Brandon interviews Jon - they discuss how he got into concrete, his previous work with Buddy Rhodes Products and SmoothOn, and the future of concrete being Kodiak Pro. Jon has been a pioneer in the development of concrete sealer technologies for concrete sinks and countertops, as well as handcrafted artisan finishes for high-end concrete pieces. You can reach Jon at:
Brandon Gore: Hey Jon, how's it going?
Jon Schuler: Good, Brandon, how you doing?
Brandon Gore: I'm doing great. You're gonna be flying out here tomorrow to come to Eureka Springs, Arkansas for the Pinnacle Concrete Camp.
Jon Schuler: Yeah I’m excited. And I’ll be coming out actually early for a few days. And we're going to do some product videos. So that'll be fun.
Brandon Gore: That’s right.
Jon Schuler: Fun. Yeah.
Brandon Gore: It'll be good time. And for anybody listening, by the time this goes live, today is Wednesday that we're recording, it'll probably go live Thursday or Friday, you still have time, you could still hop in your car and get here by Monday for the Pinnacle Concrete Camp for six days of training with Dusty Baker, Jon Schuler and Brandon Gore, the best training in the world on decorative concrete. So if you get in great, and if you miss this class, we'll have another one in the spring at some point, probably, February or March, I've gotten probably 10 emails asking from people that couldn't make it to this one when the next one is, we haven't set the date yet. But we will, we're just kind of waiting to see what happens with COVID in this fall spike to see if there's a surge or anything that's going to impact travel but so we're thinking February, March, but anyways, so we're gonna have that going on, it's gonna be a lot of fun. What else is going on with you?
Jon Schuler: Not too much, man. Just rolling along. Rolling along because it's going good. Right now just you know, packing everything up and dealing with family because I'm gonna be out your way for what, 10 days?
Brandon Gore: It’s gonna be a good time.
Jon Schuler: Should be a pretty good.
Brandon Gore: So typically we interview a concrete artisan in the trade for the podcast. On this episode, we're going to, or I'm going to, interview Jon Schuler; Jon Schuler, the myth, the legend, the enigma. So, hello Jon.
Jon Schuler: Hello, Brandon. How are you? Yeah, today I get to be in the hot seat. Yeah. Great. All the hard questions I’m ready.
Brandon Gore: You’re wearing your fire-proof underwear today?
Jon Schuler: I'm ready.
Brandon Gore: Yeah, let's start. We'll start with a softball question. How did you get into concrete? Well, before we do that, I know that you were a chemist before?
Jon Schuler: Yeah.
Brandon Gore: So first, tell me about your background in chemistry. What did you do?
Jon Schuler: Okay.
Brandon Gore: Prior to concrete.
Jon Schuler: Yeah. So before I came this direction, yeah, I mean, I have a couple bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry. And then I followed that with going into pharmacy school, stayed in pharmacy, and graduated with my doctorate of pharmaceutical medicine, and found out pretty quickly, I hated it. Had some personal things happen during that period of my life, which also pushed me a certain direction. But found out pretty quickly, yeah, standing, I call it my three by three box counting by fives, and maybe answering someone's question. Like, doctor, we need a consult. So you read the label back to whomever was getting it. And I just felt like, man, what monkey can't do this? In other words, for me, personally, it was not fulfilling.
So my wife and I, at that time made a conscious choice. We had been talking about having children and so forth and so on. So we found some property up in the Murphy's area where my family's from where I grew up. We purchased that property very quickly, what I thought was going to be a six to eight month hiatus of me remodeling our own cabin, it's a cabin, we got in Murphy's. And then I was gonna which, I thought I was gonna end up going to work for one of the local pharmacies here. And instead, I just made a decision, man, I mean, here's the nice thing; education out of all things you can lose you know, as you move ahead in life, you lose your vision, whatever, lose your faculties, you can lose your license, there's lots of things you can lose, but you never lose an education. So that's the kind of the way I looked at it.
At this time, when we moved up here, I think it was the early 2000s, construction was going huge. And I just kind of looked around after doing the remodel and thought, Man, why don't I stick with this for a while. That's what I grew up doing my grandfather was a contractor. So started a business doing that got my contractor's license, and before I knew it, it just exploded. I was doing remodels, I had employees. Yeah, it was crazy. It was crazy how fast that went and during that period of time, that's when, let's say there was Fu Tung Cheng and Buddy Rhodes and people were reading these books about concrete countertops. So I had some clients ask us for them when they were doing a bathroom or kitchen remodel. And I thought, what the heck, I got involved with that. And for me personally found out pretty quickly, that they were not as durable as I would personally like them. So I had no problem doing them for clients. But I had no interest in doing it for myself, which then led me down to another path is like, well, wait a minute, as these things were being asked of us more and more, why not look at start looking at it from a different direction. So that's, that's kind of how I got into it originally. And how I started navigating to the point that we are now over the last 20 some odd years.
Brandon Gore: And what year, would you say it was that you started experimenting with concrete countertops?
Jon Schuler: I'm gonna say maybe 2003/2005 somewhere in that neighborhood plus or minus.
Brandon Gore: Did you take any classes during that time frame on concrete or was it all just your own self, you know, you're doing your own stuff that kind of test things?
Jon Schuler: Well, you know, that's actually a touchy conversation. But let's get into it. 99% of it I did all myself, leaning back on my chemistry background, started looking at concrete from a very different direction, at that time, made a lot of phone calls to different raw materials manufacturers, product suppliers and these kinds of things. The funny thing, well, now looking back, it's funny, during that period of time, an individual that I would have lots of conversations with, I'd say, you know, if not weekly, it was definitely a couple, two, three times a month was a guy named Jeff Girard, believe it or not. And Jeff and I, well, there was quite a few other people too, we had this small group of individuals, Joe Bates, Allla Linetsky, James McGregor, Ron Mills and I could go on with a longer list of individuals that.
