Question: Business introduction: Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
ANSWER: Seabreeze Siding & Window is the leading distributor of siding products in the western U.S. Offering brands like James Hardie, Alside, PlyGem, Milgard, Simonton, Anlin, DassoXTR, LP and more. We offer both contractors and consumer clients the best solutions for their siding and window needs. We provide wholesale pricing and service to contractors and are open to the public for direct sales. As a general contractor, we are also able to perform installations and repairs for both siding and windows.
Question: Give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
ANSWER: Well I am truly what the American Dream represents. Hard work, perseverance, and dedication. I started in this industry when I was 18 years old working in the supply chain warehouse. Over time I have held positions reflecting my climb of success. Inside sales, Office Manager, Credit Manager, Sales Manager, General Manager, then of course the final stop of President, CEO. Within that time frame I have achieved the Million Foot award for selling over 1 Million board feet of siding, VSI certification, Three different contractors licenses with 5 different classifications. James Hardie Elite Preferred status, and 2016 James Hardie Presidents Club for most overall growth.
Question: 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?
ANSWER: I have been blessed to work for a great mentor for decades named Poul Andersen. Originally this family business was started with his father Axel Andersen in 1977. Together they built an awning manufacturing company that rivaled the industry leaders. We’re talking the top dogs of the aluminum world. This small little company from Huntington Beach, started in a garage and grew to a giant as time progressed. When I started with Poul in 1989, we started a new era for the company. We began the main stream conversion to building products. We went from manufacturing 3 products, to wholesale distribution products of over 30 manufactures and counting. But the one thing that pushed me was Poul. He always forced me to be my best, to push myself to be better ever single day. Without that, who knows where I would be today.
Question: What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
ANSWER: Don’t give up, close your mouth and listen to successful people, listen to the ones who have long term success. So many times, I hear someone with grand ideas, and you inject your two cents because you have been there, done that kind of thing. But they know better and don’t listen, and soon failure is the result. Look the old guys and gals have lived through hard times, struggles, recessions, pandemics and of course successes. They know what works, they have tried and failed, learn from them, it’s the best college degree ever, and usually its free advice!
Question: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
ANSWER: Be fluid to events. We can’t change what the business atmosphere brings, be able to adapt and move forward with the comfort level of risk. Be a great leader not a good leader. People will follow you into the trenches, but only if you lead the charge. With a team well versed in your business, you’re an unstoppable force. Be humble, what success you have today, may be a struggle tomorrow. You always must have balance for your ego, and your checkbook.
Question: How many hours do you work a day on average?
ANSWER: 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. Reality is when it’s your business, it’s like having two spouses. You need to focus on your business for success, constantly trying to cultivate and create. It’s not healthy, it’s not recommended, so I try and hold about 50-60 hours as my max now.
Question: To what do you most attribute your success?
ANSWER: Failure is not an option. Literally I’m my worst critic. Entrepreneurs are wired differently from the start. We have a natural drive that keeps us going. Perfection is good, but not good enough. But like I said earlier, look for your mentors to help you achieve your goals.
Question: How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
ANSWER: We have recently begun to hire out our marketing to a specialist. Under his tooling and guidance, we have seen a dramatic uptick in call volume. Our web presence is also key for us. Digital is nothing new, but harvesting it, and cultivating it is. It changes so rapidly that one day you’re Facebooking, the next you’re Insta-gram’ing, but tomorrow you are doing something different. Stay on top of your business, let the professionals help with the marketing.
Question: Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
ANSWER: Sweat equity is where most of our funding was created. We have used our local banks for projects and credit lines for product purchases like most other companies, but really, we have been self-sufficient.
Question: What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
ANSWER: Dedication and tenacity. Don’t give up and believe in yourself. Some of the struggles as a business owner are ones that would challenge the most hardened human. The successful ones are the ones who dig deep when there is nothing left to dig.
Question: Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
ANSWER: Adding two additional locations and expanding our reach.
Question: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
ANSWER: Maybe Google would be my first. They treat their employees right. As a small business most employees are like family. You spend more time with them then your own family. So that is the atmosphere we try and create. Remember employees will make or break your business. So, treating them right, results in something good for everyone involved.
Question: How important have good employees been to your success?
ANSWER: Huge, a huge part of it. A company is only as good as its employees. Without people doing the right thing at the right time, we have nothing. The structure is what we as owners create but filling the spots with the right people is key. Bad employees are like a cancer, they start to suck the life out of your team. You have to have self-motivated and accountable people working for you.
Question: How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
ANSWER: Once something is no longer profitable we move on. Companies get stuck in a rut, it’s the “We’ve done it this way for years” mentality that kills your customer base. Adapt to the current trends and become the trend setter, if you follow the masses sometimes it’s too late.
Question: What motivates you?
ANSWER: My family and my employees’ families. It’s really their futures I’m working hard for. If we as a company can expand and create well paying jobs for our employees, the trickle-down effect is huge. Could mean they are upgrading to a new car, or the kids are going to a better college, or they have purchased a house. Most owners do this for the money, and don’t get me wrong money works too, but its not everything. Our success is our employee’s success as well. To me that’s the most satisfying.
Question: What are your ideals?
ANSWER: Not sure how to answer this one?
Question: How do you generate new ideas?
