Georgia Pacific Interview Transcript ft Darin Squires, GP Pro General Sales Manager

Philip Marzullo:

We’re back for number two of… And we don’t say number two, because we’re in the cleaning business. Some people think that, and we don’t have a name for this yet, but we’re back. And today we have with us the most handsome man in the janitorial business, which we’re excited to have, Darin. I mean, probably everybody knows Darin, because I think he was one of the first Georgia-Pacific employees, but Darin, would you please introduce yourself?

Darin Squires:

Yeah. Darin Squires, general sales manager for commercial real estate for GP Pro.

Philip Marzullo:

And you’ve been doing this for a while.

Darin Squires:

Yeah. I’ve been 26 years with Georgia-Pacific, or one of their legacy companies through acquisition. Fort Howard, for those that remember Fort Howard. 26 years. Yeah. Loving every minute.

Philip Marzullo:

And right now what we’re going through, the strangest time in your 26 years, I could imagine?

Darin Squires:

Yeah, it is absolutely, probably in all of our, whatever we’ve been doing, but in our particular industry, we’ve gone to a time where you’re trying to get sales meetings, trying to set up audiences. And now you’re literally being asked, what do you guys have? What can you show us? What can make our facility more hygienic, and touch-free, and help reduce the spread of germs, and things like that. Went from maybe middle of the line from importance, to absolutely in front of the line real quickly, in the industry we’re in.

Philip Marzullo:

When I think back, I look at how this pandemic started. Right? The thing started, everything shuts down, and there’s a paranoia about toilet paper. All of a sudden you can’t get toilet paper anywhere, be it commercial or residential. What happened? What happened with the supply chain? What happened?

Darin Squires:

Well, I think what it was, and you’re exactly right. I mean, for panic buying, hoarding, whatever the term you want to use. I think people assimilated toilet paper to sanitizing solutions, and those dried up real quickly in the market. And they thought, there’s some sort of weird parallel. There never really was a shortage of tissue products. It was just panic buying, and building up your inventory, whether you’re a distributor, or an end user. As we got through that phase, and I was the popular guy on the block, because they think, I work for the toilet paper company. I’ve got it just stacked in my garage, which is not the case. I was in the same boat as everybody else, trying to get some at the local grocer.

Darin Squires:

But I think what it came down to is, once everybody realized, you know what, the population hasn’t doubled. There’s not going to be an exponential usage of toilet paper. Then we saw orders start to deplete. And really, in the beginning, all it was that grocery stores didn’t have, on the retail side, the ability to build inventory levels. There was not a shortage of tissue. It was just, the stores were empty, because they didn’t have the time to bring in the amount that was being, obviously, purchased from the community.

Darin Squires:

On the commercial side that I work on, it’s the opposite. Right? People stopped traveling and going to hotels, and occupying office buildings. That was a balancing, I guess you could say. And we’re back to a normal time now. And I think when people do re-enter, occupy their office buildings or hotels, I think the janitor closets and the storage and stock areas are probably packed with tissue. We hope that time becomes normal sooner rather than later, because especially for me handling the commercial real estate area, GP Pro, we need people to start using the restrooms again, as quick as possible.

Philip Marzullo:

I totally get that.

Darin Squires:

It was just a funnel. It was just literally the funnel was not keeping up with the demand. And once we got trucks out of the mills, and rolling, things got back to normal.

Philip Marzullo:

With the pandemic, and people getting sick, and whatever, did any of the mills or your factories have to shut down? Did you guys experience any of that? Kept rolling?

Darin Squires:

No. We were really fortunate. As you think about paper mills now, versus 26 years ago, when I started, it was a very manual, intensive operation. Lots of people running around the mills. If you go to a modern paper mill, they’re pretty automated, so you would be surprised how little amount of actual people are running around those machines. It’s really automated, so we were fortunate. Yeah. Absolutely. We didn’t have to shut anything down.

Philip Marzullo:

That’s cool. Nothing’s really shifted on the manufacturing side? You guys are set up out of automation. There’s no real changes that need to be made. That’s interesting. When you look at now, as we are moving through this pandemic, and now we’re looking at the reentry of businesses, and getting things going, getting people using toilet paper, and hand towels, and all that stuff. Where do you think… Well, actually, before I ask that question, I guess, things are coming back up, and we all need stuff. As cleaning companies, maybe commercial places, we need all… We’re in search of things. Did you guys have to make any shifts for prioritizing? How do you prioritize who gets what?

