Dittemore Insulation stands out for both its solution-based approach and its family-oriented company culture in which employees are a valued part of the team and clients’ needs are respected and fulfilled.
“Our culture is the family style of business,” says President Jeff Baxley of the Anaheim, California-based business. “No one is a number. Everyone is a name. Everyone has a piece of the responsibility. Everyone has a voice. Everyone’s opinion matters. That goes all the way from anyone working in the warehouse, to office staff, sales staff, project management—everyone’s voice really does matter, and we continually meet together and go over things to see what people’s thoughts are.”
Listening to everyone involved is mutually beneficial for employees and the company leadership. “It’s amazing to see what someone standing back sees, versus us being in the nitty-gritty of it,” he says. “You get really nice, honest feedback. That’s one thing we’ve always encouraged here—honest feedback. It may not be what we want to hear but I will take honesty over the wrong answer just to keep us all happy.”
Baxley first became involved in the trades in 2006—experience was limited but he recognized that his love for numbers and competitive spirit naturally made construction a great fit. “Once I finished college, I was looking for something new,” he remembers. He had been involved in the mortgage and finance industries and saw the need to change careers. “We were going right into the recession, and I thought I’d try something new, out of the norm, because you never know what’s out there.”
The Baxley family has a long history of owning and operating a variety of companies. After growing up in this entrepreneurial environment, Baxley knew he wanted to own his own business from an early age. The opportunity came while working for his family’s carpet cleaning company when he took on a job for Dittemore Insulation’s previous owner who just happened to be looking to sell his business. The encounter opened a door that he did not even realize he had been looking for and set him on a novel career path.
When he first encountered Dittemore Insulation, he had no previous experience in the insulation field, but was ready to make his mark in the construction industry and recognized a great opportunity. He and his wife Sara decided to buy Dittemore Insulation in 2018, keeping the original name since it was already known in the region. It was a bold move considering the couple’s lack of experience at the time.
“I started in this business randomly,” Baxley remembers. “I never even knew it existed out there. I didn’t even know this was a trade. I didn’t know there was a market for this. I literally just gave it a shot in the dark, and it grew.”
To learn the ropes, Baxley immediately began attending the Insulation Contractors Association of America (ICAA) trade show, which opened his eyes to the breadth and depth of the industry and all the opportunities within it. Today, he is a member of the ICAA as well as a member of Insulate America, the American Subcontractors Association, the Firestop Contractors International Association, and the Air Barrier Association of America.
Now, after just a few years, he has earned his place as a successful industry insider. But he has not forgotten the lesson learned by his leap of faith. “It’s a great example [that] if you focus on what you’re doing, put your heart into it, you can build something that you didn’t even know existed before,” he says.
Baxley credits much of his success to a strong focus on partnerships. “Finding a common ground of good people working with other good people—we built off of that,” he says. “We’ve had exponential growth over the last five years, about 450 percent growth over that time frame. We took the lessons learned from other recessions and dips and found out what worked and what didn’t work, and we really saw the partnerships [were] what supported us through those times.”
These partnerships are particularly crucial in competitive situations. “We always have the competitive bid side, the public work stuff that gets very aggressive,” he says. “In those times, we find that relying on good people is what really carried us through.”
The pandemic was a challenge for Dittemore Insulation, but the team managed to pull through successfully. Baxley cites the abrupt closures in California as being particularly difficult because it was impossible to prepare for such an unexpected and sudden event. Management had to step into overdrive to navigate the challenge.
The second major problem was the shortage of necessary supplies. Fortunately, the company had recently moved into a larger facility that allowed the team to order ahead and stock greater quantities of inventory. He adds that the company’s main supplier, Johns Manville, was instrumental in making sure Dittemore Insulation had enough materials during the tough times.
As obstacles increase, partnerships will be more important than ever. “I think the biggest challenge we can see coming up is how interest rates are going to affect the economy as a whole,” Baxley says. “Things are starting to tighten up. Interest rates really haven’t been conducive to construction growth, so it’s best to [recognize] what worked in [the past], and that’s where the partnerships really come through.”
The team has put significant effort into “building those relationships with the right people,” he adds. The emphasis is on partner-building with “the tried-and-true companies out there, and if we utilize the same approach, same level of service, same level of relationship that they use with their clients, we become one big family with these other companies.”
Baxley is optimistic about the future, regardless of current challenges, and is planning for continued growth. He has already been steadily—and successfully—adding services to the company, expanding it from an insulation-only business to include fire-proofing, fire-stopping, weather barriers, and spray foam applications. The company boasts multiple divisions covering state and federal public works, K-12 and higher education, healthcare/hospital, tenant improvement, and high-rises.
“We’ve been able to put a solution together that is more useful to our good trade partners,” Baxley says of the expanding services. “We’re piecing together what they need, and our business is following them. A lot of that is going to be listening to our clients and customers, to what they want, what they need from us. Our team’s been great—rolling with the punches and adding these extra responsibilities. They’ve been doing the training and working with the manufacturers.”
These manufacturers have been just as pivotal in the company’s success. “The manufacturers have been hugely helpful to our growth and to our business model,” he says. “They’re the ones supporting us with the training. They’ll meet at job sites with us, walk through certain applications, make sure we’re going down the right path. So not only do we have partnerships with contractors, we also do with the manufacturers. We rely on them as much as they rely on us to sell their products.”
With strong partnerships built over the past several years, and strengthened during the pandemic, Dittemore Insulation is more than ready to take on the next challenge. In the meantime, Baxley will be passing the family’s entrepreneurial mindset down to his own children, Austin and Kayla, as he prepares for a successful future that will continue into yet another generation.