Q: Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
A: US Window & Door is a premier provider of window and door replacements in Southern California. We are based out of Carlsbad, California and have installed windows and doors since 1987. We offer a wide variety of high quality windows and doors and back up our work with lifetime warranties for our installations. We proudly serve all of San Diego County, South Orange County, and certain areas of Southwest Riverside County. Our office is located in the Bressi Ranch Corporate Center of Carlsbad in North County San Diego.
Q: Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
A: My work experience spans my entire life. Even as a child I worked keeping up lawns for several neighbors. From that I worked at my father’s gas station from the ages of 14-21. My education for business has come from the years running different businesses including my father’s business while he was away on vacations from the age of 16 on. I do have a degree in criminal justice but it obviously wasn’t the focus
Q: What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
A: As I mentioned, my father was an entrepreneur and business owner of several gas stations. He inspired the entrepreneur in me to see opportunity in business. When I was younger I started installing windows for another company. After working for that company for a time I understood that I could do better for the customers and better as a business. It inspired me to start US Window & Door to build a better window company for the customers in San Diego.
Q: What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
A: Learn to adapt to anything. Situations in business and technology change all the time and you have to be ready to move with the times; otherwise, you and your business may get left behind.
Think long term. Many of the goals and dreams you have as a child take a lot longer to come true than you would think and it’s easy to get disheartened along the way. Stay the path and accomplish major goals one at a time. It may take twenty or thirty years but your business can and will get to where you want it to go.
Enjoy the journey. Owning a business is hardly an easy road but there are good times along the way. Celebrate the successes along the way because by the time you reach your destination you may be too tired to notice you’ve even arrived.
Q: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
A: Resilience, flexibility, and willingness to take risks.
Q: How many hours do you work a day on average?
A: Back in the day it would have been as many hours as necessary which sometimes meant 12 and 14 hour days but now that I have built a successful business it has allowed me to work at a pace that fits my personal life better. I have flexible hours but still tend to work anywhere from 6-8 hours a day including drive time to installation locations.
Q: To what do you most attribute your success?
A: I attribute my success to several things; not taking no for an answer, confidence in my ability to achieve what I promise, and a bit of luck.
Q: How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
A: Every year we try new things. There never seems to be a shortage of companies coming to us offering us the next sure thing in marketing our business. Through those years we have culled the heard into what is working, what is reaching our breakeven point and may need some adjustment, and what is not working. We set goals for the marketing department to reach in terms of Gross Sales ROI per each marketing avenue and adjust our budget according to what is working and what is not but it constantly changes and after a few years something that worked perfectly starts to bring less ROI and it gets pushed aside in favor of a new marketing effort.
We do a lot of online marketing as that is how most of our customers find us. However, there are still some print ads that work great as well. Right now our most successful form of marketing is our business from repeat customers and referral business. But those customers all originally came from somewhere so it’s great to have marketing venues that work for us like Angie’s List, our website SEO/SEM leads, and even a print ad or two. Between successful marketing programs and our repeat/referral customers our company enjoys a near 50/50 balance on paid vs “free” marketing leads.
Q: Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
A: We don’t currently have investors. Our funding comes from being very efficient and successful at what we do. We have built up the business for many years to get to the point where the cash flow and funding support each other without outside investor requirements. My 1st funding source came from my own savings and the necessity of making it work. After that my parents bought a new front door to help kick things off. The rest is just successful business practices.
Q: What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
A: Customer service is perhaps the only factor in achieving long term success. If your customers are happy then they refer their friends and colleagues or support you through positive reviews. The next customer sees those reviews and learns what they can expect from your company above all others. That level of expertise and customer service maintains a healthy business in all economies.
Q: Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
A: In 5-10 years all my kids will have graduated and so I hope to be traveling more. As for the business I hope to see it continue running successfully with the leadership still in my family or through a successful COO that I can count on to keep the customer service and integrity of the business going strong.
Q: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
A: I really admire business like Amazon and Milgard Windows & Doors. They really have a keen eye on their business and make adjustments to everything based on data to make every point of their business better for the customer. It really shows when a business can focus all their efforts on the results based on test/feedback data from their customers.
Q: How important have good employees been to your success?