Darin Squires:

Yeah.

Philip Marzullo:

How does that work?

Darin Squires:

Yeah. I mean, out of the gate, there was a lot of social responsibility, and Georgia-Pacific, just like our distribution partners, and the likes of A&A Maintenance, as well, healthcare and first responders were taken care of. And that was just the way things should be handled, and should have been handled. One vertical, unfortunately, that was being stressed, was acute care facilities, and the need for products in those sites was taking high demand. And luckily, with the absence of the other part of the verticals, like airports, and hotels, and office buildings, there was a supply. There’s a supply and demand situation that we were able to maintain, because the other verticals weren’t occupied.

Darin Squires:

We found a very strange situation in that some of the products that maybe, I guess you can say, aren’t in such demand, became in high demand really fast. Not just your normal hand towels, like our Emotion automated towel, but what we really saw was, obviously, the need for sanitizer was just upticked by a million. It stressed all manufacturers when it came to that. Going touch-free became, obviously, hyper-important immediately. And then one of the things that really took hold right away was the need to use, instead of cloth wipers, and things like that on surfaces, to utilize a disposable towel. Not just did our wiper solutions, our Brawny wiping solutions become high in demand, but people in businesses were just wanting anything that they could dispose of after they wiped a surface down. That could be a traditional multifold, or a hard wound roll towel, or a kitchen towel. The industry, the world wanted anything that they could wipe the surface down and toss, rather than continue to use a microfiber or cloth towel.

Mario Busto:

Just seeing that adjustment in demand, did that change anything internally about how you went about preparing for… I mean, even in the early stages, in March, did you see anything internally that had to change to meet that demand?

Darin Squires:

Yeah. March was pretty darn early, and we were learning as we went, literally day by day, and sometimes hour by hour, the requests that were coming in from the market. All we had to really do is start to be concerned about some of those products that we typically have an abundant amount of supply as a paper manufacturer. The unusual product started to go out at a rate we’ve never seen before, so just adjusted inventory levels and manufacturing. Yeah.

Philip Marzullo:

Going back to that disposable. The disposable wipes and stuff like that. Seems like now we’re really taking a lot of influence from what happens in the healthcare industry, and bringing that into just general commercial, which I would assume is going to impact the expenses on everything. Just throwing something away is a heck of a lot more expensive than using a microfiber rag, for example. But it certainly ups that level of eliminating cross-contamination, and that sort of thing. I’m seeing that a lot. I feel like we all look like we’re going into surgery at all times. And in all of the things that you’re used to seeing in a hospital, you’re seeing it everywhere. You go to a gas station, and it feels like you’re at a hospital site. I’d imagine the healthcare team at Georgia-Pacific has some influence on what things are happening, just because they’re so educated in that. And now it’s new for everybody else.

Darin Squires:

Yeah. That’s an interesting point, because coming, handling the commercial real estate world, and not the healthcare vertical, we absolutely utilize their expertise immediately, as well as OSHA and CDC guidelines. I mean, we’ve got something out there that’s a hygiene checklist for buildings. It’s about to go virtual, and you can take a quick one or two minute survey, and we do follow OSHA guides on how you should be touchless and more hygienic in a facility. And you can take the survey, and they’ll tell you percentage-wise, out of their 15 questions, you’re hygiene ready for reoccupancy, or you’re not.

Darin Squires:

And these are the areas you better pay attention to. Because some folks in our industry, they’re not used to having to have this kind of knowledge, with enhanced cleaning, or multiple touch points, or areas of cross contamination, and real quickly, they’re looking at the experts for that. Like you said, it’s more of a responsibility now. When you think about a building now going automated, or connected to the internet, so you don’t run out of products. A lot of that was amenities before, and now it’s not an amenity. It is a responsibility for that building to be hygienic versus yesterday’s world.

