Replacement Dealer Powers Through Growing Pains

Sticking to core values took discipline and a total company overhaul
Christina Lewellen
October 1, 2009
FEATURE ARTICLE | Operations, Channels, Close-Ups

LEADERSHIP SERVING HOMEOWNERS

 

Power Windows & Siding

Brookhaven, Pa.

Like many companies, Power Windows & Siding started out small. Adam and Jeff Kaliner, cousins, started the company fresh out of the college scene, doing all of the marketing, estimating and sales calls out of a two-bedroom apartment. For 15 years, the company grew about 20 percent per year and continued to add salesman and telemarketers, fueling what was still primarily a marketing company.

Adam and Jeff Kaliner, cousins, and Asaf Shaposhnick confronted their growing pains head on five years ago, when they decided to partner with Northeast Building Products and be best-in-class in all areas of business.
Then, about five years ago, the leadership looked hard in the mirror and realized it didn’t like what the company had become.

“We had been consistently growing, but we were having a hard time managing the growth to our values and standards,” says Adam Kaliner, CFO, of the Brookhaven, Pa. dealer that caters exclusively to homeowners. “We weren’t aligning the entire company with the expectations of the homeowner. We made a much more concerted effort in not just the sales, but how the marketing messages and installation messages aligned with sales.”

Re-evaluating every aspect of the business was no easy task. It was a tiring and extremely emotional process, as some employees and vendors that had been staples of the company for years were no longer a good fit. “We had to evaluate the people and make sure we not only had the right people on the bus, but also started developing those people,” explains Adam Kaliner. “It was a big culture shock. Some people had been with us a long time but we came to the realization that they were not the right people and that the company needed to operate differently now.”

With Asaf Shaposhnick, COO, Adam and Jeff Kaliner developed a new mission statement and a set of guiding principles to make sure homeowners got a best-in-class experience from start to finish. “From day one, it was always about doing the right thing,” Jeff Kaliner, president, says. “Our core values and core competencies are being upfront, honest, nice, following through with what we say. It’s no magic pill. It takes discipline and hard work.”

It also took, the Power Windows’ team found, a window supplier partner. Five years ago, the dealer was a marketing machine, relying on other companies to provide products and installation to homeowners. Today, they’ve taken all of the post-sales components of the homeowners’ experience in-house. Power Windows has also teamed up with Northeast Building Products for its windows. “Back in 2005, a big change in our company was to do our own installation and going direct to a manufacturer for our products,” explains Adam Kaliner. “It wasn’t about lowering our cost. We were able to get a higher quality window that would perform better for the homeowner.”

Drawing on the energy and entrepreneurial spirit of college students, Power Windows & Siding had humble beginnings near the University of Delaware. Today, the company generates about $75 million annually in revenues.

The growing pains, it turns out, was worth it for the company. At the start of the overhaul, Power Windows & Siding was doing about $17 million a year in revenue. In just five short years, it has grown to about $75 million in revenue. “To really revamp the entire company, we put everything under a microscope to be the best in class,” Adam Kaliner says. “We wanted to get back to creating a gratifying experience for the homeowner and at the same time being a great place to work.”

Outsiders have noticed the change as well. “Power Windows always displays nothing but true professionalism in their entire organization, from the sales people in the field to the uniformed installation staff,” says Alan Levin, president and CEO of Northeast Building Products, the Philadelphia-based window manufacturer. “They grow year after year in size … [and] have always displayed core values of truth and honesty in all their business dealings, with suppliers and the most important people, the customers. They service everything that they sell and they recognize the importance of a happy customer.”

BROTHERLY BACKGROUND
As students at the University of Maryland, the eventual founders of Power Windows & Siding started selling windows part-time while enrolled in college through a connection they had with a fraternity alumnus. Because of that part-time job, Adam Kaliner opted to recreate a similar model—drawing on the energy and entrepreneurial spirit of students—with a Delaware college. “Adam had a contact who was able to provide materials and installation,” Jeff Kaliner explains. “We started out as a marketing company—we really could have been selling anything but we had the contacts in windows. We looked like we were about 15 [years old], but the first people on the phone and in sales were students from the University of Delaware.”