A: Good employees are the key to a successful business but I am sure everyone has heard that before. Without accountable and hardworking employees we wouldn’t have the reputation we have. We might still be around but definitely wouldn’t be the highest rated Milgard dealer nationwide without great employees.
Q: How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
A: This really depends on what aspect of the business you are talking about. If it’s marketing then usually about 3 months is the test period for new marketing programs. Our sales lead to close date is usually within a month so if you don’t see enough leads for the money or enough sales to reach your goals then it’s usually long enough to know not to waste more money in it.
If it’s an internal business idea or product push more like 6 months to a year. It takes time to switch to new programs or ideas within a business but if it’s still not working within 6 months then it may be time to put it to rest.
When it comes to employees as long as there is growth and mistakes aren’t repeated then we try not to give up on someone but rather encourage them through our business models and eventually everything falls in place.
Q: What motivates you?
A: New ideas and ways of doing things motivate me. I am constantly thinking of the next step or horizon for the company. It means I expect a lot of my employees to keep up with the changes but it motivates me and the company to be flexible and stay vigilant.
Q: How do you generate new ideas?
A: I do a lot of driving between customer locations. That’s usually when the best thinking happens and where most of my new ideas come from. Otherwise, I find inspiration from other company’s experiences and what they are trying to accomplish.
Q: How do you define success?
A: I define success through consistency. We want to make sure that when we see something as a success it wasn’t just a random event that we stop monitoring. We need those successes to maintain for as many months or years as possible. Once I am comfortable that it’s a consistent pattern we are confident to call it a success.
Q: How do you build a successful customer base?
A: Customer service and communication. Customers don’t just want to have a perfect experience they also want a memorable one. When you know your customers personally or when they know their sales representative and the installation team personally it makes a big difference. We try to have as many points of contact as possible so that the customer knows who is contacting them, why that contact is important, what will happen next. That way, they get to know the whole team and it becomes a memorable experience that they are happy to come back for or refer a friend.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
A: Watching the success of the employees grow with the business is probably my favorite aspect. It’s nice to see the employees celebrating with the successes of the company and nice to brag about how the employees helped bring about successful programs. I enjoy leading the team to reach the company goals.
Q: What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
A: There really isn’t one path that is better than the other and of course both types of people are necessary. I think an entrepreneur is just more able to take on the responsibility and stresses of maintaining a company. Entrepreneurs tend to live and breathe the company. The company is something that is on their mind even when they are sleeping. Not everyone wants to do that. I would like to say it’s inspiration but not every entrepreneur is trying to solve a major world problems. Being able to run a successful business and hold the responsibility of leading a company year after year would be one of the most striking differences between an entrepreneur and someone who works within a company.
Q: What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
A: We like to build a family oriented business. We are family owned and operated but even with employees we like to know that everyone is taken care of and has what they need to be successful and stick around with the company. Because the culture of the organization really depends on the employees, it changes and adapts over time as new people come in and affect the work place. In general we go for a relaxed but hard working environment.
Q: In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Q: What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
A: Getting stuck in a business model would be my worst fear. Things change too rapidly for us to just do the same things over and over again. If I couldn’t encourage things to move forward through whatever obstacles we were facing as a business that would be a major deficit.
Q: How did you decide on the location for your business?
A: We love north county San Diego. Carlsbad is a great place for businesses because it is so business friendly. It’s also a great location that is central to all the areas we serve so it is the perfect location.
Q: What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
A: I think the mistakes have always come down to trusting the wrong people or organizations. Looking back the only thing I see as major mistakes happen when dealing with a company or individual that over exaggerates their abilities or knowledge. Sometimes it is too late before you realize these errors and those individuals or companies have done some major damage to your reputation or project which requires time to rectify.
Q: How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
A: Oversight and double checking our work is the best ways to avoid mistakes. We try to have accountability on each level and make sure that when the progress of the job gets handed over that the next phase checks the work they are receiving to see that everything is clear and ready for the next step to begin. We also try to automate as much as possible so that there is less human error involved.
Q: What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
A: Mostly I have sacrificed time to become a successful entrepreneur. It takes a lot of time to run a successful business.
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