Volume 39, Issue 9, September  2004

Making Waves
Higher Learning: Contract Glazier Launches Corporate University
by Jennifer Fink

As a result of ongoing strategic planning, Eagan, Minn.-based Enclos Corp. is set to launch Enclos University (Enclos U), the first of it’s kind within the curtainwall industry, in early October. The goal of Enclos U is simple: tap into the vast knowledge of employees and share it company wide. By doing that, our company will be able to increase profitability and create an environment that attracts and retains the best people in the industry. 
We have all heard the expressions “two heads are better than one” and “let’s avoid reinventing the wheel.” Enclos University is one way our company is turning those expressions into reality. The university will encompass four functional areas: 
• Training;
• Knowledge management;
• Research and development; and 
• Wisdom management. 

Bringing it Together
Lee Steffens, a 20-year employee, and most recently, the senior project manager for the 731 Lexington Project in Manhattan, is the director of the University. 

“This is an important step for Enclos. We are working toward doing what most companies just talk about. We are creating a systematic way for our employees to share their knowledge, taking a planned approach to research and development and we are applying it in a way that will make us more profitable,” said Steffens.
In order for us to continue to succeed, we had to make employee learning and development a more central and strategic part of what we do. To make the shift, we are becoming more methodical and planful in how we assess employee needs, position-by-position, and in how we develop and deliver learning experiences to employees. 

Utilizing this approach, Enclos will produce customized development plans for each employee. Learning will be delivered not only in a classroom setting, but also through e-courses, which in many cases will be developed by our employees. 

Participants in Enclos U will have the opportunity to take advantage of a number of course offerings, and the course listing will be updated continually as we see a need for information to be shared. Some of the courses that will be offered include curtainwall 101 – an introduction to the basic curtainwall terminology and design; advanced design theory and application classes, such as hurricane design, blast-resistant design and stone usage and design; legal items, such as lien waivers and subcontracts; writing purchase agreements; and project management skills, team leadership, finance, human resource training, coaching/mentoring and presentation skills.

The Teamwork Factor
Enclos has long been an innovative leader in the curtainwall industry. More often than not, however, that innovation occurred within a project team working on a custom curtainwall project. 

“We have come to recognize that not all problems can be solved within the time or financial constraints of a project. As we explore more and more ideas that do not fit within a project schedule or budget, the university will become an additional source of innovation for those problems and ideas,” said E.J. Kelley, executive vice president.

The fourth area of the university is wisdom management.

“The term ‘wisdom management’ stands in contrast to knowledge management. While knowledge can be defined as familiarity or understanding gained through experience or study, wisdom is the practical application of that knowledge,” said Steffens. The challenge for Enclos is to take our successes in the training and knowledge management areas of the university and apply them in everyday settings. We need to actively manage the acquisition of wisdom by our personnel, instead of just leaving it to happen.” As part of each individual’s development plan, Enclos plans to include a list of practical experiences that each person should have in order to progress along his chosen career path. 

Benefits All Around 
Currently, the Enclos U program is only available to employees, but the long-term goal is to also offer it to vendors and suppliers.

“This is our way of familiarizing suppliers and customers with our way of doing business. The goal would be to efficiently share information between our vendors and employees,” said Kelley. 

Shopped Around No More

Think about this hypothetical situation: you’re about to enter a local retail store and you hear a woman yelling at a child in the parking lot. You turn to see a boy of about 8 pushing a shopping cart excitedly. He’s out of control. The mother yells for her son to get off the cart, and the boy, a bit of a thrill seeker, gives the cart one more big push and hops off. The cart continues on its mad dash and slams into the storefront of the retail establishment, cracking the glass. What happens next? Clearly, the glass must be replaced, but how? By whom? In some cases the store manager may just call up a local glass shop and ask if they can replace the glass. Sound OK to you? Maybe, but what happened when the corporate office says you have to call them? How does the store manager know he’s really going to get a quality installation? Such concerns lead to the creation of Glass America Commercial Services (GACS), which is based in Providence, R.I.

According to Joe Sousa, president, there were numerous companies doing replacement installations with very little technical glass or door knowledge. “With help from numerous contacts in the industry, we put in place a network of subcontractors providing glass services for retail operations five years ago. Today there are 6,000 companies in our network handling jobs not only in the United States, but also in Canada and the Caribbean,” said Sousa.

“We’re a one-stop shop,” said Kerry Reid, vice president. “The call comes in and we dispatch it. We follow up to make sure someone’s there [to get the job done]. We work with the best companies in an area to make sure quality work is provided. Subcontractors get business on a monthly basis. It’s a good book of business for them because they don’t have to go out and solicit work.”

Reid says GACS is not a traditional network in that “we maintain pricing levels that are good for our subcontractors. We consider them partners, who should benefit from the work available.”

Customers, as well, benefit from this service. 

“It offers recourse for customers,” said Reid. “If, for example, a local vendor does [the customer’s job] and the customer is not happy [that vendor] could just blow it off. With us it’s an ongoing process, and the vendors we work with know that if they don’t do a good job they could loose their business.”

Other benefits the company provides include handling all of the billing and quality control efforts through its home office.

“If there’s a problem, we correct it,” said Sousa.

And so far, business has been fairing well for GACS. Since its beginning the company has doubled its business every year.

“And we want to continue on that path of double digits,” said Reid

Currently, GACS is working to make the Internet more part of the operations.

“Many of our customers use the Internet for billing and to call in service requests,” said Sousa. “Also, we have added a section to our website that invites customers to call in questions that our customer service department responds to. The customers love this feature because on several occasions it saved them the expense of a service call.” 


USG

© Copyright Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.