Running Start

April 12th, 2023 by Nathan Hobbs

Andersen’s CEO Sees Opportunities to Lead by Example

By Drew Vass

When Chris Galvin took the reins at Andersen, going from chief operating officer (COO) to CEO was more of a running hand-off than an abrupt transition, he says.

“Jay and I worked together for the past 20 years,” Galvin says of his predecessor, Jay Lund, who was with the company for 37 years, with 12 as CEO.

Galvin says he and Lund worked together over the years to assemble the company’s leadership team. They also collaborated extensively, as Galvin worked on finance organization and numerous investitures and acquisitions. As a result, when Lund retired at the end of last year and Galvin took over, the lights never went out in the CEO office.

“There’s a lot of continuity in the work that we’ve done,” he says.

When asked about the timing of the transition, on the heels of supply chain issues, an economic slowdown and COVID-19, “Timing isn’t always everything,” he says with a smile.

Lured in by Culture

Galvin came to Andersen having served in various financial roles for Target, but completely “green” on doors and windows. In the nearly 20 years that follow, he’s held leadership roles across corporate finance, manufacturing, logistics, supply chain operations and general management. In 2019, he became president of the Andersen Division and in November 2021 was appointed president and COO, directing broader operations. On January 1, 2023, Lund gave Galvin the nod, declaring he was “the right leader at the right time.”

But it was a career that nearly failed to launch.

When he discovered Andersen, “I wasn’t interviewing at the time,” Galvin says. “I was pretty happy with my career progression at Target, but I had a friend who had come to Andersen, who contacted me and said, ‘You’ve got to see this company. You’ve got to talk to the people here.’ I had the opportunity to go in and talk to the chief financial officer at the time and it was transformational, in terms of what I experienced in the interview process and learned about the culture.”

In Andersen, he saw what he describes as “a strong brand,” one that had more than just a name and presence, but that looked to lead and innovate.

“You don’t always find 120-year-old companies that spend as much time trying to disrupt their industries,” he says. “And that’s one of our key focus areas—to continue transforming ourselves and our industry.”

But it isn’t always about products or services. As a privately-owned company, he’s also quick to champion Andersen’s focus on employees and community. For example, in December 2022, the company and its corporate foundation donated nearly $5 million to nonprofits working to strengthen housing, education, hunger and health care.

Over the past five years, the company’s retail line, Renewal by Andersen, made donations to the American Cancer Society totaling more than $2.3 million. In 2022, Andersen also launched an employee assistance fund to provide financial assistance to employees when they experience unexpected hardships.

Thought Leadership

When asked about these and other developments, Galvin leads with a saying that dates back to the company’s inception. When working with his sons, clearing log jams on the St. Croix River, Hans Andersen used to say, “All together.” Now that mindset has taken on new meaning, as Galvin and his leadership team focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

In early 2022, Andersen was designated one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality,” having earned a score of 100% on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2022 Corporate Equality Index (CEI). In October of last year, the company was named one of the “World’s Best Employers” by Forbes magazine. One of the leading factors included programs focused on strengthening the company’s “commitment to an inclusive and diverse workplace.” The company was also recognized by Forbes as one of America’s Best Large Employers, among America’s Best Employers for Diversity, and as one of America’s Best Employers for Women.

The list goes on.

DEI has “become a much more important part of our focus,” Galvin says. Meanwhile, the acronym ends with ‘I,’ but, “I think it really starts with inclusion,” he says. “We truly believe that every employee should be respected and valued not only for what they bring to the workplace, but also for who they are as people … Making progress around diversity can only come with an inclusive workplace … we focus on all forms of diversity, whether it is different people’s abilities, their backgrounds, their gender, their racial or ethnic make-up, their nationality or how they identify. But
it also includes experiences and perspectives. And I think that’s a really important aspect of diversity as well—that when we look to hire our team, we’re not looking for one set of perspectives.”

He credits one of the company’s prior CEOs, Don Garofalo, for setting the tone for constant transformation.

“One of the things that he always said was, for a company that’s 100 years old to be able to flourish and survive it needs to have the courage to transform itself from time to time,” he says. “And that’s something that really, again, when we think about the mantra of ‘All together,’ the other element that goes hand-in-hand with that is innovation. And continually looking to disrupt our industry is something that we think about all the time.”

Reversing the Equation for Windows

In recent months, Andersen has turned its attention to a major disruption: advancing the role of windows in whole-home energy efficiency. Through a venture capital arm known as Andersen Ventures Plus, the company is working with photovoltaic (PV) glass provider Ubiquitous Energy to develop windows that offset energy losses by generating electricity.

As it becomes increasingly difficult to meet energy standards through glass, “This is where this transformational opportunity really comes in,” Galvin says. “That was one of the things that really drew us to Ubiquitous and the solar technology that they’re advancing. We spent the last hundred years thinking about windows and doors as energy efficiency products, but if anything will transform our industry, solar is going to be the technology,” he says. “If you think about going from energy efficiency to actual energy generation, it completely changes the game and the role of windows.”

The initial goal includes developing transparent PV windows to power automated hardware, shades and blinds, as well as other integrated features. But eventually the plan calls for feeding power to other items within the home and even to the local grid. All combined, “I think it’ll probably take our industry in a different direction, in terms of how we think about energy efficiency,” he says. “I do believe it has the ability to transform the window replacement side of our business and home improvement, but also new construction as well … It offers an opportunity to transform our entire industry. That’s why we’re investing side-by-side with Ubiquitous, but also in our core investment, to hopefully bring this to the broader industry, not just to Andersen.”

Of course, no product or technology can succeed without garnering the attention of consumers, and that’s where Galvin hopes to leave a lasting legacy. Under his leadership, Andersen is also focused on becoming “more of a world-class customer experience company,” he says. With a replacement brand that spans everything from raw materials and manufacturing to sales and installation, there’s an opportunity to secure an Apple-like role in how the company goes to market and services customers.

“We oftentimes speak [about fenestration] like it’s a second language to us, but it is a foreign language to our customers,” Galvin says. “We have to figure out ways to simplify that, and to make the process easier for them.”

So far as why he sees fit to be so open about the company’s plans, “I think it’s important to get out there and to share these perspectives, and perspectives around where the organization is going and where the industry is headed—not only for Andersen, but collectively, for us as an industry,” he says, “It’s important.”

Drew Vass is the executive editor of Door and Window Market [DWM] magazine.
dvass@glass.com

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