Blair Ingle was named president of Window World this past summer. The company, founded in 1995 by Leon Whitworth, is the largest home improvement company in the U.S., with 2008 sales of more than $343 million.
Replacement Contractor: Window World has emerged this year as the largest home improvement company in the U.S. What are the reasons for your success?
Blair Ingle: A big part of it is the value of our product versus its low price. That's set us apart from other companies ? especially in this economy. Another is our approach to the market and our brand position. That's had a big impact. A third is the brand-building campaign we've been engaged in for the last 12 months.
RC: What did you do to celebrate being No. 1?
BI: We took a deep breath and patted ourselves on the back and went back after it. There's no celebrating in this market. You've got to be diligent.
RC: Are you finding it more difficult to retain dealers?
BI: We haven't lost dealers, but we have been sensitive to how difficult it is and can be. So we've had some dealers who in the past maybe wouldn't have needed any help, but now they may need our advice and input. They want to know what they're doing right and what they're doing wrong. So we're more available to them at the corporate level. In this economy, any business owner has got to really pay attention to what he or she is doing or they're going to slide into financial heartache.
RC: Have you expanded your dealer network?
BI: We've grown it at an average of about 10% a year.
RC: Economists and the media talk about the American consumer's "new frugality." How has that translated for your product and your way of selling it?
BI: In some ways it's good for us. They're going to investigate more. They're less likely to spend money unnecessarily. So if you demonstrate a good value to price, that helps them. On the other hand, in this economy, people who are ? or were ? already frugal may not buy. Or they may delay the purchase. So while we have people coming down to our price point and enjoying those savings, we have people who are at our price point but who just can't buy for whatever reason, whether it's access to cash or something else.
RC: To adapt to a slower economy, many home improvement companies have changed the way they market or sell. What has Window World done to change or adapt to this prolonged recession?
BI: We thought we'd try some different things in our marketing. We've strengthened our Internet presence. We've sponsored cars at the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. We use motor sports because it's something the American consumer and American homeowner can relate to. Now our show cars are showing up at events like the Omaha State Fair and the Nashville Home Show. It's a different way to create some buzz and some branding rather than the typical kiosk manned by a temp you might see at the state fair.
The other thing we've done is to become involved in philanthropic endeavors. We started Window World Cares, a corporate partnership with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. We raised $250,000 in 2008 and more than $300,000 in 2009.
RC: How has cause marketing helped Window World?
BI: It's hard to quantify as a lead cost. But companies today can get a black eye very easily. Look at the auto executives showing up in Washington in a jet. Or A.I.G. So it's important to show corporate citizenship. It's part of a process of earning a homeowner's trust. Our cause marketing definitely differentiates us from other remodelers.