Top Dealer Looks Back on 2020 and the Challenges of COVID-19March 15th, 2021 by Drew Vass, Executive Editor
With a pandemic looming over the year, you might expect to find that door and window dealers struggled to maintain revenues in 2020. Temporary shutdowns, social distancing and supply chain shortages certainly took their tolls, but by and large the industry’s top performers say they found ways around those issues in order to continue on. Nearly two thirds reported revenue increases averaging 23% for the year. In the end, they say, the toughest problem wasn’t in finding customers, so much as it was about finding ways to fulfill.
Among the companies that came out on top—despite the circumstances—was Associated Building Supply Inc., in Oxnard, Calif. After landing at number 22 among the 160 dealers on [DWM]’s annual Top Dealers list, president Scott Thurber spoke with the magazine’s editor to discuss some of the challenges the company overcame.
How much have your business practices had to change amid COVID-19?
Chris [Cole, owner and founder Associated Building Supply] and I are both old school. I’ve been in this industry for over 35 years now and started in sales—out in the field, basically dragging jobsites looking for opportunities. I would look for foundations that were in the ground. COVID-19 threw a monkey wrench into all of that.
Were you able to maintain business?
There were a lot of unknowns … We had a pretty good plan to blow our numbers out of the water, but we pulled the reins in and played it very safe. We didn’t know what to expect, so we didn’t make a lot of large investments. But we maintained what we have and grew by 5%, meeting one of our goals … and we did it with fewer people.
Did that require changing any sales strategies? Which ones continue to work despite the circumstances?
We teach our people to always sell to the decisionmakers—including architects, builders and homeowners. Architects are the ones who plant the seeds, so we aim to get involved with them very early on and help them through the whole design process—to the degree that we have so much time invested that they say, ‘God, I don’t want to go to another company. I’d have to start all over.’
What are architects looking for?
They’re looking for hard information. A lot of what we do in the luxury home segment is highly technical, from an installation standpoint to specifications and performance. When you can help an architect and save them time, money and embarrassment, you become part of their team.
How have you managed to maintain those relationships amid COVID-19?
Last year, we hired a full-time rep for architects. He knows how to call on them and his primary responsibility includes building our brand and the brands of our vendors. He then pulls those opportunities to salespeople who are best positioned to handle each type and level of job. He has Zoom meetings and presentations built around our brands.
Are the reins back out in 2021 for full-scale business and growth?
Yes. We’ve hit all of these different cycles where they’re shutting down markets and then opening them back up. I think consumers understand this more now and aren’t as concerned as they once were … I just think we’re in a better position now that we understand this pandemic a lot more.
To view the complete list of [DWM]’s Top Dealers from 2020, visit: dwmmag.com/topdealers