$5.00 Foot Long

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I’m fairly certain that anyone who has exposure to any type of media is familiar with the $5 Foot Long. This is Subway’s war cry and provides the company with a great amount of revenue. Promotions are done by the corporation, but recently franchisees have revolted. Their objection arises from the claim that they do not make much money off of a $5 foot long. The story offers some insight into our economy.

Franchisees claim that their expenses break down as follows: sandwich ingredients, labor, electricity, gas, royalties, credit card transaction fees, and rent push their cost to well above $4.00.

How many times have you walked into a retail store and wondered how they can get away with selling a widget that probably cost them a penny for over a dollar? These numbers are particularly relevant in the drywall industry. Company A and B sell the same sheet of drywall for $1 and $1.25, respectively. Logic tells us that company A should get our business.

But let’s dig a little deeper. Company A’s trucks are 15 years old and constantly in need of service. Company A’s employees have no experience and have had no safety training. Company A has no drug screening requirement and their turnover is the highest in town.

Company B insists on having the newest and most efficient equipment. Company B has constant training, holds regular drug screenings, has employees that have been with the company for over 35 years, and has a passion for giving back to the community.

On a 1,000 board job that 25-cent price difference is $250. To some, that’s enough of a reason to do business with Company A. However, if Company A’s broken-down truck causes 10 drywall company employees to stand around for 4 hours ($15/hour x 10 workers x 4 hours =$600), that lower price does not represent a savings – and may in fact end up being the more expensive option.

In addition to being a drywall distributor, Gator Gypsum is a service provider. These services are the best in the industry because of the additional expenses that we incur. Providing good service costs a little more, but as shown in the example above, good service has value that’s not always reflected on the price tag.

Think of it this way: we could greatly reduce the cost of a sandwich by having a robot make it on a street corner … but that sandwich is not particularly appealing.



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We have a tradition at our house that once we sit down for the Thanksgiving meal, we go around the table and talk about the things we are truly thankful for. I’ve thought about this often and would like to do the same for my Gator Gypsum family.

I’m thankful that the economy continues to provide opportunities for us and for our customers. A boom in the residential and commercial construction markets keep our trucks, employees and customers extremely busy. I’m also thankful to work for a company that sees value in the continual education and training of its workforce. New products and ideas are brought into the workforce daily, and Gator Gypsum strives to stay on top of any technology that will make our operation run smoothly.

I’m thankful that my company puts the safety of its employees and customers as priority number one. Our weekly safety meetings reinforce ideas that we use every day to make sure our employees end each workday safely. I’m thankful to come to a job in the morning staffed by a team that truly cares about the success of our fellow workers and clients. And finally, I’m thankful that my company encourages the growth and development of all of its employees.

When your expectations of an employer are exceeded on a daily basis, everybody wins. Happy workers translate to highly dedicated employees who enjoy going above and beyond for their customers. At Gator Gypsum Thanksgiving is not a November thing, but rather a 24/7 365 thing.

Open For Business

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In the midst of casual conversation at a recent business mixer, I was asked what I do. After my explanation, a remark was made that I was lucky that I didn’t have to deal with the public. I didn’t understand. It turned out that my questioner incorrectly assumed that Gator Gypsum is a wholesale-only company with a large minimum order.

It is true, we do have a minimum order. All transactions have to be at least a penny. Aside from that, our business is for whomever needs our service.

I heard a story one time about a local nut and bolt house that had a $500 minimum. A customer came in and bought some large bolts and washers and the total was over $3000. Once he got back to his shop, he discovered that he had forgotten the nuts and headed back. The nuts needed for the job were just a little over $200 and the company would not budge on the minimum, despite the fact that the customer had spent six times that amount a couple of hours earlier. Needless to say, I gained a great customer that day.

