in credentials–we all basically have the same type of equipment to do the same kind of work, so it’s a matter of who can better present themselves and market themselves and credentials kind of give you a leg up on your competitors in your customers’ eyes.
SFM: Beyond training, what are contractors doing to get involved with the SPFA?
DV: There are some real leadership and professional development opportunities available to all members if they wish to join and participate. Committee positions offer a chance for members to learn and practice their leadership skills, prove their abilities, and contribute to building their reputations.
SFM: What about members who maybe don’t have time for committees?
DV: Networking is one of the big reasons to join any trade association because you have that in-person opportunity and camaraderie among members to establish relationships, and it also indicates that you have an active interest to your peers in the industry.
SFM: So is getting involved the best way to benefit from membership?
DV: Even if you’re not active, you’re actually being an advocate yourself because the dues that you put in help fund those critical efforts to respond to the regulatory environment and business conditions, research and more. I liken my SPFA dues to an insurance policy that keeps my rig running down the road safely and profitably. The SPFA is watching my back while I keep my business running, so it’s comforting to know that.