Can you afford to take time away to go to upcoming trade shows? Well, most of my customers are still as busy as ever, despite the slowdown in new construction and thanks to backorders. But unfortunately, due to inflation and higher interest rates, a slowdown is just on the horizon. Holiday spending will be more expensive than ever with credit card bills coming in January. On top of it all, with 80,000 new IRS agents and higher tax rates, tax returns in 2023 will be slimmer than ever or non-existent. The first half of 2023 will be a wake-up call for the door and window industry. We will go from an industry that, over the last two years, couldn’t make enough windows to an industry that will once again be battling for market share. So, when it comes to attending trade shows, I say you cannot afford to stay home!

So, in 2023 three key factors will weigh heavily into your success – strategy, people and production efficiency.

Strategy: With new Energy Star requirements taking effect mid-year of 2023, door and window fabricators must make some key strategic decisions. As I discussed in a previous blog, fabricators need to decide if they are all in, partly in, or all out as it relates to the new, extremely tough standards. Indeed, participation in Energy Star will not come cheap, and windows designed to meet the new requirements will be among the most expensive in the marketplace at a time when supply chain issues, wage-rate increases and inflation have already driven fabrication costs to record highs.

People: Manpower will be another key factor. For the first time in a long time, I visited a window company last week that was about to announce a layoff. When I heard this, I thought, “Good people are extremely hard to find these days and once this is done, it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to get these same people back when business picks up again.” Then I pondered further, “Maybe they don’t want them back!” Indeed, the quality of the people in your employ is the second part of the people equation.

Since the pandemic, it has been increasingly difficult to find good people. You can have the best strategy in the world, but strategies are only as good as the people called upon to execute them. This latter point involves two facets. The people called upon to execute your strategies must have the necessary talents to do the job, and they must also care enough to want to do the job correctly and efficiently. Our pastor recently told the biblical story of Nehemiah and his team as they were rebuilding the wall surrounding Jerusalem. He faced significant opposition, yet Nehemiah was able to rebuild the city walls in just 52 days. He did this by getting the people that he called upon to rebuild the wall to care enough to do whatever they had to do to rebuild this wall. He accomplished this by using teams of people working alongside each other with each team working on the section of the wall closest to where they lived. He knew that by making such assignments, each team would care enough to build their section efficiently and to do a quality job.

Perhaps this is why companies that utilize profit-sharing programs usually increase the care-meter of their employees, not only getting them to work harder from an individual standpoint but also motivating them to work better as part of a team. After all, at the end of the day, everyone benefits from the overall success of the organization when teamwork is improved.

Production Efficiency: I have written numerous blogs about this topic and with rising costs, scarcity of people and increasing competition, it becomes increasingly important to make more windows with less people and with better quality. There are three facets to this concept: motivating people, optimizing production flow by choosing the best floor plan layout, and utilizing automation wherever possible to boost output per man-hour while improving quality. When it comes to seeing what is available in the way of automated equipment, trade shows are great places to see everything that’s available in the span of just a few days. Trade shows are also a great place to cut a deal!

So, yes. It is now more important than ever to attend trade shows. They provide great venues to reflect upon what is happening in the industry, share ideas with our peers, view the latest technology, and develop your strategy on how your company can weather the downturn and emerge even stronger in the years ahead.

See you in Vegas!

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