For all of you who don’t know, we are open to the public and glad to help in any way that we can. Our product offering is broad, including but not limited to: drywall, joint compound, hand tools, power tools, safety equipment, fire stop and acoustical ceilings. This company was born in Tampa and exists only thanks to the loyalty of the small businessman, who many companies create rules to avoid. We treat every customer with respect, because regardless of the amount of money they spend, they are trusting us with a critical part of their project.

Gator Gypsum welcomes do-it-yourselfers and weekend warriors searching for tools and building supplies in Tampa, Ocala, Orlando, Gainesville, Clearwater, Lakeland and Sarasota. At all of our Central Florida yards, you’ll find building materials, supplies and tools priced competitively with “big box” stores, along with some things that you don’t typically find at those places: true customer service and expert advice on products and installation. If you’ve never visited one of our yards, we invite you to stop by soon. We’d love to meet you and show you what real service looks like!

The Cone of Humanity

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Hurricanes are a way of life if you choose to live in Florida. Fortunately, our area has been left relatively untouched for a long time. This absence sometimes leads to a tendency to downplay the threat of a storm as it approaches. After all, how often does weather go where the weatherman says it will?

Hurricane Harvey made everything more serious. The devastation and loss of life reminded us that not only is the threat real, but the power of mother nature can be extremely brutal. For the last 2 weeks we have been following Hurricane Irma as it formed, twisted and turned through the Atlantic and Caribbean. Over time it became evident that there was a good chance this hurricane could be headed straight for Tampa. The “spaghetti models” had various strands of pasta going right up the west coast of Florida. The “cone of uncertainty” was basically a map of the state of Florida. I’ve lived in Tampa for most of my life but somehow this one felt a bit more real.

I’ve written before in earlier blogs about the regard in which I hold Gator Gypsum and the people I work with on a daily basis. In times of duress this was further solidified. As the hurricane approached, we were told to go home and take care of our families. Trucks were stored and metal secured for the ensuing hurricane. We all knew that if we needed a place to go, that all we had to do was call. A text string went out and gave instructions to download an app called Zello that we could use if cell service went down to stay in touch. Throughout the storm, we checked up on each other and made sure that families were secure.

With Irma looming my family decided to evacuate to Orlando. At the time it looked to be the safer and more prudent choice. We were given the day off (Monday) to hopefully return to normal and we got part of Tuesday to clean up our homes.

I sincerely believe that employees work harder and happier when their employers that have their back. Loyalty is a word not often heard in today’s workforce but I can assure you that it is a prevalent principle at Gator Gypsum. I like for our customers to know what kind of company that they are dealing with, and how much we value our jobs and fellow employees. Irma was extremely destructive and devastating but the compassion and fellowship that happened as a result only strengthens our community’s resolve to rebuild.

How Are We Safe?

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Gator Gypsum’s internal customers (workforce) and external customers (clients) perform their duties on sites that require special attention to detail with regard to a safe work environment.

It begins early in the morning in each Gator location with the inspection of our delivery vehicles. Our trucks are meticulously maintained to assure that they are always in top working condition. Our yards are neat and organized to assure proper forklift operation and loading procedures. Our drywall and delivered products are secured to our rigid specifications. All delivery personnel are issued and trained to use hard hats, reflective vests, tear resistant gloves, fall protection and the appropriate footwear for job conditions.

Once we reach the jobsite we check for safe entry of our truck and equipment. Power lines and overhead branches must be surveyed to ensure an unencumbered passage of our material. Railings on second floor windows must be inspected and in the case of some commercial jobs concrete anchors must be installed for the delivery crew to tie off.

The creation and maintenance of a safe working environment requires a dedicated Safety Manager who constantly monitors job site activities and conducts ongoing training to assure that Gator Gypsum is compliant with the most recent OSHA guidelines. The expense associated with working safely is not small but the protection of our greatest asset and resource (our people) is paramount to our ongoing success as a company.

Our expertise is an important customer asset as well. We are trained on the products that we use and our manufacturer/partners are more than willing to provide safety training to our customers as well. Proper fit and wear of safety equipment, correct use of firestop material and the importance of fall protection in the workplace are instructional topics that we are happy to cover with you and your employees.

