Volume 7 Issue 5 May 2006
People to Watch
When you hear, “people to watch,” you might think of the rising stars (some of which are named) but you might not think of those who have been in the industry for ages. Though many on DWM’s first annual list of the People to Watch are just that—those who have worked in the building products and window trades for more than 20 years, whom others look to for advice and guidance regarding the industry’s most vital issues.
Although in the industry for years, some of these men are fairly new to their respective door and window companies and are transforming those organizations into formidable forces.
This list was compiled in a variety of ways, including nominations from those in the industry, input from DWM’s editorial advisory board and by input from DWM staff.
The ten People to Watch are profiled in the following pages.
The Duo to Watch
Stephen Field and Michael Glover, Bystronic Solution Center
(former owners of Intra Product Development)
After introducing the Intra system at the iGm/FW 2003 show, its owners, Stephen Field and Michael Glover, returned home to continue research and testing on what the two describe as a revolutionary system. Key behind the Intra name are two manufacturing techniques—Fusion Assembly™ and the new Friction Corner Welding™ to be launched later this year in the U.S. market.
Earlier this year, Bystronic acquired Intra and formed the Bystronic Solution Center, making both the pair, and the company, ones to watch in 2006.
“Our presence at iGm was a market study more than anything,” says Field. “From there, we have perfected the system.”
This perfection includes the re-evaluation of profiles and the discovery that different materials could be used for profiles.
“This allows us to weld materials [composites] that we haven’t been able to do in the past due to restrictions,” says Glover.
The pair is excited about Intra being part of Bystronic.
“Michael and I are the core guys but we needed more clout,” says Field.
Bystronic gave us that. They have the know how to help us move this forward.”
“We feel we have the technology to offer new ideas, thoughts and concepts of how windows can be produced,” adds Field. “We are looking forward to working with window manufacturers to help them manufacture a distinctive product—something that is very important in this competitive market.”
“When we started this in the early days, it was to help the industry manufacture more efficient windows,” says Glover. “It has evolved from there, through the utilization of new materials, etc., that are energy efficient.”
It’s Glover and Field that will be leading the charge when new technology is introduced to the marketplace. What qualities will be most important to making sure this venture is a success?
“Michael and I have a very close partnership [knowing each other for 12 years],” says Field. “We both have our strengths and weaknesses. We are both creative, lateral thinkers, have the ability to problem solve, etc.”
Glover puts it simply.
“We have one of the technologies that will change the industry,” he says …
“We are integrating IG technology with frame technology.”
The company still isn’t saying when the official launch will occur. Both Field and Glover say it is Claus Rieger, president of the Bystronic Solution Center, who will make that announcement at the appropriate time. We’ll be watching.
The Team to Watch
GED Integrated Solutions
GED has always been a known presence in the door and window industry, but in the past year or so it has upped its profile. From the introduction of its i3 technology, which offers solutions for all phases of the door and window manufacturing process, to its massive expansion at its headquarters in Twinsburg, Ohio, GED is definitely a company to watch. Company CEO and president Ron Auletta holds the top spot. He, along with others at the organization are integral to its success, which is why DWM named GED the “Team to Watch.”
What makes this batch of employees unique? In addition to the fact that the management team at all levels works together, Auletta stresses that it is the company’s forward slant that sets it apart.
“Other companies look at tomorrow, we look years out,” he says.
“It is the ability to look beyond the customer, beyond the business and beyond the machine,” adds Tim McGlinchy, vice president of engineering.
Pete Chojnacki, director of marketing and information technology, stresses that GED “tunes in to the customer.”
“A lot of companies don’t go beyond the machine,” says Auletta. “They don’t give the customer time and attention. We know all too well that this is most important.”
“Everything we have set up allows us to deliver on our promises. From Kaizen to lean manufacturing to delivering quality we live and breathe this philosophy,” says Chojnacki.
It is a philosophy that is embodied by Auletta. Company employees say there are numerous qualities that make him an effective leader.
“He’s very organized and good at follow-up. He takes something and sees it through to closure,” says McGlinchy.
