Giving small businesses collective purchasing power and resources – this is the goal behind David Beam’s company, Insulate America. This struck a chord with me, reminding me of a goal behind OPEN Savings. Most small business owners don’t purchase enough to negotiate the types of lower rates with vendors that larger companies can. But bring the purchasing power of thousands together, and that can change.
Insulate American has only seven full-time employees, but represents over 6,000 independent residential and commercial insulation contractors and employees in more than 270 locations. David started the company in 1999 when, as the owner of an insulation contracting company, he recognized the need to bring more benefits to independent contractors across the U.S. and to help them build their businesses.
When I spoke to David, I found it very interesting that his company operates more like an employee-owned franchise than a trade organization; the members are stockholders in Insulate America. “They enjoy many of the same benefits of franchisees, but can maintain their local identities,” David told me. Among other benefits, members have the opportunity to participate in education and training, as well as reward and recognition programs.
It’s this emphasis on education that led to Insulate America’s scholarship program. Started in 2008, The David T. Brown College Scholarship is awarded to the children of members, based on financial need, academic achievement, and other criteria. As of this fall, eight students will be attending college, with thanks to Insulate America.
I asked how they’ve been able to do this, given the difficult economy. “We were trying to figure out how to raise money for the scholarships, and literally, the ShopAmex catalog arrived in the mail. That gave us the idea: We hold a silent auction at our annual stockholders meeting and purchase most of the auction items through ShopAmex using Membership Rewards points.”
David told me that since realizing how they could use points for this purpose, they’ve made even more of an effort to put all of their business expenses on their Card – travel, meetings, office supplies, and more. And they plan to fund even more scholarships this year.
I also asked David what he attributes his success to, and he told me, “Since Day One, we’ve adhered to two basic principles:
- Always be truthful; and
- Always pay bills early.
By doing these two things, you can help to build up trust and credit, both of which may pay off during challenging times when you may need to ask for favors. You can create a foundation that can serve you well and create success for your company.”
I thank David for sharing his story and invite others to do so, as well. If you have a story about using your Card or Membership Reward points in a creative way, e-mail me at marcy @ openforum.com. You can also follow me on Twitter @marcyshinder, and follow OPEN Forum @openforum.
For more information on David Beam (Cardmember since 2004) and Insulate America, visit www.insulateamerica.com.