Safety is a 24-7/365 mandate at Gator Gypsum and we have designated August 2017 as our Safety Showcase month. Safety training is extremely costly but we are happy to provide it at no cost to our customers. The only requirement is that the safety equipment must be purchased from Gator Gypsum.

If you are interested in scheduling safety training at any of our construction materials yards in Tampa, Sarasota, Orlando, Clearwater, Gainesville, Lakeland, or Ocala, contact Gator Gypsum. We’re Central Florida’s construction safety specialists and we’ll be happy to help you ensure safety on all of your job sites.

The Same Price

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When I was a kid, going to get a new pair of shoes was a big deal. Because young feet grow so fast, it was very important to get the right size. Shoe stores used to be very meticulous about measuring your foot. They would bring out this metal contraption that you would stand on that would indicate the correct size. I say this as a means of explanation because I have not seen one of these in a long time. In most stores, it is difficult to find a person to ask a question much less measure your foot.

Back then, if there were two shoe stores next to each other with the exact same inventory and the same prices, and if the only difference had been that one of them measured your foot and the other did not, I would shop at the foot measuring store.

I looked the part up on Amazon-$3.99.

The drywall business is not that much different from the shoe business. Most of the companies stock the same product. Most have the same type of trucks and offer similar payment terms. In our field, the difference is not a $3.99 measuring tool but rather the people that make up Gator Gypsum and their desire to continually and constantly get better.

To that end, Stan Blalock (the corporate training manager at GMS) conducted a Performance Excellence class on May 8 at our yard in Tampa. Through team building exercises, we learned how to serve our customers and fellow employees better – including important ways that we can make our service worth more to all of our clients. This crucial two hour class was conducted after business hours in order to include every Gator Gypsum employee. We truly take pride in what we do and enjoy instruction and advice that will improve the customer experience.

There is an expense associated with the desire for improvement. Keeping employees after work for a couple of hours, having a training specialist come down and conduct the class, providing a meal for the employees. In a business world where companies are striving to run lean and will cut costs anywhere possible, this is not an inexpensive endeavor. The payoff comes when our service is better than our competitors – so much better that you tell someone else and they tell someone else…

We believe in our employees as individuals but more importantly we recognize their strengths and potential as a team. The business world is not kind, neither is it forgiving, but we believe the actions and preparation that we do today will allow us to be the company that you choose if pricing is similar.

Celebrating Jerry Sweet’s Retirement

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On April 7th, customers, friends and employees gathered at the Columbia restaurant in Ybor City to celebrate the retirement of Jerry Sweet. Jerry has led the establishment and expansion of the Gator Gypsum yards in Florida since 1984. If you drive through Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota, Lakeland, Orlando, Ocala or Gainesville and take a look around, his influence is in the offices, homes, hospitals and stores that Gator Gypsum products helped construct. That in itself is a great achievement but if we look a bit further we find his true legacy: the friends that he gained as a result of doing business the right way. These friends range from 30 year employees to 30 year customers. I can’t think of many businesses that could boast either of those achievements.

In comparison, I have been here a relatively short time (2 years). I was in the Army and I can tell you that other than my military service, this is the best team with whom I have ever worked. The dedication and ideals that Jerry Sweet instilled in 1984 have proven to be the basis for a successful business that always puts customers first. Our respect for each other has developed because of the common values that we share. In some places it is called the “hard right over the easy wrong.” It is easy to leave a piece of trash on a jobsite if no one else is there, but it is not the Gator Way.

In the short term, this is not always profitable. Sometimes if a customer forgets to order a box of screws we send out a truck to deliver it. We earn business by working harder and longer than our competition and that is because Jerry Sweet made the rules and lived by them during his tenure. Change is inevitable and in most cases there is a fear of the unknown. Gator Gypsum will endure another 33 years because Jerry’s leadership will live on with every delivery that we make.