Fast Growing DealersJuly 22nd, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs
Leaning Into Their Niches and Their Go-To Products, the Best of the Best aren’t Backing Down; They’re Proof There’s Life to the Business
While you might expect 2020 to be an off year (and for some it might be), many of the industry’s fast-growing dealers have proven that where there’s a proverbial will there’s an actual way to continue upward. With stellar years in 2018 and 2019, these companies aren’t giving up on their respective markets; instead, they’re focusing harder than ever on their niches.
You might be tempted to think that our editors hunted down companies that continue to grow despite COVID-19, but that’s not the case. As it turns out, those that grew over the past couple of years happen to be the ones that are still growing. Is this a matter of coincidence? We doubt it. Here are their stories and how they’re managing to do it—including a look at their go-to brands and products:
Jeremy Boeke, Owner and President
Year Founded: 1961
All in-house (for doors and windows)
2018: $1.4 M
2019: $1.8 M
2020: Already at $1.1 M
Though K&H makes its living across a range of exterior products (including roofing, gutters and siding), at 40% of its business, “Windows have always been our steady Eddy,” says office manager Jenna Boeke—the bulk of which comes from word-of-mouth referrals, she adds. The company was awarded the Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics. Much of K&H’s growth arrived on the back of its owner, Jeremy Boeke, who served as the lone salesperson for 18 years, before acquiring the company in 2018.
Primary Market/Customers: Replacement Operating Philosophy: Be a neighbor
“There are 150,000 people in our metropolitan area, but I always say it’s the biggest small town you’ve ever lived in,” Jenna says. “Everyone knows everyone or knows somebody who knows somebody.” For this reason, “It’s never just some customer,” she says. “It’s someone who could be someone’s grandmother, so we treat each person like they’re one of our neighbors. We’ve been here a long time and that’s what we want to do. We always want to be forthright and straightforward, and never get into gimmicks or sales tactics.”
Top Selling Point(s): Reputation
“Our referral base is simply huge, and our return customer base is, too,” she says. “We will do work on someone’s house, then they’ll move and we’ll do work on their new house. Then we do work on their sister’s house and their brother’s house, and their rental home. It just keeps going on and on!” At the same time, “People know Jeremy on a first name basis,” she adds. “We have people who will call 20 years later and ask for him.”
Top Advice for Other Dealers: “Subjugate self-interest to the interest of others and be genuine,” Jeremy Boeke says about his company’s strategy. “Do these two things and success will beat down your door.”
Go-To Product or Brand:
Provia, Especially the Endure Line
The company uses Provia’s products almost exclusively, she says, and leans on its Endure line as a steadfast, midrange offering. “Installers love it; salespeople love it; and Provia’s doors are beautiful,” she says. “I think that people like it because it’s something different, but they also seem to like the story. Our salespeople explain where they’re made—in the U.S. and in Amish country—where there’s a reputation for quality. They also like the energy efficiency aspects— especially the airtightness of these windows.”
XL Building Products
St. Louis, Mo., Matt Salviccio, President
Year Founded: 1997
Locations: 1 (plus additional warehousing locations)
Installations: In-house and contract
Revenues: The company declined to share this information but cites “more than double digit” growth over the past three years, including a 38.6% increase from 2017 to 2018, and a 29.1% increase in 2019. Year to date, the company is 34% up in 2020, Salviccio says.
From rehab in the rental market to high-end vinyl and custom aluminum—XL covers the gamut. But it’s in niche markets, such as hurricane-rated and historical projects, that the company finds its best bang for the buck. As a result, this family company has managed to increase its revenues by roughly a third each year—including amid COVID-19. “Specific projects that are hurricane- or Miami-Daderated—those are unique situations in which our margins go up, because other people don’t have the specialties to know how to do them,” Salviccio says.
Primary Market/Customers: Historic muti-family
To help drive its success in certain markets, the company brought in an engineer.
Operating Philosophy: Offer solutions
“Our engineers are trained to figure out what the problem is for each project,” he says. “Then we solve it with a product … we call ourselves a door and window specialist.”
Top Selling Point(s): Specialty knowledge
“At the end of the day, if a Home Depot wants to come in and monopolize the market for vinyl, we couldn’t compete,” he says. “But we know what we’re good at and where we add value. Engineers and architects rely on us to educate them …”
Top Advice for Other Dealers: Know your place and hire the right people to match
“Understand where you fit into the marketplace for doors and windows, then hire the best people you possibly can to support specific growth,” he advises. Meanwhile, “Don’t embarrass yourself by swimming in the waters with sharks as a minnow,” when going for those highly specialized projects.
Go-To Product or Brand:
Quaker Window and Door
“If I had to pick one it would be Quaker Window and Door,” Salviccio says. “They have something to match every segment … and I know the integrity of the owners and their work.” The company just installed a new plant, he adds, and, “The software is excellent; the warranty is excellent. And the breadth of product is so good that I can cover historic applications and multi-million-dollar projects to National Park Services work—all the way down to white vinyl, single- or double-hung windows for a 1,200-square-foot project.”
Rivera Beach, Fla., Tad Newman, President and CEO
Started as a family-owned business, Tad and his father are both licensed contractors. As a result, “We could build anything we want, but we only do doors and windows,” says Tad, whose father has since more or less retired. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this past June, Tad remembers its start, “We were at our accountant’s office and she asked, ‘Who’s the president and who’s the vice president?’ We had never even talked about it. And before I could say anything, he pulled out a quarter, flipped it in the air and said, ‘Call it.’ I became the president that day.” The two carved out a sales niche in the Palm Beach County area, where Tad continues to pin down around 100 to 150 new customers per month.