All of us were playing with concrete and coming up with ideas on how to make it more dense and more durable. And, you know, a sealer that would work better with it and better scrims and, you know, primary reinforcements, and, you know, anyway, the list goes on. At this time, I was doing almost exclusively upright casting, Jeff Girard, and we came up with this idea, he was going to start offering upright casting, and he offered me to come out to I think they were in North Carolina at the time, Raleigh, I believe, Raleigh, North Carolina and we were going to trade time, trade time I came out for the course he was intending to offer as a trade, I would stay for his pre-casting, which I at this point was doing zero conventional pre-casting. So it was a good time. I’ll just put it very nicely. They asked me to be very honest and I think they found out very quickly, like a lot of people sometimes do when they get to meet me, is if you ask me to be very honest, then I end up quite blunt, and quite direct. Let's just say for a while we didn't get along after that. But his precast was good. I mean, you know,
Brandon Gore: Let me ask you this. Is it fair to say that you learned everything about concrete from Jeff Girard? Is it fair to say that?
Jon Schuler: No, I like Jeff, though, don't get me wrong. I mean, Jeff and Lane, they're great people. But yeah, I would say our relationship started off on a well, initially phone conversations, but post that it started off on a very rocky relationship. Yeah. Which I think over the years we've overcome and become quite cordial. For a while. I don't know if you remember this, but for a while, we worked together when Shawn Hayes, who had Buddy Rhodes products at the time, actually, let's say absorbed or purchased the Concrete Countertop Institute.
Brandon Gore: We'll get to that in a minute. But I want to go back to, is it fair to say that you learned 90% of what you know about concrete from Jeff Girard?
Jon Schuler: Why are you…
Brandon Gore: I'm just trying to quantify how much you…
Jon Schuler: I mean, if we want to get touchy about it,
Brandon Gore: I'm just messing with you. I think it's funny. The battle of the brains. You know, Jeff is a smart guy. You're a smart guy and the smartest guys in the room always try to jockey to see who's smarter.
Jon Schuler: Right. Who's the biggest brain in the room. No, I mean, I like Jeff, I think they're great people. My personality I think sometimes can be difficult for some people to get used to, especially in those kinds of situations. That's kind of the early relationship with Jeff Girard and the Concrete Countertop Institute.
Brandon Gore: Let's continue this linear walk down memory lane. So you started in pharmaceuticals. Got your doctorate in, what was your doctorate in?
Jon Schuler: Doctor of pharmaceutical medicine. So believe it or not, you won’t
Brandon Gore: is that Doctorate?
Jon Schuler: Yeah, you will not find it on my walls anywhere because, again, that's part of my personality, meaning, you know, I don't need to live with my credentials on my shoulders. Some people do, and that kinds of defines who they are. And I've never been that way. Well, yes, I have a piece of paper that has, you know, Dr. Schuler and etc. But, but that's not how I identify myself at all.
Brandon Gore: Just so you know, I don't have my GED on display anywhere either. I have it framed somewhere in storage, but I choose to not make other people feel less about themselves or smaller by flouting my achievements, such as, there's actually no grade for GED, it’s just pass or fail. So I passed according to the state of Alabama, with my General Equivalency Diploma, so there's that. And it's in a fancy gold frame with matting.
Jon Schuler: Good for you.
Brandon Gore: Yeah, there you go. But I keep it hidden. Just so you know, I don't want to I don't show off.
Jon Schuler: you just pull it out like your trump card. When someone really. They're really questioning you just like slap it down
Brandon Gore: I should do what movie stars do and hang it, hang it above the toilet. So you got your doctorate, then you started playing with concrete?
Jon Schuler: Yep.
Brandon Gore: You did a class with Jeff. Jon, you learned everything you know about concrete from Jeff. After that, what happened?
Jon Schuler: After that, well, it was always during that period of time. And I know, you know, just anybody who talked to me at the time, I was kind of a central core group of us, we were starting the early phases of UHPC Concretes. And not that we were looking to make the strongest concrete in the world, it was based on that same philosophy I stand by now, you know, I want a concrete that has inherent resistances which typically means it's super dense and incredibly strong and etc. And a sealing technology that enhances the concretes ability rather than something that, you know, simply coats it and ends up the final film, the reality is in that situation. And I'm not saying it's wrong, it's that the film is really all the set expectation of performance, not the concrete. And that's just never my point of view. So through those early phases, yeah. I mean, I've worked with Lafarge some of the early phases of Ductal you know, silica fumes and different cements, couple micro cement companies. And that was just a lot, a lot of fun, man, I guess I would say.
You know, I take my love of chemistry and applied it into cement chemistries, and sands and then ultimately into silicate chemistries, which led to sealer chemistry, and micro polymers. And I got hooked up with a I got to know the owners at the time of a company called Convergent out of Utah, and did a lot of work with them on sealers. And, you know, just continue to forge that path. And then, total side note to that is, I love making things. I love it. I hasten to call myself an artist, but definitely I appreciate the artisan part of things. That's always been fun for me.
Brandon Gore: That was gonna be my next question, because really, Jon Schuler, how me and you came to know each other was through ICT in the very early days of ICT. You were getting it out to guys to try and test and give you feedback and you'd sent me some ICT and it didn't work. But the concrete I was doing back then it was a very basic and early form of GFRC, that was Forton VF774, 50% sand, 50% cement. It just didn't work well with that mix. But in time, through pozzolans, we got it to work really well, you got it to work really well with the ICT. But I digress. But that's how I came to know you was through sealer. So what made you focus on trying to develop a sealer, it's got to be an incredible challenge to just walk in and say I'm going to come up with a whole new technology for sealing concrete.
Jon Schuler: You know, that's a ridiculous challenge. Yeah. And a lot of time, energy and finances. And here's what I say, you know, for me, if anybody asked me one day like, Hey, Jon, you know, what do you think are your strengths? I'll be the first to tell anybody I don't think I'm the smartest person in the room by any stretch of the means. But what I do believe I'm good at, or at least tenacious at, if not good, tenacious, is problem solving, and puzzles. So once I got involved with this end of chemistries, even back then meet somebody like you who introduced me to an Achilles heel to this technology, then I'd have to solve it one way or another, you know, figure it out why isn't it working here, then what was it water it wasn't reacting with, and, and all of that continue, even with the latest technologies.