Philip Marzullo:

Yeah. I mean, it certainly seems that that place where we were living in sustainability, we were like, okay, we want to do that. We’re going to still do that. But now we’re way more focused on this hygienic side, and…

Darin Squires:

Yeah, and you nailed it, too, Phil, when you mentioned that, obviously, that’s an incremental cost, when you’re going to disposables. It’s also an impact on the environment, because now you’re discarding quite a bit. You look at the break rooms, where in yesterday’s world, you might’ve brought your coffee mug to your break room, and used it every day, to save on disposable hot cups and things. Well, now they’re finding one of the hotbeds for germs and bacteria is in the base of a coffee mug. We’re going back to a time where disposables are going to be much more prevalent in break rooms, and there’s a cost factor, and there’s a sustainability impact, as well. But hopefully all the break rooms and products being utilized are compostable, or made from recycled content.

Philip Marzullo:

Yeah. That’s a good point. I hadn’t even thought of that part of the business. As we look at reopening, what role does GP play? I mean, where are they? How are you helping companies reenter? What kind of strategies? I mean, that digital calculator thing sounds like a really neat thing. I mean, what role does GP play as we reenter the workplace?

Darin Squires:

Yeah. I mean, really, we’re being asked for guidance, so where we play is hand hygiene, and just hygiene in general is our game. What we’re really doing is teaching people where they should have touch-less solutions, where you might have to have something. We’re hearing from the market. No one wants to touch anything, because we’ve been living in this world for the last three, four months, where we’re all now hyper-trained to not touch anything. Right? Go to the grocery store. Did someone touch that orange, because now I’m going to maybe buy that orange. I don’t know who touched that orange. Right? That’s the lens we’ve been looking through, and now when we reoccupy our work areas and our facilities, you’re still looking through that lens. It doesn’t change. It probably even gets more important and impactful.

Darin Squires:

What we’re looking at is, anywhere where someone has multiple touch points, and we’re talking door handles, elevator buttons. There’s requests for sanitizers inside of stalls, so that after you touch the door, you can sanitize to get out of the stall, your hands. Right? Anything where someone might’ve touched that surface. Absolutely. Even exposed products, like you see an exposed folded towel in a bathroom. You think that’s hygienic, but it’s in an open environment, where paper’s made to wick particles. That’s what its job is. Someone sneezes, coughs around a sink bank area, and you’ve got folded towel dispensers, or on the countertop in stacks, odds are, it’s likely that those could potentially be contaminated. Do I touch that? I mean, how do I dry my hands now?

Darin Squires:

We’re pointing people at systems that are fully enclosed. A wave activated towel that’s enclosed. The only towel you touch is something that was already protected behind the dispenser shield, or the face. Same with soap systems. We’re seeing a ton of major corporations wanting to get away from pump activated, or touch soap systems, or push sanitizers, and just to go to everything automated. And not just automated and touchless, but you want high capacity, because when you think of yesterday’s world, you might’ve had a sanitizing stand when you walked into a lobby of a building. And someone from A&A Maintenance has to maintain maybe one sanitizer stand. Right?

Darin Squires:

Now you could have 10 or 20 on a densified floor in an office building, 30 floors of that. You can’t spend time or labor costs just making sure sanitizers are filled, so having large capacity, and going a step further, connecting it to the internet, so that you get alerts and notifications on your smart devices, telling you the fourth floor, you’ve got three sanitizers that only have 3% left. You better get up there and take care of that. Instead of just circulating a building to check levels, you’re getting notifications, because in yesterday’s world, not getting sanitizer was an annoyance, but in today’s world, not getting sanitizer after you walked out of an elevator, or touched an escalator railing, that’s more of, oh, my goodness, where’s the… If I can’t get it there, where’s the next sanitizer station?

Mario Busto:

Are you seeing now, you mentioned it right there, with the people wanting more touchless solutions, are you seeing IOT is just big now, as far as connecting everything, that’s also in high demand?

