Ralph Bruno made a name for himself in the building industry by leading a couple of major category conversions going back to 1991, when he first extolled the benefits of composite decking over wood as a national sales manager for Trex Co. Inc.
After nine years with Trex, Bruno then found himself at the forefront of converting sales of wood trim to PVC trim as the president of Azek Building Products from 2001-09.
These days, the 56-year-old Bruno is president and CEO of Quebec City-based Derby Building Products, which injection molds polypropylene panels that mimic stone and shake at sites in Quebec City and Miami.
Derby sells the products under the brand names of TandoStone, TandoShake and Beach House Shake to builders and professionals as well as NovikStone and NovikShake to the do-it-yourself channel and big-box retailers.
Bruno told Plastics News his team of Derby managers includes experienced people who helped him push sales from wood decking to Trex composites, which are made of sawdust and recycled polyethylene shopping bags, and wood trim to Azek's cellular PVC trim.
"The products we developed helped define new categories and many are now household names," Bruno said in an email. "At Derby, we are now leading a similar revolution with exterior cladding to replace stone, stone veneer and cedar shingles. Our products offer a tremendous value proposition for the installer and consumer as they lend themselves very well to mixed material usage alongside fiber cement, vinyl, stucco and more."
Bruno has spent his entire professional career in the plastics industry, starting with Cadillac Plastics, a distributor of plastic sheet, rod, tube and film, after graduating from State University of New York at Cortland.
"This gave me a very broad experience of different types of plastics being applied in a multitude of industries," Bruno said. "One such product was Lexan sheet manufactured by GE Plastics. Selling this innovative product into the glazing industry was my initial step into building products."
When he became Derby CEO in November 2017, Bruno was focused on launching the professional brand Tando, taking polymer stone and shake cladding "to a new level of realism and performance," and establishing distribution in the United States via building material distributors and dealers.
Tando- and Novik-brand products offer the look of wood and stone at a lower price than natural materials and veneers while requiring no upkeep and offering more design options. The products, which come in a variety of colors and textures, pair easily with other kinds of cladding and, because PP is impervious to moisture, can be installed at the ground level of houses and decks.
"When you have the opportunity to create a new category for a product, and to own a space that no one else can claim, that is where long-term value lies for your company and your brand," Bruno said, repeating the best advice he was given.
He advises those just starting with Derby to also think of the long term.
"Don't just stay in the moment," Bruno said. "Regardless of your role in the organization, you can develop a bigger view of the industry and help us be successful by learning your role, asking questions and finding solutions to challenges no one has even thought of yet."
The executive said he is driven by a passion to create brands that help enhance people's lives.
"Utilizing polymer products in the building material space has been a great journey for over 30 years. That said, the people you work with, your customers and your brand ultimately are your legacy. By treating them all with respect and dignity, you will be able to look back with pride," Bruno said.