Specialty Fabrics Review March 2020 - 48

4

TopGun FR
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TopNotch FR

FOSTER
INNOVATION
AND EXPERTISE

Whether a company is
expanding its core products or developing
new products for new markets, it's
important to have the expertise to back up
what you're trying to do, Ludolph advises.
"If you've exhausted all the possibilities,
you really have to be able to commit to
acquiring that expertise," he says. "And
then don't forget you're going to have
significant marketing requirements to
try to go into areas where nobody knows
you. That's why it's more expensive to go
outside of your comfort zone."
For South Haven, Minn.-based
Legacy Building Solutions Inc., product
innovation is at the root of its core values.
The company's patented attachment
system for integrating fabric cladding
with a steel frame is a natural starting
point for continued product development.
"Innovation is what got us started;
innovation is what has promoted our
continual growth to this point; and it will
continue to be the case going forward," says
Ellie Fox, COO, Legacy Building Solutions.
Steven F. Perry, senior vice president,
Darlington Fabrics (a division of the
Moore Co.), Westerly, R.I., says it's often
the company's customers who challenge
them with ideas for growth. "Generally
speaking, the days of doing a lot of R&D
without significant input from our
customers are gone," he says. "Now our
approach is more often joint development,
where you're working closely with
customers to achieve very specific
attributes in a particular substrate."
Fox agrees. "We have been able to
provide our clients options that most
competitors are not able to offer," she says.
"This has allowed our customers to 'think
outside the box' and create a solution that
is customized to their needs."
Not only is it wise to stay close to your
customers as a source for growth, Perry

says, it's a good idea to stay close to your
supply chain as well. "Sometimes it might
seem like that investment isn't necessarily
money well spent, but at Darlington we
find the value in staying close to our supply
chain," he says. "Of course, suppliers visit
us, but we also find it beneficial to make
visits to suppliers to seek their input, to
probe them. Don't wait for your supplier
to tell you what's new. Ask them what new
things they've got in their pipeline and
what you should be looking at."

5

PRIORITIZE
MARKETING

Much like real estate's
mantra is "Location.
Location. Location," perhaps
manufacturers' mantra should be
"Marketing. Marketing. Marketing."
"You always have to be marketing,"
Ludolph emphasizes. "This is the
opportunity for fabricators to create
brands to differentiate themselves."
Jason Gardner, vice president of global
marketing and advertising for SeaDekĀ®
Marine Products in Rockledge, Fla., knows
firsthand the power of good marketing for
growth. When SeaDek's OEM (original
equipment manufacturer) orders for boat
decking tanked during the recession of
2008, the company expanded its products
to serve the aftermarket-and focused hard
on marketing. "We worked for free for the
better part of a year, but during that time,
we changed our marketing message, and
instead of cutting our marketing budget,
we doubled it," Gardner says. "We've been
in double-digit growth every year for eight
years now."

STAY THE COURSE

6

Business growth is a
long game-and keeping
everyone on track can be
a big challenge. "On the management
side, a lot of times staying on track is
a matter of focus, and we suggest that

48 REVIEW MARCH 2020

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Specialty Fabrics Review March 2020

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