Surviving and Thriving in the Face of Hurricanes and More
Weather Tite Windows
Weather Tite Windows of Tampa, Florida sells and installs windows and doors for homes, high-rises, manufactured homes, and other residential and commercial properties throughout seven counties in the Tampa Bay area. The company’s products hold up to heat and humidity, and provide protection against hurricanes. Its impact-resistant product line even withstood the force of Hurricane Irma, which struck Florida in September 2017. The results earned praise from then-Florida Governor Rick Scott at a press conference held November 9, 2017, at company headquarters.
The governor mainly discussed Florida finances but also noted that Weather Tite Windows “didn’t have any failures during Hurricane Irma,” recalls President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Hollander. “He said companies like Weather Tite Windows were doing something right.”
By failures, Hollander means shattered windows and doors. While there was plenty of damage from Hurricane Irma, products installed by the company fared well in the face of the storm. The impressive feat underlines the quality behind the company’s installation and product lines.
“Our main focus here is [replacement] windows and sliding glass doors. Ninety percent of them are hurricane-rated windows and doors. The other major portion of the business is what we call comfort rooms,” he states.
Comfort rooms are outdoor patio areas that are enclosed by screens, glass, or other material. These rooms are often air-conditioned to allow people to socialize and relax outside without being bothered by heat and insects.
“Prospective customers can receive a free in-home quote from our experienced and knowledgeable representatives. There is also an option for shoppers to inspect doors and windows at the showroom. Either way, they will be able to see products, discuss options, and have all of their questions answered.” The idea is to “make the buying experience as convenient for the customer as possible,” says Hollander. “We do about seventy percent in-home estimates and another thirty percent [in the] showroom.”
About one hundred people work here, up from roughly eighty at this time last year. The majority of staff members are employees of Weather Tite Windows while the rest are independent contractors who work exclusively with Weather Tite Windows.
The firm focuses most of its efforts on one specific niche of windows and doors produced by PGT Custom Windows + Doors.
“We’re a state-licensed general contractor. So, I could build you a house; I could build you a high-rise; I could build you a shopping plaza; I am licensed to do so. But I took my license, and I said I’m only going to focus on replacing windows and doors because that will make us experts [in that area]. I said, ‘There’s a handful of factories that will make hurricane-Florida-approved products, but I’m only going to deal with one who I consider to be the best,’ which is PGT,” he explains.
PGT was one of the first companies to make doors and windows specifically designed for tropical regions such as Florida. Its manufacturing plant is located in Florida so the team continues to design machinery and processes focused on the region’s unique weather patterns.
“These past two weeks, we’ve had temperatures, when you factor in humidity, over 100 to 110 degrees. If you are running your air conditioner and don’t have quality windows, that cold air is going right out the windows and doors along with your money,” says Hollander.
Given such conditions, Florida has stringent building codes. The state requires permits, product approvals, and inspections for all manner of construction work. Weather Tite Windows uses PGT windows that surpass state Energy Star ratings. These windows feature low-emissivity (Low-E) coated glass to keep out heat while allowing in natural light. Argon gas between panes of glass adds further energy efficiency.
“My guys install the same products from the same manufacturer every day. The guys who do the installations work exclusively for us. I’m supplying them with commercial-grade caulking, commercial-grade screws. Anything they could need for a job, we are providing for them, so they are not running to the bulk store to buy the cheapest stuff on the shelf. Because we specialize and do the same thing every day, because my guys are exclusive, I’m willing to guarantee their work for as long as the homeowner owns that home,” he states.
“Once a client invests in Weather Tite Windows, they never have to pay out of pocket again for anything that goes wrong,” he adds.
In addition to its lifetime warranty, the company offers price matching and a Trust Program. The Trust program allows qualified customers to put little or no money down and pay once installation is completed. Most competitors require a minimum of 50 percent down.
