Staying the Course

Walker Windows Sticks to Professionals, Stands Apart with Service
Christina Lewellen
October 12, 2011
SPECIAL FEATURES | Operations, Channels, Close-Ups

 
Overall Excellence

LEADERSHIP IN THE PROFESSIONAL MARKET


Walker Windows
 

Anaheim, Calif.

 

Staying on course during a storm is something Walker Windows has perfected. The Anaheim, Calif.-based window dealer was founded to serve professionals and grew during the boom years as its builders and general contractors rode the wave of inflated building demand. As the tide turned, however, many window and door companies began serving homeowners in a retrofit capacity to supplement weaker demand on the new construction side of the business. The leadership of Walker Windows decided to stick with its roots and stand by its professional customers.
 
 Walker Windows provides a variety of services to meet the needs of production and multifamily builders.
 
“Going through this really big dip in the economy is going to show a lot of my builders that I’ve been here through thick and thin,” says Troy Jenkins, founder and owner of Walker Windows. “I didn’t change my name or deviate from my business plan that I’ve had from day one. I think we’ll be a stronger and more desired company from a customer standpoint.”
It seems the production and custom home builders, building owners and general contractors that Walker Windows serves would agree. Where the new construction segment stands currently in its still-recovering business cycle, decision makers have plenty of choice when it comes to selecting a window and door vendor. Those who select Walker Windows, however, have plenty of kind words for the company and an impressive degree of loyalty.
“When we are focused on solving a problem, we need access to quick resources,” says Tim Mustard, an associate with Thomas Cox Architects, a Los Angeles firm. “Walker Windows has been the type of company that is always accessible, personable and willing to come along side and help us come to the solutions that work best for the clients.”
Jeremy Flynn, a sales manager with Milgard Windows & Doors, points out that this commitment to partnering with customers sets Walker Windows apart during a market in which many competitors are scrambling to grab a limited number of jobs. “The Walker team separates themselves from their competitors by being seen as a trusted advisor,” he says. “Their reputation with their customers is one of service, quality and partnership.”
STICKING TO ITS ROOTS
Jenkins started in 1999 as many do in the industry—from humble origins in a small apartment in Huntington Beach, Calif. From the start, the objective of Walker Windows was to have a company that would bridge the gap between multiple window manufacturers and production builders.
 
 Troy Jenkins keeps Walker Windows focused on new construction, but likes to adopt best practices from the replacement window business.
“I started out in the industry as a salesman for a manufacturer, selling direct to new home builders,” Jenkins explains. “I knew of some other manufacturers who sold through dealer networks but none of those dealers were going after the customers. So that’s what I did. I started in multifamily apartments because that’s where my customer base was. We grew it from there, got our name out in the market and started taking on some single-family builders.”
Jenkins was committed to sticking to new construction business. “I stay away from the replacement market,” he notes. “It’s very saturated.”
What he does, however, is take the best practices of a replacement dealer and apply it to the new construction market. Walker Windows buys from national manufacturers, including Milgard and Andersen, who no longer sell direct. The manufacturers have the benefit of a specialist to deal with the professional customers and the builders and contractors get the high-touch service they need for complex projects. “I’m that bridge that a lot of manufacturers like to use because I do a good job on taking their product and making sure it’s applied the right way to the project,” he explains. “The builders come to me because they’re not locked into a particular manufacturer. We may do vinyl on this project, maybe aluminum or wood clad on another. We cover a broad spectrum of products.”
Walker Windows also installs as much as 80 percent of the products it sells, Jenkins notes, bringing a level of quality and consistency that builders may not find if they’re using framers to install fenestration products.
 
 Walker crews install about 80 percent of the products it sells, providing customers with a higher level of quality and consistency.
“When I first started, I had no choice but to use subcontractors,” says Jenkins. “But I realized early on that there’s a lack of control and consistency that comes with that. Today, we use all of our own employees. And about four or five years ago, we hired a full-time quality manager. My theory was—just like when you’re in school—if someone’s checking your work, you’ll do a better job.”
Jenkins points out that hiring a full-time employee to do nothing but ensure that Walker Windows’ teams are installing products at the highest level of quality was a leap of faith financially, but one that he believed would pay off with his professional customers. “If we’re installing 300 or 400 windows a week, that’s just too much to assume that the work is quality,” he says. “So I take the extra expense to check it to make sure it’s going to be the quality I expect.”
This quality control has raised the bar for his local competitors, Jenkins has noticed. “We’re changing the industry a little bit in the area we service because I’ve heard from our customers, even with contractors we haven’t worked with before, now they demand it. They want the quality check. I think my installers have matured and become some of the best in the industry because they know they’ll be checked.”
A PROACTIVE PLAN
Now with 24 full-time employees and counting, the Walker Windows team knows that the same level of integrity and attention to detail applied in the field to installations works on the front end of the project as well. “Now with the amount of work out there being so limited, you need to have every little edge and thing you can do to ensure that you have the opportunity to be at the table for the next job,” Jenkins says. “We’re all doing whatever we can to make sure Walker Windows stays busy.”
From the conceptual drawings all the way through the last screen that needs to be repaired in the field, the Walker Windows team stays singly focused on a level of service that goes far beyond what builders and contractors expect.
“We have a long relationship with Walker Windows that spans many years and includes thousands of windows,” says Ben Olson, project manager for Regis Contractors, Irvine, Calif. “They are extremely reliable and dependable, and take pride in customer service and honoring their agreements and contracts.”
 
