Ryan Pape has spent most of his life in San Antonio. He returned to San Antonio after college and worked in the IT area of a software company which would become XPEL Inc. As XPEL changed course, it also ran into bad financial problems. Ryan came back and led an unprecedented turnaround in part by putting his own money on the table to take care of the company. He also has been involved with the Witte and other charities in town.
Justin Hill: Hello and Bienvenido, San Antonio. Welcome to the Alamo Hour discussing the people, places and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonion and keeper of chickens and bees. On the Alamo Hour, you’ll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique and the best kept secret in Texas. We’re glad that you’re here. All right. Welcome to Episode 20 of the Alamo Hour. Today’s guest is Ryan Pape. Ryan serves as XPEL Inc’s Chairman, President & CEO. He previously served in multiple different capacities within the organization before taking it over, which was at the time a sinking ship, fair?
Ryan Pape: Yes. I would say so.
Justin: We’ll get into that a little bit more. You’re also involved in the woody. You’ve got two kids. You and your wife live in San Antonio within the Loop. One of my oldest San Antonio friends actually.
Ryan: We go way back now.
Justin: ’08, I think.
Ryan: That’s by my math over 10 years. That’s a long time.
Justin: It is and you were my neighbor’s friend who I met through them. I actually went back the other day to see if one of my other neighbors who lived across from them was still alive and he was and his wife.
Ryan: That’s good, still there.
Justin: They’re very old, very poor health and very happy to see me. Ryan, you’ve listened to a few of these. We’re going to go through a top 10 but I’ve decided it has to be a top 10 in 10, because I had a previous guest who went really, really long on one single question and changed-
Ryan: Maybe that was the best part of the whole show.
Justin: It just wasn’t.
Justin: It objectively was not. When and why did you move to San Antonio?
Ryan: In 1993 at the time SBC, which became AT&T relocated to San Antonio, my dad worked for them, so we moved from St. Louis.
Justin: He was a pilot, right?
Ryan: He was, yes. He was a pilot since retired but that brought us here.
Justin: Have you lived here straight since? You went to UT?
Ryan: Went to UT. Move back after that. With the exception of UT, I’ve been here the whole time.
Justin: What parts of town have you lived in? You’ve lived in the 09 areas since I’ve known you?
Ryan: Yes. Still live there now. I was up in Stone Oak from that ’93 on to going to UT [crosstalk] there was nothing.
Justin: I was about to say more country back then.
Ryan: Yes. I remember the last stoplight was maybe like 281 in Brook Hollow and maybe there was a stop sign 281 and 1604 and then on. It’s a lot different.
Justin: Were you outside 1604 then?
Ryan: Outside 1604. Stone Oak and Huebner. I remember there’s a gas station there. I remember when that was built.
Justin: Was it a gated community?
Ryan: It was a gated community.
Justin: Because it’s only gated community [crosstalk]
Ryan: I think that’s your only choice, right?
Justin: I don’t understand it though. You’re already in Stone Oak.
Ryan: You need safety. I don’t know. I don’t live in a gated community now and I feel perfectly safe.
Justin: I have a gate on my driveway, does that make me a gated community?
Ryan: You’re more gated than most people.
Justin: All right. This is a morphus question now or changed question because of what’s going on and you also have– you’re a faster?
Justin: Is there any restaurant y’all have been frequenting or getting to go since all of this has started?
Ryan: Well so maybe you talk about before it started. My last favorite restaurant before this started was the Magpie Highbury market.
Justin: I still haven’t been.
Ryan: My wife and I ate there I think the week right or within days of the shutdown because we had the hand sanitizer out but it wasn’t going to stop us.
Justin: It’s Asian food right?
Ryan: Yes. It’s Korean influence and it was exceptional. I believe [crosstalk]
Justin: They’re still doing to-go.
Ryan: They were doing to-go. I don’t know. I haven’t done to-go with them. We’ve done lots of to-go and carry-out.
Justin: Have you done [crosstalk]
Justin: Dude, do it. It’s the best Chinese food.
Ryan: We talked about it. We were going to go there and then it’s like-
Ryan: – too far.
Ryan: Yes. We like to pick up, we’re going out.
Justin: Well, pick up it’s behind Ingram Park Mall. They’ll deliver to my house so maybe yours.
Ryan: Yes. Want to try it. Did a lot of takeout though. Did a lot of Barbaro. Got a lot of wine from Little Death.
Justin: We did Sabor yesterday.
Ryan: Try to do our best.
Justin: Lots of people at the bar, no masks. It’s a little disconcerting.
Ryan: You got asked the question these days.
Justin: I think you’re the only time I’ve ever been to Big Lou’s by the way.
Ryan: I think that was the only time I’ve ever been to Big Lou’s.
Justin: I didn’t feel great after that.
Ryan: You remember the place by Bandera town, not the street. What was that place called?
Justin: Mac and Ernie’s.
Ryan: A couple weeks ago, ended up driving by.
Ryan: It’s still there. Although I couldn’t tell if it moved across the highway.
Justin: The last time I drove by it was a much bigger concern.
Ryan: It was a bigger building. It wasn’t the tiny little place but that was probably close to that 10-year mark-
Justin: We thought we were real hip doing little road trips to restaurants [crosstalk]
Ryan: We were really hip. We thought it was cool.
Justin: Little death also did an event where they served a Italian style of tripe with the chef from Feast.
Ryan: I saw that.
Justin: I went.
Ryan: I wasn’t.
Justin: It was pretty funky. The food was funky and everybody-
Ryan: Tripe is funky, right?
Justin: Yes. Everybody had been having a very good time by the time I show up and that was very behind.
Ryan: The wine is not very expensive there, so it’s easy to have a good time. Or so I’m told.
Justin: It was like a pot of food and you just served yourself.
Ryan: Well, I’ve been impressed with what they’re doing during the shutdown. Congrats to them.
Justin: Are you wanting to go there?
Justin: Okay. I haven’t done that yet.
Ryan: I have and I’ve meticulously catalogued it with the idea, I’m going to go buy it again.
Justin: Well, maybe you’ll invite me over to have a glass of wine because you tell me every time I see you that that’s going to happen and never ever ever.
Ryan: Some people might be really insulted by that.
Justin: I’m not.
Ryan: You just take it in stride.
Justin: No, I’m not. There’s lots of people that see me and they’re like, “We should hang out.” Then clearly they look at their wife or significant others like, “We’re not calling that guy.”
Ryan: I actually mean it. I may not show it, but I do mean it.
Justin: All right. Favorite hidden gems in San Antonio where you tell people when they come to San Antonio, “Okay. You’ve seen the Alamo blah, blah, but go check it out this stuff.”
Ryan: Well, it’s hard to call it a hidden gem but I really go for the mission reach on San Antonio River.
Justin: I think it’s fair.
Ryan: Probably more people from out of town see it than people who live here. I think I ended up talking about that hidden gem a lot.
Justin: They extended it four miles, I think.
