It's tough out there for companies that sell products to the real estate market, but some companies are still doing well by offering excellent value and great service to their customers.
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We recently spent some time with Doors for Builders founder, Greg Wozniak, a company in Bensenville, Illinois that has managed to grow its market share in a tough market.
Greg, thanks for taking some time to talk with us about Doors for Builders. Let's start by having you explain a little bit about what Doors for Builders does.
Our company name pretty much explains what we do. We manufacture high quality, luxury wooden entryway doors. We primarily sell our doors to builders but our direct-to-consumer business is growing fast.
When did you start your door company and how are you doing?
We officially opened for business in 2006.
We have done well. We exceeded $1,000,000 in door sales the first year of business. We've become a preferred doors supplier for many builders and other professionals.
We are on track to exceed $2,000,000 in sales in 2008 and our doors business continues to experience double digit growth despite the overall slowdown of the construction industry.
What is your background? How did you come to start a door manufacturing business?
To go back to the beginning, I came to the United States from Poland as an immigrant in 1989 to stay with my father in Chicago and attend high school.
One year later I received a fencing scholarship to University of Notre Dame where I studied Economics and led the Fencing team to the NCAA Championship title my senior year.
After graduating from Notre Dame, I worked for Arthur Andersen LLC, Kraft Foods and Barilla Inc obtaining strong experience and knowledge of finance, marketing and management strategy. I also received an opportunity to attend the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and obtained the MBA in Marketing and Management Strategy.
After 10 years of experience working for big companies I was ready to start my own business. I got involved in real estate development. While I was building homes, I kept noticing that it was tough to get good quality wood entry doors. As a builder, you could order a door but it might take 8-14 weeks to get it, even if you went to a place like Home Depot. Plus, the doors were very expensive.
Based on these observations, I decided to start Doors for Builders. Our niche is that we offer faster access to finished doors than the competition – very high-quality doors at a lower price. That's a value proposition that has proved to be very attractive to builders.
But with the real estate crisis and the declines in the housing industry, surely your business is not doing well now, correct?
In fact, we are doing very well in this down economy. Sales are up 30% versus one year ago, and that was a very good year for us.
People will always need homes and homes will always need doors. While it may be true that construction activity is down in the absolute sense, our strategy is all about gaining market share.
In a down economy, you have an opportunity to gain market share because customers are more focused on costs savings. Word is spreading that we offer the best solid wood entry doors at the best prices. So, we are getting many new orders that might otherwise have gone to our competitors.
[Editor's Note: Follow the link above to see what these doors look like. These are very upscale doors we are talking about!]
It's a bit ironic but the bursting of the real estate bubble has actually helped our business in many ways, even though we are dependent on home construction and home remodeling to generate demand for our products.
That is very interesting. It seems that even in a bad economy some entrepreneurs can do just fine. By the way, how are you marketing your doors?
Our best marketing tool is word of mouth referrals. The building industry is very close-knit. If you serve builders well with great products and great customer service, words spreads very quickly.
We also use many traditional marketing tactics. We go to trade shows and we have various direct marketing programs. We advertise on the radio.
The Internet has also been very good to us. We have a website, www.doorsforbuilders.com, that we promote. You would be surprised how many folks order doors on the Web. We have been shipping to builders throughout the US and Canada. We also get a surprising number of orders from Europe.
That sounds like a solid marketing program. One final question – what is your advice for the aspiring entrepreneurs out there who want to start a business?
For aspiring entrepreneurs, I have this advice. Most importantly, make a decision who your core target market is. Once you understand that, focus your limited dollars on targeted efforts to that market only and ensure that your product or service delivers on your promises. Never ever disappoint your core customers as they are the key to your future growth.
Excellent advice. Thanks again for spending some time for us. You've provided some great inspiration to folks who are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur. You've found a nice niche in the construction industry and you've reminded us that quality, value and service are all key success factors for doing well in any business.