Excellence in Everything!
GFC Industrial Coatings solves coating and concrete concerns
Jason Ripley, Owner and President of GFC Industrial Coatings (GFC), the industrial division of Garage Floor Coating of MN, launched out on his own right after graduating from high school in 1989. “I was very young and extremely ambitious,” Ripley says. “I started from scratch, just by myself. I built up a clientele base by petitioning a few contractors, hiring a couple of friends from school and expanding into several areas of construction, such as coating and painting and other related services.”
Outgrowing the Competition
Based in New Hope, Minnesota, his business continued to grow. Within a couple of years, Ripley had several crews, an office staff and a pretty substantial job portfolio. By 2006, he expanded GFC to a five-state region including Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota and Iowa as well as Minnesota. By 2007, the firm’s focus was solely on coating and coating projects. Currently, GFC has 50 people on staff, including four production managers, three in-house sales support representatives and five outside sales team members. The remaining workers comprise the 12 crews in the coating and polishing division and the four crews in concrete repair and replacement.
“When you look at GFC versus others in the flooring and concrete industry, we stand out because we are very large compared to the competition. We feel that we run a very professional operation as far as providing services and expertise in all areas: from the sales presentation and how we present ourselves, to the management and oversight of the project, to the production of the project. We have a leg up because we have the manpower and expertise,” Ripley says, adding. “We must be doing something right to keep our guys year after year.”
Providing Incentives and Tools
GFC rewards its employees by providing bonus structures for exceeding project performance goals. It also rewards workers for positive feedback from consumers. “We have an electronic survey system that our clients are presented with at the conclusion of each project. We get a very high success rate of feedback,” Ripley says. “We value performance, making sure projects are on time and on budget, and overall customer interaction and satisfaction.”
Business Development Officer Peter Slama is in sales and heads up GFC’s commercial and builder division. Slama has worked for a lot of small- and medium-sized companies throughout his career, and he thinks one of the challenges many face is not having the budget to pay employees adequately. “One of the good things about working at GFC is that we always try to give opportunities to earn supplemental income to help with each situation that our people may be going through,” Slama says. It’s a reward system that helps the corporation as well.
“Another area that small to medium companies often struggle with is providing people with the tools they need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. I think GFC goes out of its way to make sure everyone has everything they need to be able to perform well,” Slama adds.
Ripley is proud of his teams’ abilities to tackle the toughest challenges. “Our crews have carried out several great tasks,” he says. “We’re really proud of all the projects we do no matter the size or the scope, but the Yankee Stadium assignment was perhaps the most unique.” A local enterprise called Staging Concepts, Inc. asked GFC to create a custom-themed floor for three junior suites that it was creating for Yankee Stadium. The suites were going to be constructed in Minnesota and then transported and installed in New York—a complex effort requiring extra coordination efforts. “We had to work with a whole design team at Staging Concepts to develop the overall theme of the floor featuring Yankee colors—blue, white and silver,” Ripley recalls.
“Like the Yankee project, a number of our jobs involve creative solutions to solve problems confronting our clients,” he adds. “One distinctive thing about our flooring is that it is seamless and a pour-in-place type of floor. Medical facilities, food facilities, veterinary clinics or any type of laboratory require seamless and nonporous floors for sanitary and safety issues. There are a multitude of reasons why GFC floors would be preferred over other traditional flooring options. We’ve completed some distinctive projects where we’ve been able to help people meet their unique needs,” Slama says.
St. Anthony Park Elementary School also presented a one-of-a-kind situation. The owners wanted to renovate the third floor, including removing the walls to expand classrooms. GFC provided a level surface across this entire third-floor bay of classrooms, even though the aged facility created structural challenges.
GFC has also helped quite a few car dealerships in Minnesota solve a slippery problem. Many had tile in their service bays which, over time, became hazardous due to ice and snow conditions. GFC improved the performance of their floors by introducing a coating that integrates an anti-slip feature.
Another condition that GFC deals with frequently is to resolve existing concrete slab problems where sloping or pulling occurs. “Customers are relieved to find we are able to eliminate the need to totally replace or redo the whole concrete area,” Ripley says.
“The custom niche is where I think we excel,” Slama adds. “On the residential side, we can offer customers any kind of floor that they want. On the commercial side, if customers have a corporate theme, or corporate colors that they want to integrate in the floor, we’re able to do that on a consistent basis.”
Finding ways to help people is a prevalent aspect of GFC’s company culture and goes well beyond the normal workday. “We strongly believe in giving back to the community. We donate many floors every year to raise money for different charities—most of which are not name-brand charities, but often benefit local families going through difficult situations,” Ripley says. “We are very passionate about helping kids that are suffering with an illness or maybe have been born with some sort of special need. We are very excited to be a part of helping them in any way possible.”
“When we talk about children or even spouses with special needs, we’ve run into situations where people couldn’t find coating solutions that would work with their sensitivity to smell, but we have a full range of green or healthy products that they can tolerate,” Slama says.
Ripley says that everyone at GFC is taught to approach each assignment as if it is their own and to focus on the task as if it is the only one they are doing. Extreme care is taken from start to finish on how all aspects are executed—from the sale all the way through production. “Our goal is to be the very best subcontractor. If there is anything we can do to make the general contractor look good, we will do that in every way we can,” Ripley says. “In our main office and in our warehouse, we have posted a three-word tagline—Excellence in Everything!”
Such excellence was rewarded when, in 1990, GFC received the governor’s Certificate of Commendation from the Performance Excellence Network (PEN). Founded in 1987 by the Minnesota Legislature and Governor Rudy Perpich, PEN was spun off into a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit two years later. PEN advances improvement and performance excellence within organizations, individuals and communities. It helps leaders identify strengths and improvement opportunities, and it builds networks that bring information, resources, knowledge and best practices to organizations desiring to improve. GFC is one of less than 150 firms to ever achieve this recognition.