Uncommon, Relentless, and Accountable
Our Partnership with Marvin
Our “Why Marvin” story goes back to mid-2008 and the bankruptcy of our then-leading product offering, Hurd Windows and Doors. Emerging from bankruptcy, Hurd voided all prior warranties, prompting Signature Windows + Doors (SW+D) to find an alternative product whose brand promise was more aligned with our own evolution. Early in my window and door journey, we undertook an investigation of every aluminum-clad wood alternative available. We included Marvin in this exploration. At the time, Marvin sales represented approximately 10% of our business, limited by a perception of being too expensive for our target market with margins limited by their then two-step distribution model.
In the fall of 2008, I traveled to Warroad MN, Marvin headquarters, to meet with then-President, Susan Marvin. Although I could not articulate why at the time, I was very impressed by Susan, the people I met, and the tours of the factory floors.
At the dawn of the great recession, we made the seemingly improbable decision to select Marvin as our primary product offering. We believed we could convert our customers, accustomed to Hurd’s mid-price, mid-value proposition, to Marvin’s higher-priced, premium offerings. In hindsight, this uninformed gamble turned into a Company saving strategy as it pushed our sales efforts to the higher end of the market where, despite the recession, there were still remodeling and new construction projects underway and being launched.
In late winter 2009, as part of our conversion efforts, we took a group of architects and builders to visit Marvin in Warroad. While at the William S. Marvin Training and Visitors Center, Bill Marvin, who had suffered a stroke, was wheeled into the room where our group was being hosted, and we were asked, one by one, to hold up our name tag so that Bill could read our names, our companies, and where we were from. I was very moved and struck by this. Bill Marvin certainly did not need to “greet” us in this manner, and our group did not even represent rounding error in terms of overall Marvin sales. Upon reflection, I understood that Bill Marvin was sending an important message. Despite his family’s wealth and the fact that others were leading the Marvin Companies, Bill was making a visceral and personal point about the importance and centrality of the customer in the Marvin ecosystem. Flash forward to the present, the sale and installation of Marvin products represent approximately 86% of our business, and we are one of less than 100 exclusive dealers nationally.
While personally meaningful, this story does not answer “Why Marvin?” Part of the why ties to how I personally approach the intersection of price and value. The larger part is the connection to what I have come to believe Marvin stands for and my journey as a business leader.
When I buy experiences or things, I gravitate to goods and services that are not trying to be all things for all people or offer good, better, and best options. I am drawn to luxury offerings whose brand promise is clear, a permanent part of the value proposition, and uncompromising. This is the case in cars, bicycles, watches, kitchen remodels, etc. There are always cheaper alternatives and, in many cases, arguably better options. I buy the good or service whose brand promise most speaks to me.
For me, Marvin’s brand promise is not about windows and doors. It is not their “why.” I believe their why is about their employees; they established a profit-sharing program and company-sponsored health care in 1957. It is about honoring the communities in which they and their employees live. After a 1961 fire destroyed the factory, the second fire to do so, Marvin remained fiercely committed to the Warroad community despite numerous economic development offers to relocate elsewhere. It’s about honoring the craft. From barn sashes to today’s Marvin Modern product offering, Marvin aims at being best of class and nothing else. Other companies are very successful with a good, better, best model or a value proposition offering good enough product quality at a low price. Marvin’s DNA is to build the best product and let price follow. Lastly, it’s about honor, integrity, and humility, all embodied in my 2008 and 2009 introductions to Susan and Bill Marvin.
I purchased SW+D in 2006, seeing it as my last “job” and an opportunity to be central in defining what SW+D stands for and why it matters. Our people are at our core. We have a 10-year target, our ‘Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goal’ of employee-ownership, as I believe strongly that those whose hands create enterprise value should enjoy a portion of the wealth and have a say in the Company’s destiny. We have defined 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, Relentless, and Accountable, have been fixed for quite a while, and they, along with the Signature Difference, drive decision-making throughout the Company.
I believe there are strong parallels between Mavin’s 111-year journey and Signature Window + Door’s 42 years. We value the relationship beyond its economic terms and believe Marvin similarly values us. This is our answer to “Why Marvin.”
– Gwénaël HaganPosted June 5, 2023 by Signature Windows + Doors