Tecta America, headquartered in Skokie, Ill., took in more than $400 million last year. But Mark Santacrose, the company’s President and CEO, wasn’t sorry to see 2009 come to an end. “It was an incredibly stressful year for the industry because there was tremendous uncertainty,” he said. “2008 was a very strong year for us, and everything came to a stop during the financial crisis. Customers across the board put their hands in their pockets and decided to wait.”
He likened the economic uncertainty of 2009 to steering a ship in the fog. “Toward the end of the year, things were more stable, and that’s continued into this year.”
In 2010, the company started the year out with a much lower backlog than usual, and many areas of the country had difficult weather in the first quarter, “This slowed our start in 2010, but since we entered the second quarter, we’ve been booking a lot more work,” he said. “Our backlog today is much better than it was a year ago.”
According to Santacrose, Tecta America employed a two-pronged approach to handling the recession, keeping an eye on costs but investing in key growth areas.
“We cut costs and reduced the size of the organization,” he said. “But we didn’t stop investing in the organization. We invested in sales, federal sales, and solar. We invested in the growth parts of the industry.”
Solar was starting to take off when the economy went south, and much of the financing from investors looking for tax incentives disappeared because tax losses became all too easy to find. But federal, state and local incentives have supported the solar industry, and federal projects are looking for solar.
“Solar will be a growing market,” said Santacrose. “Because we made the investment, we’re in a better position to supply those needs in the industry.”
Demand for green, sustainable, energy-saving technology is another trend that will continue, said Santacrose. “We’re seeing a lot of it in the public sector - schools, local, state and federal projects. Most projects have some green element, or at least some interest level - garden roofs, reflective coatings and membranes. Building owners are knowledgeable about the long–term considerations of green. But in their budgets, they have to make sense. It has to fit their budget. Sustainability, green, solar, vegetative roofs, daylighting - knowledgeable building owners, specifiers and designers are all looking for their benefits, but they have to fit the budget constraints.”
Tecta America celebrated its 10th anniversary in February of this year. “We work hard every day in an industry with a lot of hardworking people, so nothing’s easy,” said Santacrose, looking back at the past decade. “What separates us is the quality of our people, the quality of our leadership, the individuals who manage our operating units. We’ve proven the value of what we can harness as a larger company. It allows us to develop resources like solar and invest in sales, safety, and management across the board. We’re a much stronger organization as a result of the challenges we overcame this past year, and we have a bright future.”
In June, Santacrose received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2010 Private Equity/Venture Capital-backed Award in the Midwest region. “The award totally reflects on the company as a whole,” said Santacrose. “Our selection was the result of the entrepreneurial spirit we have in the entire company. We’re innovative and creative as a company. The one thing that distinguishes us is culturally we are really united in spirit, and we tap into the resources we have across the country.”