SFM: It must be gratifying to be at the helm of a very successful
family-run business and to meet with other family-run businesses
in this industry.
PD: Family business – the backbone of America. I love
meeting with our contractors, to us they are our partners, and I
love meeting with them because they’re all typically mid-sized,
smaller businesses, families, couples, brothers and sisters – it’s
really fun to see how they’ve done what they’ve done and how
creative they’ve been in building what they’ve built.
SFM: What makes Gaco Western the for ward-thinking, innovative
company that you are known to be? How did you rebuild after the
PD: It is due to our fabulous people – and the fact that I’m
really impatient. If it’s not moving for ward, I’m ready to move
on, so let’s get going. We have a really simple strategy based
on the best technology in the business, the best salespeople,
and our partners in the business. We compete with Fortune
500 companies who could just crush us out of scale and out of
volume, and if we don’t have better technology than they do,
we’re in trouble. So we’re totally invested in being driven by
new, fun, disruptive technologies.
The only way we win is by bringing out better products that
make our customers richer than anybody else does. It’s not a
complicated strategy – we just run hard to get there and I’m
unbelievably impatient about us getting there. For example,
we had a sales meeting in June and the regional sales guys said,
“ We need a silicone patch product.” I said OK and we talked it,
went to the lab, made a decision, and 90 days later, it was in the
marketplace. Designed. Done. Marketed. Priced. And we sold
$110,000 the first day it was available. It took 90 days from start
to finish for a brand new product. Now, because this is a patch
product, we had to have it developed before we got too deep
Always mindful of his family’s legacy, Gaco Western’s Peter Davis relentlessly pursues innovation. He shares his enthusiasm about shaping business, the industry, and technology with Spray Foam Magazine.
Spray Foam Magazine: Yours is a true family-built company.
How did your family come to be involved in the spray foam
Peter Davis: My father, Aubrey Davis, bought the company
in 1955 and built it up from scratch to a very successful
company by the time he retired in 1977. Then we had two
interim Presidents who took that very successful company
and did their best to destroy it. When I came on in 1994, it was
a mess. It went from a strategic, specification-based company
to a price-driven company and that was just death for where
we were. So, we’ve slowly rebuilt since 1994 – a little at a time
– to where we are today. The family has always owned the
company. But from 1977 to 1994 is almost 20 years. By that
point, we didn’t have a whole lot of choices, and because of
all the chemicals, the liabilities were greater than the assets.
Someone needed to come in and fix things. I raised my hand
and said, “I’ll do this.” And that was that. We all have equity,
but currently I’m the only family member actively involved.
SFM: Your father actually went on to have quite the career after
he retired, didn’t he serve on the Mercer Island City Council and
the Washington Transportation Commission? Isn’t there even a
park, Aubrey Davis Park, which he was instrumental in creating?
PD: Dad’s background was in political science. That was his
dream, but in 1955 he had four young children and no job. He
saw this weird stretchy stuff called “Gaco” in Life Magazine
and called his friend and partner, Hugh, and said, “Let’s go
talk to these people.” They did and they bought the company
right there. He needed a job and he bought a company to
get one. As soon as he got all of his kids through college, he
retired and went back into the public service world. And he
stayed there until 2013. He gave a speech on Wednesday and
passed away on Sunday, so he was active in the community
until almost just before he passed away.
A CONVERSATION WITH
Chairman and CEO, Gaco Western
BY JEN KRAMER