The ProCoat Story
In the early 1980′s, many corporations “down-sized” in order to maintain stability in a weakened economy. Mid-level executives found themselves unemployed and Ken Woolf was no exception. At the age of 46, he was not as attractive in the job market as younger professionals with lesser financial requirements were. And so, with two degrees in Engineering, a doctorate in Administration, and years of practical experience in industry, Ken did the same as many others in a similar situation. He became an “independent consultant.”
Consulting in the field of organizational planning and management development, one of Ken’s first clients was a building services firm working in the Boston commercial district. In addition to shampooing carpets, waxing floors, and polishing woodwork, the company also cleaned acoustical ceiling tiles. Examining the company records, Ken noted a disproportionate number of insurance and damage claims related to the chemical cleaning of acoustical ceilings.
Basically, a bleaching process, the effects of chemical cleaning were usually obvious but the results fell short of meeting the typical customer’s level of expectation … a ceiling that looks new. At best, the resulting color was a gray-white and often, water stains and darker areas around air diffusers still remained to varying degrees. In addition, bleached spots on carpets and furniture, as well as leaving the building with a chlorine smell, gave cause for many a disgruntled customer. Ken’s first inclination was to recommend that his client terminate this service but further investigation revealed a virtually unlimited market size. It became apparent that the business potential could only be realized if a process were developed that was more “user-friendly” and would, in fact, leave a ceiling with a like-new appearance.
Ken soon learned to appreciate that most commercial buildings have acoustical ceiling tiles in place and in every city there are millions of square feet of aged/soiled acoustical ceilings in need of attention. Once they are more than a few years old, ceilings lose their whiteness, become water-stained in spots, and darken around air diffusers or other sources of contamination. If the space is occupied, there is little opportunity to remove and replace the ceiling without impacting normal business routine. Apart from the inconvenience of replacement, others just cannot afford it.
It was obvious that an untapped market existed for an alternative to ceiling tile replacement but one that was more effective than chemical cleaning. While there was room for improvement in the cleaning technology, Ken decided that no matter how well the cleaners were improved they would always have certain inherent limitations and that the future lied in the development of something totally different. The answer was determined to be, and still remains, an acoustical coating. In 1984, the unique chemical formulation was developed and an industry was born.
Today, after more than twenty-nine years, ProCoat Products, Inc. is the world’s most recognized name in the field of acoustical ceiling restoration. The term “ceiling restoration” was coined by ProCoat in an attempt to differentiate between the application of an acoustical coating material and other alternatives to ceiling replacement such as chemical cleaning or conventional ceiling painting.
It has been a long but steady rise. Lacking adequate resources to fund a new business, Ken borrowed money for product development. The company was first based in Ken’s home with the garage serving as the warehouse. Then, in the late 1980′s an addition was built onto the side of the garage to provide more storage space. And finally, in 1994, ProCoat Products, Inc. moved into its present location in Holbrook, MA, with ample office and warehouse space.
The core of the business is built around ProCoustic Acoustical Tile & Ceiling Coating. This unique material makes it possible to restore ceilings in place, in fully occupied facilities, without interrupting normal business routine. The product leaves a surface finish that actually improves the acoustical and fire-retarding characteristics of the ceiling material, and it holds its color longer than that of a new tile. Even though the ceiling is typically sprayed with the tiles in place, after the coating has dried, the tiles are not stuck to the supporting t-bars, as would be the case with conventional paint.
In addition to ProCoustic, a unique line of accessory products have been developed to provide answers to other problems related to ceilings. Some of ProCoat’s products make it possible for organizations to implement an in-house preventative maintenance program, thus making it possible to extend the life of a ceiling in a new-like condition. Other accessories make the ceiling restoration contractor’s job more efficient and safer, and yes, more profitable.
As each day passes more and more architects and multi-facility corporations specify ProCoat’s products as part of a remodeling program. Particularly in the retail industry where store remodeling is completed without closing to the public, ceiling restoration is becoming more commonly the choice of facility managers.
With the turn of the century increased attention was directed at the environment and in the construction industry new energies were directed at the development of “green” products. Programs such as LEED began to take on greater prominence. And as this movement advanced, it became apparent that acoustical ceiling restoration was a tailor made participant. By restoring existing ceilings, less material was headed to the landfills. Further, ProCoustic’s extremely low VOC content makes it even more environmentally friendly and its high capacity to disperse light results in less dependence on artificial lighting. Ceiling restoration and the green age fit like a hand in a glove.
What does the future hold in an unlimited market? Unlimited potential. Without an overt attempt to market outside the North America, product has been shipped to parts of Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Australia with active distributors in most of those locations. History has proven that ProCoat’s sales are directly related to the extent to which people learn of this process. As resources have been directed at informing potential clients, the company has continued to grow.
In January, 2008, after more than 15 years with the company, Ken’s daughter Lisa Ploss took hold of the reins when she became president of ProCoat Products, Inc. Ken remains chairman on the company’s Board of Directors, but it is Lisa who manages the daily activities and charts the firm’s future direction. In Lisa’s first year at the helm, sales continued to rise above the preceeding year, a trend that has been consistent since 2001 when all industries suffered a severe drop-off in sales.
In early 2009, ProCoat products, Inc. filed for and received certification in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) approved by the State Office of Minority and Women’s Business Assistance (SOMWBA).
In locations throughout the world where ProCoat’s products are distributed, independent contractors are supporting families and building futures based on profits earned through this unique system. To date, over 220 million square feet of ceilings have been restored with ProCoat’s products and yet, the market is so vast that in all of what has been done to date, the proverbial surface has hardly been scratched.