March  2004

The Window Guy

The Second Installment
How Dealers Can Stay Competitive and Profitable

by R. Mark Reasbeck

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority confirmed that there were more than 100,000 people in Las Vegas associated with the National Association of Home Builders. Wow, that’s a whole city visiting my city. Believe me, I know you were all here. I would have been better off being airlifted to the convention center than to find a $5 parking spot.

And what about those $31 roast beef sandwiches? I heard one guy ask if he could finance it. Coughing up $2.75 for a Diet Pepsi, I asked, “Shouldn’t five more come with this one?” By the cashier’s reaction, I wasn’t the first with that comment.

Back on Track
Before I get fired, I probably should start focusing on the intent of this column, which is what we as window dealers must do to be competitive and profitable so we are in business next year.

Since we two-step products, how do we equalize the playing field with the manufacturer-direct (M-D) competitor? In Las Vegas, I knock heads with two, large M-D companies as a daily course of business. There are several things we as dealers have to overcome to compete with the big boys.

Better Lead Times
Many would say that in an M-D relationship you get better lead times. This is not necessarily true. All manufacturers have to have an order-entry process that they must follow in order to produce one window. Having a factory in your backyard or 1,000 miles away doesn’t change that process. And if your market is primarily vinyl, then the playing field is definitely even. 

The solution: We try to keep knock-down parts to be able to slap a window frame together for our customer (I only sell aluminum windows).

National Contracts
The national contracts that big boxes have are tough to overcome as a dealer. It’s like trying to get tickets to a sold-out Britney Spears concert. Somewhere outside the fence is a ticket scalper ready to let you in for the right price. Maybe this wasn’t such a good analogy. I told you this was a tough one.

The solution: stay in your customer’s face. Continue to drop off brochures, intro letters, news about Energy Star®, new products, code changes or, at times, we have submitted unsolicited bids of existing housing tracts. Come on now, what P/A wouldn’t compare your prices with theirs? Besides, sooner or later, the big boys fall.

Combating Rebates
There is no such thing as a free lunch. Years ago, I worked for a distributor who had a national builder that had us keep track of the quarterly sales so the manufacturer could send him a pay-off (I mean a rebate check to the home office). The truth of the matter was that we just added the rebate amount to the front end of the bid.

The solution: Recently, I implemented a new way to combat the rebate. By offering a tiered pricing structure, I am able to entice customers with competitive pricing. The price levels are broken down like this: “A” is for the current project, “B” is a reduced price for multiple jobs and “C” is a further reduced price for increased daily volume. This allows my company to compete with the rebate because now the local division is buying at the best possible price. Note: This is something new we’re trying, not a proven theory yet.

Dealing with Giant-Co
This is where we, as dealers and distributors, can gain back some ground. We are accessible. With the M-D, there is always a corporate chain of command that usually delays decisions, pricing and sets policy that contradicts your building climate. 

The solution: Be available, be involved and be visible. When possible, I even attend meetings with my top (and only) salesperson. It creates good will. The company’s owner is not only accessible but interested in the builder’s project.

 The Giant-Co can’t provide this because they’re all employees.

Pet Peeves
The word I would like to see removed from our vocabulary is “issue.” We used to have problems, but now we have “issues.” Your uncle Fred used to be nuts, but now he has “issues.” We used to disagree with what was said, but now we “take issue” with it. We used to get a serious request, but now we get many “service issues.” 

I think we should sign a petition to get the word back to the real meaning and that would be … You hear a knock at your door and as you open it, you recognize a friend and you say, “Oh, issue.”

See ‘ya in the next issue!


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