Ryan: Cycle along that a lot I forget which road it goes down to and then the golf course across the street you can actually keep going after that around the Medina River. I think it’s amazing. You’ve got nature. You’ve got history. You’re outside. You can wander off obviously up to all the missions. The fact that more people here haven’t ever done it, [crosstalk] do it regularly like I do is surprising.
Justin: How often you do it?
Ryan: Probably once a week at minimum.
Justin: No joke.
Ryan: I’ve really cycling a lot there and then the Greenway trails [crosstalk] creek myself.
Justin: What kind of bike?
Ryan: I have a couple of track bikes.
Justin: Are you clipping in and road biking the trail?
Ryan: I didn’t start that way, but I do now.
Justin: It’s very aggressive for that trail, I think. People are just horrified as you head towards them?
Ryan: No. I have a bell. I call out. I try to be a good-
Justin: I’d like to go ride it with you.
Ryan: I’ll do it with you.
Justin: I can’t keep up with you probably.
Ryan: Well, we’ll do it a few times and you will be able to.
Justin: You’re very aerodynamic these days.
Ryan: I can get you in fighting shape.
Justin: I ride on a trainer every morning. I clip in.
Ryan: Then you’re good. I’ll do it.
Justin: It’s so hard for me to unclip even from the trainer. I did hear The Pearl one time as a hidden gem. I wanted to gong him on that but I let it go.
Ryan: It’s not that I wouldn’t call that a hidden gem.
Justin: Okay. Are you still involved The Witty?
Ryan: No. I rolled off the board at The Witty. Still very much a fan of The Witty actually helping now with the game dinner. You’ve been to the game dinner. It’s probably one of the best events in San Antonio. 50th anniversary this year October 19th, I think, tough year but it’s going to be a really big event, some changes for the COVID situation.
Justin: Is it planning on moving forward?
Ryan: Yes, absolutely.
Justin: At The Witty?
Ryan: At the Witty, fewer people. It got to be a really big event I think 1,500 people maybe. It’s going to be a little bit smaller.
Justin: Which means ticket prices up.
Ryan: Ticket prices up as it should be.
Justin: Is XPEL sponsoring?
Ryan: Yes, we will for sure. We’re actively looking for [unintelligible 00:08:17] tables and sponsorship-
Justin: How much are tables?
Ryan: They range I think-
Justin: From to-
Ryan: Normally 5,000, 10,000. I think may have gone up a little bit this year but it’s absolutely one of the best events in town.
Justin: It’s great.
Ryan: If anyone who hasn’t done it, make it this year to do it. It’s unique. It’s not your typical seated dinner event in the ballroom somewhere. It’s far from it.
Justin: That’s absolutely right.
Ryan: It’s really, really, really nice.
Justin: Are you on the board of any other non-profit-
Ryan: No. Not currently.
Justin: Taking a break?
Ryan: Well, I’ve really been focused on two things. One, the company is been really focused on that. Some of the things we’ve done the past two years and then trying to find the right fit for non-profit. You realize that the non-profit’s need different things. How does that really fit with what I’m good at and what I want to do?
Justin: What you’re passionate about?
Ryan: Well, yes. I think some of the smaller ones, they need people that are more operationally focused. They don’t have big staff. They just literally need help with the day-to-day. Then some need more help, raising money or networking. I look at what I think our company should be able to do and over time, we should be able to support non-profits and other groups in a really meaningful way. I look at that, so that really plays to my strengths. Really focused on that but I’m going to get more involved if I find the right fit, I think is the plan.
Justin: There’s one in town called Restore Education that Lindsay worked for, and they are a GED program, all free. It’s the only one that has Spanish language GED, they have job training and get CNA. It’s a lot of things like how Eric Cooper talked about how they spread out. I told them, I said, “If you get donors to your graduation, people are giving you money.” It’s such a touching– I mean you’ve got 40, 50-year-old people walking the stage with their family there. The same as if they were 18. It’s just so touching. I think that’s the hard thing for a non-profit to do is to make that connection with people like that.
Ryan: Yes, I think that’s where good board members and others can help do that. Can help spread the message, and there’s so many good non-profits and so much need always. Like we talked about with the food bank that you do get lost in the noise a little bit. Trying to get people to help bring him out of that. I think it’s important.
Justin: Do you have any in the hopper right now you’re thinking about? You don’t have to tell me, but are there some you’re vetting and are vetting you?
Ryan: We were thinking about it. I want to be able to contribute. I want a place that wants the kind of contribution that I can do.
Justin: Sure, everybody wants money, but it’s better to feel like you’re more than that to a board.
Ryan: Right, and I think my contribution to the board is more than that. Then I need to work hard to make sure our company can support all the communities that we’re in. Both are important and may be best suited for how I can contribute.
Justin: Right. You recently got to ring the bell on the NASDAQ. Was there any Wizard of Oz kind of behind the curtain to that, that you are like “Oh, this isn’t what I expected?”
Ryan: Well, it was an amazing experience. I think for me it makes you think about all of the assumptions that you make when you look at people doing things. You’d look at somebody who rings a bell on at NASDAQ and what do you think? You must think they’re smart, they’re rich or they’re special or they are this or they are that. Then you’re there the guy doing it. I’m kind of looking around like just the guy.
Justin: Yes, heady.
Ryan: They did a great job. You know you are in a very small room. It’s super well-produced, super well-organized. We brought a big group from our team. What we did really, that I think a lot of companies didn’t do was really went by tenure with the company. We brought the really I would say, almost exclusively or two to a point, people that had been with us the longest time. That was a really cool experience. I love doing it.
Justin: You’re in a room and then do they love to shuffle you under the balcony or what the-
Ryan: Well, you’re in the NASDAQ like the market sites. It’s a studio in time square. You’re thinking maybe NYSC they got the outdoor that
Justin: It’s like a balcony kind of look isn’t it?
Ryan: No, no. There’s a table with a big screen because NASDAQ’s all digital. There’s no trading floor. It’s very impressive. They did an amazing job and an impressive studio.
Justin: I saw it, I just in my mind put you on a balcony. Maybe with long flowing hair too. [crosstalk] I made this all up in my brain.
Ryan: I hope a lot of people looked at it and thought it was better than they thought too.
Justin: You were also recently on the San Antonio Business Journal’s podcast even though I asked first. Why?
Ryan: Was that the order of events?
Justin: [laughs] I listened to it today, very different format.
Ryan: Very different format, yes different audience-
Justin: You sounded like Harvard Business Journal in a podcast guest.
Ryan: I’ll take that as a compliment.
Justin: It was dense.
Ryan: You know maybe now people will see that if they thought I was smart, I’m not that smart. It was just good editing.
Justin: I was listening thinking, “Oh, shit, he’s a lot smarter than I thought he was or he’s really into the business stuff.”
Ryan: That’s because I haven’t had you over in a while, you don’t remember who I am.
Justin: Maybe that’s why you haven’t had me over.
Ryan: There was a business of the year nomination from Business Journal, which we really appreciated and then the Texas Business Journal started the podcast and I think we were the first to [unintelligible 00:13:36]it’s first to second episode in that.
