We had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Kristin Schulte, one of Tremco’s Women in Construction, who is a Team Lead for our New Business Development department. Kristin started as a marketing intern for Tremco in 2003, was hired on in 2004, and has held multiple positions over the years within marketing and product management. Her current role in NBD allows her to work directly with other organizations to strategize new partnerships to grow and advance the industry.
Q. What is New Business Development?
A. Traditionally, a business development role can be a lot of different things for different companies. For us, it’s both acquisitions and partnerships, which is a bit unique. Owners sell their business when THEY’RE ready, it’s not on our timeline, so we must figure out other ways to grow and change. Partnerships are a great way to do that. There’s a lot of times where we would work with a company that is nowhere near an acquisition candidate, but if we are able to work together, we can both move forward faster than we would’ve apart.
Q. Once you acquire a company, what’s next?
A. It’s a big transition, so we help them through from a relationship standpoint, help them navigate the organization, even just learning the lingo. Now we’re actually able to get former owners to help us as we approach new owners. They can help tell that story of what it’s like, what they’ve been through, not from the corporate perspective, but from someone who’s been here. It’s important that we help the company understand the transition and make them comfortable moving forward.
Q. How do you foster collaboration and trust between companies?
A. Usually you try to find some small project to work on first. If you can get something small and you’re both seeing success, then the relationship just kind of grows from that point. It just takes time. It’s like anything else, same way you would build a relationship with a customer or how sales builds relationships with architects and consultants, right? You just find that one little common piece and continue to find more and more opportunities.
A. It’s actually a lot of fun to go on plant tours for other companies and see how things are made. You get to learn a lot, meet a lot of new people, it’s kind of that constant learning. You’re obviously challenging yourself with something new pretty much every day. You also have the chance to build a really great internal network and because of the culture at Tremco, we’re all very familial. You feel like you know so many people in the organization, and you still get a bit of that with Business Development because you’re working with product management, customer service, operations, supply chain, you get to tap into all these different areas. But then you also get to do that with outside companies so you start building these long-term relationships with people outside the organization too and it’s given me that chance to have that family feel but with a bigger group.
A. Historically we have had some smaller projects that we have worked on together that gave us the ability to build a sense of trust. When we launched one of these ideas, we were literally sitting there going “alright, this went really well, what else could we do?”
USG wanted a way to differentiate. We needed a way to differentiate on air barriers. So we just started talking about this and it honestly took probably 2 years before it became a project. It finally came to the point where it was the right time for both companies from a resource and timing perspective to say “yep we’re gonna do this”. We both bring different things to the table so it worked out very well. In-plant, modular, those things, these are big industry trends. If we didn’t do this, somebody was going to do it. We want to be that innovative company, we want to cause the right kind of change.
Q. How do you know where to look for these new initiatives?
A. We’re looking at how construction is changing. We look at things like reduction in availability of skilled labor. We‘ve got some projects we are working on right now that could really change how our contractors apply our materials and demonstrate this whole labor savings piece. Products have to work, they have to perform, but it’s really that labor savings, time savings that if we can capitalize on that, it’s a win for everybody. Those are real quantifiable dollars.
Q. How does New Business Development engage in our international markets?
A. We’ve seen regionality here in North America for quite some time. They will do things very differently from a construction standpoint in Toronto versus Miami versus LA which has to do with different climate conditions and different local practices. There’s a lot of this tribal knowledge that gets passed through with contractors. I think we will see more of that rapid learning and opportunity coming through as we expand on a global basis. From a business development standpoint, that means how do we look at how people build around the world and what have they learned from their construction process and how can we embrace some of those new technologies and bring them here to North America.
Q. How much do you work with other RPM Companies?
A. That’s kind of our role, to bring people together to talk about what we can do. We do that where we can with other RPM companies. We’ve worked with DAP, we’ve worked with Dryvit, we are working a bit with Rust-Oleum…We are constantly looking for how we can meet the needs of the organization, either through partnering with another company or through acquisition.