January/February 2004

The Window Guy

The Adventures of the “WNDOGUY”
Las Vegas Dealer Has Been in the Business for 30 Year

by R. Mark Reasbeck

It was just another November day in Las Vegas, doing window business, when I received a phone call from SHELTER magazine’s editor Samantha Carpenter. We had spoken in the past when she had summoned my opinion for an article. She sounded very coherent for having birthed a set of twins recently.

Pleasantries behind us, Samantha informed me that she would like to see a column in the magazine written from the dealer perspective. I told her it was a great idea and would give the magazine a more balanced view of our industry. 

“Great,” she said, “Will you write it?”

Never missing an opportunity to share my opinions, pass on my really bad jokes or complain about alimony, I took the job. What qualifies me for the job, you ask? No one else wanted it. (Just kidding.) So, for the next nine issues, you’re trapped on the island with me. The good news is you can’t get voted off.

It’s All About Me
My career in windows actually started with pre-hung doors and trim in 1974. (For the record, my 35th high school reunion is around the corner, and I have a Ph. D. in nothing.) At 23, I was given charge of a ten-man door shop, all of them, older than I. It was not under the best working conditions, especially after one of them trapped me on a door loft, shooting his 2-inch Senco nail gun at me every time I attempted to come down the stairs. Maybe I should write a future column on workplace violence.

In 1979, I found myself in the shadows of Mount Hood in Portland, Ore., working for Medallion Industries. The company’s mission was to “fill every hole in the house,” meaning windows, doors, trim, skylights, fireplaces and hardware. It was a great business strategy. 

As a salesperson, you could count on selling at least one of the product lines. If you bid the windows and lost, bid the exterior doors and lost, bid the interior package and lost, the builder would always feel sorry for all your efforts and give you the fireplace order just to throw you a bone for your persistence. Mount St. Helens erupted while I lived there, and believe me, there is no window known to man that can pass the “Ash Infiltration Test.”

My Las Vegas window career debuted on October 17, 1983. For the next 13 years, I worked as a salesperson, sales manager and general manager for three General Aluminum distributors. With exception for a couple of years, we were General Aluminum’s largest volume accounts.

In April of 1996, I came to the realization that if I can make money for other companies, why not for myself? After six months of standing on the edge of the high dive, I took the plunge and started my own company, Legend Windows for the West. By no means the largest window company in Las Vegas, we will approach $4 million in sales this year with fewer than 15 employees.

It’s All About You
Over the course of 2004, I will attempt to bring into focus the daily life of a dealer, tackling topics, such as: 
· Strategies for survival; 
· Going up against the direct-sales big boys; 
· Trading dollars; 
· The service calls from Hell; 
· Who is the customer, and Who is Right?
· Why is it different when you are the low bidder? 
· Become a consultant instead of a peddler; 
· Stress crack this! A twelve-step program for dealers; and
· A good marinade for tri-tip steaks. 

I also reserve the right to voice my opinion, with or without shirt or shoes, on pet peeves.

Since I have 20 years of desert experience, the writings will take on a Southwest flavor, so to speak. Even though there are regional differences in how business is conducted, as dealers, there are universal challenges we all face, but it’s a safe bet you won’t find a column on “snowbound delivery trucks.”

The first National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) show I ever attended was here in Las Vegas. As I recall, I was like a country boy going to the big city for the first time.

Welcome to My Home
The NAHB show means a lot of different things to different people. 

To the salesperson who works the show for a manufacturer, it means a visit to the podiatrist when he gets back home. Dealers have to be in the condition of a tri-athlete to walk the entire show filling plastic product bags until they burst open only to realize that everybody else has a cotton bag from a plumbing manufacturer. The tool displayer is keeping his fingers crossed that the guy who shot a nail gun through his hand last year doesn’t make his annual trek.

And what’s the Builders’ Show without dancing waters that rival the Bellagio? My fondest memory of the Builders’ Show was arriving back to Vegas from Houston and being served with divorce papers at the gate. So like I said, the Builders’ Show means different things to different people.

Kidding aside, as a dealer of products that are used in the construction of homes, I encourage you to check out your competition, gather literature, study it and know what you’re up against. This is the only time you’ll have them in one building.

Answering Machine/Voice Mail Pet Peeve
Since my word quota is nearly up, as I promised, here is my first installment of pet peeves.

People should use a little more creativity with their answering machine/voice mail. “I’m sorry I’m not here to answer your call, but your call is very important to me … ” 

How do so many people who don’t even know each other have the same message? If my call is that important, why aren’t you answering the phone?
“ … if you leave your name, time of day and a short message …” Thanks for that crash course in “leave a message 101.” Wait, I better hang up, call back and make sure I follow those directions precisely. 

“I will get back to you at my earliest possible convenience … ” Don’t they really mean, “When I’m good and ready and I hope I didn’t dump your message?”

The final kiss of death is “ … And again, I’m sorry I can’t take your call, but you have a wonderful and prosperous life with you and yours and may your children … ”

Comments encouraged. Criticism goes to voice mail. 


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