WDDA Forum Focuses on Best Practices

September 19, 2011
Meetings & Events

Atlanta–Window and door dealers have "to stop thinking like it's the '70s," according to D.S. Berenson, a home improvement industry attorney who spoke at the second annual Window & Door Dealers Forum held last week in conjunction with GlassBuild America.  Under increased scrutiny from state attorney generals, dealers need to reexamine marketing practices that have been used for decades, he said.

 The second annual WDDA forum drew nearly 100 people to the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

Hosted by the Window & Door Dealers Alliance, the event once again focused on best practices. While Berenson's presentation focused on the legal arena, the day-long forum also featured roundtable sessions during which attendees could share their thoughts on a variety of topics, ranging from lead generation and hiring to cash flow management and the use of social media.

“The breakout sessions allowed peers in our industry to openly and honesty bounce ideas and questions among each other," reported Brian Lemme of Bacon & Van Buskirk Glass, an Illinois dealer offering Marvin and Milgard products. "Once the open conversation began, it seemed like we could have discussed the topics for an additional hour. The social networking roundtable was particularly interesting, especially since we all seem to be reaching to maximize its potential."

"The breakout sessions discussed lead generation, search engine optimization, and social media, just to name a few. This is where the new and innovative ideas were formed, and this is where the valuable networking took place," added Ty Schwartz of Gorell Windows & Door, the Pennsylvania-based manufacturer.

Avoiding Risk
Berenson kicked off the day by reviewing a number of practices that have gotten remodelers and home improvement dealers in trouble, such as failure to include licensing information in advertising or a reference to licensing information on a company website. He also recommended language for contractors to use to clearly differentiate themselves from a financing company they may be working with. 

Noting that the industry is under much greater scrutiny, attorney D.S. Berenson offered advice that window dealers could use to help protect themselves from legal risk. 

The attorney also discussed various discount practices used in ads and in-home sales presentations. In advertising, offers such as a "free patio door with five windows" need to be clearly detailed and it should be noted that "conditions may apply," he noted. Dealers also need to establish that products have been sold at an "original price" before they can be offered at a "sale price."  In general, Berenson suggested, "It's best to keep yourself off the radar," adding that one of the best ways to do that is "mix it up" with various offers.  

One specific area he advised dealers to be cautious of concerned "energy savings pledges."  Pointing to Department of Energy analysis that says 30 percent of a home's energy bill goes to heating and cooling a home, he said it was highly unlikely that new windows and doors could reduce a homeowner's energy bills 30 percent, a claim that has been made by numerous industry companies. State district attorneys are now specifically looking out for such advertising claims, and it's time dealers become more realistic in what they promise, Berensen advised.  

WDDA Business
The forum also included a brief session devoted to WDDA activities. David Walker, VP for the group, reviewed the past year's activities, noting its lobbying efforts in Washington, including its success in helping dissaude the Environmental Protection Agency from adding clearance testing requirements to the Lead-Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting program. Looking forward, he noted, "We're still hoping to get them to reconsider the removal of the opt-out clause."  Walker added that WDDA plans to remain active on monitoring home performance developments.

The meeting also saw WDDA announce that it is partnering with iLumen to provide new online benchmarking tools to its members. The company's Michael O’Shaughnessey explained how members will be able to input financial data and other key metrics such as close ratios and lead generation costs through a dedicated portal that will enable them to see how they compare with other window and door dealers, and even specific categories of dealers.  "It's an extremely useful tool that reveals opportunities for improvement," he noted.  The next step will be the creation of a WDDA work group to determine what types of data to collect and track, he concluded, urging particpation from attendees.

 Retired Marine Donny Daughenbaugh, left, presenting an award to Joe Beisler of THV Compozit Windows & Doors, recognizing the company's recent contribution of windows to a veteran's home.

The WDDA session included a talk from Donny Daughenbaugh, a former Marine who was severely injured in Iraq and has since recovered and now works with other severely injured veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. He recounted his own struggles, and representing the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, Daughenbaugh also presented an award to WDDA member THV Compozit Windows & Doors. The company recently donated noise-reducing, energy-efficient windows for a home specially built for a severely-wounded veteran requiring a quiet environment as he suffers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“There is no sophomore slump here,” said Jim Lett, president of A.B.E. Doors & Windows and a WDDA advisory committee member, commenting on the overall event. “The energy, the best practices discussions and the peer-to-peer networking once again exceeded expectations.”