He has a short and long-term strategic vision,” adds Chojnacki. We don’t change our plan every other year. We know where we’re going.”
Auletta says he is most pleased with GED and the reputation it has in the industry. And he’s also proud of its customers.
“What I’m most proud of is when I see an effective manufacturing operation,” he says.
At GED, the company’s annual operating goals are tied to its financial plan.
“We don’t just set goals we set stretch goals,” says McGlinchy. “We are constantly being challenged to set goals much higher.”
GED employees say the highest compliments are ones they receive from customers.
“One customer said GED stands for Get Er Done,” says John Osvek, vice president of sales and service. “That’s a good saying, and a compliment for how we handle our business.”
And GED knows about the window manufacturing business—in fact, the company has a plant set up at its facility for customers who tour the headquarters.
“When customers come through we have been told that the guys on our floor are so knowledgeable that they know more than their supervisors,” says Kevin Felix, vice president of operations.
With the introduction of the i3 technology, GED now offers products for each step of the manufacturing process. The company displayed all phases at last year’s GlassBuild America show, in 25,000 square feet of exhibit space, which Chojnacki admits allowed some people to see the company in a different light.
“I think people finally got it. They saw everything in one place,” he says.
“There are new manufacturing facilities opening that have all GED equipment. It’s no longer who has the cheapest equipment. It’s who has the most to offer the customer … This has been eye-opening on the customer end on how to save money.”
So what else can the industry watch for from GED and its team?
“Our growth will come from the i3 platform and adding products to that platform,” says Auletta.
He adds that the company will also look at further acquisitions (it acquired Sampson in 2004) that complement the company.
Chojnacki adds, “We will continue our research and development efforts and new product developments. Stay-tuned.” Indeed.
The Challenge Seeker
Jim Benney, Executive Director
The National Fenestration Rating Council
Years in the industry: 20
One quality needed in a leader: Vision
Describe yourself in one word: Energetic
Thoughts after hearing he was one to watch: "Kinda neat."
Benney has been one to watch in the past year or so as NFRC has been the subject of considerable controversy. Much of this has been centered around the organization’s development of a component modeling program for the non-residential market. Benney offered a quick status report: “The program is 95 percent done, the certification program, 50 percent, but we still need to begin on software database issues.”
Bottom line: Benney says the state of California, under the Title 24 energy code standard, has mandated that the program be complete no later than November 2008. But he hopes the program will be finished before then and urges companies to start compiling information for these databases shortly.
Criticisms have been rampant concerning the program but Benney says this is just part of his job.
“I’ve been involved in standards development and criticism is something you have to learn to live with. It’s not a personal criticism—it’s the product. As long as you can separate yourself from it, dealing with it is not hard.”
Though he does add that this separation is a challenge, it is one on which he thrives.
“I enjoy the challenge,” says Benney. “It energizes me. I’m good at problem-solving.”
But it is trying at times so we asked Benney if there is ever a day that he wants to just walk away from it all.
“Never,” he says simply. “The work we do is too important for the industry and its stakeholders.”
He stresses that NFRC’s purpose is to serve these stakeholders, which include architects, builders, the public and others. He concedes that the industry often forgets that, and within NFRC’s own membership, Benney works on reminding them of this mission.
While the organization has been under closer scrutiny in recent years, this isn’t a fact that rattles its leader. In fact, Benney says it is a good thing.
“This motivates us to be a better organization and one that is more driven by its strategic plan.”
Although Benney is in the NFRC’s driver’s seat, he says he works more like a coach and a facilitator.
“I’m just helping provide the vision of where we can go,” he says.
It will be interesting to watch the NFRC, with Benney at the helm, reach its final destination.
The Engineer who's Engineering Change
Mark Daniels, Senior Product Engineer
Years in the industry: 8
One quality needed in a leader: Willing to listen to new ideas
Describe yourself in one word: Blessed
Thoughts when heard you are one to watch: Shocked
Mark Daniels was respected by his peers even before he became chair of the Fenestration Manufacturers Association (FMA) Installation Committee (for more on the new standard completed recently see story page 16). After all, he’s a familiar fixture at meetings of the Window and Door Manufacturers Association, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, as well as the FMA.
