Volume 13, Issue 5 - June 2012

Focus on Dealers
Dealer Talk

COMPANIES
Father and Son Team Up to Serve the Window Installation Market
Over the fast few years the troubled economy has been challenging for many retailers. But Ernie Wilding, founder of FAS Windows in Orlando, Fla., says this may just be the year for everyone to see things pick back up. His company, which has 31 employees in locations in Orlando and Tampa, is getting involved with everything from blogging to Facebook in an effort to ensure the strength of the company.

Wilding is not alone in his endeavors. His son, John, is right there with him. In fact FAS Windows stands for just that—Father and Son Windows—the same name the two once raced under through FAS Auto Sports.

Now, the father-and-son team is focused on driving the future of their company. Ernie Wilding took some time to sit down with DWM magazine at his head office in Orlando and below is the result of that conversation.

What are your thoughts on what’s been happening with the replacement market?


The replacement market this last year is a little bit of a challenge. Two years ago we did well—everyone in the industry did well—and one reason for that was the federal tax credit. It made everyone fairly healthy. Then last year we had the Energy Star credit, up to $500, which also helped. This year there is nothing. So we believe the future is rather uncertain.

Without those incentives, how do you continue selling energy efficiency to a homeowner?

You just sell it. I’ve been in the industry since 1971, and we never had a problem selling replacement products, even during the recessions—and recessions happen every 8-10 years, though nothing like this. The reason we never had a problem is that everyone had value in their homes. When you lose value in your home—and you’ve got houses that have dropped 50 percent in value, plus the foreclosures—what do you do? [Florida is] in probably one of the worst markets in the United States, but we’re blessed because we out-market and out-sell … we’re working very hard (and there is a lot of competition in the area).

What have you done to stay competitive?

We have a full appointment center, so all calls come into one central area where we set up all the appointments for the sales reps. We’ve done that, and this year over last we’re up 21 percent for first-time people coming to our site and setting appointments. We’re also doing this though aggressive marketing and that includes TV, radio and web specials and a lot of blogging.

And social media?

I believe in it. On all of our print as well as TV [ads] and website, we show the Facebook and Twitter logos and ask people to follow us and we continue to get people doing so and we think it’s a great opportunity and we plan to expand that in the next few months.

What are some challenges for replacement market?
The only industry challenge we have right now is with the EPA. It’s very difficult. The good news is Florida is not as old as the rest of the United States in housing. Anything older than 1978 we have to test and we do—and that’s the other thing—our competitors don’t test, nor are they certified. We’re totally lead cerThe only industry challenge we have right now is with the EPA. It’s very difficult. The good news is Florida is not as old as the rest of the United States in housing. Anything older than 1978 we have to test and we do—and that’s the other thing—our competitors don’t test, nor are they certified. We’re totally lead certified and it costs a lot of money to keep that up. And it costs a lot of money if you find a house with lead, and we have to pass [those costs] onto the consumers.

Have you ever offered energy audits?

It’s a way of selling, but the problem is you can do them and tell people they will save this much money on their heating and air conditioning and then they hold you to that and it doesn’t matter. They will run the hearing/air conditioning all they want and then they give you the bills and they want [money] back. We don’t do that. We’ll do an energy calculation, but we can’t say we’ll hold you to that. You never know what individual houses are like and what their living conditions are, how hot, how cold. So I’m not a big energy audit fan. It opens your company up to liability.

What are your thoughts on online marketing, such as Angie’s List?

We’re on [Angie’s List] and we used to be one of their top-rated and we still are in Orlando and have won their Star Award. Same with Service Magic.

What value do you get from such programs?

With Service Magic you have to pay for the lead. I dropped that and we’re out of it all together. They take those leads and give them to different companies. On Angie’s List, they charge you to advertise based on how many homeowners are signed up and it had no value in it, so we eliminated it as well. But we still get leads from it as we’re still listed as one of their top companies. But we’re not advertising, so we’re close to the bottom. Advertisers are at the top. You pay for it and it’s expensive.

What’s the toughest thing about selling windows?

Price. We’re competing against those who don’t pull permits and don’t have insurance. And it’s difficult.

What’s something no one knows about you, but should?

I am a big giver … and I sit on a lot of boards for both charities and businesses. We’re also involved with Ronald McDonald
House, and make monthly donations. We will also go over and cook dinner for the families who have children in the hospital.

What’s the last book you read?

I don’t read a lot of books; I read a lot of magazines. I’m a racer, so I love to read car magazines. But one of the most important books I’ve ever read is called The Precious Present; it will take 20 minutes to read and will change your life. I think it’s very important.


DWM

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