Volume 8, Issue 6,  November/December  2004


    Like a Weed

Companies Share Insight On Recent Expansions

by Brigid O'Leary

Growth, in any industry, is not only welcome, but also a goal for most businesses. 

CHB Industries
Location: Smithtown, N.Y.
What it did: Expanded sales operations to include key cities for its clients.
What it entailed: Expansions within headquarters, trainings for new database program, computer server upgrade and hiring sales force for the new locations.
What the expansion has meant for the company: Additional, immediate presence in addition to the trade shows the company attends and an edge in sales.
“The people we’ve brought on are professionals in their own right and they have brought a richness to the company. They’ve become a team. We’ve seen tremendous benefits to our clients in the field and to us as a company,” said Borow.

Just as in life, growth can be slow and steady or seemingly quick and sudden (a business “growth spurt”). Yet, while as individuals we have little control over how tall we are or how quickly we got to be the heights we are, company growth is strictly up to those who run the organization. Recently, the industry has seen several companies so confident in their own operations—if not in the industry itself—that they have recently expanded their operations. Steve Phillips of Commonwealth Laminating and Coating/SunTek Inc., of Martins-ville, Va., and Carol Borow of CHB Industries Inc., of Smithtown, N.Y., both spoke to Window Film magazine and shared the measures that brought about the recent expansions at their companies and some ideas as to what others who are thinking of expanding should consider before they make the decision to do so.

First and foremost, neither company president made the decision to expand lightly. Both Philips and Borow indicated that the expansions they have recently undergone were planned well in advance. In fact, it could be said that both companies have anticipated the recent growth since the day they opened shop. CHB, a dealer specializing in security film and attachment systems has been working the industry for about 14 years now and is bringing in more than a million dollars in sales a year. Commonwealth, a manufacturer, has been in business a little more than a decade and pulls in more than $20 million in sales a year.

“It was always in the plan,” said Philips, who added that though it was always the company’s intention to expand, the final push came when he and others realized the demand was starting to outweigh the company’s manufacturing capabilities.

“We were running 24 hours a day, five days a week and had been doing so for four or five months. If we had not made the decision when we did, we would have been out of commission since January.”

CHB’s expansion was also fueled by demand, though in Borow’s case it was a different kind of demand. Because the expansion that CHB underwent was of sales in nature (see box), the growth was different, but it was just as well thought-out and selectively executed.

“It’s an ever-evolving thing,” said Borow. “We always wanted to expand out and grow the business … right after we started [the business] we looked to grow and bring people in.” Recent inquiries from clients in other parts of the country prompted her to look into expanding the company’s sales representation from its previous Northeast territory. Now the company has physical representation in Chicago, Houston and Tampa.

While both company presidents explained that timing and planning were important to the expansion process, they also noted that expansion does not come without cost—which should be considered seriously before any commitments are made. Commonwealth invested $6 million to bring in the newest technology available, including adding to its facilities and personnel (see box). Black Clawson Converting Machinery designed the new machine for and with Commonwealth Laminating and Coating; many aspects are proprietary and the two companies have a confidentiality agreement to prevent the sale of the machine or its design.

CHB also faced a lot of investment in its expansion, not only by way of money, but also in time and training to get everyone in the company on the same system of computers and programs to keep everyone connected and running effectively.

“People should keep in mind, if anything, be conservative about it. It’s not an inexpensive proposition,” said Borow. “Only take on what you feel you can support. It takes time to build a business and if you’re only prepared to handle this for 30 days, don’t go there.”

Despite the recent growths, neither company president plans on slowing down now. When asked what they saw for their company in five years, their answers were not surprising.

“Five years from now, I hope it will be an even larger team,” said Borow, with little hesitation.

“I’d be disappointed if the next five years aren’t better than the first five,” said Phillips. WF

Commonwealth Laminating and Coating/Suntek
Location: Martinsville, Va.
What it did: Added a 72-inch tandem coater/laminator with two in-line coating operations, automatic splicers and continuous operation up to 250 feet of film per minute.
What it entailed: Additional employees, new clean room and auxiliary equipment.
What the expansion has meant for the company: Tripled production capacity, gives Commonwealth a 72-inch manufacturing capacity.
“We were able to bring on the expansion at the very time we needed it. Waiting would not have been an option and we would not have been able to service our customers. We got it just in the nick of time,” said Philips.

Brigid O’Leary is the editor of Window Film magazine.


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