imageDecember 9, 2020

Over the course of his five decades of leadership, Tom established certain practices within RPM that continue to drive our growth and progress. These include:

Attract and retain entrepreneurs – RPM founder Frank C. Sullivan’s business philosophy was “Hire the best people you can find. Create an atmosphere to keep them. Then, let them do their jobs.” Tom applied this thinking to an acquisition program that began in 1966 as the coatings industry entered a period of consolidation that continues to this day. He sought well-run, profitable businesses in related industries and then urged the business owners to continue operating them as part of RPM. Tom understood the value of patience when attempting to interest an entrepreneurial business owner in selling “his baby” to RPM, as many of these transactions occurred years after the owner was first approached. He also brought the concept of a fair price, not the lowest price, to the process. Tom always offered the top dollar he felt RPM could afford and would walk away from a deal if that amount was not acceptable to the owners. His approach of maintaining an acquired company’s employee base, honoring its heritage – often built over multiple generations – and supporting its continued growth addressed the key concerns of most selling owners. As a result, RPM is now widely recognized as the best home for entrepreneurial companies in its primary industries.

A sense of urgency – Related to the entrepreneurial operating philosophy, the need to quickly seize opportunities and then move on is a hallmark of the Tom Sullivan era. Nowhere is this more evident than the RPM acquisition program, where deals are often completed in a few months versus other businesses that take significantly longer.

Adherence to the highest standards in corporate governance and business ethics – Tom set a high bar in both business ethics and corporate governance well before government- and stock exchange-mandated changes in these areas were enacted. For example, by the late 1970s, RPM’s board of directors was made up of a majority of outside directors, decades before this practice was required by the New York Stock Exchange.

Commitment to a growing cash dividend – It was important to Tom that RPM’s shareholders be consistently rewarded for their investment in the company. RPM has increased its cash dividend for 47 consecutive years, placing it in an elite category of less than one half of one percent of all publicly traded companies, a vital element of RPM’s ability to deliver superior returns.

A disciplined planning process – Under Tom’s direction, RPM instituted a disciplined annual planning process starting in 1977. While it has evolved over time, many of the original practices remain, including arriving at mutually agreeable targets between operating units and the corporate office by establishing certain revenue and EBIT targets.

Connections creating value – Tom long believed that the company could realize potential synergies inherent within a large group of businesses serving similar markets and utilizing similar manufacturing assets with the goal of creating an “entrepreneurs club,” where technology and best practices could be shared to everyone’s benefit. He established a purchasing action group in 1996 to combine RPM’s buying power in the purchasing of key raw materials and services. Based on its success, other groups followed in the areas of finance, IT, human resources and marketing. Tom’s actions laid the groundwork for today’s highly successful MAP to Growth program.

Underlying these components of RPM’s operating philosophy is an environment of trust, respect and open communication established by Tom, which has been instrumental in our long-term success.



Welcome to RPM's Around the World Blog

This blog shares inspiring stories about how RPM companies are coming together, in light of the COVID-19 health crisis, to help build a better world—and the incredible impact RPM associates are having on their colleagues, families, communities, customers and suppliers around the world.

Want To Share Your Story?

We want to know how your RPM company is
helping to Build a Better World.


From the CEO: Record Q1 Sales Achieved Despite Supply Chain Challenges

Last week, we announced our financial results for our fiscal 2022 first quarter, during which our consolidated sales increased nearly 3% over the prior year to a record $1.65 billion. Thanks to...


RPM’s Green Belt Training Program Drives Manufacturing Efficiencies

Through its companywide Green Belt training program, RPM aims to maximize the gains of its MS-168 manufacturing system by pursuing operating efficiencies across the enterprise with a continuous...


Carboline Launches CarboNext Initiative for Young Corrosion Professionals

As part of continued efforts to serve the corrosion industry, Carboline recently launched its CarboNext program that is aimed at educating, connecting, supporting and engaging with the next...


Dryvit Systems Introduces NewBrick™ Prefabricated Modular Mosaic Shapes

Recently introduced by Dryvit Systems to the exterior cladding market, NewBrick™ modular mosaic takes NewBrick’s speed of installation and ease of use to the next level by prefabricating either...


Ramuc Launches Major Brand Refresh & New Website

A key player in the pool coatings and maintenance business for more than 70 years, Ramuc has experienced tremendous growth—particularly over the last five years. To position the brand for...


From the CEO: Vaccines Work, Get One

The Covid vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) have been in use for nearly a year now and have proven to be safe and effective. Despite this, there is still significant hesitancy and,...


I would like to receive emails with RPM’s latest Around the World blog posts.


RPM International Inc. is a world leader in specialty coatings, sealants, building materials and related services. Learn more at


Our founder’s favorite number. It’s the number of hours in the week and reminds us to use our time wisely.

Copyright © 2020 RPM International Inc.