A C-Suite Conversation with Shawn Kitchell

August 3rd, 2021 by Bryan

“We Make Buying Film the Ultimate Experience”

By Tara Taaffera

When Shawn Kitchell was named president of Madico in June 2017, he wasted no time making changes at a film manufacturing company that has been in existence for more than one hundred years. Eventually dubbed, “The Madico Experience” this initiative builds upon the company’s core values and reinforces its goal of giving its customers the tools they need to be successful. WINDOW FILM magazine editorial director Tara Taffera spoke to Kitchell about exactly what this means for the company, its customers and the industry at large.

TT: How long has the Madico Experience been in the making?

SK: After I became president last year, I had an opportunity to look at the company, talk to customers, and talk about what we do well, what can we improve on, how do we compete and who we want to be? A common theme emerged: in order to be successful we have to make our customers successful. The whole Madico Experience is a coordinated suite of tools all aimed at doing just that. We are helping window film dealers be more successful, grow their business and increase profits. We had to build the physical tools and change the culture to reinforce that idea.

It wasn’t a complete change just a reinforcement of our core values. The way we have done it is through communication. This includes monthly town hall meetings with employees and publicizing examples of customer successes. We are trying to make it visual and real. So the person working on a coating or working in shipping  can connect what they are doing to how it helps the customer.

TT: I know the company did quite a lot of research to find out what changes to make, what worked, and what didn’t. Can you share some of that feedback from dealers?

SK: Our marketing firm did some research looking for anonymous feedback from our customers. On the positive side we heard our quality is good, and that we have a reputation for being highly ethical and treating customers well. We thought we would hear these positives.

On the other hand we heard that we are not quite as innovative as we need to be. So, as part of our new company, we are investing in additional research and development, and are working to move that along quickly sowe can invest in new capabilities.

The other thing we heard was that even though we are highly ethical, customers said we could be somewhat slow and difficult to work with. When we looked closely, it wasn’t individuals with the company that were the problem, as we have a lot of great talent. It was some of the systems and processes that were quite bureaucratic and cumbersome for dealers to work through. So one of the things we did was streamline so the process is as simple and easy as possible.

TT: Did those results surprise you?

SK: The innovation one wasn’t as much of a surprise as hearing that we are hard to work with. Historically we have been pretty innovative. As you go back decades you will find a lot of firsts came from us. But then we turned most of our energy to the solar cell market and 90 percent of our R and D went there. So it’s not surprising that because of that we fell behind in the window film market. Now we have refocused and are reenergized, and we have learned to not put all of our eggs in one basket.

TT: You are building a brand new manufacturing facility in Pinellas Park, Florida. Tell me why this was needed?

SK: At our St. Petersburg, Fla., facility, we have been constrained physically at how we could grow. We have new coating technology for example and physically did not have the space to implement it here.

TT: A story we ran on the new facility said you will be moving in throughout 2018. Has that process started yet?

SK: We have a few people there, and are finishing up remodeling the office space and administrative sales, accounting, etc., will move there in about six weeks to two months and then the rest will move gradually over the rest of this year and then the final move in will take place during quarter one of 2019.

TT: Tell me about your new Dealer Appreciation Program designed to recognize and reward dealers. Is this a new initiative?

SK: There was a program but this is a revamped one. What we had was minimal and now we really want to focus on the dealer and reward those who promote the Madico ideal . We will soon have a new website with a dealer exclusive section designed so dealers can purchase film right from the website and track their orders and history.

We also have Madico U–an educational initiative that is tailored for window film dealers combining online and in-person trainings. The Madico U portion of the new website will feature over 50 video tutorials to help dealers understand, market and sell their films. We are really excited about that and it is open to any dealer [not just current customers]. Initially this will be populated with more than 50 short videos and these are instructional on how to grow your business, basic marketing advice, how to deal with stress, how to handle taxes and basic tips on business growth. Then we will publish information on how to sell window film–not Madico window film but any window film. There will also be a consumer education piece, and the site will continue to grow. Madico U will also have a physical presence in the new building and will offer hands on learning and training and even certification courses.

TT: Will Madico University be open to all dealers, customers and non-customers alike?

SK: Yes, Madico University will be an excellent learning opportunity for all dealers, customers and non-customers alike! In addition to MadicoU, we plan to offer a number of exclusive support and recognition programs for our Madico dealers. This will be a good tool to drive traffic to our site and some of these dealers will find value and want to explore becoming a Madico dealer. …

We know we bit off a lot, but we had an opportunity and the timing was just right to make these kinds of changes because this is an industry we want to be in for the long haul. There is a lot of competition from foreign suppliers. That does two things: it makes you better or obsolete and we want to be better.

TT: All these things are expensive and no doubt required a significant investment. Why was it so important to commit to these changes?

SK: We have a very aggressive sales plan and my five-year sales plan is to double sales in five years and so far we are at least a year ahead of that goal. Certainly we have benefited from a good economy here in the U.S. but we firmly believe that the strategies we are employing will allow us to be viable for the next 100 years.

We recently invested in a distribution company in Illinois. We did that to give us 100 percent dealer direct coverage in the U.S. and that is a very important part of our strategy. We invested a lot in having seven service distribution centers. That gives us a unique strength and we want to leverage that.

TT: What is the feedback from the dealers you have told about the program?

SK: They are excited. One of the things they said is that Madico was run by a bunch of old guys and we hadn’t embraced technology. That is all changing now.

TT: You can do all these great things but then it’s all about execution. What plans do you have for rolling all this out to dealers?

SK: That’s a really good question and it’s hard to answer in a few words. We have some promotional videos we are putting together that we will get out to dealers that talks about our new capabilities. We reorganized our window film sales team earlier this year and we did that to get better coverage to our customer base. There will be a number of ways to do that.

We really are trying to reinvent the company. One message we will convey is that central theme of creating these win-win relationships by putting the dealer first.

Tara Taffera is the editorial director for WINDOW FILM magazine. She may be reached at ttaffera@glass.com.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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