ANSWER: I write things down constantly. I’m always looking for a new product idea that make sense. Sometimes inspiration hits you at the strangest times or places. I guess its best to say, always keep your eyes open for new ideas, don’t get stuck in that rut.
Question: How do you define success?
ANSWER: Happy employees, roof over our heads, food on the table. Some measure it in bank accounts, but success is a personal achievement for me.
Question: How do you build a successful customer base?
ANSWER: Do what you say and say what you do. It sounds very logical, but most people miss the mark. Be true to your customers, they will do the same for you.
Question: What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
ANSWER: Things are done on my timeframe at the pace I want them done. There is no corporate lag time to move ideas forward. We don’t vote on it, we do it.
Question: What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
ANSWER: I remember meeting some of our industry leaders, and when I was introduced, I was greeted as if I was a rock star. Here are the people I have looked up to for years, and I come to find out they had the same respect in return for me. It was eye opening and humbling for me to have that experience.
Question: What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
ANSWER: To me I feel its drive. I could work for someone very easily, but I would stay in my box for what I’m being paid to do. With the drive of an entrepreneur you don’t stop at 4pm, you go until you have exhausted your profitability for the day.
Question: What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
ANSWER: We set the tone of a family business and everyone is a part of the family. Once our employees realized the critical role they play in the company, they began to hold each other accountable. Similar to a sibling and creating a well-oiled machine.
Question: In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
ANSWER: Challenging, but not in a stressful way, more in the way of solving a puzzle or creating painting.
Question: If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
ANSWER: I think I would pay more attention to the trends of our industry and play a larger role in creating product roll outs. Embracing the change correctly rather then fighting it with inferior products. When we have a certain product catalog, we tend to believe our mouse trap is best. I think viewing things more with an open mind would have changed some outcomes.
Question: How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
ANSWER: In the last few years it has enhanced my family life. About 4 years ago my wife came on board to run our construction install division. I went from seeing her a few hours a day to spending 16 hours a day with her. We work in separate areas of the corporation, but we still share an office and interact all day. Now recently our daughter has come onboard as well to handle billing for our manufacture service repair division. I guess you can say its brought us closer to spend more time together.
Question: What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
ANSWER: Fear is not understanding your surroundings or not being confident in your abilities. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying run out and start selling CNC machines when you are a realtor. But if you are well versed in your product and well educated in your customer base, there should be no fear. Don’t let fear paralyze you.
Question: How did you decide on the location for your business?
ANSWER: Really, we picked a spot best for freeway access to multiple freeways for our Wholesale division. Just made it easier for customers to find us.
Question: Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
ANSWER: There are hundreds of books telling you how to be the best entrepreneur you can be. Really, I’m not the expert, but my philosophy is be yourself and do it the best you can and don’t get in over your head. There are people around you who are mentors that you may not recognize yet. Look for the sings and ask to learn from them when you find them.
Question: If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
ANSWER: My grandfather on my fathers’ side. He was an entrepreneur during his life. He had a butcher shop in New York, and I live in California. I never had the chance to really know him or spend time with him. I think being able to ask those questions of how did you do it, what did you do with this would have helped in some perspective for me.
Question: Who has been your greatest inspiration?
ANSWER: I have two people who have inspired me over the years. First would be my father Lawrence. He worked hard all his life for his family. He did his best everyday just for the satisfaction of a job well done. Later when he retired, he because a huge fixture in the Knights of Columbus and achieved their highest honors as he progressed in their ranks. I feel I have learned my determination from him. Poul Andersen would be the other. He taught me to do the impossible from nothing. We did that every day, we created the bar that others needed to reach. He also taught me to save for a rainy day, because you never know where the business will go. Both huge inspirations to me.
Question: What book has inspired you the most? (OR what is your favorite book?)
ANSWER: Who Stole My Cheese? Its business 101 and that short story rings true constantly.
Question: What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
ANSWER: Releasing control sooner to people in my organization. We have a business coach Mickey Gubman, great guy and very smart as well. He taught me that there are other people who can do these jobs if you train them correctly. It also frees you up to run the business. After working with him I have become a conductor and no a musician in my business. I now run my business it doesn’t run me. Huge and powerful change for me.
Question: How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
ANSWER: Mistakes are college degrees. Once you make them you never want to repeat them. All damage control in our organization must me handled immediately with full attention. There is no waiting a few days, its all hands-on deck and fix it now. Your Customer service depends on it to be well functioning and 5 star.
Question: What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
ANSWER: Music has always played a huge role in my life. Rush is one of my all-time favorite bands, and it’s like the soundtrack to my life. I hear a song and know instantly where I was the first time, I heard it. Its inspired me to be a musician to the best of my untrained ear. Cars have also become an expensive hobby over the years. My current project is a 1969 Pontiac Catalina Convertible.
Question: What makes you happy?
ANSWER:Hawaii. No need to elaborate on that answer. No one is upset on a tropical island!
Question: What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Answer interview questions our marketing guru asked me to answer! In the early days I sacrificed family, I wish I had more time with my daughter when she was growing up and now the same with my son.
Question: If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask?
ANSWER: Are we done, Is that a wrap?
About: Seabreeze Siding & Window is the leading distributor of siding and window products in the Western United States. We provide a wide variety of siding and window products and tools to both installers and the public and can install windows and siding if clients desire.