I think it was a year ago, year and a half ago, when I opened that up to people for testing is the feedback for people to show me what was working, what wasn't working, why in their hands, it didn't work, which allows me to continue to adapt because what people don't know, because they're not they don't live in my shop, they don't live in my areas. You know, I never release anything to anybody until I've used it a minimum of a year. But, what I have found time and time again, with my chemistry is, which is not the easiest chemistry in the world, you and I have had this conversation, just my little story. There was a time actually, Shawn Hayes. I'm not saying he did this intentionally. But he did hire a 30 year chemist, when he was at, you know, Blue Concrete and Buddy Rhodes products to make sealers. And one of the things that he did is try to reverse engineer. He was great we sat down one day, all of us were at lunch, and he pulls out a napkin. He says, you know, Jon, he was an East Indian. Super nice guy, Jon, you know, tell me what's going on. Now. I had Shawn Hayes and Philip and Jeremy were all sitting at lunch. I don't know Applebee's or something. And when I started telling him what was in the sealer, you know, not like giving any IP or anything, just generalities. He kept telling me nope, now that can't work. Like, I was lying to him. And then the other three guys are course bouncing the head like Yeah, Jon, see, you see, this is what the problem is.
Anyway, long story short, I was out there for a week. And by the end of the week, when he sealed some pieces with my technology. He caught me as I was walking back up front, he pulled me aside like, Hey, Jon, yeah, now I can't do an East Indian accent so I'm not even going to try, essentially asked me if my stuff was proprietary, and what I at all interested in opening up some of my IP to him, because it just completely blew him away that this the things that I told him, that typically would not go into a single bottle together, was working beyond anything that he was ever to achieve with simple acrylic chemistries or urethane chemistries. That was a good moment, at least for me.
Brandon Gore: So ICT I mean, it's been a journey of, that I'm aware of at least 15, 16 years, now that you've been refining and making advancements and sometimes setbacks because certain materials go offline, you can't get them anymore, and you have to find something else. I know it's kind of always been this just a journey to get from where you were in 2005, 2006 to today with ICT in that period, you've mentioned that a couple times, now, you were working. So a guy named Shawn Hayes, at Blue Concrete, which was a pigment supplier, but Buddy Rhodes Concrete Products?
Jon Schuler: Correct.
Brandon Gore: From Buddy Rhodes, the man, so then Shawn Hayes bought Buddy Rhodes and when he did that, is that is that when you kind of came over to help out or how did you get involved with Shawn and
Jon Schuler: No, this actually goes, yeah, much, much earlier than that. I don't even remember the date, but do you remember when we had the first concrete countertop convention in Sacramento because I think that's when I, I met you out there too. Right? And I don't remember the date.
Brandon Gore: I think it was 2006-2007. I think somewhere around there.
Jon Schuler: Yes. So at that time, the same. I mean, I, you know, my name now was starting to float around a little bit just because of the various raw material manufacturers that I've spoken with and things that I was starting to work with and consulting I was doing with people at that time. So Shawn Hayes, and this is again, the early phases Murray Clarke. I don't know if you remember Murray, right. He was kind of the first
Brandon Gore: Oh, yeah, he's always in “the factory”
Jon Schuler: Blue Concrete. Exactly. He's always out in the factory, which was his shed.
Brandon Gore: Oh, hold on. That's the part I forgot. So Shawn Hayes was Delta Performance Products he bought Blue Concrete, Blue Concrete was Murray Clarke.
Jon Schuler: Correct.
Brandon Gore: And Murray Clarke’s specialty was custom matching Benjamin Moore paint colors for Concrete pigments. So Shawn bought that component so they can start doing these custom blends. And then he bought Buddy Rhodes Concrete Products.
Jon Schuler: Right. So, when I got to know Shawn, is he called me up one day, and he was doing a booth at that convention, Concrete Countertop Convention. And he asked me if I would be interested in being in the booth with him, you know, showing the sealers well, at first, I turned him down, because I'm like, No, you know, I'm not, I don't think they're ready for anybody, yet. They work for me. But I've had them in some other people's hands, and they weren't real happy with, you know, what was happening and stuff. But anyway, I ended up doing it anyway. That's how I got to meet Shawn, after the conference, to me about getting involved with at this time, it was just Blue Concrete. They would distribute the sealers, etc. I said No, at that time, I think it was six months, eight months later, we got into another conversation. I decided to do it with him, hence, the blossoming of Blue Concrete, which then led down to a path of I was started, sealer was just one thing. I was also doing the concrete, the admixtures. So then we started small batch blending in Blue Concrete, and I designed all the concrete materials at that time, which was all about admixtures. I mean, that all of that was kind of the origins of how Shawn and I got together.
Brandon Gore: So when Shawn bought Buddy Rhodes Concrete Products and brought that product line over, you got involved in helping to make improvements. So you improve the mix to be denser and stronger and seal better with reactive sealer.
Jon Schuler: Correct.
Brandon Gore: So that's what actually I really kind of because I used Buddy Rhodes mix originally, when I started my company in 2004, I was using Buddy Rhodes mix, but I moved away from it when I got into GFRC. And I was just doing my own mix. And then when Shawn bought Buddy Rhodes, and you were working with them, and you guys developed higher performance GFRC mixes using a blend of pozzolans and stuff. That's when I kind of came back around to that and started using that product.
Jon Schuler: Right. The goods and the bads of that particular time was Shawn saw an opportunity, Buddy for and I mean, I've talked to Buddy about this over the years, but you know, he had some things going on, and so Shawn ended up getting involved picked up Buddy Rhodes products with the idea that at that time Buddy Rhodes products had a fairly large distribution network. So we instantly saw a value in having the huge everything from Ace hardwares. Gosh, I can't even remember some of the companies now that all had Buddy Rhodes Products on board.
Brandon Gore: True Value and Ace.
Jon Schuler: Yeah, right.
Brandon Gore: Those are the ones I remember.