He participates in these groups because he believes it is possible to change an industry.
“When I’m designing windows I try to think that it’s your kid or my kid behind that window,” he says. “We really can institute change.”
Though when trying to make these types of transformations, frustrations do ensue.
“It gets frustrating when I see people losing jobs or getting sued because standards don’t come quick enough.”
That has changed with the completion of FMA’s installation standard in Florida which Daniels says was submitted for possible inclusion in ASTM E 2112.
“Manufacturers in Florida are losing money due to callbacks,” he says. “This will save lives, jobs and companies.”
Daniels spent the past year working hard on this project and is thankful that SIKA has allowed him to focus on this important task.
“We firmly believe that we can work together to change lives,” says Daniels.
“I’ve been in other companies that would have never allowed me to spend so much time on this.”
But Daniels wasn’t alone; the installation committee grew from 8 people to 49 in one year. He says the most rewarding thing to come from this experience was “to see skeptics become full supporters.”
“When we completed the standard, 49 people stood up and clapped,” says Daniels. “I’ve never been involved in anything like this.”
But with years in the industry ahead of him, chances are good that he may be involved in future endeavors to institute change in the window business.
Richard Walker, Executive Vice President (EVP)
the American Architectural Manufacturers Association
Years in the industry: 19
One quality needed in a leader: Surround yourself with good people
Describe yourself in one word: Perseverant
Why are you one to watch: Due to the success of AAMA.
With consolidation discussions behind it, AAMA is positing itself as “the” source for the door and window industry. It is also embarking on promotion of its certification program, which makes the organization, particularly its leader, one to watch.
When asked about the qualities necessary to lead AAMA into this position of authority, Walker says it is the special relationship he has with AAMA members as well as industry knowledge.
“Since I’ve been in this industry for so long I know what they [the members] are going through and I have a feel for what they need,” he says.
Walker has served as EVP of AAMA since 2000 and has been an AAMA member since 1996. He says what he enjoys most about the association is in fact its membership.
“It’s the friendships,” he says, “but it’s also about helping them navigate through the thorny issues, such as imports, government regulations, etc.”
But there are challenges involved in heading an association with a membership composed of companies representing various parts of the industry, some of whose segments have opposing opinions on various issues. Walker says this is his biggest challenge, but one he still enjoys.
He also relishes serving as a sounding board and a facilitator for members.
He cites as an example, a heated issue such as deflection, in which members came together to reach a compromise.
“It’s very satisfying to see people who were on two sides of an issue walk out of a meeting and shake hands.”
Another pleasure he gets is through “plugging” members into new programs whether it’s through introducing them to another association, organization or program that can help them meet a particular need.
When it comes to challenges, Walker says the industry faces a number of them.
“I think the single biggest challenge is designing products for a multitude of code requirements,” he says. “Any code jurisdiction—and there are about 11,000 of them—can amend the codes to be different. This makes it very difficult for manufacturers.”
As AAMA’s leader, Walker will guide members through these and other challenges—and he is ready. In fact, he says the most important quality of a leader is to surround himself with good people. Well, he is surrounded by approximately 400 of them—all of AAMA’s members, who are hoping AAMA and its EVP achieves their goals.
The Change Agent
Scott Henderson, President
Nu-Air Windows and Doors
Years in the industry: 33
One quality needed in a leader: An open door policy
Describe yourself in one word: Intense
First thought when named one to watch: Honored
When Scott Henderson joined Tampa’s Nu-Air Windows and Doors in 2000 as executive vice president of sales and marketing it was to “revamp the sales force and change the business philosophy.” When he took over as president in 2002, he changed the philosophy from one of top line to bottom line.
“We weren’t as concerned with the amount of sales we had as we were with the profit,” he says.
One person who nominated Henderson for this honor says, “He helped put Nu-Air in the game.” Henderson says a number of factors contributed to the company’s recent successes.
“We were poised to do more business,” he says. “We just had to go out and get it.”
The company also took more of a role in issues affecting the industry.