The emphasis on customer care extends beyond warranties. Hollander spends one day each week reviewing recently completed jobs as well as ongoing jobs to see how they are progressing. He examines completion statement forms, which include customer comments to gauge client satisfaction.
This approach is working as the company has reaped a series of awards and honors recently. It garnered a ‘Dealer of the Year’ award 2016 from Window and Door magazine and was included in Remodeling Magazine’s ‘Big50 List’ for 2017. Weather Tite Windows ranked sixty-first on Qualified Remodeler magazine’s list of the largest remodelers in America in 2017 and at forty-seven in the 2018 list. It also won the 2019 People’s Choice Award in the Tampa Bay Times’ ‘Best of the Best Awards’ in which readers vote for their favorite local businesses.
PGT has bestowed its coveted PGT ‘Diamond’ status dealer designation on Weather Tite Windows in appreciation of the company’s dedication to its product line and high sales volume. The company earned this hard-to-obtain standing because “We sell more than ninety-nine percent of PGT’s other dealers,” says Hollander. “We’re very proud of being a ‘Diamond’ dealer.”
Of the handful of other ‘Diamond’ dealers operating nationwide, “We’re the only ones involved in what is called the retro market: replacement windows and doors. The other [‘Diamond’ dealers] sell to home builders; they sell to people building condominiums. We’re the only guys who reached that status that do replacement jobs,” he adds.
Weather Tite Windows’ achievements are all the more impressive considering the economic situation the company went through a decade ago. The Florida branch was founded in 2004. Two years later, Hollander acquired the Florida distributorship, and things went well for a while. “Everything was great. There was a building boom, [banks] financing everything. Then, the recession hit,” he recalls.
By mid-2008, the business had slowed “almost to a halt,” as the impact of the national recession was felt. The company endured, however, and within a couple of years, was thriving again as the economy improved. “By 2012, we had gotten so big we had to move into the building we are in now – a 40,000 square foot building with a warehouse,” he says, noting that surviving the recession was one of Weather Tite Windows’ crowning achievements.
The company has been operational for 15 years and continues to focus on the Tampa Bay area. Michael’s sister Judy joined the company and currently works as the business manager. Judy’s husband, Jarrett, and brother-in-law, Spencer, soon followed and these four principals now run the business.
The company does quite a bit of advertising and has fun with it. The firm promotes itself on the internet, billboards, television, radio, and newspapers, with advertisements that often center on a character called ‘Weather Tite Mike.’ The character constantly asks for cookies and is played by Hollander. The snacks have nothing to do with replacement doors and windows but have helped brand the company and offer a memorable promotional hook.
Business is not entirely without challenges. Hollander points to the industry-wide shortage of young people entering skilled trades as a situation with which the company must contend. “The hardest thing is to find new employees. These days, kids go to school, finish school [and they’re] all about technology, coding, Google, Facebook,” he notes.
Installing replacement windows and doors requires a great deal of skill, which is why Hollander likes to hire installers with experience and a strong work ethic and positive attitude. Anyone who wants to work in sales has to be driven but not pushy as the company does not do telemarketing or canvassing, and all staff should be motivated and loyal. The company likes to promote from within, so staying with the company has definite benefits.
As for the future, Hollander notes that “PGT has a brilliant team of engineers that are always coming out with something new,” but he is not eager to move beyond his current product categories. He would prefer to maintain the focus on replacement windows and doors while expanding the company’s market. To this end, he has some big plans for where Weather Tite Windows will be five years down the road.
“I want to be one of the largest home improvements companies in the United States. I want to have offices across Florida and continue what we’re doing now. We’ve experienced about twenty to thirty percent growth year after year, as far as revenue goes. Last year, we did roughly $30 million in revenue. In five years, I would like to get that above $50 million and be a major player,” he states. The numbers are extremely impressive, especially considering Weather Tite Windows concentrates on a focused geographical area in the Tampa Bay area, but continually competes with and surpasses national multi-office competitors.