Matt Phillips, who was the former chief operating officer of Suntek/Commonwealth Laminating before it was sold to Eastman, is emerging from retirement. Phillips is forgoing his love of full-time fossil hunting (keep reading), to serve as CEO of BlueGrass Protective Films and its Legend® Paint Protection Film brand. WINDOW FILM magazine editorial director Tara Taffera talked with Phillips prior to the industry announcement.
PPF: What made you want to give up retirement for this position?
Phillips: I worked with Legend’s president Tim Gerasimov when we were both at Commonwealth—I retired in April, 2015. We always had a very good rapport and have remained friends. I kept in touch with him and monitored his progress from afar. Recently Tim asked for my input on several initiatives and, as I got involved, I became more excited about the opportunities and success of the company. It evolved and was formalized from there.
PPF: Why is it important to be part of this organization?
Phillips: What I saw was a company that reminded me of the good old days early on in my career. This is a high-growth, entrepreneurial company, and I was intrigued by the business model and its success. It was the right opportunity.
The industry has many strong, big companies, and I think that’s healthy. It lends credibility to the market. But I think there is a need and space for an entrepreneurial company that focuses on customer service and concentrates on getting the installer a good product that can help them succeed. I saw there was a need for that, and I see Legend filling that need.
PPF: Has anything surprised you about developments in the industry while you were gone?
Phillips: I have seen the continued growth and customer acceptance of paint protection film. I was in the business when it started to explode, and I continued to be impressed with its growth but, more importantly, how a broader customer awareness has increased. I see a bright future for the market.
PPF: What are you most excited about at Legend?
Phillips: I am excited about where I can contribute as I have vast experience managing a company through high growth. Legend is reaching that size and experiencing such growth that issues such as best practices, proper financial accounting, and access to capital will become more critical in the future. That’s where I can help the company. A lot of entrepreneurial companies fail at that stage—they become successful but are unable to manage the growth and its associated problems. Tim and I have a clear vision of where we fit into the market. I have embraced that, and my job is to support that. Tim remains president of the company. I’m here to help with the strategic side and to help the team manage the growth.
We are now at a point where creating infrastructure becomes increasingly important. To arm installers with a competitive advantage so they can be successful. Along with the right product and quick customer service, we believe that’s how we will be successful. Our strategy is to give the customer flexibility. We do not believe in bundling or exclusivity deals or restraining how much and when a customer can purchase from us. It’s a “Field of Dreams” philosophy. If we build it, they will come. If we make it beneficial for the customer to use our products, the revenue will flow. We want to make it easy for the installer to use our film, and that’s how we will build loyalty. That is a central part of Legend, and that excites me.
PPF: What’s your biggest challenge?
Phillips: Managing the growth. Obviously, COVID has created a litany of issues, especially related to the supply chain, that have been very challenging. I feel that how we reacted to it has helped us in the marketplace. It shows we have been able to manage those obstacles.
PPF: What have you been doing since retiring?
Phillips: I have been collecting fossils full time, which has long been a hobby of mine. I hunt for fossils all over the world. I have found them in Australia, England, Germany, and America. That’s what I have been doing for the last ten years, and I will continue to pursue it as a hobby. I found that I miss the challenge of business. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I started getting involved with Legend again.