A Sense of Mission in Serving Customers

John G. Swanson
October 1, 2007
COLUMN : Opening Remarks

One of the most exciting changes we’ve made to Window & Door in recent years is the launch of our Dealers of the Year issue. We’re now in our fourth year—and it’s a pleasure to recognize nine more companies involved in the sales, marketing and installation of windows and doors to builders, contractors and homeowners.

As I’ve noted in the past, the nine companies featured on the following pages aren’t necessarily the biggest or the best, but they represent innovators, movers and shakers, up-and-comers, and, of course, companies that set high standards for professionalism and integrity. Our Dealers of the Year serve as outstanding examples of companies that are committed to their customers, their communities and the health and strength of the window and door business.

They each have stories that are worth telling and definitely worth reading. We can all learn from their successes—whether tied to specific aspects of their businesses or their overall approaches. I can boast about all these stories—and the Dealers of the Year program as a whole—because I honestly do very little of the work involved in putting it all together each year. Christina Lewellen, our senior editor, deserves the credit for organizing what is a massive undertaking, involving hundreds of conversations with all the nominated dealers, as well as their vendors, their customers and others as we narrow down the list of potential honorees each year.

Every now and then, you’ll hear a company sales pitch that touts the fact that they “eliminate the middle man.” While there are window and door manufacturers that literally do that, selling directly to the end customer, it’s not how the majority of our industry gets things done. More often than not, the builder, remodeler or homeowner relies on another company to select the right products for their needs. And more often than in the past, the companies supplying these windows and doors are doing more than making the product available. They’re delivering it when needed, installing it and, of course, servicing it later on—all while customers become more demanding.

So rather than deride middlemen, we choose to honor “excellence in the middle.” We honor two companies for their overall excellence—one serves the professional market and one serves the consumer market. We also honor seven other companies, each with a strong overall story as well, but highlighted here for their particular strengths in areas including installation, marketing or service. 

Reading their stories, and recalling past years’ Dealers of the Year, I’ve discerned several common traits among all our honorees. The first two, I would say, are mission and focus. Whether their product lines are limited to windows and doors, or they carry windows and doors along with a broad array of building products, our dealer winners all seem to bring a sense of mission when it comes to working with their customers. They want to provide high quality. They want to eliminate all problems and hassles. They want to go well beyond customer satisfaction.

And they have a real focus on the windows and doors they sell. Employees are well educated in the language of windows and doors. They understand today’s performance demands and they can talk about the growing number of design options today’s products offer. Equally important, if not more importantly, they focus on all the details required to get an order right and get it processed faster.

Perhaps all these traits go hand in hand, but I would say, finally, all our Dealers of the Year seem to share a real enthusiasm for the business they’re in. They are led by individuals who love what they’re doing. They choose people who want to work hard and instill that same sort of enthusiasm within them. A big part of that, yes, is the entrepreneurial spirit. But I also like to think there’s something specifically window-and-door-related about it too. It’s been noted on more than one occasion that people entering into the window and door industry have about five years before they become “lifers.” Sure, we might change jobs, but we somehow stay in windows and doors.

Whether or not you need to be a “lifer” to be one of our Dealers of the Year, I don’t know, but it certainly takes a unique combination of mission, focus and enthusiasm that we not only want to honor, but promote and encourage because it will only make our industry stronger and more successful as a whole.