An Unwelcome Plot Twist

By Tara Taffera

For the past five years I have pored over revenue figures, and scores of other information, along with others on the DWM team, to come up with our annual list of top door and window dealers. Ultimately, when we email a company each year to ask them to confirm their figures, a solid handful sends their comments and insights into the back-stories behind sales. Some explain why the numbers went up, while others ponder decreases. Many of those who saw increases are excited to share their successes.

One of the more telling stories this year came from Jim Lett, president of A.B.E. Doors and Windows in Allentown, Pa.

His email immediately intrigued me. “Here’s an interesting twist for you,” he said.

Immediately I was hooked and kept reading.

“Our booked sales for 2018 were $3,985,503. But due to the labor shortage we were only able to invoice $3,583,535. We currently have approximately $800,000 worth of work on the books.”

We write about the labor shortage frequently but this was such a real example of how it was affecting one company. And it truly struck me. It made me then opine on the lack of students entering technical schools in a recent blog that you can read (at

I immediately emailed Jim back to set a time to talk, and he expanded more on how he feels this dilemma is the worst it has ever been.

“It’s never been this challenging,” he said, admitting that he expects 2019 to bring the same struggles.

“We are doing everything we can to combat it,” said Lett, including paying employees to recruit for the company. “We have 13 installers now but I could use two to three more.”

This is due in part to long-time employees retiring.

“This is new for us,” said Lett. “A lot of the people have been with me for 25-30 years and are starting to retire and its tough. We had the sales but couldn’t get the installers. It’s everywhere. Not just our industry.”

I hung up the phone and immediately thought of another question, so I quickly fired off a follow up email asking: Are you looking only for people with experience, or are you willing to train?

“The short answer is yes,” said Lett. “It would be great to find someone with experience. However, we are also willing to train the right individual who is mechanically inclined.”

I imagine that is not so easy either, but all of you should be commended for plowing through all the challenges coming your way, while still coming out on top.

That brings to me to the excellent article on industry training programs on page 22 written by editor Drew Vass. Kudos to those companies who are coming up with unique and innovative ways (hello virtual reality) to train their younger workers. It will be so interesting to see how this all evolves. If you have an innovative training program I would love to hear about it. Send me an email at

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

DWM Magazine

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