Special report: Midwest Glass Conference
Conference highlights market conditions, safety, customer service
Susan Marvin, president of Marvin Windows and Doors in Warroad, Minn., advised company executives on ways to ensure survival and even growth of a company in difficult market times.
Susan Marvin, president, Marvin Windows and Doors, Warroad, Minn.
Housing starts reached a 14-year low in September, and price declines are predicted through 2010, according to an Oct. 22 article from Bloomberg. Yet, Marvin said she remained optimistic about the company’s ability to thrive.
“We’ve seen two significant housing recessions [at Marvin]. We weathered these times and in some ways even prospered,” she said. “How do we succeed in a market like today? It’s planning, preparation and performance.”
Even in slow times, introducing the right product will lead to profits. Good planning and preparation will help a company do just that, she said. “We have to know our business—our market and consumers—so we can recognize market trends. Right now, we’re looking at an aging baby boomer population that’s starting to look at senior housing, and there will be more of that coming. A lot of people will be moving into smaller homes and moving from the suburbs downtown,” she said.
Increasing urbanization and energy efficiency are two other market trends that will push demand, despite the market climate, Marvin said.
“It’s understanding what’s driving consumer behavior. … If we did our job right three years ago, then the new replacement product we’re introducing in February will be a home run,” she said.
Read more about Marvin’s presentation in the Oct. 24 edition of WDweekly.
Securing safety in big and small ways
Almost all workplace accidents can be prevented if employees apply safety measures and look out for unsafe conditions. Managers can ensure their workers do both through hands on safety training, said Andy Smoka, safety consultant principal for MnOsha Workplace Safety Consultation, part of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry in St. Paul.
Smoka gave several examples of fatal construction site accidents on Twin Cities projects that could have been prevented if workers had followed safety protocol. In addition, he reminded company executives to look out for even small safety violations.
One of the most common, but often overlooked, safety violations for on-site construction workers is improper use of personal protective equipment, Smoka said. Misuse or nonuse of hard hats, safety glasses or ear plugs can lead to serious injury, he said.
“Some people take care of their hard hats, but other abuse them, treat it like a football. These hats only have a life expectancy of 5 years. How many of your employees are wearing hats that are 20 years old?” Smoka said.
Many workers neglect to wear proper eyewear and ear plugs at all times. Smoka provided graphic warnings against doing both, including a worker who went blind after a wire was lodged in his eye because he didn’t wear safety glasses while cleaning a work brush. Workers can also contract ear infections if they don’t properly clean their ear plugs.
Serve customers through employee care
The glass industry is changing, and company executives have to be prepared to change with it, or they’ll be pushed out, said Carl Tompkins, western states sales manager for Sika Corp. of Madison Heights, Mich.
Glass companies are facing a consolidating industry, higher material and fuel costs and more demanding customers. “Business leaders are those who are innovators and embrace change. Is that you? Or are you condemned to history?” Tompkins said.
Tompkins said how top management spends their time is key to whether a business will survive the changing market. “Seventy percent of management does not spend its time doing what they need to be doing,” he said. “If you’re not serving the customer, then you had better be serving someone who is.”
Tompkins recommended managers increase face-to-face time with each direct employee to hear concerns, get ideas and align goals.
Developing employee training programs and a company-wide customer service strategy are also key to success. “Customers buy a lot more than a product. Everyone is looking to share and experience,” he said.
—By Katy Devlin, e-Newsletter editor, e-glass weekly