Justin: Okay, they didn’t really line it out why you were on there. Then it’s kind of wonky, replays a portion in the second half.
Ryan: Yes, in fairness I didn’t listen to it. Mainly because– no disrespect to the podcast. I don’t think I’ll listen to this one either. Just who likes to listen to himself talk? Maybe you like to listen to yourself talk if you’re doing a podcast. For me, it’s a very painful thing to do.
Justin: I’ve got a few fans that listen to all of them almost religiously and give me pointers. One of the pointers was, I kid you not. Quit sounding like you know everything.
Ryan: Well, you are a podcast host.
Justin: I thought, in my general life. I get that, but on this, it’s usually everybody else.
Ryan: I don’t know. I think of you as a guy who asks a lot of questions. I don’t get that vibe from you.
Justin: Yes. Thank you. Favorite fiesta event?
Ryan: My favorite fiesta event is NIOSA.
Justin: Okay, why?
Justin: Of all people, you don’t like big crowds.
Ryan: Well, I like NIOSA for all the reasons that I think people don’t. It’s crowded.
Justin: Do you go yearly?
Ryan: No, I’ll get to that. It’s crowded, it’s hot, people don’t like that the beer cups are too small. People don’t like that, but to me, that’s what made it fun. Now, the downside to that is I haven’t been in probably seven years because I can’t find anyone to go with me. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s my favorite.
Justin: It’s your favorite because of all of the inconveniences?
Ryan: Yes. A little bit of suffering.
Justin: Okay, we’ll be your second favorite then.
Ryan: No, no. It’s my favorite.
Justin: Is there a second favorite? What is an event that you find yourself going to every year?
Ryan: Well, we go to a lot of the parades, that’s like family-friendly now and sort of fits with the current lifestyle. I’ve gone to pretty much all the events.
Justin: You go to King William yearly?
Ryan: Yes like King William.
Ryan: Yes, probably every other year. Maybe.
Justin: Arthur? I think Arthur is my favorite.
Ryan: Yes, I’ve heard you say that. I have no problem with it. I like it.
Justin: King William is sort of the ongoing favorite among guests.
Ryan: Yes. It’s an easy thing to like. I guess NIOSA whenever the next fiesta happens you’ll be coming with me.
Justin: I’d consider a Five O’clock Tuesday drive-by.
Ryan: That’s all I’m after.
Justin: A friend of mine’s parents have a booth and it is just BS. They’ve had the booth for 40 years. What they sell, I can’t even say because it would say who they are, but it’s just made up. It’s crap. They sell nothing, but it allows them to bring in their own drinks.
Ryan: Well, it’s a redeeming thing anyway.
Justin: Yes. Favorite thing about living in San Antonio?
Ryan: I like San Antonio that it’s laid back. I like that you can get around easy, and I like that it’s hot and sunny most of the time.
Justin: Not a lot of hustle to the city.
Ryan: Not a lot of hustle. We’ve moved a lot of people to San Antonio for the company. That’s pretty much the feedback that you get.
Justin: Okay, not a lot of people are like there’s nothing to do here or whatever?
Ryan: No, I’ve never really understood that. That would be a repeated thing that you used to hear nothing to do and it’s like there’s more things to do than I have time to do. How can you not find something to do and what would you do? You know if you want to spend every waking moment at a Major League Baseball game I guess you are out of luck.
Justin: I get it if you brought them in from Colorado or Idaho, where there’s like all this outdoorsy-
Ryan: Yes, but you know, I spend a lot of time outdoors.
Justin: You’re not skiing and hiking a whole lot?
Ryan: No, but you can ride a bike. There are places to go for the day.
Justin: I didn’t know you started riding.
Ryan: Yes, there’s plenty to do.
Justin: How many bikes you got?
Justin: Okay, said you had a few. I got an electric bike recently.
Ryan: That’s cheating.
Justin: I think it still counts.
Ryan: Are you commuting on that from your house?
Justin: Josh Hoggleman just made me buy it. He kind of forced it upon me.
Ryan: Yes, That’s cheating yes.
Justin: I haven’t ridden it once.
Ryan: I saw in the track catalog, it was about electric bikes and reducing your carbon footprint. I was thinking well, a non-electric bike probably does that even better, right?
Justin: True, but you know some people want the help. I want to transition here. In the last 11 years, you become a turn around artist for your own business at least. You’ve been heavily involved in, it seems like all business aspects of that company because when you took it over, all aspects needed help and all aspects needed some guidance. What do you think from a business standpoint is the biggest challenge for San Antonio moving forward into becoming one of those cities that we want to be. One of those cities with higher-paying upper-middle-class jobs?
Ryan: Right, well. I think you need people that will create those jobs and that will invest in San Antonio. We’re here, we’re bought into San Antonio, committed to San Antonio as a company. You look at even my personal experience. It was a company relocating to San Antonio that brought me here. It’s why I’m here. Then that company as AT&T subsequently left. Right? It’s like, “Well, do you want to complain about the leaving because you benefited from the [unintelligible 00:18:47] right?” I think that we need to support businesses that are doing interesting things and creative things and make sure it’s a good place to run a business. I think the more of those businesses there are, we as a business have every incentive to create jobs because we want to grow. Number one. Right? I think people sort of underestimate that. If I could have 10,000 employees in San Antonio tomorrow I would because that would mean we need them right? I think that the quality of life focus, I think the city has done a pretty good job on that. I look at the — Just like we were talking about the investments into this Mission Reach for the Greenway Trails. These are real quality of life things that have improved in a meaningful way, that didn’t exist before.
Justin: Didn’t exist at all when I moved here. Yes.
Ryan: Didn’t exist at all and even I remember when I moved back after college from Austin. It’s like you go out ride a bike or run around town lake and Austin is known for that. There was nothing comfortable here. In the time since that’s completely changed.
Justin: That was a ’04 right?
Ryan: Yes, that was ’04.
Justin: We didn’t mention the San Antonio River Authority is a beautiful building, they build on that reach.
Ryan: It’s something.
Justin: You see it. It’s different. That’s great. If that whole mission, which definitely it’s going to become that, but when it does, it’s going to be totally different– it’s going to be a game-changer for the city, I think.
Ryan: I think those things are important. I think that the development along Broadway has been important because you get a concentration of development and something that people can see when they come in from out of town, it’s a place to go or a destination that maybe we didn’t have before. I think downtown for a long time, being relegated the tourists, rightly or wrongly, probably wrongly in many ways, that was a negative to that type of development.
Justin: I want to stick back to my question real quick because I want to see what your thoughts are on that. Look, I don’t have any friends that are really immersed in the business community in San Antonio like you are and you hear things so for example, Randall Stephenson of AT&T when he moved to Dallas. He made This big hay and there weren’t enough direct international flights was one of his complaints. He even brought up that we didn’t have good enough museums in San Antonio, you also hear educated workforce, which that does ring a bell with me. What are some of those things that you think if the city focused on these few things, we’d be able to attract those higher-paying jobs into our community?
