From Boutique Door Shop to Major Manufacturer

Tru Tech sees big potential in listening to customers
March 28, 2011
FEATURE ARTICLE | Close-Ups

Tru Tech Doors got its start as a local door shop in Ontario, “doing the things others wouldn’t do.” A little more than 10 years later, the company has its sights on becoming ”the new name in doors” across North America.

John Careri, president, attributes much of the company’s success to listening to the voice of the customer. When the company got its start, he made it a point to talk to customers on sales and service calls to listen and learn from them. “I wanted to understand what they liked, what got them excited, what they disliked and what got them frustrated,” he explains. And even as Tru Tech has evolved and grown, he still makes sure the manufacturer is gathering that feedback.

 
 Moving into a new automated plant in 2010, Tru Tech sees itself positioned to a "premier North American door supplier."

Boutique Vendor
Careri and his brother Dominic started Tru Tech Doors as a local door shop in 1998. With about 3,000 square feet of space, the company set itself apart by “doing the work that others would or couldn’t do,” says Carlo Ianni, sales manager. They would get the custom glass options or do the custom door sizes that other pre-hangers wouldn’t touch, he notes.

“Our original vision was to be a boutique vendor,” states Careri. “We liked to say there was no door we would say no to.” Working the retail end, Tru Tech soon found dealers turning to them as well for doors they couldn’t get elsewhere. That change made the company “more than a small door shop” quickly, because “our customers kept growing," he continues.

Tru Tech kept its hands in the retail end to stay close to the customer, Careri notes. He continued doing service calls as a technician. “I developed new ideas that way.”

The company’s growth did bring some significant changes, including additional capabilities. From the start, the company was putting together custom decorative glass, but eventually set up full production of its own decorative glass doorlite product line in 2006. “We started manufacturing components because we weren’t happy with the products available elsewhere,” Careri states. “When other vendors failed to meet our needs, we started developing our own.”

Tru Tech also began to see limits to its market reach. “The company was maxing out as a pre-hanger,” Careri states. He didn’t believe the company could adequately service customers beyond the Toronto and Ontario markets from the one location, and determined instead to bring its successful model to other markets.

 
 The new facility houses door manufucturing and fabrication operations.
 
  
 

With a line of decorative glass and Arteferro decorative wrought iron doorlites, it started looking further out—selling to other pre-hanging operations in both Canada and the U.S. Soon after, it acquired a steel door manufacturer.

Eventually, Tru Tech set up two divisions, with one unit to supply pre-hung doors to dealers and homeowners in the local market and a second devoted to doors and door components for the broader market.

The change to sell to other door pre-hangers did not come easy. “Some people wouldn’t give us a chance,” Careri says. The company persevered, however, and made progress both in Canada and the U.S. Much of that progress can be credited to Careri and his ability to talk to other pre-hangers “owner to owner, ” Ianni states. At a time when a lot of competitors are big corporations, he notes, “they say to him, ‘You really are a door guy.' That has helped us overcome a lot of challenges.’”

Rapid Expansion
Tru Tech worked slowly through 2008 expanding its business and product lines, eventually deciding it was time to expand capacity in 2009. That led Careri to a one-time Therma-Tru plant in Fredericksburg, Va., that was set to close. He was there to inspect equipment that Tru Tech might be able to use at its plant up in Ontario, but he decided instead to buy the Virginia facility and re-open it. “I was very impressed by the staff and the environment there when I visited,” Careri recalls. “It was about to be closed down, but the people were so professional and the place clearly meant so much to them.” 

Despite the weak market in the U.S., and despite the fact that it wasn’t pre-planned, 2009 turned out to be a very good time for the acquisition, Careri states. “It’s allowed us to hire a great staff. We’ve also been able to step into the U.S. at a slower pace, which means we could avoid some problems,” he also notes. Another reason the timing has been good for Tru Tech is that “customers are also more willing to look at alternative suppliers,” he adds.

The addition of the U.S. operation is only one part of Tru Tech's recent expansion efforts, however. As it was looking to expand capacity, Tru Tech had also decided it wanted to consolidate its separate pre-hanging and manufacturing operations into one facility.  As a result, it moved into a new state-of-the-art plant in Vaughan, Ontario, at the beginning of 2010.  The company developed a new line of fiberglass entry doors, a product which Careri says is seeing increased demand in Canada, but which was an essential requirement for its product line to be successful in the U.S.

“The demand for more choices and more styles continues to grow,” Careri states. Its line currently has four woodgrain designs which it has developed by “listening to the customer,” he states. “We’ve invested a lot of time and effort into the grains and finishing techniques to deliver something that really looks like a wood door.”

 
 The company got its start producing doors no one else would, and maintains its custom capabilities today.

With its fiberglass and steel doors, as well as its decorative glass components, Tru Tech has launched an “All from One” marketing strategy that emphasizes the service advantages the manufacturer offers with single sourcing. “They don’t have to worry about five different trucks,” Careri states. It’s a simple approach, but it’s the philosophy the company started with, he notes, pointing out that while Tru Tech always set out to offer the best when it comes to products, it also understood “it’s all about the service.”

The new Virginia and Toronto plants have Tru Tech "positioned to be a premier North American door supplier," Careri states, but the company has also stayed close to its roots in many ways. “I’m still engaged in the local market,” and through the active use of social media, Tru Tech now works to mimic his past efforts to gather customer input and feedback on the local level on a larger scale, he reports. “It was all about consumer input 10 years ago and it still is today.”