There’s a basic truth among flooring and tile installers: time and skilled tradespeople always seem to be in short supply. FinPan, a manufacturer of cement-based backerboard and lightweight shower installation products, is revamping its market strategy to help installers complete more installations in less time and with less training.
The family-owned company, established in 1975 by Ted Clear, began in Hamilton, Ohio, as a manufacturer of cement-based backerboard. The family has retooled its business over the last year through new leadership, process improvements, and a reorganization of its inside and outside sales teams.
Renee Robertson, the company’s senior marketing director, joined the team in January 2017 with the task of helping to rebrand the company and reposition its communications and marketing strategy for accelerated growth.
“Ted Clear was the original inventor in the United States of the process to make backerboard, and we are still utilizing these systems 42 years later,” Robertson said. “After doing some analysis, it was unanimous that no one knew who we were. It was an opportunity to get refreshed.” After further study, Robertson said it became obvious that the brand needed to be positioned as upscale and high-quality, and communicate a core message of “keeping families together.” This message resonates for several reasons, she said. “We are a family-owned business with third-generation family members in leadership roles.”
This family focus also extends to product development. “Our ClearPath barrier-free shower system is a patented product that is intended to keep loved ones in their home longer instead of having to move them to accessible living,” Robertson noted.
The ClearPath curbless shower system offers those with mobility issues an ADA-compliant shower without sacrificing design and style. ClearPath presents a major sales opportunity as more homeowners rip out 3x6 bathtubs or showers in favor of curbless systems.
“Because of the fundamental shift in population, we figure in 20 years there will be 145 million people who will have some circumstances that would force them to otherwise be displaced,” Robertson said. “In our product ideation, we are always thinking about what’s the quickest, most efficient way for the contractor to save on his labor, produce more in a day, spend less time at each job and get out faster so he can get back home faster.”
While some shower installation systems require a lot of training, Robertson said FinPan’s PreFormed shower pans are a drop-and-go system. The shower pans are made from high-density polystyrene, ProTec concrete backer board and a reinforced, waterproof coating. The pans also have the proper slope, drain assembly and curb built-in.
“You really just need a modified thinset and you can be tiling the same day—just two hours later,” she said. “With other systems, you will not be tiling the same day, and if you’re doing mud, it’s a four-day process.”
The first products FinPan created (and still sell today) are Util-A-Crete and ProTec backerboards. Util-A-Crete is an underlayment for interior and exterior applications, providing a stable, long-lasting foundation for ceramic tile and other facing materials used on floors, walls, ceilings, countertops and exteriors. ProTec is an underlayment for interior and exterior applications, providing a long-lasting foundation for ceramic tile and other facing materials used on floors, walls, ceilings, countertops and exteriors.
A lightweight product, ProPanel backerboard offers waterproof performance in just 6 lbs. and is made of high-density expanded polystyrene reinforced on both sides with fiberglass mesh and a polymer cement coating.
“The installer can now bring all the materials to their install location in one trip, allowing for modification at the site as our product does not require a saw to cut but instead a simple utility knife—and this product in the long run just saves him or her from back pain,” Robertson stated. The TI-ProBoard is a patented product that was introduced for tiling outdoor decks or sunrooms, even in states with severe weather. “This product has no need for deck boards or plywood substrate and is easy to install, has superior freeze-thaw performance, low expansion-contraction coefficient and an extra-heavy floor rating—it will not warp, mold or mildew and has a commercially approved rating,” Robertson noted.
Today, the third generation of the Clear family is running the company. Ted Clear named Ryan Schaffer CEO and Jason Clear president and COO in the summer of 2016. Jason Clear studied civil engineering and had been an independent contractor for five years, always knowing he wanted to get into the business. Schaffer was in the engineering field for most of his career and had always worked on projects at FinPan.
“Both gentlemen worked alongside their grandfather throughout the years and had such a vested interest in continuimg their education in engineering,” Robertson said. “Both parties are deeply invested and very passionate about their family-owned business, and both are immensely strong and devoted men working toward making products that obtain beautiful results.” The company also brought on Kristi Williams, customer relationship account manager, and is currently building inside and outside sales teams. In order to maximize the company’s reach into various markets, the company also hired three new outside territory sales managers.
Looking forward, FinPan has added stone accessories to their Finishing Touches line in 2018, which can be used for shower niches, seats and curbs. The Warming Effects platform will go to market in winter 2018. The ProPanel board is moving from a white color to gray, and the company has added ClearLine linear drains which are designed to work with the ClearPath system. The company also continues to team up with distributors to host product knowledge and certification events for installers.
For more information, visit finpan.com.