Jon Schuler: Yeah, it was so that was the big bounce to purchasing the Buddy Rhodes brand. The difficulty with the Buddy Rhodes brand and even Buddy would say is yeah, you know, he had some, I'm just gonna say issues with the materials, they would curl they would shrink. But still, I mean, his whole ideas were amazing. So yeah, I broke everything back down, redesigned everything, brought it back, again, you know, for sealer and the whole nine yards, and launched the new branded Buddy Rhodes products and that was a, that was a good time for a while.
Brandon Gore: How long did that go on because when was that, like 2010, 2011 somewhere around there maybe?
Jon Schuler: Yeah, maybe 2012. Again, I think we I'd have to go look, but I'm gonna say somewhere between five to seven years. You know, we started small. Well, first, we Blue Concrete. And then as Blue Concrete scaled up, that's when Jeremy came on board. And then Philip came on board, because as we were getting bigger and bigger, you know, he just needed other people at the wheel. And especially when we brought on Buddy Rhodes Products and again, started growing further beyond that. Yeah, I mean, that was a good time, man. Remember, we had the Epics, we had all these kind of cool things. But along those yeah, we still I mean, we had the challenges; challenges of redesigning the materials, you know, some internal conflicts and then as you're just ever keep going back to sealer, I mean, with the sealing technology, you know, all the IP is mine. And the difficulty with my technology is as opposed to just, you know, having other product manufacturers and just putting them together into a single bottle, you know, for me to find a solution to something that maybe I don't like whatever it is, maybe you know, how do I make it apply better or penetrate better, whatever better means in my head.
You know, it's me always having to engineer first, I have to ask my own questions, and I have to answer my own questions and then at that point, I have to get with some of the relationships that I have out there with huge companies, by the way, and their chemical departments to then design something to fit my chemistry. And my chemistry can be pretty volatile, you know, changes in temperature, changes in heat, you know, it can be pretty volatile. It's interesting to say the least, sometimes it's stressful. Much more stressful than I still remember one time Ame’s sister, so my sister in law, I don't know what it was six, eight years ago, she was having a conversation with me. And she's just like, why don't you just go back to this, meaning pharmacy, and you know, you'd have a salary and you'd have a set expectation and set your hours and a 401k? Why don't you just quit doing this and my answer her was like, because you know what, for most of us entrepreneurs, this is the opportunity to either, you know, grow beyond your dreams, or, you know, or burnout and drive it into the ground, it's on you. So this is what I continue to do.
Brandon Gore: I'd say another challenge, at least from the outside looking in, when you were with Buddy Rhodes / Blue, was different philosophies, because that's the term you'd like to use lot, philosophies. With sealing, I remember, there was a time when they were selling a reactive urethane, which essentially, I want to say was a urethane, they were taking a topical and just mixing it, I believe, with ICT and saying this is a reactive urethane, but that's not really the way the chemistry works. And that was kind of a boondoggle of a product.
Jon Schuler: True. And that was some of the internal friction, the internal friction of that would go on there was designed to work a certain way and then other people didn't want it to work that way, because they had they had their own philosophy on the way things would work or should work. And yeah, so I'm gonna say that was one of those, I would say failed attempts. But there’s no question, a challenging, difficult situation. But I think Buddy Rhodes still has that product. I don't know, how many people are still using it. But yeah, that's they still have
Brandon Gore: I hope none. Yeah, because I used it for one project. And it was a complete catastrophe, I should have just stuck with ICT. But at the time, the person I was talking to at Buddy Rhodes Products, this is back when it was with Delta was telling me oh, for outdoors, you want to use this, you want to use this reactive urethane, it still has the ICT on board, but it's got a topical component to it. It's designed for outdoors, I said, great, sign me up, that sounds exactly like what I want. And it was so difficult to apply. It did not look good when it was done. And the performance did not hold up near as well as just straight ICT would have held up. And so in my opinion, it was a horrible product.
Jon Schuler: I look back at all those years, I still remember a conversation I had with Shawn Hayes. In fact, I recently I talked to Shawn again, you know, once in a while I give him a call to connect on things and we've talked about materials or whatever. During that time, even though I totally understand why things got sold to Smooth-On, which was supposed to be this amazing idea, you know, Smooth-On was going to take this company and you know, much bigger than then we were able to do that, you know, salesman staff and all these kinds of things. There was some hurt feelings about it at the time, I got caught up in some uncomfortable situations based on who owned what IPs and etc. which is a whole nother discussion that kind of went sideways during all that, you know what, if it hadn't been for that whole moment in my life, you know, I wouldn’t have taken the kids to Disneyland I wouldn't I wouldn't be where I am today, you know, with all those challenges, good, bad or otherwise. So it's all worked out and like I said it was during that period of time I got to work with actually work with Jeff, again and some difficult situations where I think he more put up with me more than anything else because that's another situation where our philosophies are very different, and because of that, I think sometimes obviously I can be pretty difficult to work with because my philosophy doesn't change.
Brandon Gore: Well in the last days of Buddy Rhodes Products when it was owned by Blue Concrete and Delta Performance. They acquired Concrete Countertop Institute. And so Jeff and Lane were, I don't know, did they move to Georgia at that point. Did they move down there?
Jon Schuler: No, they still stayed in North Carolina. Yeah, okay. They came down there quite a bit. Correct.
Brandon Gore: And you would go there quite a bit and so there you guys were working together on different stuff. And it was right there at the kind of the last couple months of that time period before Smooth-On acquired Buddy Rhodes Products.
Jon Schuler: Right. Yeah. And they actually acquired CCI as well. But then with some agreements, they released CCI so that you know, which I think is a good thing for Jeff and Lane. Oh, specifically, yeah, to be, you know, back in charge of their own destiny, if you know what I mean. Yeah. So
Brandon Gore: That's a good segue to the next part of your story, and that is Smooth-On. And so Buddy Rhodes Products sells to Smooth-On, which, as you said, was supposed to be this really great thing. And my opinion, and it's just my opinion, it has not worked out that way. Smooth-On is not a bad company, I don't have any bad feelings towards them, but Smooth-On is a rubber company, not a concrete company. And so, you know, I've seen some other concrete product companies sell to conglomerates like that, that are in other markets. I think that's a really bad move, because if you're selling, I don't know tin ceilings and air conditioning vents, what do you know about concrete? Why is this company purchasing a concrete product company and how are they ever going to be able to service that industry, so when Smooth-On bought Buddy Rhodes Products, I think their thought was, these are guys that use rubber. They're concrete guys, this is a great way to market to that industry. Let's buy this and then we'll have an in to sell to these guys. But that being said, they didn't have the experience, the know-how, the knowledge, the background, to service that industry to know what the materials are, to know what changing one ingredient might do to the mix once it moved from Georgia to Smooth-On headquarters to be blended. It changed dramatically. I think that could have been a change in sands, a change in pozzolans, whatever it may have been. But something drastically influenced the final product, the end product and how it mixed and everything else. You know, again, Smooth-On not a bad company, good rubber company, if you only buy rubber, buy rubber from Smooth-On. As far as concrete goes, I think it was a bad fit for them personally.
