A Forum for Sharing Ideas

John G. Swanson
September 22, 2010
COLUMN : Opening Remarks | Segments, Channels

There are some unique characters out there to be sure, but the window and door dealers I’ve met over the years usually possess a lively combination of energy, enthusiasm, intelligence and downright friendliness. Those traits typically bubble up to the surface with our Dealers of the Year recognition program.

The stories of the companies and individuals we recognize as Dealers of the Year makes this my favorite issue each year. That has been particularly true as our markets took a beating over the past couple of years. Two years ago, one of the dealers we honored said, “We decided we were not going to participate in the current economy.” That sort of positive attitude was shared by many of the dealers we profiled that year and again in 2009. And, it comes through again and again in the stories this year.

“Everybody else seemed like they were going to curl up and defend against the pending storm,” says Chris Cole of American Building Supply, one of this year’s honorees, talking about this market downturn. "In that chaos, we got aggressive.”  

Hancock Lumber, another one of our Dealers of the Year, traditionally catered to professional customers. This year, it opened Home Again, a retail showcase targeted at homeowners. “I think you’re able to create more attention to a major initiative that you launch now because it sends a very powerful message to your employees and your customers,” says Kevin Hancock, president. “They say, ‘Wow, this company is serious about this.’”

One reason I admire this proactive, positive approach so much is that I know it is not easy. Window and door dealers face plenty of challenges. Both sides of this equation were evident first hand at the inaugural Window & Door Dealers Forum, held in conjunction with GlassBuild America in September. Those gathered for the first official event of the Window & Door Dealers Alliance were able to share some of the challenges they face day to day. The issues ranged from worker training to online reputations to code questions and much more. Anyone coming into the room not knowing this business would have quickly learned it isn’t easy.

As the day progressed, however, it was evident that forum attendees were also sharing their ideas and successes. One dealer would talk about a particular problem and another would talk about the approach his company took. And it would seem that those in attendance got something out of it. WDDA officials report feedback for the first forum was all positive and they are already beginning planning for 2011. 

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but overall, I’d say the Window & Door Dealers Forum presented a lively combination of energy, enthusiasm, intelligence and downright friendliness. It was certainly an enjoyable, informative event for me, and my hope is that it gains momentum in coming years to grow into a true industry meeting place.  I think it could offer a real value to dealers looking to improve their businesses and to the industry as a whole, elevating the level of professionalism across the board.

That, by the way, was the idea behind our Dealers of the Year program.  We knew there were industry leaders out there with great stories to tell and ideas to be shared.  With our Dealers of the Year, we set out not only to honor these companies, but provide other dealers the opportunity to learn from them. 

Let me conclude by offering a special word of thanks to Christina Lewellen, our senior editor.  She's responsible for putting this program all together--looking through all the nominees, talking to the dealers themselves, their customers and their vendors.  And, of course, I'd also like to personally recognize all our honorees.  It's a challenging business in the best of times and survival in this market can be considered a success.  So it's quite an achievement to be named one of our 2010 Dealers of the Year.  Congratulations to you all.