SpeedCove President Doug Standal recently joined CoatingsPro’s podcast series regarding COVID-19 to share with us how business in the resinous flooring industry has changed over the past few weeks and months.
SpeedCove is a small business and has been working globally from their offices in California, even before the pandemic. In that capacity, he’s able to offer valuable examples of what they are doing virtually in the food and beverage, health care, and other market segments.
A complete transcript of the episode, which was recorded on May 21, 2020, is available below.
Stephanie Chizik: Doug, thanks so much for joining us.
Doug Standal: Thank you very much, Stephanie.
SC: Would you mind giving us a brief background for our readers and subscribers? Maybe your own personal or your company’s background?
DS: Sure. About 20 years ago, we saw a need in the epoxy flooring industry to create a quicker, easier way to achieve the Environmental Health Department’s requirement for integral cove base, which means a waterproof and chemical-proof joint between the wall and the floor. For 40–50 years, they have been hand troweling that, and it’s very difficult, very hard to learn, takes years to get good at it. It’s very tedious and slows the jobs down.
Nowadays, return to service is very important. Businesses want to get open again. Every day they’re not open, they’re not making money. So we made a product, we invented a pre-formed cove base system that the industry had never seen before that you just glue into place and coat over it so you can achieve that Environmental Health Department sanitary cove base requirement much faster, much easier, even just with basic labor skills. It doesn’t take months or years of practice to be able to put it in. Quite different than what was on the market previously.
SC: I’m glad that you explained what a cove base is, because I started in the industry about seven years ago, and it was definitely a new term to me. So I suspect that not all of our readers and subscribers know what that is, especially if they’re not in the flooring industry, of course. And I’ve heard that it is quite technical to learn how to install the resinous coving system accurately, something that won’t fail prematurely. Sounds like a great idea for the market.
DS: Thank you. It’s had phenomenal success.
SC: I would imagine that part of the positives or benefits to your product are maybe less materials are needed as far as resinous flooring. I would think it takes a lot to build that up. Is that correct?
DS: It’s about the same amount of material, but it’s quite a bit less labor. It much easier, much faster to install a preformed cove base versus do it by hand. We can take jobs that take several days and get them done in one or two days.
SC: Like you said, that’s a huge benefit right now for facility owners who want to get back online as quickly as possible.
DS: Especially, yes.
SC: Which is something in general that the industry wants, but especially right now. Every state is obvious different but some are slowly starting to go back to normal. Have you seen a change in business over the past few weeks?
DS: Yes. The past few weeks, thank goodness, business has picked up quite a bit. March was pretty bad. We had a record February followed by a record low in March. It’s like we fell off a cliff. Everything just stopped, came to a halt. Jobs were put on hold, delayed. Shipments were put on hold. I think everybody just got set back on their heels, not really sure what to do. Then in April, I think after we all kind of figured out what’s going on, and people started working again. Out here today, we’re very busy like normal.
SC: In California, are the people — maybe not in construction in general, but in this specific part of the construction industry that you guys help to fill — were those people not deemed essential for California?
DS: Actually, the epoxy guys are deemed essential. All the epoxy installers are in the construction category and building category. So actually they are. Actually, we’ve seen a rise in their business. The epoxy flooring installers have been exceptionally busy because of several reasons, one of them being a lot of restaurants don’t have time — they can’t afford to shut down. They run on very small margins. They don’t have time to stop and repair their floors. Because of COVID, they were forced to shut down, so they took advantage of that time and repaired their floors and improved their floors. So there’s been a higher demand for those epoxy flooring installers, and we put a lot of cove base in a lot of restaurants.
SC: I have definitely seen the same thing. I’m out in Baltimore, and I’ve noticed a few of the restaurants, like you said, take the opportunity now while they can’t have patrons inside to do the work that they would have had to shut down for in normal times. I’m not sure what the chain looks like as far as where your manufacturing facilities are. Do you sell through distributors? How does that work for SpeedCove?
DS: Our manufacturing plant is on the East Coast. We have distributors in several states. We are still looking for distributors in some other states where we do not have one yet. We have distributors also in foreign countries, in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean islands, New Zealand, Australia, and a few other places.
SC: Would you normally have been doing a lot of travel right now to those locations if we weren’t under stay-at-home orders?
DS: That’s a good question. Actually, no. We stay pretty busy here in the office. There’s really not a lot of time for travel. We try to do everything remotely and through the phone and through Skype to reduce travel. I feel that’s just one thing we can do to help the business climate and environment, to do that as much as we can and limit the travel.
SC: That probably has set you guys up for a really good situation right now, so that you’re already used to working with your clients remotely. Do you have any tips and tricks for folks listening in on, like you just said, using Skype to communicate with clients — those kinds of things?
DS: We’re a smaller company, and we’re moving more into all the technology that’s out there — the Google, the LinkedIn, Pinterest, the website — and linking them all together with Facebook. We are using that, we’re really growing in that area right now, focusing on it. But we have been mostly more traditional, just good, old-fashioned customer service, man-to-man, one-to-one, right on the phone. Answering the questions and helping them know exactly what they’re doing. Just that old-fashioned customer service. We do both.
SC: That’s great. There are probably going to be as many questions from the field now as there were before, as we go back to the “new normal,” while people are starting to work again.
DS: Yes, you’re right. We were kind of already set up for what’s happening now. It’s sort of the norm for us.
SC: That’s great for you guys. What do you see as far as any potential changes for the industry moving forward, whether that’s the overall construction industry or specific to the flooring industry? Anything you’re noticing?
