Mom-and-Pop Dealers Say With Smaller Size Comes Big AdvantagesMarch 29th, 2023 by Drew Vass, Executive Editor
At the front door of Steve and Debbie Barron’s showroom is a sign that reads: “Enter as strangers. Leave as friends.”
That’s an expression you might expect to find at someone’s home—not hanging over a typical business. But on National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day, the Barrons are among many Mainstreet operations who are proud to wear the mom-and-pop label. Unlike some larger dealerships, their company’s showroom is more than just a place to see doors and windows; it’s like a home—not only for them, but for their employees and customers, Steve says.
So far as their sign and operating philosophy are concerned, “It’s just really about warmth,” he says. “And our customers tell us that. That’s why we know we’re doing the right thing.”
Debbie decorates the showroom for every holiday. And while they often meet customers in their houses, they prefer to bring them into the showroom in Plano, Texas, where they can experience Designer Door and Window’s family-oriented culture. With a local mom-and-pop focus, everything’s different, the Barrons suggest, including how you sell. More than 60% of their sales come from repeat customers and referrals. Meanwhile, “We don’t have a pitch book,” Steve says.
“We just go about business differently,” says Michael Haines, another mom-and-pop business owner who founded and operates New Beginnings Window and Door with his wife, Domenica. “We’re completely relationship driven,” Haines says. “It’s very rare that we just take orders. It’s just not who we are or how we’re built.”
A smaller footprint allows mom-and-pop operations to specialize in ways that lumberyards can’t, Haines suggests. While many of their competitors sell a full range of building materials and products, “Here we are with this 3,000-square-foot showroom packed with displays of nothing but doors and windows,” he says. “Every salesperson on my team—including myself—that’s all we do.”
Around 80% of New Beginnings’ sales come from builders, architects and developers, the majority of which are within a 30-minute drive to the company’s showroom. And despite going up against numerous large competitors, with a team of just 10 employees, Haines’ company does around $6 million in sales per year. Neither Haines nor the Barrons say they feel disadvantaged by their size, nor do they back down from larger competitors. The Barrons even placed their showroom directly across from a major big-box retailer.
“You pull out of Home Depot, you look up and there it is—an 18-foot sign for Designer Door and Window,” Steve Barron says. “We’ve never felt disadvantaged,” he adds. “Actually, we feel more like we have an upper hand, in many ways. We’re small, nimble and can turn on a dime.”
With New Beginnings, “We have low overhead,” Haines says. “We can get as down and dirty as anybody.”
Part of the company’s “scrappiness” comes from its culture, which Haines says is easier to instill through a smaller-sized business. It’s also easier to be customer-focused when the business is based around family, both owners suggest. The Barrons have been married for 48 years. Their son and daughter-in-law both work for the company, along with 15 employees across sales and installations—all of which they say are “like family.”
Haines built New Beginnings from the ground up with his wife. At this point, marriage and family are inextricable from the business, he says. With mom-and-pop operations, “It often starts with family partnerships, which makes it much easier to find individuals who match the company culture,” Haines says. “It’s much harder, you know, if you have 150 people, than if you have 10 people, to have a certain atmosphere and to have everybody on board, all rowing in the same style and direction.”
On the other hand, with large corporations, “You have a mission and vision statement and core values,” Steve says. But, “It’s like forcing them to become part of the culture, versus adapting and embracing a culture,” he adds.
The mom-and-pop label is one both companies embrace.
“We honestly refer to ourselves as that,” Haines says. “It’s kind of like a ‘buy local’ thing. People appreciate it.”
With two sons in the business, who started as delivery drivers and warehouse workers, he’s looking to retain his company’s stature and status.