When Liz Haggerty was named president of Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope®’s (OBE) architectural glass and metal division in January 2020, she immediately hit the road. Haggerty had visited approximately 40% of OBE’s glass and glazing facilities before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Then her focus changed quickly.
While Haggerty may be new to OBE and the glass industry, she has brought many transferable skills to her new role from more than 30 years of experience in the HVAC industry. Prior to joining OBE, she was vice president and general manager of global ducted systems for Johnson Controls. She also served as regional president for Carrier Enterprise. In these positions she’s done work in engineering, manufacturing, operational excellence, sales and distribution.
“I really have a diverse background in the complete supply chain. I honestly thought I’d spend my whole career in HVAC,” she says. “I got a call from a recruiter looking for a new president for OBE’s architectural glass and metal businesses as the former president was retiring. As I sat and talked to the team it was apparent to me that there are a lot of similarities between fabricating glass and glazing and HVAC. The go-to market and the stakeholders are similar. The sales process through architects and contractors is very similar to HVAC.”
Haggerty says that when she stepped into the role, her main focus was on continuing to develop and grow the front end of the business and improve customer service at the local service level. By the time the company was impacted by COVID-19, she understood how it operates in a normal environment. OBE’s first step in addressing the pandemic was to transition the company operationally by ensuring its employees were healthy and safe. The company was considered an essential business and, as the pandemic began, work accelerated on healthcare projects. Haggerty implemented CDC guidelines to make sure OBE was operating safely.
“Then we focused on how to support our customers. In the beginning, we worked on creating the most touchless environment we could with our customers while still servicing them,” she says.
Haggerty explains that the company had to implement new approaches to its will call and delivery procedures while helping customers whose jobs were shut down.
“Once we were settled, we started thinking about what would happen in the market,” she says.
This involved being fluid in how the business handled each of its individual locations and their needs as the COVID-19 pandemic evolved. It was also important to support customers in the new digital environment, which accelerated the launch of new tools such as SystemSelect. This online tool gives designers and specifiers the ability to compare products’ performance and specifications easily.
On the product side, the company released its SecureOne shield for healthcare workers and glass partitions for commercial spaces.
“Many people are focusing on plexiglass but we feel that glass is a better long-term solution in terms of durability and sanitation,” says Haggerty. “We’ve worked with glaziers to help them understand how they can promote themselves in this space and create value for their local business in a way in which maybe they weren’t before.”
Haggerty also says OBE has been looking at market predictions for non-residential construction, anticipating how it may need to pivot toward remodel work and what that would look like.
“We want to make sure we have the right tools and products to support our customers in a different way and help them find opportunities,” she says.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on OBE, Haggerty says that many in the industry were doing contingency planning prior to the crisis in anticipation of a recession. She says COVID-19 has accelerated a lot of that work.
Her goals going forward are to continue to find ways to support her customers by building more digital capabilities and interfaces.
“As the situation has gotten calmer a lot of our sales team have wanted to go visit customers, but many of our customers have said they’d rather be supported virtually, at least for the time being. Similarly to us, they have gotten leaner in their own organizations and want to keep their own employees safe,” says Haggerty. “We’ve seen an accelerated focus on digital tools. Now we need to make sure we can be as agile and nimble in the market as possible to be able to support our customers going forward.”
Haggerty says that even with the challenges she’s faced due to the pandemic, she is thrilled to be a part of OBE and the glass industry.