Ryan: I think the workforce development is an interesting one because on the one hand, I think we’ve talked about higher-paying jobs are attracting that. It’s like, “What are we saying?” Maybe we’re saying two things. One, we want the people that are born here, raised here, live here to develop skills, and take those jobs, which I think everyone is saying. On the other hand, we’re also saying we want to make San Antonio an attractive place for people with those skills to relocate. I think we’re saying both. When you look at the side on the relocation, it is a lot of the quality of life issues. I think we were doing a good job on that. I think we need to see the city and the county continue to invest in that. There’s talk about, for example, even the Greenway trails and things, we redirect that money here, there, and there’s limited funds and that’s a real issue and a real question. I think those are big ones and I do think that workforce development is an important one but it’s complicated. That’s what I think people don’t get is, yes, you have a skill development but then you struggle with even basic things as you go down the salary range and down the level of skill experience, you struggle with people holding a job, maintaining a job and our-
Ryan: All of these things. It’s frustrating. I think we, for some of our lower entry-level positions, there aren’t a minimum wage, these are $12, $13, $14 an hour to start. We’re never 100% full because you’re always turning through people and that’s incredibly frustrating. That’s not so much a skills gap there, as it is things that are more complex to deal with. I think the skills gap happens later.
Justin: I’ve always wondered, some of these cities you’ve seen that have had this huge boom in technology are some of these upper-middle-class jobs are also cities that have had lots of investment in research and a lot of times government. I’m hopeful that the new focus in San Antonio on cybersecurity, which is going to be a lot of government money will also bring that to create a cottage industry of businesses that will have those higher-paying jobs.
Ryan: I agree. I think the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, they’ve spent more time on business retention trying to focus on what are the needs of the businesses that are already here and I think that’s important. At the same time, I look at it as our businesses. The reason we’re headquartered in San Antonio today is because we’re here, we started here and because I still want it here and that sounds flippant. That’s the Randall Stephenson argument of AT&T, all those other excuses are just that. They’re-
Justin: I think moving it is flippant though. Moving it for reasons such as museums and things like that, upends the lives of so many people. Staying here isn’t flippant.
Ryan: Arguably, there’s no return for your shareholders to do that either. It was a massive cost. You’ll see locally everyone boo hoos at the airport and the flight status, but I’m an aviation enthusiast and when you look at other similar-sized metros, you look at the number of passenger traffic that different metros generate with the same population, some a lot lower. Our service is not bad from that standpoint.
Justin: You travel a lot too.
Ryan: I travel a lot. One of the things that San Antonio is great, it’s certainly from where I live and where a lot of people live, this is so easy to get to the airport, you’re in and out. For those that have traveled, it’s like you live in Denver, you want to go to that airport once a week.
Justin: Or live in downtown Houston and you drive over an hour.
Ryan: Absolutely not. I don’t really believe any of that talk. I think it’s real simple supply and demand. If you want more flights, you need more people that will fly. That means make yourself a better tourist destination, make yourself a better business destination, improve the economics of the– improve the livelihood of the people that live here, and they’ll travel more on vacation, and then the air service development and all the other pieces play a much smaller role. One of the things we do in San Antonio for our products is we do training, and we have people in San Antonio fly in for training every week of the year, certainly pre-COVID. They come from all over the country and all over the world. No one ever says, “I’m not going to get trained on your product because you’re in San Antonio and you’re not in Dallas”, or something. It doesn’t [crosstalk]
Justin: I have one more jump on a flight.
Ryan: More is better and certainly, the other thing I think people forget about is that the Air Services developed a lot over the past few years, even in recent time, a lot of really good success there. I’m not nearly as negative about that. I think you’ve got to focus on how can you help the people that want to start companies in San Antonio, want to scale their company, because those are the people that are already vested here. You look at it now with the COVID, with remote work, is the idea of trying to get these corporate headquarter relocations and things that are already talked about, is that the model going forward? No, I think maybe make San Antonio a place people want to live. If you’re the remote worker for Twitter in San Francisco now who can work remotely going forward and you say, “Maybe I don’t want to live in such a high-cost area.” If San Antonio is a good place to live, good quality of life, a good cost of living, we’re going to net attract those people who now have more mobility.
Justin: What we need there is incredibly high-speed internet available to everybody and all of a sudden there’s nothing holding it back.
Ryan: Actually, I think that macro trend now, whatever happens, is a net positive for places like San Antonio period.
Justin: Do you think that there will be this complete collapse of commercial real estate?
Ryan: I don’t think so. I can only give you my personal opinion.
Justin: I read an article that said that a lot of the technology companies before COVID, were actually going back to working together. The articles, thesis, if you will, was basically whatever happens, technology companies that already decided that integrated workplaces, where they’re working hand in hand was what they want to do. It said, the people who were going to be coming back into the commercial real estate space, they’ll make up for the others. I don’t know whether that stands to be true or not.
Ryan: I don’t know. My personal experience is that prior to the shutdown to shelter in place with COVID, I was very much opposed to any type of remote work. I think a lot of us were. We’re forced into it. Throughout the first couple of weeks, it was like, “Wow, this is working better than we thought.” I surely would say it worked better than I thought. I think that’s continued. We’ve already made a couple of remote hires that we wouldn’t have made otherwise during this time. I think though that sentiment may have peaked a little bit and now we have more people on the team missing the day to day interaction because we’ve kept our HQ staff all remote. For us, I think it doesn’t collapse our commercial office space need but it might reduce it.
Justin: I know you’ve talked about real estate and your own office spaces, and space needs. Julian Castro had a big push between moving people back downtown. Have you all considered moving downtown? What do you think about this [crosstalk] go that far?
Ryan: The funniest part about that is we were very active on a building that was downtown that was a redevelopment. I thought it was awesome. I thought it was really cool. I really wanted to do it. We took some different people on our team, some of the younger people, some of the millennials and the feedback were like, “I don’t know if I want to be downtown, it’s inconvenient, we’re happy where we are.” Which in our case was along 410 near 281. I was surprised by that feedback not that I didn’t expect that feedback from anyone, but I didn’t expect it from the “millennials” and what all this movement was.
Justin: Was it more like a traditional office space too?
Ryan: No, it was a non-traditional. I thought it would have been-
Justin: Was it a warehouse/office like where we’re in now?
Ryan: Yes, it would have been really cool. That has me a little perplexed. I was all for it, and pretty much got the cold shoulder from the rest of our team. I don’t really know where that goes. Clearly, there’s a lot of people that do want to be downtown or at least enough leaders to drive businesses move down there and people that want to rent apartments going into downtown, so there’s definitely a demand for it, but it just hadn’t quite played out how I would have expected.
Justin: Yes, you look at Houston, and at six o’clock, Houston is tumbleweeds. We have the tourism, [unintelligible 00:30:44] people there all the time. It would be great to have the businesses that keeps people living there, too.
