Family-Owned Sealant Tape Company Plays Vital Role In Metal Building Industry's Success
Miguel Pena (left) with his father, GSSI Sealants' founder Luis Pena.
By Marge O’Connor, DesignandBuildwithMetal
Butyl sealants are a relatively small portion of metal buildings – yet they play an important role in assuring the integrity and weathertightness of each finished structure. So contractors and manufacturers look to sealant producers for reliability in these behind-the-scene products.
Family-owned GSSI makes sealant tapes for the metal building and components industry. Just like its high quality sealant products, GSSI offers reliability and design flexibility to its customers, which has resulted in long-term customer relationships.
The Houston-based company’s 30-year history of providing consistent value and attention to detail is based on the philosophy of Luis Peña. He founded the business and currently manages product development and quality control. His wife Kawin, son Miguel and daughter Cristina oversee sales, customer relations, and marketing.
According to Miguel, GSSI began making sealants in a facility near New Orleans, where the family owned an asphalt company called Gulf States Asphalt. At that time GSSI was a subsidiary named Gulf Seal Specialties, Inc. Eventually the family sold Gulf States Asphalt and shortened the sealant company name to GSSI because it was easier to remember and offered better market recognition.
“GSSI began as a small experiment when the father of one of our salesmen, who had experience with sealants, encouraged us to get into the business. So we decided to do that and became a small but thriving piece of Gulf States,” notes Luis.
GSSI soon started selling to the metal building industry and thrived in it. “We found the metal building business much more pleasant so we’ve kept that our main focus. There are a lot of other places where butyl sealants are used, such as the HVAC and RV markets, but we have kept metal buildings as our core. We’re not the largest but we stayed focused and have done very well because of that,” Miguel adds.
The second stage of the company’s growth occurred a bit by accident and a bit by fortune, according to Miguel. “Our plant in Louisiana was having a problem keeping up with the pace of orders, so we decided to expand and began manufacturing in Mexico. We opened a plant in Mexico in 2005, under the NAFTA agreement. We found it beneficial and our plan was to do 80% of the production in Louisiana and 20% in Mexico. We had just done some test runs at the plant in Mexico and were ready to produce product when Hurricane Katrina hit and destroyed our Louisiana plant. So, overnight Mexico became our main production facility and we never missed a beat. It was pure luck on our part and it’s why we’re here today.”
GSSI sealants are manufactured in Mexico with polymers and other raw materials sourced in the United States. The finished products are shipped domestically and internationally from the company’s warehouse in Houston. In addition to producing its popular line of standard products, it makes custom sizes and products upon request.
For Luis, the quality of the product has always been most important. “The integrity of our products is essential to the performance of the metal roofing and wall systems they are used with. So we need to make products of a high quality that can perform as expected,” he says.
From humble beginnings in a small town near New Orleans the company has grown to an international company with worldwide sales. “The expansion came about through a lot of advertising and consistent attention to customer needs. We can’t be everywhere so we advertise a lot to drive people to our Web site. We know that our customers and vendors spread the word for us. We treat all of our customers with great care and believe that perpetuates our growth. In the long run being as responsive as possible keeps our reputation strong. Customers know we are a vendor that will work with them and stay with them. Customization makes us different and is a great selling point. Most of the big companies make only popular sizes and formulas and want customers to fit into their models. We’re just the opposite. We’ll jump through hoops for customers because we know they’re our best marketing partners,” Miguel says.
The company’s guiding philosophy is simple – maintain high quality both in products and in customer service. These standards have drawn customers to GSSI and kept them coming back. “It’s not that complicated. We offer the best products possible at reasonable prices and pay attention to the customers’ needs. It also means being loyal to our vendors. Doing all of this consistently has helped us grow,” says Miguel.
The family also does a great job of keeping the GSSI name visible through activities with industry organizations, trade shows and other events where they can make personal contact with large groups of people in one setting.
Advertising has been an important piece of the mix. “We have the biggest advertising program of any of our competitors. Therefore, people all over the world and here in U.S. see us as large – perhaps the biggest in the industry,” adds Luis.
As for making social media as part of their current marketing program, Miguel doesn’t consider it something to focus on because theirs is a business-to-business environment. GSSI works with distributors and building manufacturers, not contractors, so Miguel regards online and print publications as the most important marketing tools to get their message out to their target audiences.
A major benefit of being a small, independent manufacturer in today’s market is being able to make decisions quickly and be responsive to customer’s needs. “Independence is very important to me. We don’t need to keep investors satisfied so when it comes to making decisions we can make those without concern for an immediate return. We make decisions based on the long-term effects on our customers and ourselves. That’s it,” says Louis.
Butyl sealants for the metal building industry are fairly similar, except for some differences in strength and size. But other factors can make it difficult for metal building manufacturers to choose a sealant. “One thing about sealants in the U.S. is that there are no overarching, comprehensive specifications or standards. In the UK, for example, they have standards that are required to be met. In the U.S. there’s not a lot of information readily available to determine a baseline standard for a sealant to meet a specific project requirement - unless you look at everyone’s product sheets. It seems like an organization such as the MCA should work to establish a standard to relieve some of the confusion in the U.S. marketplace. We test our products to meet all the typical ASTM standards and list those on our product sheets. We do the same with UL standards for our customers in the HVAC market,” says Miguel.
He notes that butyl itself is an excellent match for all metals and is intended to be sandwiched between pieces of metal. Butyl is not topical because its natural properties cause it to degrde under prolonged UV exposure. GSSI products do not contain solvents and are completely inert so they don’t cause a reaction with the metals in the building. “A big benefit for metal buildings is that GSSI sealants don’t cure and get hard like some other sealants do. Metal buildings are constantly moving so the sealant has to stay flexible and not cure. If it cures, when movement of the building occurs the sealant will break and that’s the start of major problems.”
The Peña family’s philosophy of consistent high quality and responsiveness to customer’s needs, reflects the same mix of durability and flexibility in their products. Small but mighty fits the GSSI family and its family of products.
About GSSI Sealants
GSSI Sealants Inc. is an independent, family-owned manufacturer of premiere elastomeric butyl rubber sealant tapes. The company has been producing tapes for a wide range of industries and applications for more than 30 years. Its products are manufactured in Piedras Negras, Mexico, from materials purchased in the U.S. Products ship from the company’s warehouse and offices in Houston, TX. To learn more, visit www.gssisealants.com.