What’s new in decorative concrete? That was a popular question that came my way multiple times during the recent World of Concrete. I realize my name is out there, but I’m a long way from having a crystal ball to be able to predict what the future of our industry holds.
I often remind people that when asked a few years ago if the metallic epoxy market was here to stay, I said it was a passing fancy, and I couldn’t see how that market would ever develop into much of anything. Missed that one by a mile! Since then I’ve been better about doing research, listening to all walks of the industry, and watching for trends as they phase in and out.
So, what is new in the decorative industry? Lately, the most popular response has been nothing! One could argue that there haven’t been any major or significant market-altering innovations or developments, but I think that’s short-sighted.
I often hear, “It’s the same stuff as last year” or “There hasn’t been anything new in many years.” That’s an easy mindset to develop if you spend your time waiting for the next “big thing.” I’m not sure there will ever be a next “big thing” in our industry, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything new. It might just be that you haven’t looked in the right place.
Subtle but significant changes
Sure, there’s a lot of the same old, same old each year when it comes to concrete products, systems and all things decorative that we see at trade shows each winter. We can also throw away all the “nano” and “alpha particle” pixie dust marketing garbage that looks good in print but is just a new ribbon on the same old package. But when we move past the sales pitch, bypass the repeat products and stop looking for earth-shattering developments, we see there actually is a lot of “new” out there. Often, it’s right in front of our eyes.
I think most of us are looking to be blown away by some earth-shattering new technology or methodology. Take for instance the cell phone. I recently heard a speaker talk about how the cell phone industry has changed over the last decade. He noted when the new generation of smart phones first appeared, it was groundbreaking and lifechanging.
Since then, however, the innovation hasn’t decreased but it has become more subtle. Today, the changes — like a better camera or curved glass screen — are less earth-shattering, but innovative nonetheless. I think this is where we are in the decorative industry. The core decorative markets are established and arguably there hasn’t been much new regarding major breakthroughs the last few years. The innovation and what is “new,” much like the smart phone industry, has been subtle.
Venture out of your comfort zone
By “new” I’m not necessarily talking about a new product. New can mean a process that’s been around for years, but you just discovered it. New is a tool used in other industries, but with a little tweaking it can create a niche market for you in the decorative arena. New is attending a class at one of the trade shows or signing up for training from one of your distributors instead of just walking the aisles. Don’t wait for something new to come to you. Seek it out and gain the benefits.
The decorative concrete industry was born out of innovation created at all levels. When was the last time you stepped outside your comfort zone and looked at a new process or product? Consistency is important and I preach you should “be an expert at what you do.” But I also want to emphasize that you shouldn’t get so caught up in routine that before you know it, innovation and “new” are foreign or, worse yet, something to fear.
I’m often reminded of an analogy a good friend and decorative installer told me many years ago. Apples are either green, ripe or rotten. You need to always figure out a way to stay green, because when you’re ripe, you’re one step from being rotten. It’s our responsibility to keep this great industry green!
Chris Sullivan is vice president of sales and marketing with ChemSystems Inc. and a member of the Concrete Decor Hall of Fame. He has led seminars and product demonstrations throughout North America. Reach him at [email protected].