Ryan: Yes, I know. It couldn’t be more night and day different. People. Look at the Houston downtown and say, “Look at all the tall buildings,” but I’ll always remember going there for a wedding. I think my wife was in the bridal party and I had nothing to do all day. I said, “I’ll just walk out of the hotel and go get lunch on a Saturday afternoon.” This was probably seven, eight years ago. There’s no place open.
Justin: It was dangerous.
Ryan: It was a ghost town. You couldn’t even eat. Yes, I think San Antonio certainly has an advantage though. I think that trend continues. I don’t know that my experience is representative of that, but it’s pretty surprising.
Justin: Houston’s gotten a lot better, especially around the ballpark and all that, but I think it’s– I’m not going to say a failure, but it’s an opportunity for San Antonio to start bringing businesses back downtown. You got to think it only requires one big anchor. Valero obviously isn’t moving, but some business with that sort of gravitas.
Ryan: Yes, it has bigger presence. Huge downtown, yes, I thought that was a really big move, and then is there a way to– even in the corner downtown, even in the Riverwalk area, is there a way to make that even more appealing to locals? You look at the mix of restaurants or what type of incentives and things could be done to do that, because I think that there’s still a little bit of that divide. It’s like, “Okay, I’ll go downtown now. I’ll stay in Houston Street, but I’m not going down to the Riverwalk.” That doesn’t really make a lot of sense.
Justin: Yes. I had a bad experience downtown about a year ago. It still has its portions you don’t want to go to, but the parts that are good are kind of good all the time. I have a lot more friends now that are moving downtown, which maybe that’s indicative of what’s going to be happening down there eventually. Part of what I wanted to talk to you about is what you see with San Antonio anyway, that’s why we’re going here, but you’re the chairman and President and CEO of XPEL. What is the difference between president and chairman and CEO?
Ryan: There’s really not a lot of difference.
Justin: Chairman’s the board, right?
Ryan: Chairman’s the board. Right. The board needs to have a chairman who leads the board as a non-independent director. I work for the company. A president I think, is really the office that exists under Nevada law where we’re incorporated and CEO is a ceremonial title. You see some companies separate the two. I’ve never understood that. Still don’t, and I don’t think we’ll be doing that.
Justin: XPEL. How would you describe it?
Ryan: XPEL, we make protective films. The vast majority of our business today is automotive. Our sort of core product is a paint protection film, goes on leading edge or really any painted surface of a vehicle and now inside to protect it from damage, rock chips and damage to the paint. That’s still the majority of our revenue. Over time, we have more protective film products even outside automotive. We’ve got a anti-microbial film now, which people are putting on tablets and touchscreens and things like that. We’ve got some commercial and residential window films that are outside of automotive, but that’s really what made us famous and is still a huge driver of growth for the company.
Justin: When you say film, I have it on my truck. It’s almost like saran wrap you put on your car to protect the paint and keep damage from the car.
Ryan: The idea is real simple is that paint chips and people buy a new car, they get rock chips on their paint. That’s a number one complaint with the new car. Either the dealership or buying the aftermarket, our product, it’s clear invisible film that’s cut to the specific panels of your car and that will protect it from damage from rock chips or anything else. We deal a lot with mom and pop businesses in the aftermarket. Everybody you see on the street corner doing automotive accessories and things like that, and we deal with dealerships who might sell the product. We deal with some OEMs, kind of the factory level, but that’s all around that concept.
Justin: The last time I talked to you, the biggest drivers of your business was selling the film, selling the software, and doing the training.
Ryan: Yes. We make all of our revenue really from selling the film. That’s the product that goes on the car. There’s all sorts of things you need to have a business doing that. We’ve got a software that we generate a little bit of revenue from, but it’s really designed to cut the film. With patterns that cut the film to aid the application. The training, as I mentioned, this is a tech level skill. You talk about workforce development. This is a perfect example of something that’s emerging that people could be trained to do. Training is very important, and then we do lots of marketing, lead generation for our independent dealer network, but all of those things are all around the product itself, which is the film that we sell that people ultimately get on their cars.
Justin: For the most part, XPEL is not the company that’s putting the film on cars?
Ryan: No, we do a little bit. We’ve got nine locations where we actually install it globally, but we’ve got thousands of independent dealers of the product and dealerships who are the ones installing it.
Justin: Okay, if I go into a body shop, they’ve got a million different brands of a million different products and XPEL would be one of the products that they might be selling and trading [crosstalk]
Ryan: Sure. The example people would probably see most often is you buy a new car at a dealership, maybe the dealership is offering our product saying, “Hey, do you want to protect the paint on the car? For those listening, you need to seek out our product, which is an actual film. It’s a real tangible product. Don’t be taken by a lot of waxes and other liquids that don’t do a lot.” The dealership might install it with their own people or they’ll use our other customers in the aftermarket to do it, put it on your new car before you take possession of it.
Justin: You all do installation in San Antonio?
Ryan: We do here.
Justin: For regular-
Ryan: Yes, we do retail and wholesale. We’ve always wanted to be involved in the installation of the product because it really keeps our fingers on the pulse of the business. That’s what we’re teaching people to do. That’s what our customers do for a living, so it’s an important part of our business process.
Justin: If any of my listeners are listening, my own personal, not Ryan’s advice is the price was very, very different between the dealership and what y’all quoted me, so maybe consider not the dealership. Ryan would not condone anything like this.
Ryan: Yes, I have no advice on that. We love all of our customers.
Justin: It’s very different. Mine’s still on, I still have the same truck because I’m cheap and it works great. It’s still on. Let’s talk a little bit about what your role was with XPEL. Whenever you and I met, I think you were an IT guy for XPEL?
Ryan: Yes. The history of the company, it started in really, in the late ’90s. It was going to be a software company. We talked about, you brought up the software and patterns, but the idea there is that you’ve got this film and how do you get this big roll of film on the front of a car?
Justin: It was going to be a software company specifically related to film though?
Ryan: Specifically related to that. The founders started it that way, and it got some traction, but it was clear, nobody knew about the film, the film wasn’t any good. There’s no one to install the film, there’s no market, so you’d solved one part of the equation, but left the more important parts undone. I ended up doing work for the company before I became an employee, probably around 2000. In 2005, I joined the company. It was going to be a software company. I was there to run the development of that software. We did that for a number of years and then different management changes, different changes happens over time, the company got a little traction, but not a whole lot.
Justin: And? The point was, you were an IT guy.
Ryan: Yes. You’re supposed to draw the conclusion. It’s not me. That’s your job.
Justin: You’re like, “I was an IT guy. I got some traction, and then not. Period.”
Ryan: I think then after a couple management changes, then I’ve moved into operations, the company grew and there was a point in time where really, the strategy that company did shift. It said, “We’re not going to be just about the software. We need to be about the product,” which is paint protection film and everything that goes with it.
Justin: Did you leave at one point?
Ryan: Yes. That was around 2007. That was a fundamentally good strategy shift. It needs to be about the product. Like we said, we make money selling the product, but of course, then that was also 2007, 2008, which was a horrible time for the automotive business, a horrible time for business in general. There was some other management changes, and inevitably, I left in the summer of 2008. Then ended up coming back to be the CEO in February of 2009, so it’s a relatively small-
Justin: If I recall, you worked there– We were friends then. You’d work there and then maybe you were consultant?
