It takes a special mentality and collection of skills to become a successful business owner. For one, owners must always think ahead of the game to determine the next step for driving business onward effectively. Secondly, they have to commit themselves to not only the success of their business, but also of their employees. Lastly, and arguably most important, they must maintain the belief that the customer is the center of the business, and without them, success simply isn’t an option.
Michael Sylvester, owner and founder of Novagard Solutions, and his team uncovered a way to integrate all three aspects into a flourishing business opportunity that’s proved successful, both internally and externally, for nearly four decades.
When Sylvester started the company in Cleveland in 1977 manufacturing PVC foam, he kept an open mind about where the business could lead in the future. He wondered: Was there another product offering out there that could propel his business forward? Indeed there was — oxime silicone. This new technology would soon prove itself to be the future of Sylvester’s business.
At that time, however, the technology was only available in Sweden. So Sylvester did what any dedicated owner would do — hopped on a plane and learned how to produce it. Following his return, he spent the next several months going door-to-door in search of clients for his new product, and eventually landed one in the window manufacturing industry. Recognizing that his knowledge in this department was limited, Sylvester brought a window manufacturer on board to help him determine the needs in this market. After receiving a patent for his beaded silicone sealant, Sylvester expanded his business into the metal roofing industry.
Now, forty years later, the business is thriving as a global supplier of adhesives, sealants, coatings, lubricants and PVC foam — and there’s nowhere to go but up. With 90 full-time employees committed to serving their vast customer base, Novagard is positioned to reach new heights through the continued development of their unique marketing campaign.
The campaign, formally named PRIDE — Personal Responsibility in Delivering Excellence — is the company’s movement to bring the employees together in hopes of working toward one common goal: Appreciation of the company and its products.
In doing so, a greater value is cast onto the employees and the work that they do, consequently creating a sense of individual pride in their work, as the name inherently states.
“The culture at Novagard has become more positive since the inception of our PRIDE campaign. Employees have a more vested interest in the company and the success we all bring to it,” said Karyn Slifka, marketing manager, who’s been with the company for 10 years.
The execution of this mindset works hand in hand with the company’s motto, “Engineered Products… Innovative Thinking,” which aims to express the goal of delivering not just quality products, but superior solutions as well.
The campaign is showcased across Novagard’s 250,000 square-foot facility in Cleveland, with PRIDE banners hung throughout. Photos of employees embarking on group activities are also displayed, a very important part of the culture at Novagard. Each year, the company partakes in a team-building exercise to strengthen internal relationships and establish unity. This year’s event, the Warrior Dash, is an obstacle course that features 12 unique obstacles including ‘Fisherman’s Catch’ and ‘Muddy Mayhem.’ An onsite fitness center is available year-round for those seeking to pursue workouts, as well as instructor-led fitness classes.
The inclusion of such activities has made for a positive impact. “For the last three years here at Novagard, we’ve been pushing a healthier, active lifestyle for our employees. It all started with a group of employees who participated in the Tough Mudder in 2014,” said Slifka. “Those that are involved with these activities love it and have seen a significant change in their appearance and feel much healthier and active now.”
In addition to team building events, the company also offers continuing education. Employees are encouraged to give their suggestions and communicate opinions and ideas in each department. Novagard’s culture also exemplifies unity, working together and upholding the belief that everyone is created equal.
“We expect everyone to treat others as they would like to be treated. Doing so requires that our team members communicate in a direct and transparent fashion, and appreciate the diversity of thought represented in by the individuals that comprise the Novagard team,” said Vice President of Operations Bob Walters.
Loyalty plays a role in the employee culture at Novagard, with many employees who’ve been with the company for 30 years or more. And that loyalty feeds directly into the shared objective among employees — overall company success.
“The loyalty around here is amazing, everyone is here to help each other,” Slifka described. “Being here and being a part of this is incredible. Everyone here is so dedicated to this company and wants it to succeed.”
40 Years of Promise
This year marks Novagard’s 40th anniversary, a rather significant milestone. Over the last 30 years specifically, the company has grown its unique product lines with customers throughout North America, Europe and Asia.
All of Novagard’s products are produced in America, a fact that Slifka says the company is proud of. “Manufacturing products in the U.S.A. is a benefit for so many people. The commitment to produce our products in the U.S.A. started at day one and will continue on.”
Slifka explained that the company is always on the lookout for new product offerings, and that they’re in the early research and development stages of some new formulations. The performance of their products is what sets them apart from the competition, she said.
“Novagard PRIDE will take our company to the next level by enhancing the ability of our team to seize market opportunities with innovative process and product offerings,” said Walters.
Improving on internal procedures is an ongoing process, as the company has made significant strides to increase productivity to meet the needs of their customers. Recently, the company invested in new packaging equipment that allows them to fill up to 45 cartridges a minute, as well as package their Novaflex products in 20 oz. sausages. This equipment has helped expand output substantially.
Ongoing trainings take place regularly as district sales manager’s work directly with distributors on ‘Product Knowledge Training Days.’
In an effort to help contractors grow their businesses, Novagard employees work directly with contractors on jobsites, allowing them to sample the products needed to complete the job. When products are ordered, the shipping process begins immediately, as most orders tend to have a one to two day turnaround.
Attention to detail is a big part of what makes the experience at Novagard different, “Our customer service is by far the biggest deal we have going. They are on the ball, they are here to help with everything. We return calls and formulate solutions within 24 hours, always,” she said.
Novagard also plans to expand on the vision statement set forth by Sylvester and displayed on the company’s website, “We recognize the need to grow with our customers and to continuously expand the solutions we bring to the marketplace.”
One of the company’s main concentrations for the future is looking into different applications in the roofing industry. Specifically, the goal is to look beyond the sealants and see what other product offerings are untapped.
Getting the word out and maintaining brand awareness, though challenging, also remains a big part of the company’s plan moving forward. And with the PRIDE campaign gaining steam and creating buzz amongst the employees, forward is exactly where they’re heading.
“The people here are what I enjoy most about my job, and how we all work together to accomplish goals daily,” Slifka said. “Through the good, bad, ups, and downs, no one is trying to get out of here. We’re in it for the long haul.”