“When building code changes took place several years go, no one knew what it meant, so we decided to go out and educate all parties that would be affected,” he says. “We took the position that we needed to educate our own people then take it to the consumers and building trades. We then flowed our product into the mix.”
Nu-Air posted a 35 percent increase in sales in 2005 and projects an increase in 2006 of 45 percent. Henderson says many factors contribute to this growth.
“Our number one push was to increase professionalism in the industry,” he says.
Additionally, a healthy economy in Florida and increased demand for impact products further contributed to the company’s growth.
When asked one of his biggest accomplishments he chooses to share his favorite story which exemplifies how Nu-Air has helped change attitudes in the Florida market.
“We call on architects, builders and dealers. Four years ago we would walk in and say all the things we do to ensure a proper installation, use of flashing, tape, etc., and all they would say is, ‘How much will that cost?’ Now people ask us about flashing, etc. proving that we were effective in getting our message across about the importance of proper installations.”
While he has been effective outside the office Henderson is also instrumental in getting people motivated at Nu-Air. His employees say Henderson employs a philosophy of ‘with and not for.’
“I don’t want to stymie creativity … I don’t have all the answers,” says Henderson. “I want to stimulate their environment. The best way for them to buy-in to the Nu-Air philosophy is to come in with an idea, then they become part of the solution.”
In addition to aluminum windows, vinyl windows will soon become part of the Nu-Air solution.
“We know energy will play even more of a role in the years to come. We would like to expand in the Southeast but can’t meet energy codes with our current product—vinyl will allow us to do that,” he says.
With this expansion, Henderson and Nu-Air will be even more interesting to watch in the years to come.
Michael Salsieer, President
Kolbe & Kolbe
Years in the industry: 4 - Building Products
One quality needed in a leader: Respect
Describe yourself in one word: Passionate
Thoughts after hearing he was one to watch: “I was really honored.”
Because watching and working with the company’s employees is one of Michael Salsieder’s favorite parts of his job as president of Kolbe and Kolbe, it seems fair that the industry is “watching” him as well.
Since taking command as president of Kolbe and Kolbe in Wausau, Wis., just over a year ago, some of the changes Salsieder has instituted have involved shining the spotlight on employees.
Not long after Salsieder joined Kolbe in 2002 as vice president and general counsel, founder Herb Kolbe passed away. Kolbe’s daughter Judith Kolbe Gorski was originally named president and chief executive officer (CEO), but in March 2005 Salsieder was elected as president of Kolbe and Kolbe and Gorski assumed the role of CEO.
“Being appointed as the first non-family president, I take it very seriously as anybody would,” Salsieder says.
In the last year the company has implemented a lean transformation process, or continuous improvement, as Salsieder refers to it. The goal of the process has been to remove non-value-added activities from the manufacturing process, driving the idea of quality products with short lead times.
“We have literally incorporated our entire organization into this concept, where hundreds and hundreds of our employees are involved in continuous improvement teams where they identify areas where it is critical to remove non-value added activities,” says Salsieder. “What you are left with is very little waste activity, and essentially you’re driving increased productivity and efficiency.”
Salsieder notes that hesitancy toward change is generally a challenge, but that employees have embraced the changes and become involved in finding additional ways to improve the efficiency of the company’s manufacturing process.
“It’s safe to say about 500 of our employees have been involved with this process and that they get up in front of their peers and talk about how to make improvements. They have the confidence to talk through what they see … and they get recognized for it,” says Salsieder.
He adds, “The people who work here really care about some person who is building a home in Chicago or Atlanta, that they’re getting a really good product.”
“Being involved” is important to Salsieder, who is involved in both the community and the industry. In addition to his involvement in community organizations, he sits on the board of the Window and Door Manufacturer’s Association.
“When I was asked to be on the board I quickly agreed because I think we can impact things that benefit the industry as a whole.”
Involvement in the industry is one of the qualities found in strong leaders, Salsieder says. However, respect for others, and the ability to command respect, tops his list of necessary characteristics.