DS: We are seeing more awareness and effort towards making floors more sanitary and, of course, easier to clean. It sounds funny or trite, but if a floor’s easy to clean, it’s more likely to be clean. That might sound really silly, but it’s true. When a floor is like a bathtub or a sink — there’s no cracks, no grout lines, no seams to scrub and have to focus on — it’s very easy to keep the floor clean. So the goal has always been to have clean floors that are really easy to maintain. They’re very sanitary, and I believe that standard is rising right now and it’s becoming more important.
SC: I am actually in the flooring business, too, in a sense, and I hadn’t really thought of that. I think it’s probably one of the surfaces that gets easily overlooked as far as areas where we can make a difference when it comes to a pandemic-related virus. But also all sorts of things that need to be cleaned out of a restaurant or hospital — areas where cleanliness really does matter. That’s a great point. I can also relate to the bathtub. I feel like I can never get those grout lines clean. That’s probably a great analogy to use. Corners of a floor really do matter.
DS: The standard actually came from the U.S. military. The Navy ships, many years ago — 50, 60 years ago, maybe even earlier — they found that it was hard to mop the ships when there was a square corner. Unsanitary matter gets stuck in square corners. So they said, “Just round it off.” So they started manufacturing ships with rounded corners so they were easier to mop. So it was originally called ship’s cove, and then the Environmental Health Department adopted the Navy military standard, from what I understand.
SC: That’s really interesting. It’s amazing how the industries bleed into one another and affect everything down the daisy chain. Do you see any social changes? You mentioned the cleaning of floors. Are there any “silver linings” that you’re seeing in the industry or outside of it? Talking with you is a great example, to me, of the silver lining. We might not have met otherwise. So it’s a great opportunity to connect. Are you seeing other positives that are going on right now that we could share?
DS: Thank you. This might be a little strange, but I think as we have been quarantined, as people, as we’ve been separated now for weeks — and my heart goes out to the people of New York City, it’s just overwhelming. And the people in China, how they were locked in their apartments for weeks or months on end. I think everybody is coming out with a new appreciation of other people and their neighbors and the relationships that we have, don’t you think?
SC: Absolutely. When you mentioned New York — I think of London too, they have the 7 o’clock applause for all of the healthcare workers. It’s just amazing.
DS: They’re heroes.
DS: They’re heroes. Every one of them.
SC: They’re heroes, and it’s also encouraging that, as a society, we’re sort of all rallying together. It’s definitely a unifying effort, despite troubling times.
DS: Yes, we have to find new and creative ways to work together, to encourage each other, and move forward and still be safe. So it’s challenging.
SC: That’s absolutely true. I imagine, now that things are going back to a new norm, for lack of a better phrase, that SpeedCove has some great things going on for 2020. Do you want to share any items or products or events going on for you guys this year?
DS: Yes. We are bringing on new shapes and sizes and profiles to our line. We have four sizes, 1, 4, 6, and 8. The 4 and the 6 being the most common. That’s 4 inches high or 6 inches, that’s been the sanitary cove base standard for many years. We’re bringing on new shapes and sizes. We can make any shape or any size anyone needs. We’ve had some interesting requests lately for some very large, more rounded radiuses. We were able to quickly manufacture some custom door sills to match the original door sills from a very old building back in Boston.
One of the emergency pandemic hospitals that they put our SpeedCove in and we made some door sills so that we could also help them keep the floors that were getting mopped a lot — they tend to be a little bit more sloppy, a little wet — we wanted to keep that separate in a certain room and not let it go into another room and onto a different kind of floor. We’ve had some strange opportunities to serve and to help them get these things done as quickly as possible and meet the needs. It’s been interesting.
SC: Do you expect that specific product will be available now to the greater market, or do you do one-offs like that, where it’s a specific need that you’re fulfilling?
DS: That was kind of a one-off, a custom need. They may need more of those if they choose to continue to expand the pandemic emergency hospitals. But we can make all shapes, all sizes, profiles. We can make just about anything that people need. So it will be interesting to see what pops up. We’ve gotten several new requests and we’re now supplying product for COVID-19 pandemic pharmaceutical manufacturing. We’ve been supplying pharmaceutical manufacturing for many years, so we’ll see. We’re ready to meet the needs and challenges that come our way.
SC: It’s fascinating to me how many points along the way touch the COVID-19 need. You obvious hear on the news, at least you used to hear, about the PPE manufacturers and the need for those. But there are a lot of other needs, too, and you guys have a niche you can help fulfill. That has to feel good, too. That’s great.
DS: Thank you. The whole goal was very simple in the beginning: Let’s make floors as sanitary and easy to clean as possible and as quick and easy to put in. A super-sanitary floor that’s really fast and easy to put in, that’s what people need. That’s what they want. And now more than ever.
SC: Just to clarify, when you say a 4-inch cove base, does that mean 4 inches vertically up the wall, or are you talking about the radius?
DS: Yes. Our radius is around 1 inch, that’s what the industry has been hand troweling for years. We match that. The code requirement is only 3/8 inch. But that’s pretty small. Most everybody in the epoxy industry utilizes a 1-inch, much larger radius than the tile industry does. So we went ahead and matched that 1 inch. It looks better and it’s easier to clean.
SC: That makes sense. Well, thank you so much, Doug. If people want to follow up with you after this, how can they reach you?
DS: They can email me at email@example.com. Or they can go to our website, speedcove.com and they can connect from there. We’ll be glad to help them.
SC: Perfect. Thank you so much for your time. Looking forward to chatting with you again, hopefully, in the near future, when we’re all on the other side of this. Thanks so much, Doug.
DS: Yes, thank you. You too.
As always, remember to keep on showing your #CoatingsProPride! For more information, contact: SpeedCove, www.speedcove.com.
Editor's note: Listen to all of the other interviews in CoatingsPro's COVID-19 podcast series.