March 10, 2023 – appeared in Paint & Coatings Industry magazine, https://www.pcimag.com/blogs/14-pci-blog/post/111170-topcoat-what-is-your-reason-for-being.
By Ryan Crowe, Director/Owner, Coval Technologies
Raison d’etre is French for “reason for being.” All business leaders and owners can ask themselves – what is our “reason for being?” Or ask that question about each product that they sell.
The task, or “reason for being,” of a topcoat is to protect the outstanding work done by others. Floor owners want their magnificent metallic epoxy, sparkling terrazzo floors, and stunning polished concrete to shine like a mirror, showing off the work of the floor artists who spent hours and hours painting and grinding it to perfection.
Keeping that amazing work looking fabulous preserves the happiness of the floor owner (or manager). Let’s face it, the floor artists, the craftsmen, and innovators are the topcoat clients, as well as those that apply the topcoat (sometimes the same). They are the ones with their reputation on the line, with sweat and often some blood invested in each project. The “topcoat guys” are there to extend the flooring expert’s product into the future as long as possible to make flooring clients happy, which benefits both the artist and the topcoat manufacturer.
Obviously, the topcoat protective technology is extremely important but is not the thing that makes the end user say “wow!” It is the preservative that makes sure the “wow” lasts a long time. The owners love the work, not the protective coating. Happy clients post awesome photos on social media and websites with their newly created and coated floors.
A Movie Analogy
My message of a “raison d’etre” is simple, but as a coatings manufacturer, it may not make me very popular. A corny analogy of what I want to emphasize is the movie Jerry Maguire, produced in 1996. Jerry writes a heartfelt mission statement to the sports agency where he works after experiencing a crisis of confidence. He criticizes the agency for not investing in personal relationships, honesty, and integrity. Jerry was fired for his condemnation of the business and his call for the company’s re-creation. It’s probably not a great idea to follow suit, but I have never been that good at rules or taking advice so here goes…
A Floor’s Future
Fast forward five years after a floor design and topcoat application, and happy clients are not posting pictures about their floors anymore. That is what I’m encouraging the coating industry to change. We need to accept our reason for being as the invisible partner. When the floors still look great, post pictures on social media!
It is not exactly news to post; “happy five years of coating, floor still working as was promised.” Not too many “likes” with that post, or many “friends” who are reading the post care because this is an expectation of the coating that it does work.
But there are people that do care. The homeowners, business owners and managers, and facilities managers that approved the topcoat care, because they paid for it to work. The person that was a coatings client back in 2018 and has been promoted to facilities manager overseeing 32 buildings across the state and has 50 projects coming up over the next three years, cares. Effectiveness wins the contract. That is how to drive your business long-term, by establishing a reason for being.
Our Client’s Clients
We have two types of clients:
- The installers and contractors.
- The manufacturers that produce overlays, tile, epoxy, VCT (vinyl composition tile), and LVT (luxury vinyl tile).
The end users – the homeowners, business managers, and facilities managers – are our clients’ customers. The end users buy the epoxy or concrete design, the installation skills, and the polished concrete skills from the installer. The topcoat is just there to protect the finished floor against stains, scratches, graffiti, oxidation, etc. But the end user doesn’t choose the floor finish or installer because of the topcoat.
Our installation clients make the topcoat decision at the intersection of desire and confidence. The desire is for the look or the practical purpose they want in a coating. That can include the finished look of glossy or matte, reduced maintenance, improved slip resistance, or a multitude of other reasons. Then, they must have confidence in the product they choose and who will be installing it.
The other types of coating clients are flooring manufacturers – epoxy, overlay, terrazzo, rubber, VCT, and LVT manufacturers. A topcoat improves their product and makes it look good for longer. Manufacturers will add our topcoat to their end product as a part of a system. Often, the same installers mentioned above are applying it.
The top protective coating is to be invisible, to let the end user enjoy the flooring artwork, the natural look of polished concrete, and make their surfaces easier to clean. But the topcoat is there so that the client will choose the same flooring or installation company again in 5–10 years’ time, when fashions change and it’s time for a new look.
No one looks at an epoxy masterpiece by Lou Barra, Isaiah Pride, or Jeremy Redig and says, “I really want a floor like that because of that tough, invisible topcoat.” No one looks at a classic “insert name here” polished or stained concrete job, VCT or LVT floor, and says, “I want that in my showroom because of the invisible topcoat.”
When the floor still looks great in years to come, they will think of our clients – the installers or the flooring manufacturers – and their workmanship, not the topcoat that has protected it. They will recommend the installer and the product that they can see. They will tell their friends about how good the product still looks. The topcoat applicators will not be mentioned by the end user and nor should they. They are not “our clients,” they are our client’s clients.
The reason for a topcoat is simple. Topcoats should work and not be seen. They should make our clients’ lives easier, and their products look better, and last longer. They should be easy to apply. When your topcoat is all those things, then your clients will be successful and so will we.
This all circles back to raison d’etre, our reason for being. Go ahead, post those photos of floors that have been coated for five years.