Darin Squires:

Yeah. For our platform, which is called COLO, it’s our IOT connected smart dispensing system, the demand has upticked considerably because of that. I think what we’re seeing is, costs has taken a bit of a back seat right now, because there is, as Phil mentioned, the responsibility for your tenants, your patrons, your customers, to walk up to a sink bank, wash their hands, and you’d better be able to get soap, so without wasting and having to refill systems, just to make sure you’re not out, which is a cost anyway, because it’s a sustainability concern, and it’s a waste concern. Now you’re getting alerts and notifications, so that you don’t get that tenant complaint, which is more than a complaint now. I mean, from what the CDC says, if you can’t get soap, or a towel, you’re pretty much better off not washing your hands.

Darin Squires:

Because if you try to dry your hands on your pants, or your dress, that has more possible contamination from being out in the environment all day, than just not washing your hands. There’s a lot of concern about high capacity towel systems, roll towels, and moving away from folding towels, where you might get 40 or 50 hand dries. You go to a roll towel system, you get 700 hand dries, the less concern that you’re probably going to have of running out, and the same with tissue, and the same with soap and sanitizers. And you guys really, at A&A Maintenance, you’re the ones that are going to feel, probably, the brunt of this, and trying to make sure that complaint doesn’t happen. Right? That just can’t happen in tomorrow’s world. You’ve got to have supplies to be hygienic.

Philip Marzullo:

Yeah. And the complex thing with that is just, you have a specific contract, and what you’re supposed to be buying, and now this is all new. Everything’s changing. All these scopes need to be rewritten, and it’s a big process. When you mentioned the folded towels being exposed, and yeah, it’s supposed to wick. I hadn’t thought of that. That’s interesting, and then when I think about a hand blower, a Dyson thing, or whatever, I’m also thinking… I was at the doctor the other day, and I did like this blowing test. I’m went, like blow… And they even put me in another room, because they’re like, well, we don’t know if you have COVID, and you’re going to be pushing all this air out. And I would think with a hand dryer, that’s the same thing. You’ve got whatever’s on your hand, and I’m sure there’s probably studies that talk about why that’s not-

Darin Squires:

Hand dryers?

Philip Marzullo:

Yeah.

Darin Squires:

Yeah. I mean, hand dryers, if you read with the CDC and OSHA put out, those probably, and hopefully, are a thing of the past, but even going a step further into exposed towels in washrooms, still a major concern. But if you consider what we’re hearing in the news with transfer of bacteria, and when you talk, particles go eight feet, or something, you don’t even have to sneeze or cough, really, and you can be transmitting some of these germs, and bacteria, irrelevant of COVID. I mean, just keeping a facility safe. When the world densified office spaces, you did see an incredible uptick in illness that would float around an open densified neighborhood in an office building, and now has 30, 40 people. And before, everybody was enclosed in their own office. When they sneeze, it’s just that. Right? It’s just like being on an airplane, almost, with a little… I mean, now we’re going to be social distanced, but in yesterday’s world, that wasn’t such a concern.

Philip Marzullo:

Yeah. Well, now I’m thinking, are you going to do a little motion toilet paper dispenser? Now I’m thinking about the hand towels. I’m like, yeah. And now I think of the toilet paper, and that’s just dangling over. Now I want a little, a little wave my, little thing. It’s like…

Darin Squires:

Well, you never know what’s in the works, but I do know that having just exposed tissue that doesn’t have a cover on it at all, that’s a concern, but that was a concern in yesterday’s world. Most systems, especially from GP Pro, have some sort of enclosure, where one roll is not exposed, but yeah, it’ll be something down the road that’ll be talked about in the industry. We did a survey of about 500 tenants of office buildings coast to coast, and 73% of them were concerned about coming back to work and being safe. 85% of them were concerned about having exposed folded towels, or even a mechanical towel, where the towel is hanging in the washroom. And I think if we’d have done that survey back in January, February, it wouldn’t have even been top of mind for anybody.

Philip Marzullo:

Oh, we used to, when you would stack those multi-folds on the thing, I mean, mostly, back then it was, well, if people are going to take 20 towels to dry their hand, and just throw it away, and that’s yesterday’s benefit of having that roll towel. Well, you’re only going to get this much, because that’s all you need to dry your hands, and we’re going to save, but now it’s just looked at in a different lens. I’s almost like the savings isn’t as much of a focus. It’s more of just like, how [crosstalk 00:20:11]?

