40 Years of Excellence
THE SIGNATURE WINDOWS + DOORS STORY
2022 marks the end of a year-long celebration of Signature Windows + Doors’ (“SW+D” or the Company) 40th anniversary. I am reflecting on the Company’s journey, and the intersection with my journey with the Company starting 16 years ago.
SW+D started life in 1981 as Rocky Mountain Solar Glass and was initially incorporated as a workers cooperative. It evolved from a focus on glazing for passive solar applications to a distributor of windows and doors. Along the way, one member of the cooperative and his brother became majority owners. The company expanded into its Boulder roots from the Ft. Collins and Denver markets. The Company was profitable and enjoyed long-standing customer relationships. Then, in late 2006, I, along with investors, purchased the Company.
My journey began in France, the product of a child born in WWII and another born in the Jim Crow South. After earning a degree from the University of Colorado, I worked in cable television and for several technology companies.
During my first year at the Company, I worked to understand the business, its people, its markets, and its customers. My commitment to the board was to end year one with metrics no worse than at the time of the acquisition. Shortly after the first anniversary, the Great Recession hit. Our survival was very much in doubt and rocked by a series of challenges, including the bankruptcy of our principal supplier, the calling of our bank loan despite following all covenants, and significant operating losses requiring cash infusions from myself and the investors.
Crises serve to bring clarity and drive action. We decided to hold on to the “A” players, carrying more payroll than required, a decision that would be instrumental to our recovery. We used the crises as an opportunity to consolidate warehouse, service, and delivery operations, saving money and laying the foundation for future service excellence.
The years 2010 – 2017 brought different and more significant challenges. In the post-Great Recession marketplace, we had to figure out what the Company stood for, why it existed, and what it was aiming to become. Counter-balancing the challenges, our relationship with the Marvin brand developed over those years, starting as the core product offering, evolving to buying Marvin products directly, and arriving at being designated an Exclusive Dealer, joining a select group of U.S. retailers. Our level of Marvin purchases provided SW+D preferential pricing, service and warranty support, and the ability to provide input under NDA on new product and service offerings.
THE SIGNATURE DIFFERENCE
We evolved from a company that offered products to being a company that prioritized delivering on what we call the Signature Difference; Superior Window and Door Solutions through Excellence in Execution. Excellence in Execution has become further defined as; Delivering the Desired Result while providing the best Experience to the Customer and the Company. Our values, Uncommon, Accountable, and Relentless, have become the foundation for hiring and retaining talent. Together the Signature Difference and our Values influence every decision at every level of the Company. Studying the market through the Signature Difference prompted the creation of our Glass Wall Systems business unit to meet the fast-growing demand for European product offerings, modern designs, and large expanses of glass.
The most transformational change was the acquisition of the Company’s longstanding installation subcontractor. In addition to integrating installation services as part of the Signature Difference and capturing all the operating margin under one company, SW+D gained an operational leader in Ben Anastasio. He has become a trusted partner in my efforts to propel the Company toward its future.
Today, the Company employs 40 people, is an industry leader, and is strongly profitable. I have learned a great deal. Through the support and partnership of members of the leadership team and the incredible group of people who are committed to the SW+D journey, I am the leader I envisioned.
Part of my growth and development came from outside the company. In 2013, I had the honor of joining the board of Namaste Solar as one of two external board members. Namaste is a successful workers cooperative founded by Blake Jones, who has become a mentor and friend. Through the relationship with Blake, I also have the honor of serving on the board and being a member of the Kachuwa Impact Fund. Kachuwa Impact Fund, itself a worker cooperative, is focused on real estate and company investments targeting entities led by women and people of color, serving underserved communities, among other social impact themes. I am also past board chair of Hunger Free Colorado, a not-for-profit working to end hunger in Colorado.
Namaste Solar and Kachuwa Impact Fund exposed me to the benefits of the employee-owned company, including the level of cultural buy-in, how employees value being respected and honored, and the level of decision-making left in team members’ hands. I have gained more understanding of people and leadership, allowing me to be a stronger and more aware leader at SW+D.
Looking forward, I see a ten-year horizon which would put me at 26 years with the Company when 20 years was the target I set at the time of the acquisition. At the heart of this change is that I still have fun, and there’s more work ahead! I’m mindful of the need to create and implement a succession plan so that the Company is a good place for its employees and customers long after I transition to what I plan to be largely philanthropic affairs. I don’t yet know what this plan will look like but achieving success is my most important work.
– Gwénaël HaganPosted July 7, 2022 by Signature Windows + Doors