Just in case anyone has noticed, because I know you are all avid readers of my blog, it has been awhile since I posted. In fact, my last blog was written the week that one of our editors Penny Stacey went on maternity leave. And guess what, she is back so now I have some time to blog again. We were all doing some double duty, something I know many of you are all too familiar with, due to hiring challenges and downsizing. So forgive me if I go a little long today but I have a few things I want to catch up on before we close out 2012. And bear with me as some of the topics cross the gamut.

Most bizarre comment I have ever heard regarding competition. Our annual Christmas party was held last weekend at Maggiano’s. If you haven’t been there and you can’t tell by the name it is Italian. Two people at our table, my Italian husband included, commented they were excited to have cannoli for dessert. So when we were invited to the dessert table, many were surprised that this Italian dessert wasn’t among the items. When our waitress came to our table, they both asked, “Where’s the cannoli?” Wait for it, here’s the bizarre answer: “We get asked that question all the time. We don’t have it because we are trying to be different from the competition.” What! You are trying to be different from the competition but you are telling us that you get asked for cannoli all the time? Hmm, wouldn’t you want to give your customers what they want? Talk amongst yourselves.

Best confirmation of choosing a great winner: If you’ve read the recent issue of DWM, you will see that NewSouth Windows in Tampa, Fla., is one of our green award recipients. In essence, the company is trying to educate Florida builders regarding the importance of choosing energy-efficient windows. Surprisingly, many windows in Florida are single pane! A homeowner saw the article and sent the following message to NewSouth: “Ten years ago when we had our custom home built, I debated with three different builders the value of double pane windows even here in Florida. Each one of them insisted that tinted windows were the only requirement for comfort. Having come from Michigan, the home of “Thermo-pane,” I really questioned their logic …. At the time of our build, I would have been more than willing to pay the extra for upgraded windows and doors. At that time I could have folded the additional costs into our mortgage, but now it’s become cost prohibitive. As I said…please educate the builders, and make it effort free for them to access information on energy efficient windows. I’ve missed my ‘window’ of opportunity.”

What did you learn this year?: Last night, I watched Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on HBO with my husband. The episode was a recap of the best of the season, and at the end of the show Gumbel, went around the room and asked his group of reporters what they learned this year. The responses ran the gamut from the good to the ugly. Some were inspired by acts of those refusing to give up, but one reporter learned that the world of sports isn’t so rosy. In a world where you perhaps can’t take your ten year old to a game for fear of drunken rabble rousers, f bombs exploding everywhere and fans getting beaten because of the jersey they wear, it’s not all fun and games.

So I wanted to pose that question to a few of my editors and bloggers. Following are their responses, including yours truly:

Tara Taffera: The industry, and its members are resilient, myself included. I have to admit this year wasn’t the best, it was full of stress, and to be honest I am looking forward to saying adios to 2012. But I am happy I am in this industry full of great people who come together in times of tragedy. When Hurricane Sandy hit, emails and calls flooded to those window companies in the affected areas. People wanted to know if everything was okay and what they could do to help. And the hearts of everyone, everywhere are aching at the heartache being endured in Connecticut in the wake of last week’s tragedy. Even when a window company closed its doors earlier this year, a competitor wanted me to pass on to that owner how bad he felt, as he knows all too well, how difficult it is to face the closing of a family business.

Ellen Rogers (former DWM assistant editor, editor of our sister publication USGlass): “Learning about the residential market has been an interesting change for me over the past year. As a market that had been beat down due to unforgiving economic circumstances, I’ve seen and learned about an industry that truly keeps pushing through. Yes, there are companies that did not survive, and yes, there are companies much smaller now than in years past, but the industry has evolved and diversified in finding new opportunities and new markets to explore.”

Tyson Schwartz, (DWM blogger, Thermal Industries): “I learned that you can’t keep doing things the same and expecting different results.  The new normal, if you will, is what we have today. The window industry may never be back to pre recession levels so instead of hoping for it to come back, you have to make it come back yourself. This means getting out of comfort zones and crafting more innovative strategies in terms of sales and marketing. I’m excited to make my own luck in ’13!”

Jim Plavecsky (DWM blogger, Windowtech Sales): “I learned that certain window and door companies are extremely adaptive to changing market conditions and can flourish under the harshest economic climate much like animal and plant species have adapted to changing circumstances at the expense of their competitors. Those that survive and flourish are the ones that truly understand their cost structure and manage their profits by refusing to compete merely on the basis of price. They also seem to be the ones who have broad-based management structures that empower their people to make decisions at all levels instead of having to send decisions up the chain of command and then back down. The result is that they are extremely quick on their feet and more responsive to customer needs.”

Mark Milanese (DWM blogger, Milanese Remodeling): “The competition is fierce and the economy continues to be sluggish, it is more important than ever to promote customer loyalty, offer a wide range of products and financing options and to clearly differentiate our product and service from others!”

Best tax analogy: A reader sent me the following humorous message this week and although I always stay away from politics I just had to pass on: The tax system explained in beer. It’s gone viral so you may have already seen it. But if you are having ulcers due to the fiscal cliff, and what tax reform may bring, maybe this will give you a laugh.

Speaking of laughs: If you are an avid watcher of the DWM newscasts and you want another laugh, check out our blooper reel from 2012.

Thanks so much for all your support this year. I truly appreciate our readers and I wish you a happy and blessed holiday season.

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