Jon Schuler: Yeah, well, I mean, we'll see what happens. Like I said, I'm not involved with them anymore and I haven't been for I think it's two, two and a half years now. Since I'm going to say we had an amicable splitting of our ways, if you will, we'll see what they do. I mean, I'm willing to say they still have all the best intentions in what they're doing. So, you know, we'll see where all the chips fall, as we all keep moving forward.
Brandon Gore: What's that saying, the road is paved with good intentions.
Jon Schuler: Yeah, that's true. Well, you had your difficulty. I mean, that's, you know, that's why we that's why Kodiak is now Kodiak. As you said, other than the obvious, you know, trying to look for new things that work the way you wanted them to work. And one of your challenges was that particular company became difficult to work with, for one reason or another. Maybe it was personalities, maybe they were, you know, going a new direction. Who knows, but they became difficult to work with. Right? Isn't that what happened with you?
Brandon Gore: Well, yeah, two things with me - number one; the products changed. In my mind that is unequivocal, that happened that was my experience, I was using Ultrasealz, I was using the polymer liquid Z plus or liquid polymer plus whatever they called it at that point, I was using these things. My mix had not changed in a long time. But when the transition happened, it changed dramatically as far as performance, usability, color, sealing. So there were some substitutions made on their end, which I get because going from Georgia to there, there's gonna be different ingredients available locally, why would I ship these ingredients here, I'll just get this, it looks the same, it's the same color, the spec sheet says it's the same thing. But as you know, and I know that doesn't necessarily translate, just because a sales spec sheet says this doesn't mean its apples to apples. And so there are some substitutions made, in my opinion that affected the product. And I did not like that. And I was not psyched on it.
Before that even the products I was using, were good, but they weren't great. I always felt for all those years, there was room for improvement. But I was comfortable enough that I didn't want to be the person to make the improvement. I don't want to take that on. I was like, you know this is it'll get me by I can make it I can make what I want to make. It'll stay together, it's not going to break. It'll do so that happened, and then the second thing was customer service. They're a huge company. You know, the good thing about Shawn Hayes was it was a small company, and you could get somebody on the phone, you could get product shipped out, you could have a conversation with somebody, you could talk to somebody that knew what they were talking about, such as you. I could call up, I'm having problems. I could get you on the phone. Hey, Brandon, what's going on? And you knew what you're talking about. With Smooth-On
Jon Schuler: It felt like more of a community. Yeah, I mean, you know, like you
Brandon Gore: Exactly.
Jon Schuler: Calling up and talking to a friend again, and, you know, or where that company is, as amazing as they might be, they're also far more corporate.
Brandon Gore: You know, they're a huge company, I've heard numbers thrown around that they're like $200 million a year in rubber, things like that, I believe that. But that's, that's their business. So they're a big company, when you call there, you don't get that same level of customer support. You don't really get any customer support. And then if you do happen to talk somebody, which I'm not talking anybody asking them how to do concrete. But people do, attendees of our workshops, would call Buddy Rhodes Products Smooth-On, hey, I'm having this problem. And they talked to somebody that never in their life, have they once mixed up concrete, ever. But this is the person answering the phone, giving other people advice on how to problem solve whatever issues they're having. I don't agree with that, that's not good service. Now I get it, they're a big company. Yeah. But they're not a concrete company. And unfortunately, like I said, I've seen some other concrete brands, material brands sell to these big companies that are in other industries that are just buying up these companies, but they don't have any experience in that.
Jon Schuler: It’s interesting this artisan niche market is a you know, we are an interesting group of people.
Brandon Gore: it's small, but it's literally the tip of the spear for concrete technology. So this isn't posthole concrete, we're not mixing up 3000 PSI concrete to set a fence post. You know, this is extremely, extremely complex and high tech, concrete technology. And so to talk to somebody that's never done this in their life, and have that person advise me on what I'm doing wrong, and how to remedy it is not the way in my opinion. And so that's how that's kind of been.
Jon Schuler: Well, that's why I got into it. Like I do with sealer, I looked at a concrete, completely different to some of the cement chemists that I know. And we'll get into conversations and they're like, Jon, why are you even thinking about it that way? I'm like, listen, man, I don't care. You're still trying to look at this from a bridge or, you know, whatever the case may be and I'm like, yeah, no, I mean, I need it, to work with my hands and create textures and model with colors and be pretty and I mean, you know, we have such an entirely different set of expectations. It's not one expectation, it's expectations, compared to other industries that have, I'm gonna say, similar products, they might call available, like concrete, even the UHPC market. So, you know, I mean, as of right now, the materials that we have, it's not even comparable. I mean, we use the acronyms, but that's not comparable at all, to other things out there.
Brandon Gore: No, I mean, usability with other UHPCs on the market are not usable at all, what we're doing. Now, if you're trying to use Ductal…
Jon Schuler: Which is a good product, by the way, these other ones are amazing products. They're just geared for entirely different use. That's all. And
Brandon Gore: Exactly, yeah. It's one of the things that if I was casting a thin shell, pavilion roof structure, Ductal would be great for that. But if I'm trying to cast a really intricate concrete chair, or concrete sink or concrete countertop, and I need a certain consistency, and mix design and fiber loading and fiber type, they just don't work. They just don't work. And there's some other products on the market that claim to be a UHPC. And they might hit those strengths, but they have a plasticizer pre-blended. So again, the usability goes out the window, you can't use that product.