“I think the leader needs to establish himself as a very credible, ethical person. It’s that old saying of ‘if you expect respect from people, you have to treat people with respect.’” Another saying goes that some people are born leaders. Salsieder believes there may be some truth to that, but really leadership skills come with time and experience.
“Maybe people are born with certain attributes that can take you there but I think it’s something that’s developed over time.”
He can point to one model who he feels exhibits exemplary leadership qualities. The Lombardi Rules, about football coach Vince Lombardi, sits within arm’s reach of Salsieder’s desk.
“It’s not really about football; it’s about establishing a leadership model in business.”
It looks like Salsieder has taken that advice to heart—and succeeded.
The Risk Taker
Alan M. Levin, President and Chief Executive Officer
Northeast Building Products
Years in the industry: 31 (since age 7)
One quality needed in a leader: Vision and a commitment to that vision
Describe yourself in one word: Committed
Why are you one to watch: Innovative and aggressive sales and marketing stance.
For Alan Levin, the window business really is all in the family. His father, Irv, started the company in 1975, and son Alan began learning the business at age seven. His wife, Fran, started working there soon after they began dating and today she serves as vice president. In 2003 Levin took over as president and CEO, after working solely at Northeast throughout his life. 2003 was also when he faced some of his most serious challenges.
“One of the biggest was convincing the long-term employees of my vision [for] the company—not my father’s. It took a while, but we accomplished that goal,” he says.
Various other changes occurred after he took the reigns, as well.
“We modernized our plant and have grown our distribution geographically.
We changed all of our products, brought it to this century and redesigned all the window products.”
But Levin didn’t wait until he was named president to make decisions in the company; he proved he was an effective leader much earlier.
Although Northeast was originally a producer of aluminum windows, in 1987 Levin convinced his father to bring vinyl into the plant. He says his dad was against it but Northeast Building Products soon grew into a successful producer of vinyl products. Today, the plant makes vinyl windows and aluminum storm doors and windows.
And the risk-taking didn’t stop with the addition of vinyl to the product line. Approximately 15 years later he made the bold decision to begin manufacturing windows using the Sashlite technology. Although new to the marketplace, he says he didn’t view this venture as a risk.
“I was involved since the inception and went through five years of testing,” he says, adding that his company posted a 40-percent increase last year due solely to the use of Sashlite.
“Sashlite opened doors for us,” says Levin. “We now have the latest and greatest … the investment definitely paid off. In fact, I have four new pieces of the equipment on order.”
With all this success, it’s interesting to learn what Irv Levin thinks of the way his son has run the company.
“When my dad wanted to retire he wanted me to buy his 50-percent of the company,” says Levin. “He is an ‘all-or-nothing’ type of person and if he still owned shares he knew that he would worry about every move I made and that the employees would never truly look at me as the boss. So he gave me a kiss and never looked back. He tells everyone what a great job I’ve done and how I’ve taken the company to the next level.”
Northeast, and Alan Levin, have indeed come a long way since he first accompanied his father to the plant 31 years ago.
“We were a ‘me-too,’ come-and-find-us company, and we’re now more aggressive,” says Levin.
More aggressive yes, but chances are good that customers are still coming to find them.
—TT, With reporting by Lisa Naugle
Ray Garries, Product Technology Manager
Years in the industry: 29
One quality needed in a leader: Vision
Describe yourself in one word: Creative
Thoughts after hearing he was one to watch: “Thanks.”
Ray Garries admits that when he first got into the door and window industry in 1977 he didn’t know that he’d be here nearly 30 years later.
“You never know,” he says, “but there are a lot of great people in the door and window business.”
It’s working with the people in the industry, he says, that is one of his favorite parts of the job.
The other big motivators are the opportunity he’s been given to use his creativity and his interest in helping people.
“Probably the most important thing is to be creative. I don’t think a lot of people really have the opportunity to be creative about their work and I think it’s one of the things that motivates me.”
His positions at various manufacturing companies have allowed Garries to create numerous new products—he holds 11 independent patents, 160 patent references and received the “best of what’s new” product award from Popular Science for a self-adjusting home ventilation system.