Ryan: Yes. I stayed on as a consultant for the company. I left to go do other things. Really, I think by 2009, they’re just desperate. They said, “What kind of sucker can we find to do this?” The company was insolvent, had a series of losses and you’re just exiting the worst economic cycle and the worst time for the car business in 20 years.
Justin: When you took over, of course, I have a neighbor who’s becoming a CEO of a publicly-traded company. I look into it, and it was trading at one or two cents a share.
Ryan: Yes, in Canada. That’s right.
Justin: You were very candid about, “We are broke.”
Ryan: Well, it was no secret. All you had to do was download the financials. We have, I think, some of the old public financials from then. We had $50,000 in cash and $300,000 or whatever it was. It was horrible.
Justin: I don’t want to retrace the San Antonio Business Journal’s podcast steps, but basically, one if the things I found interesting is you said that the CFO at the time or the controller, or whatever y’all call them, was managing cash flow on a day-to-day basis. That’s how broke you all were.
Ryan: We had vendors where we would ship product. We would wire money every day, just piecemeal it out just to keep things flowing. That’s testament to just really hard work and stick-to-itiveness. That year we sold up part of the company, so maybe after we did that, it was $4 million in revenue to the company. We did a 130 million last year.
Justin: So great.
Ryan: That, to me, I feel like we’re just getting started today, almost as much as I did then in terms of what the future has for us.
Justin: Let’s talk about that. You took over. The shares are barely trading. I couldn’t even buy shares. That’s how bad it was.
Ryan: Yes, it was traded in Canada at the time on the TSX Toronto Stock Exchange Venture. Very difficult for anyone to buy here.
Justin: You personally had to pay off a settlement essentially, because you’re all getting sued because you weren’t satisfying a sponsorship agreement?
Ryan: Yes. Our CFO knew we would plop down a credit card and just float the company. You look at that, you might– I remember my wife. She just thought I was just an idiot, “You shouldn’t have to do that.” It’s like, well, you think this has promise. You can either let it go and flush it down the toilet, or you do what you have to do. Now it seems like a pretty easy decision. Even at the time, I don’t know that we fretted about it. We said this, “We need to do it,” and we knew enough to know that the trend was right direction and that more than likely, you get paid back. It was not that hard.
Justin: My firm revenue is definitely not $130 million. However, we do find, and I’ve been interviewed about, “What are some of the things that have helped you make it work?” I always say, “Look, it’s a little bit this, keep overhead low and luck.” What were the things that helped? Y’all we’re in a hole. Was there this one or two things that really helped y’all get out of the hole?
Ryan: No, I would say luck plays a part. It plays a big part in all of it. In spite of our missteps, we stepped into a time where the product we were selling began to be well received. We ended up with some good product developments at the right time that let us take market share from others, even while the market was very small. That was part luck, part operation.
Justin: The economy started to turn.
Ryan: The economy started to pick up. Everybody working there was humble and said, “There’s no money to pay you more. You’re either going to work for what you got, and we build it or not.” Especially as a tiny, tiny public company like that, the EMO is to go and always just raise more money, issue more shares, raise more money and just dilute dilute dilute dilute. We looked at it, was like, “Why would you do that? It just doesn’t make any sense.” If you have a vision and a passion for where it can go, that’s number one, aside from being lucky.
Justin: You talked to the Business Journal Podcast about some, I don’t remember what you called, key universal thoughts on how to have a successful business. What are some of these universals to you, in terms of no matter what you’re business is, what industry you’re in, “Here’s what you really need to focus on to be successful”?
Ryan: Well, I think what we talked about there which I still believe is cash flow. People look at an income statement or profit and loss as the health of the business, but it’s the cash flow.
Justin: I agree.
Ryan: On the books, you can lose money, you can make money and survive, either way. If you run out of cash, and your cash flow is negative and negative, you will eventually go out of business. I think that that’s probably the most important thing for people to focus on, particularly, if you’re in a business that has inventory, has cost of goods. We could easily put every dollar we generate back into more inventory, and that’s cash you don’t have. A lot of businesses could. A lot of them it’s even harder for them to deal with than us. I think that’s number one.
I think our team’s been humble, and I think that’s being a really big driver of our core values. I think the fact that we were a public company, even in those early days, actually helped do it. I was the CEO then, I was just like I’m a CEO now, but its not my company. I’m just the current steward. I think that when you look at businesses, really small ones or even bigger ones, and you’ve got an owner, and you say, “Hey, yes. We talked to the boss. We’ve got that big marketing budget increase next year planned.” Oh, a week later, boss comes back and says, “Yes, no, we’re not going to be able to do that.” Oh, you’re gutted.
Got to do what we do and move on. Well, then the boss shows up with a new truck and a new boat and you say, “Oh, okay. It’s his company,” but he just decided to put the money here instead of reinvest it. Well, we never had that problem. We have to grow, had to grow, have to reinvest the profits to grow. I think that’s been good for the culture. Back to your earlier conversations about San Antonio, about relocating. We had no problem getting people to move San Antonio. You hear people talk about challenges in doing that. I think it’s because they had a cause in an organization and something to be passionate about. It’s certain people who that was of interest to. It really spoke to. “Are you going to work for that company and work in that field?” Awesome.
Justin: Do you think it’s been helpful being a publicly-traded company that your financials are public data that you’re employees can look, and when you say, “Hey guys, we’re having a problem,” they can look and see the financials to support that?
Ryan: Yes, without question. Then you talk about the, it’s going to get back to the cash flow. To have a conversation with someone that says, “Hey, in this month, we made this profit, but our cash flow was negative,” and it blows people’s minds. It’s like, “We bought [inaudible 00:46:52], we bought inventory. We didn’t collect our receivables. We had to pay vendors, or whatever it was. That’s been really a helpful thing. I think all of that, I didn’t use to think of it that way, but I think it’s being incredibly positive actually.
Justin: You discussed in the podcast how once y’all were traded on the NASDAQ, your share price doubled or something very significant. Is that because the NASDAQ provides you all a certain level of credibility, or is it because you’re now being purchased by large institutional investors?
Ryan: Well, I think it’s multiple things. First and foremost, we’ve continued to have really good financial performance. We’ve just done a good job. We saw the benefit of that even before we moved from Canada to the NASDAQ. The second piece though, to your point when you tried to buy the stock 10 years ago, is incredibly hard for people to purchase in the US. Canada’s 30 million people, the US is 350 million, and you’ve got all of the institutional capital in the US and many of them couldn’t go to Canada to buy something if they wanted by regulation or by the creed or how they operate the fund.
You’ve opened yourself up to a tremendous pool of potential buyers. Then I think the third thing is, there is a credibility stamp from being on the NASDAQ that you just didn’t have in Canada and don’t have in Canada.