Jon Schuler: As we go all the way back. We've been focused on sealer. If we walk back to the beginnings of in fact, as I'm talking to you right now I'm actually talking to you with my laptop and everything sitting on one of the original tables that I made by mottling colors and stuff that was some of my early transitions in creating mix designs that would take color without bleeding color, allow you to mottle colors together, create tight lines, in a stone like if you will, and I've taken all of my artisan style if I can call it that, my artisan style over the years and created concrete mixes to accommodate those styles. So that's again, that's a very different way to come at concrete than what anybody else in the industry is coming to concrete.
Brandon Gore: I agree 100%. It's funny, you brought that up, because I'd forgotten when we went to Australia. You did a mix down there. I can't recall what year that was. 2008-2009 maybe we went to Australia, maybe later. I don't know. I'm so horrible with dates, as anybody who listened to my podcast knows that I was off by an entire year.
Jon Schuler: Lost a year.
Brandon Gore: I know. But you did a mix down there where you took a black concrete and white concrete and the consistency was such you're able to layer them together, roll it up, like a cinnamon roll, slice it and legit looked like a black and white cinnamon roll. And then you twisted it out and patted it out into a countertop. And I thought, dude, this isn’t going to turnout, because it's just looked gray when it was all in there just like gray. Like this is not going to turn out and it's just gonna look stupid. That's what I was thinking that was, you know.
Jon Schuler: No, I totally get it.
Brandon Gore: The next day, we flipped it over and it looked cool, but it was still muddled. And then you hit it with the water polisher, and those lines were so tight between the black and white. It was insane, and the look was insane. It was incredible. So yeah, I remember that. I remember when you're playing with those types of looks and ideas on how to get looks with concrete.
Jon Schuler: Yeah, that's when we have that conversation with people about styles like how did you get into your style? Well, early on for me, hey, man, I'm willing to say this. Sealer technology, or let's say the ability to seal concrete I was not impressed with. So I came at even my concrete from a different direction. And that was if you have enough, I hate to call them stone like features, but enough movement and cool stuff going on with the concrete. Well, then if something happened to that surface, like a whatever an oil stain, or whatever the case may be, nobody would ever notice. It would just make it as part of this amazing something early on, that's focused a lot on creating these kinds of styles, so that I could make a living selling countertops and sinks and vanities and etc. And it was amazing. And I did huge projects like that. In fact, if you come to Murphy, right here on Main Street Murphy's, you'll see all kinds of our work from, you know, ten years ago, fifteen years ago that are in wine tasting rooms. And, yeah, it was a lot of fun.
And then, you know, honestly, after doing it for so long, and then getting good at it with the concrete too, the morphing all that into blue concrete and Buddy Rhodes Products, as I moved along this transition. That's where I kind of got, I don't know man, over it, you know, you've been doing something so long, and then you got good at it. Now it's time to hit a, you know, climb a new mountain, which then led me really to focus on upright casting techniques, which some of those mix designs at that time that were designed around the ability to mottle color, they didn't work so great for trying to do hand tooled. So now I had to take that concrete that was exceptional for doing these kinds of things, and exceptional for sealing, and then allow it to be able to do both, which was a whole new dilemma. So that you didn't end up with multiple mix designs, you know, you could still morph it into one that would have a multitude of uses and abilities. So that was fun.
Brandon Gore: And so you parted ways with Smooth-On you guys decided to go your own way. I launched Kodiak Pro, I was moving along with that and me and you were talking you you've been training with Concrete Design School now as a trainer for many years. So you and I are in contact. You know before you came on with Kodiak Pro, we talked every few days at minimum. And it just kind of made sense that you're kind of out on your own now and I'm doing this thing and I could use somebody like you that really has a deeper understanding of material science and sealer science than I do you have to come on board and help kind of do what you did with Buddy Rhodes and that is refine the mixes, update the mixes, things like that. So you came on to Kodiak Pro you made some adjustments to Maker Mix you made adjustments to RADmix that made them work better.
Jon Schuler: I'm gonna say you give the easy way about it, because when I talk to people about it is this and this is my Jon Schuler truthful when me and Smooth-On parted ways I was over it, remember that was like I am done with this industry, I'm over it, I am done, I am done, I am done, I don't want to be a part of it anymore. Fine, I'll come out and teach, you know, if you would like me to teach, but otherwise, I'm just crawling back into my hole into my shop and doing my own thing and for a minute. That's what I did. I can't remember how long six months, maybe it was a year, I can't remember. But it was actually Brandon Gore that talked to me back off the ledge and that was part of our conversations, is you were going this direction, per what you wanted to do, and what I'd be interested in being a part of it and at first, as you recall, no, I don't want any part of it.
Meaning I love the teaching part of it. But I did not want any part of the rest of it. You know, once we sat down and we started talking, and then I got to know your chemist, that's when I'm like, well, wait a minute, you know, here are these entirely new things that I have been working on and designing for a while. Then you and I started working together and let's say fitting the needs of the many, meaning me you and dusty at the time, right and morphing what you had already developed a foundation for and then taking it into a direction based on the way I don't know, let's say my out of the box thinking which is was at the time different than your chemist. Yeah, I mean, so yeah, you kind of, you know, threw the lasso and brought me back into this thing. And which was a great thing, because I was in real funk at the time. And as you recall, I mean, I think we talked about it a lot in the last podcast.
So you know, when I get a text from somebody who's testing the Kodiak products against the materials they're currently using. And yeah, you got to put this picture out so people get actually a realistic idea of what we're talking about. And then shows me a material with a third less pigment loading that looks night and day. I mean that I don't know how to say it like that's what inspires me, if that makes sense. what I mean that the day I got that text from him, Troy, by the way, I was like AH HA! Now you see what I'm talking about. This is what makes this so amazing, and so different, based on what we are doing, compared to what other products and what direction we're trying to move versus other products. And, and yeah, I mean, I can't tell you that that had me flying on a cloud and still does. When I pull up those pictures again, and actually talked to Troy that day, who prior to thought I was just blowing smoke up his backside, until he actually saw it with his own eyes by casting it himself and all of a sudden now he’s sold, you know,
Brandon Gore: Number one, you were super excited because you called me at 9:30 at night. And I didn't answer I think you said unless you're in a ravine and you can't get a hold of your wife, or 911 do not call me at 9:30 at night and you're like, Dude, I'm so excited.
