If you’re wondering about the state of the window replacement market — and the challenges it faces — ask Steven Kamody, the newly minted president of Window World.
With more than 200 locations nationwide, Window World is reportedly the nation’s largest replacement window and exterior remodeling company. Kamody, who was promoted from vice president of sales, is also the former national sales manager with Paragon Door Designs and regional vice president of American WeatherSeal.
While he’s still settling into the new role, Kamody took time to discuss his vision for the company, the state of the industry and what can be done to address the persistent labor shortage.
How would you describe the state of the industry as we look toward 2016?
Even though the fundamentals are strong, there’s a lot of chaos out there and investors are rattled. Ultimately that type of negative psychology can come into play when someone is thinking about making a big buying decision. And you can’t predict how an election year will come into play.
But I talk to a lot of companies, and to a one, they all feel strong about the future of our industry. When you couple that type of strong outlook and strong core fundamentals, the future looks bright.
As the new president of Window World, what is your vision for the company?
I’m really excited about our future. I like to say that this is a new day at Window World. I’ve started to put together a fairly bold implementation plan that our stores can embrace. We’re in the midst of huge initiatives that are fixing what needs to be fixed.
For our ownership group we have committed to making improvements to franchise agreements. We’ve also undertaken a project to adjust our national sales contract so stores can be more profitable.
At the same time, we’re adding to our pool of vendors. All of this is to give our stores what they truly need to be successful. We’re committed to helping our stores be more effective, efficient and profitable. We want to give them whatever service support they need to be successful. Part of that is giving them the necessary tools. And part of that tool box is the best product and the best value. That’s why this is such a large initiative. We’re vetting a lot of vendors right now.
What should the industry do to improve the market?
We all need to develop programs that will grow and enhance the workforce. We’re facing a lot of challenges that are unique to our industry. The construction workforce is aging. And it’s made up almost exclusively of men. So right now, we have a smaller labor pool that we’re pulling from than other industries.
At the same time, sales are far outpacing the ability to install. You could go around to any number of our stores nationwide, and you’ll see warehouses that are bulging at the seams. We know how to sell, but we’re competing for that same reduced labor pool.
It’s definitely a challenge for us. But I think a lot of things we’re looking at, if successful, could be adopted on a broader scale to address this issue. We’re trying to be as creative as possible as we look to attract younger workers.
So we’re working with other organizations such as Skills USA, a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. We’re also working with veterans groups to see if we can pool resources of vets integrating themselves back into the workforce. There are a lot of areas like that we’re looking at to increase our labor pool.
What advice do you have for replacement contractors?
First and foremost, attack this workforce shortage issue. We need to be as flexible and creative as possible. I think it would be great to work with schools to get construction education integrated into their business classes. Right now, you’re not going to find that in a high school or vocational curriculum. We need to work with schools and teachers and counselors to correct the misperception that it’s just a handyman job and for low educational achievement. We need to educate people that these types of positions can lead to more sophisticated careers including owning your own business.
Contractors could create work entering programs where they partner an older worker with a newer one. There’s also a large pool of foreign born workers that are largely untapped. Why not offer all types of services to them such as language and personal financing?
Offering these types of basic educational tools will help them — and help yourself as a small business owner. Having qualified workers is crucial because you’re in a position where the market pretty much expects a certain lead time from the time of purchase to installation. You can’t let a lack of qualified labor cause you to extend beyond that time — and risk losing that business.