Year Founded: 2005
Locations: 1 2018
Installations: All in-house
2018: $10 M
2019: $11 M
2020: Around $14 M
Primary Market/Customers: Replacement, in-home sales
Operating Philosophy: Honor thy customer
“The morals and the integrity and honesty that I learned in a small, midwestern town—all of that carried over to how we do business,” Newman says. “Our philosophy is to sell and install windows on those principals. I tell our salespeople not to upsell anyone. Instead, we sell to each customer what we should be selling to them—whether it’s at a high price tag or a low one.”
Top Selling Point(s): Personal assurances
“One of the things I tell my customers is, ‘I’m not going to promise you that everything is going to be perfect,’” he says. “‘But what I do promise you is if there’s a problem or there’s anything in question, I will take care of it. I will make it right.’”
Top Advice for Other Dealers: Build accurate expectations
One of the biggest pitfalls in the door and window business is false or inaccurate expectations, he suggests. Whether it’s product performance or service, “If you don’t accurately relay all of these things to the customer, it can lead to some real-world problems on the worksite.” Alternatively, when customers know just what to expect from the process and the finished product delivers, you’re more or less guaranteed a happy customer, he says.
Go-To Product or Brand:
“I sell PGTI first,” Newman says. In Florida, at least, the company’s hurricane windows add value to a home, he suggests, because, “For a potential buyer, the thought of putting up shutters sometime down the road isn’t an attractive idea … so when a homeowner makes that investment, their property is worth more.” The manufacturer was, “one of the pioneers here in Florida in this industry,” he says, “and they have specialized in the needs of Floridians.”
Out of the Woods Inc.
Sand City, Calif., Taylor Young, President
Year Founded: 1986
Employees: 4 fulltime, 2 part-time
Installations: In-house for replacement; contractors for new construction
2020: Through June $850k
With a name that started as a metaphor (founder George Young left a company known as Wood Construction back in the 1980s), Out of the Woods finds its niche in services that are backed by hands-on experience and know-how.
Primary Market/Customers: Wood doors and windows for new construction
Operating Philosophy: Making good with customers through honesty and integrity
Top Selling Point(s): Hands-on know-how and service
“What it always goes back to is what my father founded the business on, which is the service aspect,” Young says. “Customer service is one thing and it’s a promise, but then there’s also physical service of the product. That’s what differentiates us.” As a former mill shop that used to make doors and windows, the company is capable of solving product issues. “It can be something as simple as a door that isn’t prepped right. We can go in and re-prep it correctly, instead of waiting weeks [for replacement].”
Top Advice for Other Dealers: Understand the business from multiple angles
“Because we’re a small business and I’ve been in it since I was a kid, I’ve done everything from deliveries and service, to pitching sales and participating in architect calls … Also, having an understanding of construction and how it relates to sales is important. I think a lot of people don’t step onto jobsites enough to understand how doors and windows fit into an overall project.”
Go-To Product or Brand: Kolbe
Clarkston Window & Door
Pontiac, Mich., Jeff Weaver, Owner/CEO
Year Founded: 1989
Employees: 10 (plus 12 contract)
Installations: In-house and contract
“It helps to keep our insurance costs down and maximizes income for installers,” Weaver says about his company’s hybrid strategy for mixing staff with contract installers.
2019: $2.8 M
2020 (projected): $3.2M
“I think this year is going to be a better year for us than even last year was,” Weaver says.
After getting into the business through builder-grade products, Clarkston found its way to the premium, quality end of the spectrum— mostly by following market trends.
Primary Market/Customers: Vinyl, replacement
Operating Philosophy: High-quality with reasonable margins Amid the Great Recession, the company began to dabble in premium markets, Weaver says, “when the only thing that was selling were the high-end replacement jobs.”
Top Selling Point(s): Quality of products and labor
Top Advice for Other Dealers: Network and utilize technology
“I visit two to three dealers per year that are just outside of my market,” Weaver says. “I go and visit them, walk through their facilities and learn what they do … the second thing is—embrace technology.”
Go-To Product or Brand: Northstar 1000 Series
Rockville, Md., Chris Edwards, Founder and CEO
Year Founded: 2015
Installations: Contractors, but migrating in-house
2018: $6.7 M
2019: $11.4 M
2020: Was aiming for $20 M and not giving up
A relatively new company, Edwards got Presidential Exteriors off to a swift start—carving out a spot in Virginia and Maryland by diversifying his company’s offerings. In its first year, the company produced $2.3 million in revenue.
Primary Market/Customers: Replacement only
“We want to qualify that the neighborhood is 18 years or older, so we aren’t wasting our time or theirs in places where they don’t need our services and products.”
Operating Philosophy: Discipline and teamwork that’s fueled by promoting from within
“When you have people who feel like part of the team and want to grow with the company, you get a place that feels like home with comradery,” he says.
Top Selling Point(s): Serious training that shows through customer service
“We separate ourselves with our training and discipline, which allows us to provide immediate answers that make sense to the customer,” Edwards says.
Top Advice for Other Dealers: Want it
“I’ve been doing this for 11 years and have watched the best of the best come through but not make it,” Edwards says. “It’s about ambition. That person who wants it more than the next—they’re the one who makes it.”
Go-To Product or Brand: Presidential Series (a private label produced by Vytex)
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