While many window companies sell patio doors, when it comes to swinging or entry doors, sometimes companies view this as a “foreign object.” DWM spoke to Eric Dotson, business development manager at Therma-Tru Corp. and two companies that started out just selling windows then expanded into entry doors. So if you have considered taking the plunge find out what you need to know and how it will help increase your business.
“Some companies are so focused on windows that doors generally become an afterthought,” says Dotson. “It is consumer generated.”
Ted Kirk, owner at North Georgia Replacement Windows in Atlanta and Pat Ward, owner at C&L Ward in Flint, Mich., couldn’t agree more. In fact, questions from consumers are the reason both of these companies added doors to their product lines.
Kirk says his company, started nine years ago, added doors pretty early on but it wasn’t until the recession hit that the company “got serious about selling and pushing more doors.”
“We were forced into it because the homeowner wanted a one-stop source,” he says.
Ward at C&L Ward, in business for 20 years, has been selling doors for the last 15, but his situation is similar to Kirk’s.
“We had a lot of interest from people so instead of saying no we don’t, we decided to say yes we do,” he says.
But before you add the word doors to the company moniker, there are some items to consider, namely installation. This is usually the first hesitation, says Dotson.
“The door is something people use 6-7-8 times a day versus a window which is used less frequently,” he says. “If there is a poor install it becomes an issue rather quickly then service is an issue. That is why we focus on installation training. As soon as we say we are offering training we get a mass amount of people who want to participate.”
He adds that “the holy grail” to door installation is how to measure.
“Companies may be really good with windows and evaluating the opening but for doors it is a little different,” says Dotson. “Just like windows you teach a team to look for old wood sills, adjustable thresholds, how and where to measure, etc.”
Some companies may have an easier time making the switch than others. For Kirk, it wasn’t a big issue.
“I have had a long tenure of good installers that truly understand construction whether it is windows or doors and that both have to be measured properly,” he says. “We found it was a natural fit without too many problems.”
Over at C &L Ward, Ward says much like windows, installation is always a challenge.
“Early on we just supplied doors then over the last 15 years we installed them ourselves,” he says. “Like a window you can have a great product but if not installed properly you will have problems.”
So would Ward have done anything differently if he were embarking on doors today? He says maybe he would have started doing the installs in-house early on.
Many companies that expanded into entry doors did so during the recession, and found it to be a good move.
“The jobs were smaller so they were looking for ways to generate leads,” says Dotson. “Selling entry doors could be remarketed to their existing base. Previous leads are easier to close than a Yellow Pages or Internet lead—doors fit into that mold.”
Kirk agrees saying once you have performed a job you have earned the customer’s trust. “After you have a customer that you replaced all their windows, instead of chasing that next new sale it is a lot easier to go in to that homeowner who is now willing to spend more money on a door.”
Dotson offers another area where those considering this expansion need to be aware. This includes how to price the product and how to sell them. He says companies also have to consider which products to display in its showroom.
“With doors, it is more about personal tastes as opposed to a window that is more about function and energy efficiency,” says Dotson. “Even with the remodelers they look at our big book and say that is too many doors. We have to make sure we still have good reach. We tell them their selection offered needs to be simple not necessarily small. A one-page brochure with three doors is not why the consumer goes to the specialty dealer. They have to find that happy medium and the right amount of doors for the right market.”
When you find that mix, doors can be a great boost to business.
“At least 25 percent of our window jobs have doors on them,” says Kirk. “We also have quite a bit more door-only jobs now.”