Jon Schuler: Come on it's amazing. Yeah. Yeah,
Brandon Gore: It's great. But let's talk about it. Let's talk about it tomorrow. Number two, the product that Troy was using is a product that you developed. Right, but you developed it 5, 7, 8 years ago. And so that just shows the evolution, you know that product for most people is the cutting edge, but that product is already almost a decade. It's your IP, but it's a decade old, and then that time span this Maker Mix and RADmix. I think he used RADmix for his test. That’s the difference. So it's not like he's using some off the shelf product from Home Depot or Lowe's. He's using a quote unquote, quality product.
Jon Schuler: Correct. Yeah.
Brandon Gore: So it's a next leap forward.
Jon Schuler: Well, you know, and I'd say that's, I guess, one of the epitomes of my life. I still remember think it's Ame, she always hit me sometimes like Jon, do you ever slow down like, and you know, you hear that sometimes. Like, man take the opportunity to smell the roses or whatever. Every time I reach something, whatever that you think that top of the plateaus gonna be; once I get there, yeah, I take a breath for a moment, but then I'm looking for the next plateau. That’s what's inspires me, that's what's inspired me with the chemistry of the sealers over the years, that's what, that's what keeps me going with the cement chemistries, or the concrete chemistries, you know, continuing to move these in directions that either other people, they just don't want to, they're not interested in it. Because that would be something Shawn used to tell me over the years to like, Jon, at what point is good, good enough. It's not, we're gonna keep pushing this thing until, you know, until we take it someplace that we can all sit back and go, man, that is amazing.
Brandon Gore: The saying is good enough is the enemy of great and that's true, you know, good enough, a lot of guys settle for good enough, and I settled for good enough for a lot of years is good enough, a plates not going to fall through it, it's not going to fall apart. It's good enough. But once you have awareness, and once you have perspective of what the next generation is, then good enough isn't sufficient, you have to have great, you can't go back you have to use this product. And so as Troy, that was his experience was he's been using the product for many, many years. He tried RADmix, mind blown, he's a customer now because now he has perspective of what that means. In real world environments. This is this is the difference and it's significant. It's not incremental. It's a big jump.
Jon Schuler: Yeah. And I mean, personal witness, you know, I just got done remodeling, our kitchen, well half the kitchen, the other half has to get done. It's neat to me to have people I have known friends who will come over now and they are immediately drawn to the other side of the kitchen, because the richness of color the way it feels, you know, they rub their hands on it. I mean, it's such a different animal, than the other part of the kitchen that I think I did that 12 years ago, which, you know, was beautiful.
Brandon Gore: I saw that kitchen, I saw Yeah, no, I loved it. I was gonna say is that kitchen, those countertops, and I could tell you're a little hesitant. You're kind of like pre-qualifying it then man, I did these at that point, like five years ago, you know, five years ago. I don't really do this anymore. You know blah, blah, blah, blah. And I was blown away with how good they looked. They looked awesome, those countertops. There's a photo I’ll hav4 to see if I still have it. But there's a photo I took of a glass of whiskey on your concrete countertops. And your countertops looked amazing. So
Jon Schuler: They still do, my wife loves them. I mean, Ame loves that side of the kitchen and yeah, she's in fact, we were just talking about it the other day, because she's like, no, I don't I don't want these torn out. But you know, but we are replacing the cabinets and the whole nine yards and I'm like, Well, you know, babe, this was this was then. Which, you know, and I say that all the time when I walk around through local businesses and jobs that I did. It's not that they don't look amazing, and they bring back amazing memories. But and who knows, I know you and I talked about this, I might bring some of those mottling techniques back again, just to show people how to create and not end up looking like a dairy cow. But, you know, it's, we'll see.
Brandon Gore: I look forward to seeing the newest countertops at your house. I'm sure they're amazing. I saw the sinks, they look really nice. That brings me to my last question. Jon, what's next for Jon Schuler? What do you see yourself doing in the next five to ten years?
Jon Schuler: Next five to ten years. I'm gonna, you know, work together with you and continue to get Kodiak to a level that you know to get it into people's hands. That's my excitement right now, and it's going to be for a long period of time. I have some ideas to do in the shop, which you know, typically in the shop, I shut down my shop every winter to work on I'm gonna call it personal artisan growth. I have two more projects I still got to do for clients. So probably starting in December, I'll be shutting down December, January, February, and focus on some of that again, I have some new ideas, have to create some textures and etc, etc. So that's always moving. Kodiak and ICT. I can't tell you how happy I am with this new CT chemistry. It's pretty amazing at the moment, I can't think of another direction to take it. But now to keep focus on what we're doing is where I'm going to be for a while. That's for sure.
Brandon Gore: I can tell you a direction we can take it that's renaming it to The Best Sealer.
Jon Schuler: You know what that's RADsealer.
Brandon Gore: Keep it simple, The Best Plasticizer, The Best Sealer, and RADmix.
Jon Schuler: There you go.
Brandon Gore: Bada bing bada boom. See, there's a system here, a naming system in place and it makes sense. Get rid of CT this, CT that
Jon Schuler: That is not my thing. Yeah. Well, everything is always acronyms,
Brandon Gore: Every sealer companies thing is complex acronyms. HF12, ZR663H, it’s like, it's always some craziness instead of just “Sealer”, you know, it's never just what it is. Although, Prime is named Prime, which I like, because that is the step that is the prime step. So that's good. And you know, you got away from like, First Sealz and all that kind of stuff, which is good. So your naming system is evolving in a way that is more intuitive. It's not confusing. Yeah. But at some point, at some point, when ICT is 100% moved over to Kodiak, which someday hopefully we'll get it in that direction. We'll just rename the whole thing to just The Best Sealer. The best! Have you guys heard about The Best Sealer?
