From left: Thiret, Garries, Hershberger and Tucker
From left: Thiret, Garries, Hershberger and Tucker

Robert Tucker, author of “Innovation is Everybody’s Business,” addressed members of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) yesterday about fostering innovation at their businesses. But he didn’t stop there—he talked to window companies about how they put these innovative principles into practice. After his keynote address, Tucker began the Intelligent Talk Show, during which he brought up three members of the industry to talk real-world results.

His panelists included Rod Hershberger, CEO of PGT Industries; Georges Thiret, consultant and former president of Graham Architectural Products; and Ray Garries, government affairs manager at Jeld-Wen.

Tucker on Innovation

Before launching into his talk show Tucker told attendees a thing or two about innovation. Following are a few steps on his roadmap:

  1. Employ an unleash opportunity mindset;
  2. Upgrade your innovation process;
  3. Think ahead of the curve;
  4. Cultivate the culture (of innovation); and
  5. Involve everybody in the enterprise.

It’s not easy however, and it’s not all about new products and technologies; for example, it could be a new pricing structure, said Tucker.

He reminded attendees to ask employees for ideas and to keep in mind that it takes 80-100 ideas to get to one good one.  He also pointed out that no one is too busy for innovation. “This is the time to improve you processes,” he said. “There is never a good time.”

Intelligent Talk

When Tucker interviewed Hershberger, the PGT CEO gave an example of how all employees came up with unique ideas, for example, after Hurricane Charlie.

“Employees knew people needed help and management didn’t really do anything. The employees just took over,” he said.

Hershberger said that the company does have an open-door policy but he doesn’t wait for employees to come knocking.

“You have to go where they are,” he said.

“The management you cultivated there is amazing,” said Tucker.

At PGT there are 1,100 employees and innovation definitely is on display. But the next guest, Thiret, showed that you don’t need several hundred employees and sometimes innovation comes out of “survival.”

Thiret told of how he came in as president of Graham in 1993 when the company was $13 million dollars in debt, and had 40 employees.

“It was survival at that point,” he recalled.  But he took the time to make some very different decisions.

“The Northeast was our comfort zone and I made the decision that we needed to go to other markets,” he said. Out-of-the-box thinking, coupled with the “right people,” caused Graham to grow to 400 employees by the end of 1998.

Garries rounded out the session and reminded companies of the importance of working with their suppliers—and getting to them early.

“We ask our suppliers early what they are working on,” said Garries. The company recently came out with a new product made up of three different materials and all suppliers were involved.

AAMA’s Annual Meeting continues through Wednesday. Stay tuned to™ for more news and reports from the event.