A Seal of Quality
Sure Seal Delivers Large-Scale Precision Waterproofing Services
When it comes to waterproofing services, Chris Tovar, owner of Sure Seal, isn’t interested in haggling over nickels and dimes. Instead, he wants to earn business—again and again. “I’d rather trade a little in short-term profit for long-term reputation. When our customers think of Sure Seal, they know they’re getting a subcontractor that listens to their needs and concerns, develops a scope of work that’s fair to both parties and delivers quality services with an attention to detail and a commitment to safety,” he says.
Sure Seal provides commercial-grade waterproofing services, including bulk caulking, above-and-below-grade waterproofing, flashing, damp proofing, traffic coatings, leak repair and water-repellent applications. “We take pride in delivering applications that function, perform and protect,” Tovar says. Established in 1995 in Hondo, Texas, Sure Seal serves as a subcontractor for multimillion-dollar construction projects throughout central and southwest Texas. Projects include multifamily residences, warehouses, hospitals, retail buildings, schools and medical offices.
With 25 employees, Sure Seal embraces large-scale projects like the Canadian General Tower warehouse in New Braunfels. The contractor, Reid & Associates, was in need of waterproofing services for the concrete precast walls as well as the floor joints for the 240,000-square-foot building. “It was a huge undertaking and required almost half of my staff working full time on the project. We worked closely with the contractor to bring the project in under budget and with zero overtime. It was a huge success and has led to additional work with Reid & Associates,” Tovar says.
Tovar has worked to win over customers, one project at a time—starting with his very first waterproofing project in 1994. A recent high school graduate, Tovar was struggling to provide for his high school sweetheart, Rose, and their two children, Xavier and Samantha.
At the time, Tovar worked as a stocker for a major retailer in Hondo but wasn’t earning enough to provide for his new family. “One day, I was at the gas station and saw a guy filling up his truck. The man looked dirty and tired, and I thought that if he looks that bad, he must be doing something that makes him some money,” he says. Inspired to find the type of work that would provide a better livelihood for his family, later, Tovar struck up a conversation with the owner of a local waterproofing company and was hired to provide security caulking at Hondo’s new prison. “I caulked fixtures within the jail cells so inmates couldn’t remove the sinks or toilets,” he recalls.
That project led to another, this time for the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin, Texas. During this time, the waterproofing company he worked for went belly up, and the project manager asked Tovar if he would step in as a subcontractor. “That project manager helped me earn the business with his boss and taught me how to price my services. In retrospect, he had me pricing my services way too low, but I did land my first job!” Tovar says.
After that first win, word got around to other project managers and general contractors, and Tovar began winning project after project. “In those first seven or eight years, it was just me. I might have two or three jobs at a time and would have to figure out how to manage my time and my money,” he says. Thankfully, Rose remained by his side—and sometimes at the wheel of his truck, shining the truck’s headlights on Tovar while he worked well into the night. “Rose has been so important in growing this business. Many nights we’d sit at the kitchen table, working on the budget, figuring out how we’d pay the bills and the mortgage and still have enough money to purchase materials for the next project. We never splurged; there were many nights of eating fideo [a Mexican pasta], beans and tortillas.”
Tovar is proud to note that he and Rose grew Sure Seal without ever incurring debt. “The only debt we’ve ever had is our mortgage, and we paid that off in nine years. The way I see it, if you don’t have the money to buy something, you don’t buy it,” he says.
As the business grew, Tovar built an office at their home, which is situated on 10 acres in Hondo. “We used our profits from the previous year to build the home office off the side of the house in 2013.”
When it came time to hire his first employee, Tovar brought in one of his brothers, George, who relocated from Michigan, and today serves as Sure Seal’s Director of Field Operations. “I knew I could trust George. Plus, the price was right!” he laughs. Tovar’s sons, Xavier and Taylor, also joined the business, often working side by side with their dad on the weekends while in school. “After Xavier got his feet wet with the business, he decided to pursue a degree in construction management. Today, Xavier runs the office, and Taylor has also joined the company, serving as an estimator. Tovar got his older brother and information technology (IT) expert, Russ, involved in the business as well, equipping the home office with hardware and setting up IT services.
Doing Things the Right Way
When Tovar adds new employees—oftentimes hiring them away from his competitors—he makes sure they are trained to provide excellent service and commit to the company’s safety culture. “We have a lot of ‘lunch and learns,’ where company representatives teach our employees how a product should be properly applied. They review the right temperature for applications and whether a product can be applied when it’s humid or rainy. Sure Seal invests in doing things the right way,” he says.
The company also invests in making sure employees return home the same way they came to work. “There are a lot of potential hazards in our business. Employees often work on ladders with sprayed fluids that could potentially get on your hands and in your eyes. I tell employees that I’m pretty sure science hasn’t yet succeeded in creating a fully functional replacement eye. Safety glasses may be uncomfortable, but it’s important to protect yourself,” Tovar says.
Every first Friday of the month, the company shuts down the office for a timeout with the company’s safety consultant. “We have a great safety person. In delivering important messages, he keeps employees engaged and often has them laughing,” says Tovar.
The company has invested in a written safety plan—often a requirement for large projects. “The safety plan allows us to fish in the same pond as some of our larger competitors. When you combine our strong safety culture with our attention to detail and delivering services that are above and beyond expectations, it’s no wonder we’re winning bids against some of the giants in our industry,” says Tovar.
Commitment to Community
Although customer satisfaction is always top of mind, the company keeps community front and center. Sure Seal gives 3 to 7 percent of its profits to community organizations, sponsoring events that benefit the Hondo Little League, Hondo High School, Medina Regional Hospital, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Hondo, and the local police department, chamber of commerce and public library. The company is a staple at town events like the Hondo Police Department’s Blue Santa program and National Night Out, as well as the Medina County Sheriff’s Office Brown Santa program.
As the son of a blue-collar worker in Detroit, Michigan, Tovar learned early on the struggle of providing for your children. “I remember my dad not having enough money to put me in baseball. If I can give to an organization to help people who are less fortunate, I’m all for it. Rose and I have a genuine desire to help when we can. It’s a good feeling that can’t be bought!” he says.
“Giving back is extremely important to everyone at Sure Seal. I’m proud of the work my employees do day in and day out, and I’m proud of the work we do to help our community,” he adds.