Justin: I literally have no idea what I’m talking about, but I’ve heard it enough. My understanding is there are certain big institutional investors, hedge funds, retirement funds, that will buy blocks of NASDAQ stocks.
Ryan: Sure, stocks.
Justin: Y’all are now part of the NASDAQ. Is that driving some amount of the share price going up? Is that just meaning your stock is traded more?
Ryan: I think there’s two things. I think there is a factor there. What was really unusual about us, you can go look this up about any public company and see what percentage of the shares outstanding are owned by institutions, funds–
Justin: That’s publicly available?
Ryan: Publicly available of any type. Well, when we first moved to the US, and we were an SEC filer, I think we were in a single-digit percentage owned by institutions. Part of that, is we have really high insider ownership, management, other people on our board, but that’s a tiny, tiny number. If you saw that number at 50% or 60%, that would not be surprising. We’ve seen that steadily pick up over time. That’s a driver that we should be included in some of the small-cap indexes and things going forward, and then if you buy that index through your Vanguard account or something, they’ve got to allocate and buy so much of our shares.
I think it’s the visibility, it’s the size of the market being in the US versus Canada. I think hopefully performance and doing a good job.
Justin: Sure. Is there any limitation on how much ownership can own?
Justin: There’s no conflict of interest when it comes to that?
Ryan: Well, one would say it’s the opposite of a conflict of interest. If I own shares in the company that I bought, which I do, versus that I was, say, given by the company, I’m pretty aligned with the shareholder on the street. Generally, it’s viewed very favorably.
Justin: Have there been any takeover attempts by certain people in San Antonio like to try to take over companies like Cracker Barrel. Has that happened to XPEL?
Ryan: No. That hasn’t happened.
Justin: All right. What are y’all planning moving forward? What sort of industries do you all want to branch out to? Do you all want to just stay with your core competency of film, or do you want to move film into different applications?
Ryan: Well, we’re really focused on film. Really, we’re always torn because the market that we’re in, the core market we started in, which is the automotive paint protection film, is still in its infancy. You really want to focus on– We would say, maybe 7% of vehicles in the US have film on it, through us or our competitors, but that could be a little bit of film or a lot. The dollar content could vary. We want to see that grow. At the same time, we have all of these other applications for the protection films, for the window films outside of automotive.
That’s really part of our long-term vision, is to be about your protection and personalization, really across verticals, but doing that– I think we’ve done a pretty good job, doing that in a measured way, because we don’t want to see the core opportunity, which we really single-handedly created this market, go away. It’s a global opportunity. We’re focused. We’ve got operations and our own people in nine countries. We want to be set up in more to really take our message, take our service, our value proposition in country. That’s something that is hard to do, but we’re good at it. It is a huge game-changer, if you could really manage your channel like that.
Justin: Is there any way for you all to quantify how your market share has changed over the last five or 10 years?
Ryan: It’s really hard. We have some guesses, but there’s no good third-party data. They’re not really worth a whole lot. Over a longer period of time, we went from very little market share to being the leader, if not the leader in the space, but within any kind of range, it’s a lot harder to say.
Justin: Is anybody in with the manufacturers at a factory level to provide their service?
Ryan: Yes. There’s some of that done. We do some of that through our operation in Europe.
Justin: Is it public, which manufacturers?
Ryan: No, it’s not. What people don’t realize is there’s factory pieces of film like this on almost every car. You look at a little dog-like piece behind a rear wheel, super high wear area, but that’s a tiny, maybe half a square foot piece of film, where we’re really in the business of selling 100 square feet of film for the full front-end of the car. Then the other thing that we know will continue to develop is the OEMs who see, the manufacturers who see value in this product in wanting to offer that as either a factory-installed option or an option installed post the factory, but prior to delivery.
We’re involved in some of those projects, and they’re really interesting. There’ll be more of those, but it’ll always be a good balance in the space overall.
Justin: You all are big on your brand in XPEL. Whenever I was at the dealership, it was very clear which product you were going to get. Why would that not be a push with the manufacturers that are using y’all at a OEM level?
Ryan: Well, we’re really proud of our brand, and I think that’s a big part of our success and certainly in the automotive enthusiasts, we’re well known.
Justin: Sure, yes.
Ryan: People in the space know our brand. Maybe the only people that like their brand more than we like our brand, would be the likes of all-
Justin: Car makers. [chuckles]
Ryan: -car makers. They’re not really enthused on diluting their brand with the addition of ours, even if we’re providing them a good product and a very valuable service.
Justin: Bentley has a Breitling clock in it. You don’t think you have a Breitling level just yet?
Ryan: We may not be at that level yet. Although you look at some of the positioning of XPEL in China, and it might make you think we’re closer to that than you think.
Justin: China, every time I’ve talked to you, has been a huge market for you guys. Is it still just a continuously large growth market, or you’re sort of plateauing there?
Ryan: Well no, it’s been a big part of our overall revenue. It’s grown over the past several years. The car market in China is really big. People don’t realize how big it is. It’s bigger than the US. There’s a lot of press about how the China car market’s been off. Really, it was off until COVID. Now post-COVID, they’ve seen year-over-year growth.
Justin: Wait, post-COVID they’ve seen year-over-year growth?
Ryan: Yes, so growth over the last year. April, May-
Justin: By month?
Ryan: -they’ve seen growth. Yes, and they hadn’t had growth for like 21 months or something.
Justin: Is that right?
Ryan: Yes. Which is a interesting phenomenon, but the market in China is really big. Part of that is, it’s a big market to begin with. There’s environmental and cultural reasons why our products do really well there. It’s been as high as 30% of our sales in the particular quarter and bounces around based on whatever else is happening, but a big market for us.
Justin: Within a sub-community or within a country or within a culture, XPEL has to be a status thing for some people, right?
Ryan: Yes, no, we are the premium product in the space. The market that we take that message to is really the enthusiast. People think of the enthusiast, as you said, the guy buying the Bentley. Yes, there are enthusiasts there, but really there are enthusiasts across price points. [crosstalk] There’s more BMW enthusiasts than there are Mercedes enthusiasts, even at the same price point.
Justin: You all were real involved in San Antonio Coffees and Cars or something?
Ryan: Yes, we really run that now and the lead sponsor. We do that here.
Justin: I didn’t even know what that was. That’s car enthusiasts who get together on a Sunday morning and show off their cars, right?
Ryan: The idea is real simple, and it exists all over the country, is get together, line up your cars in a parking lot, go around look out at them, talk to people, meet people, drink a cup of coffee. That is just a core demographic for us. If you would do that, you would buy our product.
Justin: I looked at pictures, it’s not all ultra-premium cars. There’s GTRs and BMWs.
Ryan: That’s what people don’t really understand about the car businesses. There are Toyota enthusiasts. There are Subaru enthusiasts.
Justin: The Subaru crowd is crazy. [chuckles]
Ryan: Right. You don’t need to buy– The enthusiast doesn’t start at a certain price. There are maybe an over-abundance at higher price points, but it doesn’t start there.
Justin: You remember the Fiero enthusiast world? Do you remember that?