After only a few months working out of a two-bedroom apartment, Power Windows relocated to a small office and, among those early hires, eventual COO Shaposhnick came on board. Through telemarketing and local canvassing, the company grew, bringing on one or two salespeople and telemarketers per year. “A few years later, we opened a second location in New Jersey to open up that territory, and a few years later, opened up another location in Pennsylvania,” recalls Adam Kaliner.

It was in this growth that trouble started brewing in paradise. While the company was a marketing and sales machine, it was still working with its outside vendors for supplying and installing the products. The Kaliners and Shaposhnick found that the company was falling short of customers’ expectations. “So we made a really big decision about five years ago,” Jeff Kaliner explains. “There’s a difference between saying you have the best product and actually having the best product. We were with the same manufacturer for a long time and we were very loyal but we were stuck in the zone. We didn’t feel we were satisfying homeowners the way we should.”

BACK TO BASICS
In addition to making some difficult decisions about pruning the employee rosebush, the Power leadership starting looking for a manufacturing partner with which it could continue to grow. Still, evaluating a potential supplier was new territory for the company. The men realized they wanted a good product, but would need to rely on their fabricator to help them stand out from the crowd. “Who are we to walk in and figure out equipment?” Adam Kaliner says. “We were looking for a partner.” They found that partner in Northeast Building Products. “When we started talking to Alan Levin, we just felt comfortable,” Jeff Kaliner says. “They’re local, in our territory. We weren’t being presented smoke and mirrors, and at the same time the technology they were getting into was something that we were very interested in as a marketing company.”

With Levin and the Northeast Building Products team, Power Windows developed an exclusive product that features the Sashlite integrated sash technology, and it continues to be the one and only window Power provides. “That’s part of our value,” says Shaposhnick. “We present our homeowners the best value for their money.”

The sales and marketing powerhouse eventually outpaced the company’s post-sales offering, leaving customers disappointed. The leadership team overhauled the entire process, striving to make sure it was positioned for long-term, sustainable growth.

POWERING INTO THE FUTURE
Part of why Power was an ideal candidate for picking up the relatively unknown Sashlite technology is because of its strong track record in marketing and sales. “We can’t just walk into a home and say, ‘This is Sashlite,’” Adam Kaliner says. “Most homeowners are still unaware of U-values and the tax credit requirements. We’re the ones that have to go in and really educate them.”

The company also had to develop from scratch an installation program that would reflect its core values. They train their crews to AAMA-developed InstallationMasters standards and select the highest-grade materials for the installs. “You can have the greatest window, but if it’s not installed well, it’s not going to perform well,” Jeff Kaliner says. “We call our installation program ‘Total Care Installs’ because the whole process from after the sale is designed to give homeowners what they expect.”

Armed with a new supplier and an in-house installation process, the leadership team evaluated every aspect of the business to create the clean slate it desired to move into the future. “We took the three offices and consolidated them into one in Brookhaven, Pa., and turned the company upside-down,” Adam Kaliner says. “Soup to nuts, we developed new procedures. Then we started expanding again, up into New York and down into Virginia, again with that focus of putting the right people in place to execute our value message to the homeowner.”

And as the economy slipped deeper into the current recession, Power Windows & Siding plowed forward with its reevaluated approach to providing homeowners with a best-in-class experience. “One of the ways we’ve survived is that we’re willing to pay for an increased marketing program to continue to grow,” Shaposhnick says. “It came with a higher cost, but it generated leads and generated customers. Other companies, in tough times, may cut back. But we bit the bullet. We knew it would cost more, but that’s what we had to do to continue to grow.”

The company hopes to open at least one office a year—perhaps more—for the next five years. But this time, the owners won’t be caught off guard by the growing pains. “With new locations and more employees, it means we have to start building things like an HR department,” Adam Kaliner says. “And as we evolve that, it needs to be the best-in-class.”

“Even if we’re best-in-class in every category, we’ll still try to improve,” Shaposhnick adds.  “We’ve been in business a long time and we were best-in-class in certain aspects of our business, but we weren’t best-in-class in everything,” Adam Kaliner says. “There’s a quote that says good is the enemy of great. We were good in some things, but that stopped us from being great.”

Click here to see our other 2009 Dealers of the Year.

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