Father and Son Team Up to Serve the Window Installation Market
Over the fast few years the troubled economy has been challenging
for many retailers. But Ernie Wilding, founder of FAS Windows in Orlando,
Fla., says this may just be the year for everyone to see things pick back
up. His company, which has 31 employees in locations in Orlando and Tampa,
is getting involved with everything from blogging to Facebook in an effort
to ensure the strength of the company.
Wilding is not alone in his endeavors. His son, John, is right there with
him. In fact FAS Windows stands for just that—Father and Son Windows—the
same name the two once raced under through FAS Auto Sports.
Now, the father-and-son team is focused on driving the future of their
company. Ernie Wilding took some time to sit down with DWM magazine at
his head office in Orlando and below is the result of that conversation.
What are your thoughts on what’s been happening with the replacement market?
The replacement market this last year is a little bit of a challenge.
Two years ago we did well—everyone in the industry did well—and one reason
for that was the federal tax credit. It made everyone fairly healthy.
Then last year we had the Energy Star credit, up to $500, which also helped.
This year there is nothing. So we believe the future is rather uncertain.
Without those incentives, how do you continue selling energy efficiency
to a homeowner?
You just sell it. I’ve been in the industry since 1971, and we never had
a problem selling replacement products, even during the recessions—and
recessions happen every 8-10 years, though nothing like this. The reason
we never had a problem is that everyone had value in their homes. When
you lose value in your home—and you’ve got houses that have dropped 50
percent in value, plus the foreclosures—what do you do? [Florida is] in
probably one of the worst markets in the United States, but we’re blessed
because we out-market and out-sell … we’re working very hard (and there
is a lot of competition in the area).
What have you done to stay competitive?
We have a full appointment center, so all calls come into one central
area where we set up all the appointments for the sales reps. We’ve done
that, and this year over last we’re up 21 percent for first-time people
coming to our site and setting appointments. We’re also doing this though
aggressive marketing and that includes TV, radio and web specials and
a lot of blogging.
And social media?
I believe in it. On all of our print as well as TV [ads] and website,
we show the Facebook and Twitter logos and ask people to follow us and
we continue to get people doing so and we think it’s a great opportunity
and we plan to expand that in the next few months.
What are some challenges for replacement market?
The only industry challenge we have right now is with the EPA. It’s very
difficult. The good news is Florida is not as old as the rest of the United
States in housing. Anything older than 1978 we have to test and we do—and
that’s the other thing—our competitors don’t test, nor are they certified.
We’re totally lead cerThe only industry challenge we have right now is
with the EPA. It’s very difficult. The good news is Florida is not as
old as the rest of the United States in housing. Anything older than 1978
we have to test and we do—and that’s the other thing—our competitors don’t
test, nor are they certified. We’re totally lead certified and it costs
a lot of money to keep that up. And it costs a lot of money if you find
a house with lead, and we have to pass [those costs] onto the consumers.
Have you ever offered energy audits?
It’s a way of selling, but the problem is you can do them and tell people
they will save this much money on their heating and air conditioning and
then they hold you to that and it doesn’t matter. They will run the hearing/air
conditioning all they want and then they give you the bills and they want
[money] back. We don’t do that. We’ll do an energy calculation, but we
can’t say we’ll hold you to that. You never know what individual houses
are like and what their living conditions are, how hot, how cold. So I’m
not a big energy audit fan. It opens your company up to liability.
What are your thoughts on online marketing, such as Angie’s List?
We’re on [Angie’s List] and we used to be one of their top-rated and we
still are in Orlando and have won their Star Award. Same with Service
What value do you get from such programs?
With Service Magic you have to pay for the lead. I dropped that and we’re
out of it all together. They take those leads and give them to different
companies. On Angie’s List, they charge you to advertise based on how
many homeowners are signed up and it had no value in it, so we eliminated
it as well. But we still get leads from it as we’re still listed as one
of their top companies. But we’re not advertising, so we’re close to the
bottom. Advertisers are at the top. You pay for it and it’s expensive.
What’s the toughest thing about selling windows?
Price. We’re competing against those who don’t pull permits and don’t
have insurance. And it’s difficult.
What’s something no one knows about you, but should?
I am a big giver … and I sit on a lot of boards for both charities and
businesses. We’re also involved with Ronald McDonald
House, and make monthly donations. We will also go over and cook dinner
for the families who have children in the hospital.
What’s the last book you read?
I don’t read a lot of books; I read a lot of magazines. I’m a racer, so
I love to read car magazines. But one of the most important books I’ve
ever read is called The Precious Present; it will take 20 minutes to read
and will change your life. I think it’s very important.
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