Darin Squires:

Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. And then the same with hand dryers, which had, I suppose, a sustainability story, that the health and hygienic… That’s completely taken a back seat, and now people are saying, hey, we’ve got to have something. And by the way, a towel actually removes bacteria from your hands, from the scraping motion, so just drying your hands, you’re not getting that effect, as you would from a paper towel.

Philip Marzullo:

Got it. As we reenter, looking at things like automation, higher capacity dispensers for hand sanitizers, a lot of disposable things. Is there anything else that’s, oh, I didn’t think of that thing that might be out there, that you could share before we wrap this thing up?

Darin Squires:

Sure. Yeah. Phil, you’ve been around the industry a while, as well, but we at Georgia-Pacific, we launched a product years ago called Safety Guard. It’s a door handle tissue.

Philip Marzullo:

I remember that.

Darin Squires:

Yeah. Right?

Philip Marzullo:

I remember that.

Darin Squires:

It had some moderate success, but you talk about today’s world. It’s one of our most popular systems. It’s a little dispenser with a receptacle that you mount next to a door, and it’s a tissue to open the door. It’s in very, very high demand, to the point where it’s hard to keep up with that kind of demand. People are utilizing unique products to open doors, and anywhere from a box of facial tissue, to a full towel dispenser mounted next to doors, inside and out, believe it or not. Elevator banks, that became popular to mount in elevators, or at the elevator buttons, to grab a tissue to touch a button.

Darin Squires:

We’re hearing now of some concierge services, where the property management company will have an elevator attendant, if you will, in the banks, with gloves on, and you just tell them which floor to go to. And you know more than anything, these multiple touch points are where people are all of a sudden, really paying attention to. And when you think about some of the options, I mean, we’re looking at maybe some hygiene type stations throughout open areas, with products that people might want now in the office building. When you think about yesterday’s world, you brought your own sanitizer, and your own facial tissue, into your work area. That might be something that is now offered by property management, or a company you work for, just to show that extra sense of hygiene.

Darin Squires:

The other thing we’re seeing a big demand on is surface wipers. We have a couple options in buckets, and it has a… You pour your own disinfectant, quaternary, whatever you want in there. And then our towels dispense through the top of these buckets. And what we’re finding is, when people do come back to the office space, they’re going to want it, especially hoteled areas, which might be a thing of the past now. I think we’ll probably look at more assigned seating, like we used to. Even though it’s open, you still sit in the same place every day. You don’t sit in a place where someone was yesterday. Right?

Darin Squires:

But they’re still wanting that extra sense of maybe I should grab a towel, and wipe down my keyboard and area. Even though it was cleaned, they want to disinfect it a step further. Those products are really front of mind for everybody right now.

Philip Marzullo:

Yeah. It is interesting about the elevator. I was in one in the city yesterday, and it’s like the button’s in there, so I can’t do it with my elbow. Yeah. And then it’s like, well, do I like push it with my phone, but then I’m going to put the phone on my face. You go through, I guess, stuff I’ve never even thought about. I’m going through this struggle in my mind.

Darin Squires:

Yeah. I’m one of those guys that bought those copper key chain things that would [crosstalk 00:23:47] to touch, and it’s got the book to open doors. And those are now, we’re hearing, causing damage to doors, so not something that’s being promoted in office buildings. It’s just a cascade effect of… I’m sure that you all at A&A Maintenance get pitched new innovation daily, when it comes to elbow door openers, or kick door openers. I mean, the things that are coming to market are pretty fast and furious.

Philip Marzullo:

It’s great. The pandemic is certainly creating different opportunities for people to be innovative. That’s for sure.

Darin Squires:

Yeah.

Philip Marzullo:

Well, Mr. Georgia Pacific, Mr. Darin Squires, the most handsome man in the business. We thank you. We thank you again for your time.

Darin Squires:

You’re not giving the business a lot of credit with that comment.

Philip Marzullo:

I’m looking forward to seeing you. I’m looking forward to those fun, big Georgia-Pacific parties again. Those are the best. I can’t wait for that just to start up again.

Darin Squires:

Me too. Well, let’s hope we get back away from a virtual world, and we get to do handshakes, and hang out, and enjoy our meetings, and our time together, going forward.

Philip Marzullo:

Thank you, again.

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