Oct. 1st, 2012
LEADERSHIP IN THE HOMEOWNER MARKET
Three years ago, Window & Door magazine recognized Power Windows & Siding with a Dealers of the Year award in the category of Leadership Serving Homeowners. At the time, the quickly-growing company had undergone a transformation of sorts, evaluating ways to get back to its core business principals of treating customers well and creating a company culture that encouraged and celebrated individuals’ success. Company co-founders (and cousins) Jeff and Adam Kaliner had big plans for the future and didn’t intend to let the prolonged recession slow them down. The executives anticipated adding at least one office per year to its expanding roster and figured the employee count was probably high enough to warrant the formation of support functions like information technology and human resources.
Turns out, they were right. And they actually underestimated themselves a bit.
Learning from their near miss with brand promise destruction, the company’s executives have powered through the recession with a steadfast vision and commitment to its core values. Now known as Power Home Remodeling Group, the company has emerged as the fourth largest home improvement retailer in the country. The goal today is not more sales. The goal is to treat people right—the customers and the employees—and, executives believe, this will mean that sales will come.
“By treating all of our employees with the same amount of respect, and then training them to be successful—that’s ultimately the secret sauce,” says Bennett Andelman, Power's director of marketing communications. “It’s not that we knock on doors or do an estimate in a certain way. It’s the way we teach our people to do these things that are different than everyone else.”
Based in Chester, Pa., Power has pushed its territory north to the Boston area, south to Atlanta and west to Chicago. Back in 2009, the company had hit the $75 million in sales mark; it has since grown to more than 1,200 employees and more than $135 million in sales.
“It has been an incredible couple of years,” Andelman says. “Our growth has been somewhat remarkable.”
BRAND PROMISE COMMITMENT
Power Home Remodeling Group has been on the fast track ever since it was first founded. The Kaliner cousins had sold windows as college students in Maryland, and decided they would create a company that celebrated the energy and entrepreneurial nature of college students and entry-level career people. The upside of the company’s business model is that Power experienced rapid and sustained growth. The downside was that about 15 years of this fast pace resulted in a problematic watering down of the company’s brand promise and value.
“We had been consistently growing but we were having a hard time managing the growth to our values and standards,” Adam Kaliner had said in 2009. “We weren’t aligning the entire company with the expectations of the homeowner. We made a much more concerted effort in not just the sales, but how the marketing messages aligned with sales.”
So the company went back to basics, making sure the support behind the scenes—everything from quality installations to customer follow-ups and scheduling—kept up with the sales machine on the front end. Processes were developed to ensure that the company was well-rounded in its approach and the revised customer- and employee-centric approach allowed for additional growth and geographic expansion.
“It was the platform for growth and [infrastructure] doesn’t get the credit it often deserves,” says Jeff Kaliner. “It’s a necessary evil. Otherwise, you’d never be able to scale the system.”
With a window brand it believes in—Power carries the energy efficient Sashlite line produced by Northeast Building Products, as well as the manufacturer’s expanding entry door line—the company has expanded in recent years to offer roofing and siding products. With an army of energetic, mostly young, salespeople who have a vision of how they can grow within the company, the Power culture celebrates customer satisfaction. The company has about 60,000 completed projects under its belt, and enjoys a 97 percent satisfaction rate. “We make sure everyone here understands our goals for reputation management, based on the values of integrity, trust and work ethic,” says Andelman. “Every employee—all 1,200 of them—must understand, react to and be proactive about the reputation of the company.”
By 2011, with investments in the back-end systems and room to grow in its new corporate headquarters location in Chester, Pa., Power was positioned to truly focus on what executives believed would be the key to expanding as a regional company and eventually stretching into a national brand—the people. The premise is relatively simple, the Kaliners point out. Power attracts go-getter employees who start at the entry level in sales, installation or other departments within the company. With hard work and a willingness to reach for increasingly-challenging goals, employees are taught from the start that there will always be advancement opportunities for them within the company. “On day one, the job is yours for the taking,” says Andelman. “We will do everything in our power from a training and mentoring perspective to encourage you to succeed. Your role is what you make of it. If you ask questions and do right by the customer and your fellow colleagues, within very short order, you will move up the ladder.”
To create these move-up opportunities is a natural progression, given that the company is still in growth mode and continues to expand into new markets. As new stores come online, so do additional leadership opportunities, Andelman explains.
