Brad Rowe came to Thermal Design in Stoughton, Wis., with a lot of experience in marketing and sales, but if he’s asked about his background in the construction industry, he chuckles.
“I insulated my garage. Does that count?”
Probably not if he was getting hired to put up a building.
But Rowe’s job is to get the word out about Thermal Design’s insulation system. He is, however, learning a lot about the building industry.
“I try to be a sponge and absorb as much information as I can. Luckily I’m surrounded by a lot of experienced people who have been in the industry for 25-plus years,” he says. “The first two or three years, I’ve been spending a lot of time learning things like what an R-value is or what a U-value is, and I’m trying to learn my way around the industry.”
Born in the Madison, Wis., area in 1975, Rowe attended University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, Wis., where he got a degree in marketing and business administration and immediately began a career in marketing and sales. In 2001, he moved to San Diego for a new job. There he met his wife, who is also originally from Wisconsin. After five years in California, the couple decided to return to their home state.
“We wanted to get back to family and friends and settled down,” he explains. “It was shortly after we returned that I started working at Thermal Design.”
Thermal Design is a family company with 50 employees in two locations. There’s the headquarters in Wisconsin and a manufacturing and sales plant in Madison, Neb. The company’s flagship product is its Simple Saver System, a high R-value insulation system.
It is designed to be installed into the roofs and walls of metal and post-frame buildings.
“Here are a couple unique features about the system,” Rowe says. “It’s a system that encapsulates the typically exposed secondary framing members and allows the insulation to perform at a high level with minimal compression. Whereas typical metal building insulation is installed, leaves these members exposed to the conditioned space and is compressed when the metal roof is attached.
“Another unique feature is it allows for fall protection for the erectors,” he adds. “So it’s not just insulation but for safety when they are insulating and decking roofs.”
The Simple Saver System not only provides high insulation values, but also improves aesthetics.
“It provides high light reflectivity and sound absorption,” he adds. “It provides a nice clean finished appearance, almost like an acoustical grid like you’d see in a large office building.”
Rowe’s formal title with Thermal Design is national marketing manager. “I review a lot of the technical information, but also evaluate and design marketing materials. I also participate in watching the different energy codes and standards currently under way and the changes that are coming,” he says.
Thermal Design has an affiliate company called EnergyCraft Systems, a franchisor, in which he is the franchise sales director.
“We’re building a network of franchises with contractors throughout the country who go out and install insulation systems.” Rowe meets with potential franchise owners and helps with business models, sales strategies and marketing plans.
Marketing and selling a product is tough in this economy, but Rowe thinks Thermal Design has a distinct niche area to keep his business and contractors busy.
“A lot of contractors are trying to keep busy with limited amounts of projects compared to last year or the year before,” he explains. “They’re trying to keep that revenue coming in and keep their employees out in the field.”
What Rowe has been doing is presenting alternative options.
“The supply of new projects is down, but the demand for energy-efficient systems is high,” he says. Building owners are looking for ways to downsize their utility bills and save money on heating and cooling costs.
“We tell contractors that they don’t need to be looking at only new projects going on, but rather look at the opportunities in the retrofit market.”
Part of Rowe’s job is to help contractors articulate the payback in energy investments to potential clients. “Rather than looking at the cheapest price, we want contractors and owners to understand the immediate and long-term value,” he says.
The two biggest marketing tools Rowe has are the free energy analysis his company provides and education about energy-efficient building practices.
“The free energy analysis encompasses three different subsystems: insulation, HVAC and lighting,” he says. He can show companies and owners that, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t cost more to own an energy-efficient building. “If they improve insulation performance, for example, it will save on their HVAC investment.”
Education is also important. “We try to inform contractors with the appropriate information for them to gain permitting in green or LEED-certified buildings, as well as help them capture tax incentives and possible low-interest funding options,” he says.
As Rowe readily admits, it isn’t only the contractors who gain from the information he gathers to help educate clients on the latest building practices. He’s always learning, too.
“When I came into the industry, I thought metal buildings were giant warehouses,” he says. “And they are. But in the short time I’ve been here, I quickly learned that they are also worship facilities, gymnasiums, retail, ice rinks, a wide range of different buildings. Each building is unique.”
One project he’s particularly proud of is a church and school gymnasium for which Thermal Design supplied materials and EnergyCraft Systems volunteered to retrofit.
“In that building alone, you could notice a big change,” he says. “It’s great to go out and talk to end users pre- and post-installation and get their feedback.”
His favorite thing about his job is the new challenge every day.
“I get to wear multiple hats,” he says, “whether it is a new franchisee coming on board or going out to the field or working on a new brochure. It can be suit and tie one day and steel-toed boots and hard hat the next day.”