Today we’d like to introduce you to Tom Ricciardelli.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Tom. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I got my interest in recycling while working for a Boston start-up trying to recycle plastics from medical waste. This experience gave me the idea of finding ways to recover hard-to-recycle plastics and turn them into valuable products and I started SelecTech with that mission. I raised venture capital to build a factory with specialized equipment from Germany and launched the company in 1993. We started out making a variety of products including planters made from old pallet wrapping, lane dividers and parking curbs made from old wire insulation, and landscape timbers made from old plastic crates. All through this time, our goal was to find waste plastics, create products from them, and partner with sales companies to bring these products to market. In essence, we were serving as a sort of match-maker between waste plastics, products, and product companies.
We had established a reputation for our capability and were approached by a Dupont business to make flooring from waste PVC carpet backing. Our first product was a fairly crude, industrial interlocking tile that was functional, but not very good looking. Dupont had some modest success with this product, but the aesthetics of the product limited its sales potential. We then envisioned a new floor tile with a decorative surface on the tile and hidden interlocks to make it more marketable. We had invested heavily in this effort as we felt it was a very large market, with a large supply of plastic for the product and a global sales partner. During this process, the division of Dupont we were working with was sold and our effort was suddenly cancelled. This left us in a very precarious position.
To survive, we had to close our factory, find a contract manufacturing partner and take on the marketing of our new flooring ourselves. It was a dramatic 180 degree turn for the company and literally took several years to make the full transition and develop a reliable revenue stream.
Since that time, we have steadily grown our floor tile business, made continual improvements in the product and how we make it. We’ve also developed specialized versions of our product that include static control flooring, laboratory flooring, flooring for use on access floor systems, and basement flooring. Our static control flooring, in particular, has become a very strong product line for us and we created a separate division, StaticStop to distinguish this product line, demonstrate our commitment and knowledge to the industry, and create a recognizable brand I the market. We now sell to many of the largest high-tech companies in the world with sales all throughout North America and now expanding into Europe and Asia.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The road was far from smooth. The transition to outsourced manufacturing has been extremely difficult, mostly because we continue to use recycled materials. Contract manufacturers are not accustomed to the variability in recycled plastic streams nor are equipped to handle the form that they come in. We had to work closed with our partners to help them attain these capabilities.
Also, when Dupont cancelled our partnership, our product was still in its conceptual stage.
With very little money, we had to create the first version of the product and launch it into the market even though it was far from perfect. We stumbled many times with product that didn’t perform as we hoped and had to scramble to fix those problems.
This experience, though, forced us to continually improve both our product and process.
Building a sales capability in a very competitive market has also been very challenging. We rely heavily on independent flooring agents that carry a variety of other flooring products. As we were getting started, we had limited budget and only modest sales, so it was difficult to get the attention of these agents. We’ve overcome some of these hurdles by created the specialized versions of our product that allow us to create more market pull and sales opportunities. We’ve also significantly increased our marketing to end-users, which further creates the pull-through demand we need to grow sales.
Finally, the recession of 2008/2009 was a significant blow to us as we were just building some nice momentum, didn’t have a lot of excess cash and had to take a huge step back with the rest of the industry/world.
SelecTech – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Our company is centered around an interlocking flooring system we call FreeStyle Flooring that is made with high-recycled content. Since it is interlocking, it does not require adhesives to install and is easy to pick up and move if that is ever needed. This feature also makes it easy to pick up at the end of its life and send back to us. We can use it 100% to make new flooring and we have a take-back program in place to support that. To my knowledge, we’re the only company that can offer that.
We created specialized versions of our product that provide unique value to our customers. Our static control tiles help companies with sophisticated and sensitive manufacturing environment. Many of our customers need to either upgrade or add static control flooring to their factories and our product allows them to do that with very little disruption, downtime, dust to their manufacturing. This value is a huge cost savings to these customers.
Our laboratory-grade version, we call BioLock, has a surface that is made to the particular demands of laboratories and healthcare settings, but with the added benefits of our interlocking system which makes installation easy and downtime minimal.
Also, the interlocking body of our tile is fairly substantial which makes it stable in factory and other commercial setting, but it also makes our tile much more ergonomic than other flooring materials. While we can’t measure this feature, our customers continually comment on the added comfort that our flooring provides their employees.
This feature is particularly helpful in factory settings, laboratories, and medical environments where staff is on their feet most of the time.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
The road I’ve been on has been long and convoluted. Given that, I’ve always tried to stay focused on the challenges at hand, so success is solving the problems that are in front of us, creating the improvements that we set our sights on, expanding sales incrementally year after year, building customer satisfaction and developing repeat business, and continually improving our market presence and image.
- Address: 33 Wales Ave., Suite F.
Avon, MA 02322
- Website: www.selectechinc.com
- Phone: 877-738-4537
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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