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Trulite CEO Looks Toward Future
by Penny Stacey
"We all want to be liked
and we want the customers and the industry to like us, but we do have
to make hard decisions in these times."
Trulite Glass & Aluminum Solutions
Trulite Glass & Aluminum Solutions was created through
a merger of Arch Aluminum & Glass, ACI Glass Products (formerly Vitro
Architectural Products) and United Glass Corp. under the ownership of
Sun Capital last July. Now, nine months later, the integration of the
three under one consolidated company is complete (see related story in
August 2011 USGlass, page 16). Trulite CEO Jeff Leone recently took the
time to talk with USGlass (USG) about the integration, both the company’s
and industry’s challenges, and what he sees ahead for the economy.
USG: How has the integration gone?
Jeff Leone (JL): The integration is over now. We’re back to doing
business. All of our locations are in a calm perspective and they’re out
trying to delight customers, making phone calls, making great glass products.
We’re really beyond the integration. I would say the last six months we’ve
been very busy. The Trulite team worked very hard. I am very proud of
how we got through the integration as quickly and efficiently as we did
and we’re back to normal business. Our last integration project is in
Canada, where we believe we’re creating the largest, most professional
glass fabrication center in North America. I couldn’t put any more adjectives
on that. It’s going to really have the best equipment, the best people,
and [will be] one of the largest centers in North America. We expect from
this site in Toronto to supply not only all of Canada but maybe some of
the project work we do in the Northeast of the U.S. So in line with all
the other integration work we did, Canada’s going to be marvelous and
it’s our last project that we’re just completing.
USG: There’s been a lot of disheartening news in the industry of late,
such as the bankruptcy of Trainor Glass (see related story in March 2012
USGlass, page 24). I understand you’re one of the company’s creditors.
How does that affect you as a company?
JL: You know, I think the industry’s still going through flux. We’re
going to deal with this together. We want our contractors to get paid.
That’s very, very important because if their cash flow’s no good, it’s
going to affect fabricators. So it’s in our interest that we all take
quality work and we get quality jobs and we get paid on time. We support
our contractors very much so that the building owners and general contractors
can’t be holding up their money on a job well done. We need to make sure
that cash flows so that we can take on the next job and the next. So is
the industry going to see more of this? Yes, it will. Are we prepared
to deal with it with a very rigorous process? Yes, but we’re also sensitive
that our contractor customers are in the same soup and we want to help
them as much as we possibly can.
USG: Grey Mountain recently acquired both Binswanger Glass and Columbia
Commercial Building Products and the firm was one of Arch’s suitors. Do
you think you will be competing against a similarly situated company in
JL: I think it’s natural when an industry that we invest in, when
you see an industry in distress, people will try to look and say, ‘is
now the right time to buy?’ It’s like looking at a home in a neighborhood
you always wanted to be in. Maybe the prices are right today. So are more
people going to try to invest in our industry space? Probably. And Grey
Mountain is certainly a viable company, a very profitable private equity
company, and I’m sure there are going to be other investments, but I want
you to know also that Trulite is not done investing. With our partners
at Sun Capital we’re very active right now looking at additional investments.
We have a number on the board right now both in glass fabrication and
aluminum fabrication. We expect Trulite to have more news in the short
term and to grow even more We’re an active investor and we’re not done
with the platform. We’ve just built it and we have ambitions to go further.
USG: The old Arch’s mantra was “always your supplier, never your competitor.”
Is that still true today for Trulite?
JL: Absolutely. That was a very smart comment by Arch and we fully
support that as Trulite. We know the industry space we’re in. We do not
compete with our customers. Binswanger, when we bought Vitro, was strategically
always destined to be sold. It was a question of when, and we were lucky
enough to find a partner to buy Binswanger. I think Binswanger has got
a great future with a dedicated owner that’s going to work on that business.
It’s going to be a great business. But we aren’t going to own it because
we don’t want to be a competitor.
USG: There is a fair amount of negativity toward Trulite on the web
and a ton toward Sun. Any theories as to why that might be?
JL: You have to remember that we have had to change a number of
people in key positions and locations that people were used to had to
be closed in order to right-size the business. We have to look back and
I have to worry about more than 2,000 employees that Trulite has and their
families. If I don’t build a solid financial platform for them, I’m not
doing my job. I don’t like seeing the blogs any more than any of us do.
We all want to be liked and we want the customers and the industry to
like us, but we do have to make hard decisions in these times. And, keep
in mind, the reason we were buying these companies was because they were
bankrupt, they were dark, and all of these people would have lost their
jobs had we not taken aggressive action. Painful as it is, I think good
businesspeople make decisions and move forward and I think we’ve done
USG: What do you think the average contract glazier will look like
in the future?
JL: I think the contract glaziers, like the fabricators, are going
to focus on service and differentiating themselves by reliability. For
the contractor, a lot of that has to do with project management. They
have to choose a fabricators that provide great quality that they don’t
have to worry about, and then they have to manage their projects very
well. At the end, they’re going to have to have a more robust process
to collect their money, because we all know that’s a challenge today.
I think the glaziers that get through this time are going to end up being
truly terrific companies because they’ve weathered the storm. They will
have fixed their processes underneath, and they’re going to be ready to
handle the growth that the industry’s going to see in a few years.
USG: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
JL: First, I’d like to tell them that we appreciate the opportunity
and please give Trulite a try—try the new Trulite out. Come see our locations,
meet our people. It’s a new vibrant organization with people that truly
want to delight the customer. That’s number-one. Number-two, this is a
tough industry but we’re all going to get through this cycle. We’re probably
looking at the back end of this now and, as we were a few years ago, we
all need to stay consistent, stay reliable to our customers and our suppliers,
and we’re going to be just fine.
USG: A lot of what we’ve been hearing is that 2012 is looking optimistic—are
you seeing signs of an uptick as well?
JL: Yes, [but] it’s an uptick off a small base. So, whenever you measure
off of how much the industry came down, are we seeing it grow? Yes, but
it’s still on a relatively small scale. We just have to keep that in perspective.
But, you know what, the industry will get back, if not to the ’07-’08
levels, it is going to grow again, so you don’t want to build your whole
culture of thought around staying at this low level. You have to build
processes that can handle the lift that will occur, because you still
have to stay reliable to your customer when the business picks back up,
and it will pick back up. 2012 may not be the magic year; I’m thinking
that in general, if you look at residential and commercial together [in
terms] of usage of glass, it will be ’13 and ’14. But if you look at the
automotive industry, nobody would have thought that they’d be selling
as many vehicles this year as they did a couple of years ago. The construction
industry’s going to be the same way. Just give us a couple more years.
USG: Thank you for your time.
JL: Thank you.
Penny Stacey is the editor of USGlass magazine. She
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read her blog at http://penny.usglassmag.com,
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