Todd Whitworth is owner, president, and CEO of Window World, in North Wilkesboro, N.C. The company operates a network of 197 independently owned window replacement dealerships. Last year Window World, sold 1,092,000 window units, more than any other U.S. company.

REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR: How do you train new dealers to run a Window World operation?

TODD WHITWORTH: First of all, you have to pass our inspection process. And you have to have strong financials. In addition, we have a culture at Window World. We've had people come in and when we met them we found that their personality just didn't mesh with our group. The group looks on one another as family.

So when they come in, they meet with David Dean, our national vice president of sales, or with me, and we look for people with a personality that's conducive to being successful and to helping others be successful.

We are looking for someone who is a team player; who understands that we have this figured out. We are the biggest not because we're lucky but because we know what we're doing.

RC: Do most dealers have prior home improvement or window replacement experience? Do you look for that in building your dealer base?

TW: They are entrepreneurs. We have a training facility here at our corporate offices. The [new dealer] is going to be there for a week of intensive training that covers everything from how to order, how to measure a window, accounting, you name it.

Our manual is eight inches thick and covers everything from suggested advertising to how much to pay installers to what to look for in insurance. The entire cake mix is covered in that week.

We have a facility that deals with every type of window imaginable, so we can show them how various types of windows are measured and installed.

We also cover the sales presentation. In every case possible, we discuss with them their local building codes.

RC: Is it a requirement that they have a showroom?

TW: Yes. We set up their showroom. In no case ever have we had anyone working out of his or her house.

RC: You advertise windows for $189, but what does a typical window sell for? Is it actually in the $250 to $400 range?

TW: I would guess 10% to 15% of our windows are sold at $189. We show every customer the options. And when we're finished, we let the customers tell us how to price the project for them.

I, the salesperson, will tell you about high-performance glass. I'll show you all the options. You tell me what you want and what you don't want. I will itemize it so you know exactly what you're getting and what you're paying for. Our average selling price is way below $400.

RC: Who is the Window World customer? Is it the consumer who wants the lowest price, or do they want more than that?

TW: It is the educated consumer. He or she has probably already gotten upset and kicked out the guy who is in the house for four hours. And we are invited in there because [the homeowner] knows the price.

There are options available, and we explain the options. But we will demonstrate the window in a way that shows the quality without overselling. A way that's fun. Less than 5% of our business is financed.

RC: How will the new dealer, and Window World, measure success?

TW: We have a formula where we can show them how many windows they should be selling in their market, and what they should be spending on advertising. We give them demographic information about their market. We provide them with a computer with software already installed on it. So they're ready to go sell windows. We expect double-digit growth from our locations every year.

RC: Is it your aim to drive the midrange price point window replacement company out of the market, or to displace that type of dealer?

TW: I think there will always be both price-point marketers and traditional window replacement contractors out there. We're not a threat to the traditional window business. We will continue to grow, will continue to capture more marketshare, and those mediocre companies doing it the old Tin Man way will go out of business. Those doing a good job of servicing their customer will continue to do well. And that's good for us in every way. I love for them to be there because it helps build the value of our program.

RC: Last year you sold more than 1 million windows. When do you expect to hit the 2 million mark?

TW: In five years we will have 300 stores and be selling 2 million units. We will be a half-billion company within three years. And it's important to point out that that's in replacement windows. Right now everything else we sell is less than 5% of our business. But the products over and above windows, that will be a growth area, especially in markets where we're mature.

RC: What products are you moving into?

TW: If a store has been in business for 13 years, we're going to grow with additional products, such as entry doors, vinyl siding. We haven't focused on products like that in the past. But we've started focusing on them with a strategic partnership with Alside on vinyl siding.

We were in over 100,000 homes last year doing windows. Who knows how many times we did the windows and somebody came behind us and did the siding because they didn't know we did siding. Now we let them know we can take care of that. Garage doors are another big focus for us.

RC: What has been Window World's biggest challenge?

TW: The marketing is easy, the selling is easy; the hardest part is labor. Installers are always saying: 'I've got to have more.' And sometimes the dealer starts believing that. But if you look at what we pay, at the end of the year what this installer is going to make is going to be in six figures.

Compare that to what another window installer or a carpenter or a framer might make. Nine times out of ten, [technicians] make more working for Window World than they could for anyone else. But they have to buy into that. Once the store opens, the installers who are hired are going to have windows every single day to install. The installer will make a great income.

Compare that to traditional home improvement companies, where it's the owner of the business who's driving a Cadillac and everybody else is reaching for pie in the sky.

RC: How long does a typical Window World sales presentation take?

TW: Forty-five minutes to an hour. We do a company history and a product demonstration. We talk to [the homeowner] about their home, how the windows will be installed. We go through a warmup. We want that homeowner to be comfortable with the salesperson.

RC: Why so much less time than the average window replacement company?

TW: We don't have to do price preparation. That's where the three or four hours is spent trying to build the expectation that the window's going to be high-priced. The homeowner knows the price when we get there. We just talk about options. There's no gimmick. They can come to the showroom and see our product and meet our owner.

We don't want to badger somebody to death. We owe them the time that it takes to fully educate them about windows. But we also don't want to waste their time.