Justin: You would see Fieros that were all tricked out, and then you’d go out by the mall sometime there’ll be 30 Fieros out there. Mazda Miatas had their world of enthusiasts too.
Ryan: Right. A lot of people don’t get that.
Justin: What do you see for XPEL over the next 10 years?
Ryan: Well, I think we’re going to see growth in our automotive product, and you’re going to see XPEL more and more outside automotive around protection personalization. I want to see us grow a lot, and I think we can. We have every ability and reason and way to do that. We’ve been, early out of the gate, operating internationally as a small company. When I say that, I don’t just mean selling. We have offices, we have boots on the ground. There are employees in these different countries. That too is a unique thing for a lot of companies, especially at a certain size.
We’re going to do a lot more of that because that’s a way, if you want to be the premium anything, the premium brand. We want to control the channel. We want to control our messaging. We want to get there and do it our way. The way to do that and do that globally is to be there. You’re going to see a lot more that international expansion for us as well.
Justin: What all countries do you all have actual employees in?
Ryan: Canada, Mexico, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Taiwan, probably missing one or two.
Justin: No China yet?
Ryan: No China, but that’s certainly possible moving forward.
Justin: Is that relative to the way their markets are set up?
Ryan: Well, we have in China and in any country where we don’t have our own presence, we have independent distributors who would buy the product in bulk and then work the channel beneath them. Our distributor in China is really the best distributor in the world. They’ve done a amazing job. They get the product, they get the market, and it’s really hard to find independent distributors. That’s the hardest part going to market internationally, because if you’re too specialized, they want to carry competing products. Well, we’re not a product to be on a shelf with something else. You need to be dedicated to us.
Justin: Something I’ve read about China is anytime there’s a successful product in the market, there is a copycat product that uses the same brand, the same logo, the same everything.
Ryan: Oh, yes. No doubt.
Justin: Does that happen to you all in China?
Ryan: Oh, for sure. We’re constantly chasing trademark infringements, copied boxes and things, and not just in China, but then export it from China elsewhere. But that’s not an only-China scenario. We saw a lot of that in the Middle East too. There was a Saudi company who was selling XPEL products.
Justin: You could shell off on this.
Ryan: These are legit copies of packaging and other things. They do a nice job, but you can’t– The information travels instantaneously now. We’ll have a customer, you might say, “Well, why are you selling this here? You’re supposed to sell through me,” or, “This is obviously fake to me,” or, “I know they’re not selling it.” We get that feedback on a daily basis.
Ryan: Is there a way to enforce your brand in some of these countries?
Justin: Yes. We’ve filed a trademark litigation, a trademark opposition, to other marks that have been filed in a bunch of countries. Relative to China, we’ve probably done more of that than anywhere. We’ve had really good luck. We’ve been on the right side of the law and the right side of what’s right. The courts and the trademark group, they’ve really sided with us. In other places too. It’s expensive, it’s time consuming, but it’s a must.
Ryan: Outside of film and cars and all of that. Does XPEL have any specific involvement in the community? I know you and I talked about the food bank outside of this. Is there anything y’all focus on in terms of the San Antonio Community?
Justin: Well, we’ve been pretty scattered in terms of what we’ve done. I’ve done a lot of different, event sponsorship, but it’s a hit and miss how we do it. Obviously, we’ve participated with the [unintelligible 01:00:40], like I mentioned, different events, a number of other groups. I couldn’t name them. There’s a, Ferrari Kid, which is a great local charity. We’ve been involved with them. Really, coming through this COVID-19 situation and looking at the impact of that, it’s caused me to want to be a lot more intentional about it.
Ryan: Yes, I agree.
Justin: San Antonio is our biggest market by our employees, but we’re in all sorts of communities. We need to make sure that we’re doing our part everywhere we can. We’re in the process of revamping how we look at that, trying to be more intentional and trying to make sure that so long as we can afford it, that that participation in the communities we’re in scales up with our profits over time, is an intentional thing not a happenstance.
Ryan: You have somebody in house as an employee who is a community relations type person?
Justin: No, we don’t. We’ve been talking about that too. This part of making it more intentional. A lot of times, for things like that, we’d have great ideas from our team, “Hey, we should do this, we should do that.” We’re moving so fast growing. It’s like, “Yes, let’s do that. Let’s do that.” That doesn’t actually mean it’s the best thing to do. It may be just the person who talked the loudest. Trying to be more intentional about that, I think is number one. When you do something, go to an event, participate, you’re always touched and moved by whatever it is. There’s so many good causes, but we need to be smarter about it I think.
Ryan: How can people learn more about XPEL?
Justin: When you go to our website, xpel.com, just X-P-E-L. Google us. There are lots of rabid fans who love XPEL. If you want to see XPEL on any car, any place, you want to see XPEL on a lot of Teslas, Porsches, really cool cars, just Google XPEL, you’ll see it, but xpel.com.
Ryan: You can listen to the San Antonio Business Journal podcast with Ryan talking in code, like he’s a business book. That’s interesting as well.
Justin: We’ve successfully debunked that today.
Justin: Well, Ryan, thanks for doing this. I want to tell you, I brag about you to all of my friends who know anything about business. What you’ve done is incredible, because I remember we sat down and had beers 10 years ago, and y’all were going bankrupt and you knew it. You said, “Look, it’s a hope and a prayer at this point.” Now, you’re ringing the bell and the NASDAQ, and you’re a local guy, and you live down the street from me. I couldn’t be more proud of you. I think what you’re doing’s great for San Antonio. You’re still involved, and you care about our community. I think it’s fantastic.
Ryan: Yes, I do. I appreciate that.
Justin: Thanks for coming on the show. I don’t know why it took me 25 requests to get you to come on the show, but hey, Madonna’s hard to get. Ryan Pape’s hard to get.
Ryan: Yes. A lot of people that send me text messages feel the same around a variety of topics. Don’t take it too personally.
Justin: All right. That’s going to do with this episode of The Alamo Hour. Ryan’s episode 20 was a good success and hopefully you’ll come on again. In a year two, y’all are going to be bigger and–
Ryan: I’ll come on faster next time.
Justin: Maybe you can come on covered in paint protection film.
Ryan: Yes, anything can happen.
Justin: Burt Reynolds from Stripteasekind of thing, but paint protection film.
Ryan: Yes, we might avoid that, but yes, you never know.
Justin: All right. Thanks for joining us. Our wish list continues, Coach Pop. I’m getting no traction, but I’m going to keep hoping, Shea Serrano, Patty Mills, Lonnie Walker, any of you all. We’d love to have you on to talk about what’s going on in San Antonio at the time. Thank you all for joining us. You can check out more. You can subscribe to the podcast at alamohour.com. Thanks. We’ll see you next time.
Speaker 3: Thanks for joining us on this episode of The Alamo Hour. You are all what make this city so great. We hope you join us next week. In the meantime, subscribe to our podcast and check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/alamohour or our website alamohour.com. Until next time, Biba San Antonio.
[01:04:38] [END OF AUDIO]