Jeff Kaliner is founding partner of Power Windows & Siding, in Brookhaven, Pa., which this year became one of the five largest companies in the home improvement industry. (Read more about the industry's biggest companies.)
Replacement Contractor: Power Windows & Siding has been very successful as a canvassing company. Many firms try and fail to get canvassing going as a regular lead source. What has enabled you to be successful at it?
Jeff Kaliner: If you look at this year's numbers, absolutely canvassing is bringing in more dollars. But, as a percentage of our total leads or sales volume, it's going down. It's not like we decided to canvass and were good at it. It took years and years of focusing on that. At this point, we have a whole lot of ways to make leads. For instance, we've also stepped up our media presence. We're spending a lot of money on that. The key to being successful at canvassing is dedication and the right people. It's not going to succeed if it's treated like a stepchild. Also, it may not work for certain home improvement business models. For example, if your model is low price, then I don't know if you can stomach the cost of canvassing. On the flip side, if you're canvassing and it's not working, it's either because you're hiring the wrong people or are setting it up the wrong way.
RC: Is most of your sales growth in one product ? windows? How important, for instance, is roofing to you?
JK: We have pretty much stuck to our core competency: windows and siding. But right now we're also heavily marketing the fact that we do roofing. We've always done roofing jobs on a limited basis, that is, for previous customers. Now we're going beyond that.
RC: What made you decide to commit to roofing?
JK: We realized it was a high average dollar. Yes, the competition is intense, but it's well-researched [by consumers] on the Internet, and we can distinguish ourselves from competitors by providing a better product, a better experience, and by using professional installers. So people are willing to pay more.
RC: What's driving your overall sales?
JK: A lot of the same things that are driving overall industry sales, such as the tax credits ? though just how much is hard to measure ? and the fact that the housing market has been atrocious, so people aren't moving and are more apt to spend money on siding or windows. At the same time, the joblessness has actually helped us because we're hiring better people who wouldn't have been available before.
RC: What's the biggest obstacle to growth right now?
JK: Managing and supervising, given the size of our operation, maintaining consistency at all levels of operation and at the same time living up to one of our primary principles, which is being a company with a family atmosphere. There is a trick to growing this rapidly, and the trick is getting the right people.