Jon Schuler: TBS gotta use.
Brandon Gore: It is the best sealer. You gotta see it.
Jon Schuler: For now, man. I'm excited again. So yeah, where's this is this is what I'm going to be focused on for a while. I'd like to get the, as you and I've talked about many times, I'd like to let say develop the community spirit again, seems like we've definitely talked about it in some podcasts that this kind of fracture, kind of thing that's happened over the last years. And again, maybe totally coincidental, but it seemed like it definitely went tribalistic for a while, you know, post moving to Smooth-On why I don't know, you know, it just is. So, you know, focused on bringing all that back, and continuing to stay on the front edge of quality and products. I mean, that's now that's where my focus is again. So.
Brandon Gore: both of us have been doing this for almost two decades, right at two decades each. We've been in this for almost 20 years each. And in that time period, we've both gone from product designers, manufacturers, product users, to now we're kind of I don't know, if we're like the grandfather's of this industry kind of feels like it talking to some of these, some of these guys that are, you know, in their early 20s. But we're kind of at the stage now to where I kind of am excited. And I think you are to about helping to foster the future of this industry, with materials, with training and with community because community is such an important aspect of it that has fallen to the wayside in recent years, Kodiak Pro, we want to kind of make the concrete world a better place, we want to bring guys together and support each other and help each other. I think that is exciting. I'm excited for the future. And we're still doing fabrication, new product ideas, I have tons of ideas for designs, which are now so much more feasible with Maker Mix than they were with my previous Mixes through the complexity of the shapes and the thinness of the shapes. So I'm really excited about that. I'm equally excited about what can we do to help elevate this industry together, and let's get everybody involved, and let's just kind of all work together, become a united front and move concrete forward, because we were going in that direction for a while, and then all just kind of fractured and splintered off into all these different groups, the momentum that it had as a material in the industry going against solid surface and granite and what have you, I kind of feel like it's stagnated.
And there's a lot of room to kind of get that momentum back again, of generating excitement, and generating positive expectations from clients, because that's the other part of the concrete industry that we all know exist. But we don't want to talk about his client perceptions of what concrete is, and how it should perform or not that good in general, that's fine. That doesn't have to be that way. And if we could work together, and I'm saying me and you and everybody involved, whether they use our product or not. But if we can work together to develop better ways of doing things to develop better end results for clients, it'll pay dividends for the reputation for concrete for the long run, to develop this and to grow it and everybody does better if everybody does better, you know, so if we all do our part to make the best product possible, then everybody will generate more business, more revenue and ultimately, we'll be able to put more away for the kids college fund.
Jon Schuler: We're talking about individuals but I'm talking even community spirit. We talked about Jeff and Lane earlier and CCI. I'm serious. I'd love to get those guys involved again. You know, I miss talking to
Brandon Gore: 100%
Jon Schuler: They’re good people.
Brandon Gore: Just spit balling here. Maybe we should get them on a future podcast, Jeff and Lane and chat with them. But yeah, I agree 100%, Jeff and Lane, every class that we teach, there's people that have come to the class that have attended a CCI workshop. And inevitably, they ask, what do you guys think about CCI and Jeff Girard without fail, because I believe it, you believe it, it's a great class, well worth the money, I'm sure that if you went, you feel that it was a good value and if you want to go, you won't regret it, you'll go to that class, and you will learn a lot, we just teach totally different things. Neither one is the way and neither one is wrong. So both of them are valid. So the philosophy and techniques that we teach are different than what CCI teaches, and Jeff Girard, and both of them are worthy, valuable information that's worth your time to explore and learn.
Jon Schuler: So that's, I think, you know, 2022, especially if we can come out of all this COVID stuff, or at least just live with it a lot easier. Yeah, no, I think that'd be a great time to get reaching out to other people and get working together again, and fostering old relationships that maybe got stagnated and now it's should be great. We've had a great year this year, right. I mean, this the run so far, and getting, getting the information out and bringing people back, when I say bringing people back, that's what I mean, people who fell out of the community for one reason or another, you know, and, you know, building back, at least, where it was prior to, again, I hate to keep blaming on the sell to Pennsylvania, you know, to Smooth-On but, you know, part of, there's no question part of it. They're a great company. They're an amazing company. But it's a very different philosophy.
Brandon Gore: I would say the fracture or the what happened then was it went from being a small community owned company, Shawn Hayes, you're involved in these other people to a large rubber company, and when that happened, the community that had Yeah, that had been built up around this product line, completely dissolved. And when it dissolved, everybody kind of went their own way. And it did become more tribal at that point. Mine's better than yours. You guys do that. Whatever. It's so stupid. When you think about it and you say it out loud, it is the stupidest thing in the world. Yeah, it's ridiculous.
But that's kind of what happened. You know, what Jon Schuler, Brandon Gore, Dusty Baker, and all the guys that are using Kodiak are trying to do is let's bring that community back together again. I know let's all meet up again, let's have a good time. Let's make those connections. Let's make those friendships. Jason Robertson's success in the industry is directly related to the relationships and support structure he developed by attending a concrete design school workshop, and that is critical, if you want to make it in this industry. You know, there was a time period where I went my own way, where I was like, Oh, I'm over all this, you know, kind of just, I'll do my own thing. And that's, that's a tough road, man. It's a lot easier when you can call on people say, hey, I need a hand. Can you help me? Absolutely. I'm happy to help you. That's a much easier way to do things. So that's what we're trying to, to foster, develop, create, and promote.
Jon Schuler: Yes, sir. That's what we're doing and it's we're gonna keep moving forward. Yeah, I’ll be seeing you man.
Brandon Gore: I’ll see you tomorrow.
Jon Schuler: Alright. Good talking to you.
Brandon Gore: Yeah. And next week, we'll do a podcast while you're here. Well, at least we'll try to we'll be training but we'll try to break away. Maybe we'll do a podcast with somebody in the class, that’d be kind of fun and we'll try to do we'll see if it happens but we'll try to do a Facebook Live while you're here. The two of us and see if we can make that work. Look for that next week. Till next time.
Jon Schuler: We'll talk later.
Brandon Gore: Adios, amigo.