 Walker Windows works closely with architects and developers and dedicates a great deal of time to making sure the right products are specified and that quotes are correct.
Part of what allows the dealership to stand by its contracts is the time and effort it people put into getting quotes and project plans correct from the earliest stages of the project. “Walker estimators make absolutely certain that every question is answered and that the customer is aware of exactly what he is getting when presenting a bid,” explains Robin Newman, territory manager for Milgard Windows. “They help by educating the contractors and owners on the products and their applications to make sure they are getting the right windows and doors.”
Jenkins sees value in developing relationships with architects and community organizations long before projects come to the bid phase to help make sure the correct products are specified early in the planning stages. “It’s a lot of extra work to dedicate time to something three years before the project even starts, but it usually pays off for me,” he says. “I’ve even presented to the city of Long Beach (Calif.). They were after a specific look and I went through all of my manufacturers’ options and found something that would work. They loved it and then all the builders had to use me. I find my path to getting the Walker Windows name out there.”
SUPPLIERS ARE CUSTOMERS TOO
Walker Windows earns high marks from its manufacturers as well. Not to be underestimated, particularly in the last few years with the rocky economic waters, Jenkins knows that treating vendors well, paying invoices on time and partnering with manufacturers to leverage resources and expertise can significantly impact the degree to which a dealer succeeds.
“I realized early on that when I’m competing against another dealer for the same product from a manufacturer, that manufacturer, my vendor, may be more likely to do what they can to assist me in getting the job because we have a better rapport and I pay my bills on time,” Jenkins says.  
Besides that manufacturers like being paid consistently on time, Jenkins also likes that some vendors offer a discount on the bill to keep the cash flowing. “If you pay early, you sometimes get a 1 percent or 2 percent discount,” he notes. “We might as well take advantage of it to make any extra profit I can, and it’s a win-win for both sides.”
Walker Windows is also quick to get involved with community service projects brought to the company from vendors or customers. “Most of the charitable things I’ve done in the past have been presented to me by my customers,” Jenkins says. “If they come to me and ask if I’d like to team up with them for Habitat for Humanity or some other opportunity, I jump at the opportunity. It’s one of those things that pays off in the long run on the relationship side.”
“Over the years, Walker Windows has partnered with us on multiple occasions in donating time, labor and materials,” says Olson from Regis Contractors. “Walker Windows is a great benefit to their customers and the communities in which they work.”
The dealer recently partnered with Milgard Windows as well to provide windows to Laura’s House, an emergency shelter in Orange County, Calif., for families impacted by domestic violence. “Walker is a first-class operation,” notes Milgard’s Flynn. “It is very rare to find a dealer so dedicated to their employees, trades and charities.”
MORE THAN PRICE
Even production builders—arguably the building sector most impacted by the economy of recent years—have come around to the value that comes with long-standing relationships, customer service and commitment to follow through. “Initially, as long as the vendor was ‘qualified’ by builders as being capable of doing this type of work, the low bidder always got the job,” Jenkins explains. “But with the economy, a lot of these ‘qualified vendors’ have gone out of business. The warranties behind all those houses they’ve done are gone now.
“Now that they’re having to absorb all those warranty costs, they realize that the 3 percent they saved in 2009 is gone and they shouldn’t just look at price.”
 
 The growing Walker Windows team strives to bring a high level of integrity and attention to detail from the beginning of a project to the end.
This plays well to Walker Windows, a team that’s prepared to seeing projects all the way through to the final walk-through and beyond. “The service part of it is the last thing the customer is going to remember,” Jenkins says. “It doesn’t matter if we installed 3,000 windows perfectly and on time. If a screen is ripped and doesn’t get fixed, that’ll be the one thing the customer remembers.”
The approach is one to which Jenkins credits the company’s success thus far and the growth and expansion he expects in the future. Recently, Walker Windows spun off a sister company to serve professional remodelers, dedicating more than 3,000 square feet of its warehouse to serve licensed contractors and their customers. “It’s more or less a store that remodelers can come into and show their customers the products,” Jenkins says.
A single-minded focus on professionals will keep Walker Windows at the front of the pack in a competitive market, notes Milgard’s Newman. “Walker employees look to the needs of all involved. This type of approach to business leads to loyalty from Walker customers."
 

Click here to see the other 2011 Dealers of the Year.

 

Contact Christina Lewellen, senior editor, at clewellen@glass.org.