“I’ve always been involved in product design and over the years have designed hundreds of products,” says Garries.
Garries says there’s no secret to what sparks his creativity.
“I think everybody is at their best when they’re being creative,” he says.
“How can you make things better and use your talents and your gifts to try to improve things?”
And making things better is really what it’s all about for him. He notes that the basic needs for human beings include food and shelter and that his job gives him the opportunity to help fulfill one of those needs.
“Being able to provide a service to the customer has been very important,” Garries adds.
In addition to his contributions to product innovations, Garries stays on top of industry concerns through active participation in trade associations.
“You’ve got to stay involved,” he says.
A past president of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, past chairperson of the International Fenestration Standards Harmonization Committee and a chairperson of the National Fenestration Rating Council, among other activities, Garries certainly has been involved in shaping the direction of the door and window industry. He says the biggest benefit of being involved is the chance to use his knowledge to help the industry.
“When you do the association thing, you’re playing offense and defense.
You don’t want things to happen to your industry that would be negative, but you also want to make sure that you’re bringing forward things that are going to help the industry,” Garries says.
Of course the job does come with its challenges.
“There are always many things to do and being able to manage your time and talents to make a difference, I think that’s always a challenge,” Garries says.
So far, so good.
John Vrabely, Vice President/Chief Operating Officer
Huttig Building Products
Years in the industry: 7 - Building Products; 17 – Distribution
One quality needed in a leader: Honesty
Describe yourself in one word: Driven
Thoughts after hearing he was one to watch: “I was surprised.”
Jon Vrabely has been stirring things up since his promotion to vice president and chief operating officer (COO) at Huttig Building Products in St. Louis in November 2005.
“It’s one of the things that excites me about the job,” Vrabely says. “There are so many things going on [at Huttig] that truly have an impact on the business.”
One of several key initiatives Vrabely has implemented at the company is a new market segmentation strategy.
“It’s really trying to develop growth for our organization,” he says.
The goal of the strategy is to better penetrate the company’s customer base in the residential new construction segment of the industry, and to grow its share in the repair/remodel business. A comprehensive sales planning model is part of the effort.
Another key initiative taking effect is what Vrabely calls a “national product strategy.”
“With 46 locations we’re trying to obtain a core base of probably 8 to 12 product lines that we can offer across every location,” he says.
Finally, Vrabely hopes to make the company’s general managers “better financial managers.” Huttig is rolling out a comprehensive financial forecasting model at the end of the first quarter.
These efforts are part of Vrabely’s goal of making Huttig stand out among the competition, as many companies lean toward consolidation.
“The consolidation actually helps us because we really have some unique value propositions with national dealers,” says Vrabely. “We’re the only wholesaler in America today that can provide building material products and millwork on the same truck,” he says.
If Vrabely has worked to institute a great many changes within a short time as COO, part of the reason, he says, is because he is driven.
“I think certainly I’m driven to be successful not only personally, but for the business,” Vrabely says. “It’s very humbling to come to work every day and realize that the decisions being made impact not only me personally but the other 2,300 people who work here.”
Vrabely feels that the company has done a good job in motivating its employees to emulate that drive toward success.
“I think in trying to motivate people you need to have a clear direction and you need to communicate that direction. I think we’ve done a good job at Huttig,” he says.
Moreover, Vrabely says, he feels that the company’s decentralized nature helps empower employees to make important decisions affecting their individual growth.
But if he presents a model of the drive and leadership skills needed by employees, Vrabely says it’s only because he in turn strives to emulate his current boss, Mike Lupo, president and chief executive officer of Huttig, whom he cites as one exemplary leader.
“Mike’s done a very good job in coming into Huttig and laying out a new direction for our organization,” Vrabely says. “I’ve learned a lot.”
To stay on top of what’s new in the industry, Vrabely meets with key suppliers on a consistent basis to learn about product innovations and he is actively involved in several industry organizations in the industry as well as at home.
“It does kind of drive the point home as to why we do this, why we work so hard,” Vrabely says. “It really ultimately comes back home in trying to do the best job we can in supporting our families.”
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