November 19th, 2012
Thanksgiving: A Time to Give Thanks and Reflect
This is a week to reflect and give thanks. It has been a tough few years in the door and window industry–like nothing I have seen in 25 years. Many companies have survived the rocky economic times but some have fallen. The ones that have made it through have had to redefine the way they do business. In many ways it has made them stronger and poised to become even more profitable once the building industry gets back on track. Indeed, there are signs of life out there in new construction!
Housing starts surged 15 percent in September–the fastest in four years, and the number of new permits is up 45.1 percent since Sept, 2011 which is also a sign that a sustained recovery in the new construction segment is beginning to take a foothold.
Remodeling activity has been a concern for many of my door and window customers since the summer, however, the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) released by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University is very optimistic. The LIRA suggests that a foundation exists for a “robust” remodeling recovery with annual homeowner improvement spending expected to reach double-digit growth in the first half of 2013.
Not only has the economy been a challenge but the business environment itself poses new challenges as well. Testing requirements such as those for insulating glass certification have been redefined and are much more difficult to pass. Energy Star requirements are also getting more challenging as the U-value requirements are set lower and lower every few years. Thanks to the Internet, consumers are getting more knowledgeable and savvy as well and they are likely to be in step with the latest technology and innovations. All of these factors produce a fast paced business environment where owners and company leaders must constantly be evaluating their company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, the SWOT analysis, in an attempt to stay one step ahead of the competition!
So, not only is it a time to be thankful of how well your business is doing but it is also a time to reflect upon what will be needed in the years ahead to better position your company to compete in this ever changing business climate. New Energy Star regulations are looming on the horizon – are you ready? What suppliers are you aligned with? Are they the right ones to help you achieve your long term business goals? How well trained and well equipped is your sales staff? How strong is their product knowledge? How well do they present the features and benefits of your window and door systems? You can have the best door and windows on the market, but if your sales staff isn’t capable of conveying this to your prospective customers, then it won’t make one bit of difference. What type of financing options do your salespeople have at their disposal? They may do a great job of convincing prospects to buy, but without a range of practical finance options at their disposal, they may never get the order written.
One thing is clear–manufacturers have to be on their “A game” whether it be manufacturing, quality assurance, purchasing, human resources, product development, or marketing and sales in order to grow one’s business in this day and age! Sustained business growth no longer comes by riding the tail of the economy. It only comes at the expense of the competitor, and when it comes to competitors we are dealing with some very well organized and cunning entities – not Wile E. Coyote.
So take this week to give thanks for weathering the storm and also to reflect upon what direction you will need to steer your business in 2013 and beyond in order to accomplish your business goals while delighting your customers. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!