Marvin Offers Advice for Succeeding in Tough Times

October 1, 2007
Companies

Although housing starts reached a 14-year low in September and price declines are predicted through 2010, Susan Marvin, president of Marvin Windows & Doors, is optimistic about the company’s ability to thrive. Speaking at the Midwest Glass Conference hosted by the Minnesota Glass Association, she reviewed steps the window manufacturer has taken to continue to prosper and offered advice for succeeding in tough times.

Susan Marvin, president, Marvin Windows and Doors, speaks at the Midwest Glass Conference.

“We’ve seen two significant housing recessions [at Marvin]. We weathered these times and in some ways even prospered,” she said. “How do we succeed in a market like today? It’s planning, preparation and
performance.”

Even in slow times, introducing the right product will lead to profits. Good planning and preparation will help a company do just that, she said. “We have to know our business—our market and consumers—so we can recognize market trends. Right now, we’re looking at an aging baby boomer population that’s starting to look at senior housing, and there will be more of that coming. A lot of people will be moving into smaller homes and moving from the suburbs downtown,” she said.

Increasing urbanization and energy efficiency are two other market trends that will push demand, despite the market climate, Marvin said.

“It’s understanding what’s driving consumer behavior. If we did our job right three years ago, then the new replacement product we’re introducing in February will be a homerun,” she said.

Marvin also presented six “P’s” to help a company succeed in good and bad market times.

  • People. “People are the most important asset. It sounds cliché, but it’s true,” she said. Companies that invest in safety, training and education programs, and offer competitive compensation and good benefits, will have committed employees that will help a business grow. “Be the kind of company that people aspire to work for.”
  • Product. A company needs to differentiate themselves and their products from the competition. “Never sell on price,” Marvin said. “Give sales people and dealers something different to sell based on innovation and performance.” Having the right product at the right time can also save a company, no matter the market, Marvin said. “Ten years ago our company was on the ropes, and we weren’t sure we were going to make it through. That’s when we introduced the Clad Ultimate double-hung window. Sales were strong and we immediately returned to profitability,” she said.
  • Presentation. Managers need to ensure customers have the best experience when purchasing a product. Advertising and Web site design, taking and processing orders, delivering products, and providing technical advice and field service affect a customer’s experience. “Presentation includes all the non-product things you do...it’s probably more important to have the right service than the right product,” Marvin said.
  • Process. Flexibility, organization and a company’s ability to make adjustments quickly and accurately lead to good processes in every aspect of the job. “This must be in place to provide consistency and quality,” Marvin said. “The more agile you are, the better quality you’ll have.”
  • Performance. Good is the enemy of great, Marvin emphasized. In the last year, Marvin Windows and Doors won awards from both J.D. Power and Associates and Consumer Reports. “Our employees know they are doing a good job, but good is not good enough. We can’t get complacent. We have to strive to do better and to create a culture of continuous improvement,” she said.
  • Principle. Though often overlooked, the way a company does business matters. “It may be the most essential business practice,” Marvin said. Ethical business practices mean good relationships with suppliers and customers.
In addition to speaking, Marvin sat down with Window & Door for a few questions at the conference. Look for an exclusive Q&A with her in next week’s WDweekly. To read more coverage from the Midwest Glass Conference, see the Oct. 23 issue of e-glass weekly.