Volume 10, Issue 3                              May/June  2006


It’s Good to be King

“Sun King” Jerry Burns’ Outlook on the Industry and What He’d Like to See Done
by Brigid O’Leary

Driving past the unassuming red clapboard bungalow tucked alongside a diverse and eclectic mix of single-family homes on Denver’s south side, one would hardly think twice about the occupant or what he does for a living. Yet the humble abode is rather appropriate for Jerry Burns, an equally unassuming man who runs his business, Sun King, from his home—a home that belies just how successful he is at what he does and those who make up his clientele.

Happiness Is …
A business owner for nearly 15 years, Burns got his start in the window film industry with a graphics franchise. Named Window Art, the graphics franchise utilized colored films for decorative film jobs. From there, he sought to expand the operation and made the transition to a complete window film business, offering all aspects of architectural window film. 

“You start off with so many options and work on finding your focus, finding what you like, what customers like—and what makes them happy,” he said.

And for Burns, it was architectural film that made him—and his customers—happy.

Specifically, it’s Bekaert’s Panorama film that makes him happy and allows him to give his customers what it takes to make them happy. Burns says the manufacturer’s support is a bonus, too.

“They want us to be well-recommended,” he said, explaining how Bekaert encourages its Panoramic dealers to carry a low-E meter with them to make sure they don’t crack a window by applying window film to one that has low-E coating already.

Word of Mouth
Though cracking a window could be a very realistic possibility, Burns guarantees his work, covering the cost of the replacement if the window should break. While he has the standing guarantee, a cracked window (as anyone in the window film industry can attest) could easily set off a series of events that might not bode well for a window film company. A cracked window would leave an unhappy customer. An unhappy customer is not going to refer business to friends and family, nor is the unhappy customer going to bring repeat business, either. 

“I don’t think you can make it in this business without repeat and referral business,” he said.”

So says a man who owes 60 percent of business to referrals and repeat business; and when the homes cost upward of $350,000 each, repeat and referral business is pretty darn lucrative. 

You read that correctly: Burns works primarily with people whose houses cost at least $350,000 in the Denver area. He’s almost found a niche market, too: engineers.

“It’s amazing how many engineers want their windows tinted,” he said, noting that he has taken an informal survey of his clients as to their occupation, usually part of casual conversation with the client while installs the film. 

“Engineers have a real appreciation for energy conservation.”

The Man with the Plan
Energy conservation, Burns says, is the untapped market for the industry.

“I’d like to see the creation of consciousness in the public mind for cutting energy costs,” he said. “Safety film … there’s a market for it on the coast; security film, yeah, there’s a market in high-crime areas and areas where there is a strong government presence, but everyone could benefit from energy conservation. People in the colder climates want to be able to control energy costs as much as people in warmer climates.”

In fact, Burns uses the energy savings aspect of window film in his sales pitch. 

“I tell them ‘Never be afraid to tint more windows in your house. You’ll get a 2 percent savings per window’,” he explained.

What Burns would like to see is the industry band together and push for legislation, or inclusion in legislation, regarding energy conservation. If he had his way, he’d see the industry “pick off the major utility companies one by one” and marry the companies with the industry to push for energy savings, much the way the Pacific Gas and Energy (PG&E) has done.

“The window film industry is a cottage industry until we become a unified force,” he said. “If we focus as an industry, we will get more done and spend less effort by going after the right places.”

That said, Burns doesn’t think there will ever come a time when every single window in the United States has window film on it.

“Some people will always be paranoid about window film, that the window is going to break because you add film to it,” he said. 

Customer is Always Right
Though Burns has his dream for the industry and where he would like to see the industry go, he knows that the full-frontal assault on the consumer market is unlikely right now. So he bides his time making sure all of the work he does is up to his highest standard.

“Owning your own business allows you the privilege of worrying,” Burns said. “If I can sleep at night without worrying about the job I did for someone, then I did a good job.”

A 2004 recipient of the Denver Better Business Bureau’s Gold Star Award, given to companies that go three years without a complaint against them, it’s pretty safe to say that Burns has done many good jobs.

“I tell my customers ‘If you ever need it fixed, call me and I’ll come down and fix it.’ You can’t win by fighting with customers,” Burns explained.

He has had to remove window film only once, at the request of a client whom he felt wasn’t going to like the outcome, no matter how good an installation was performed. 

“I’ve never yet had someone say ‘this was a bad idea,’” he said. “My best customers are new homeowners. They’re not looking for function, but decoration and the window film makes the interior look good year after year.”
Even so, he isn’t limited to just residential window film; he does have a couple corporate accounts, including one to film the windows of every Bed Bath and Beyond in Denver.

The Good Life
A one-man operation, Burns keeps a steady work flow and despite the boxes of window film stacked neatly in the foyer of his home, he’s perfectly content to continue running his business out of his living room.

“I always go back and forth about hiring someone. I’m at the point I need to either turn down business or hire someone, but that’s a whole different story. I’ve thought [about renting an office], get a little hole in the wall, but it’s nice to do it this way. I know what happens with each installation,” he explained, echoing what others in the industry have said before about owning one’s own business.

“I love what I do. I love being able to get off work, leave someone happy and just feel good about the job I did. It has its own rewards. Retirement doesn’t look very attractive right now. I hope to do this until I die.” 

Brigid O’Leary is the editor of Window Film magazine.

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