“We’ll continue to expand across the country as fast as we can with the right support,” says Adam Kaliner. “When we have capable people as we grow completely organically, we’ll continue to open offices. It might be cliché, but we’re doing more of the same.”
Having a clearly-defined career path creates a feeling of ownership at all levels of the company, the Kaliners point out. “Whether you’re an installer, a procurement manager or in HR, you have to do a better job today than you did yesterday in order to live up to the standards of everyone else in the company,” notes Adam Kaliner. “In this business, there’s a long series of steps prior to an execution of a successful home remodeling project. From the initial contact with the homeowner [to the installation] and all the steps in between, what we try to create here is continual accountability.”
This feeling of personal ownership at all levels of the company means that everyone is striving for the same goal—satisfied customers—and actions are taken at every stage of the project to make sure the Power team meets that goal, Adam Kaliner adds. “When you hand off the baton, you don’t hand off something that is broken,” he says. “In order to achieve that drive across 1,200 employees, you have to create an atmosphere of ownership. And ultimately, the customer is the one who benefits.”
Keeping employees connected to the Power way of doing business runs through every aspect of the company—from the mentorship programs and the structure of day-to-day communications to the elaborate performance-based contests and companywide incentive trips that take place on a regular basis. Previously a consultant to the company, Andelman notes that he got a good sense of the Power culture before he had even joined the company as a full-time employee. “Every time I left, I almost felt remorseful that I had exited the building,” he recalls. “The energy at Power was something I couldn’t capture once I left. I didn’t really understand it and appreciate it until I got here as an employee.”
The executives at Power organize several team-building events throughout the year to encourage good working relationships across departments and rewarded the entire company—including employees’ guests—on a four-day cruise in the Bahamas last year. “This year, we’re all going to Mexico,” Andelman says. “Even in the economy, when we’re all struggling, the people who work here need to understand how valuable they are to the company.”
Culture isn’t just a result of prizes and fancy trips. Training, mentorship programs and communication also play an important role in spreading the core values of the company across multiple states and many stores. “Our committed, talented team of employees is our greatest asset, and we will continue to work hard to create an environment where they can flourish and achieve their goals,” says Jeff Kaliner.
FOR THE LONG HAUL
As Power continues to strive for a national presence, executives are committed to maintaining the company-owned and -operated approach, rather than looking at a franchise model. The growth may be slower and more controlled—essentially only as fast as leaders are developed within the company—but the experience for the homeowner will be protected and consistent across varying markets. “For a lot of homeowners, their relationship with Power Home Remodeling Group [involves] a major expense,” Andelman says. “The last thing you want to do when you’re putting down that much money is to not be comfortable with the experience. The only way to truly manage that is to manage it from corporate to the satellite offices.
“We really want to make sure that the operations, the financing, accounting, all the major disciplines of the organization are cohesive,” he continues. “When you franchise it out, ultimately a lot of companies become fragmented. You may not understand what one location is doing versus another. It could bring down the whole organization.”
Rallying around a common cause is another method by which the company has brought employees together and created consistency throughout the organization. Through many years of its existence, Power had a very disjointed and decentralized approach to charitable giving and community involvement. Recently, however, Power threw its weight behind Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a pediatric cancer research organization, in an effort to make a difference with a concentrated charitable effort. “Leading up to our partnership with Alex’s, we were the ‘yes’ man when it came to charitable giving,” says Adam Kaliner. “We wanted to help out, but at the same time, we wanted to come up with a policy here so that what we were doing would make a real impact. How much can we really impact causes if we’re doing one-offs here and there? But if we get everyone rallied around a common cause, we can do so much more.”
When Power was recognized as a Dealer of the Year several years ago, the company was on the cusp of the kind of growth and recognition that has been noticed both inside the industry and out. By marching to its own employee-focused beat, the company has since been ranked as the fourth largest home improvement company in the country, one of the 25 fastest-growing construction companies in the country, and a regional best place to work. And despite external challenges that all window and door companies currently face, Power will continue to rely on its strategy to carry it over whatever hurdles pop up. “Things have certainly gotten more difficult with the economy and regulations, but you have to be smarter than the problem,” Adam Kaliner says. “Don’t’ talk about the excuses, but focus on how to solve those problems.”