There's little doubt the sight sparked tingles of pride among those attending the rededication, and it would be perfectly understandable if Lyn and Jim Reed felt a few tingles of pride as well. Their business, Res-Com Window Solutions, Inc., Brookfield, WI, installed the motorized flag. It's an ideal example of many of Res-Com's projects: it features motorization, Lyn and Jim's specialty, and it involves overcoming a challenge.
"We had to take a scissors lift on the outside of the building, put the flag on top of the lift and raise it up and go in over a balcony to even get the flag in there," says Jim Reed. Mounted on an eight-inch diameter aluminum drum with the motor housed inside, the flag's movement is controlled by a single switch. Lower and upper limits have been set so the flag stops automatically when being lowered or raised, Reed explains. "It took four of us to get it up into place," he says, "but it's very impressive."
A NICE PLACE TO BE
Equally impressive is a list of Res-Com's clients. Lyn Reed reviews some of the projects that come quickly to mind: "Motorized draperies at Johnson Wax; motorized shades at Harley-Davidson; motorized blinds at Universal Foods; huge motorized shades in a natatorium as well as motorized shades in the library at Carthage College; and 30-foot motorized shades in an atrium at Lawrence University."
This client list has grown gradually but steadily through referrals since 1987 when the Reeds bought an existing, successful installation business from a mutual friend. But it was their decision in 1990 to start getting involved in motorization that got things moving and began setting the Reeds and Res-Com apart. "Right away we realized too much of the business depended on one company and we wanted to diversify," says Lyn Reed. "We knew we didn't want to do just straightforward draperies or straightforward mini-blinds."
The Reeds set out to build a niche for their business and to put their talents and inclinations to work. Motorization fit the bill. Lyn Reed had earned a bachelor of arts degree in interior design at Mount Mary College and was versed in reading blueprints, floor plans and elevations through experience at previous jobs working with general contractors. Jim Reed, on the other hand, describes himself as always being mechanically inclined with years of past experience in building and remodeling. The Reeds also share a fascination with finding solutions. "I like challenges," says Lyn. "I like to solve problems," says Jim.
To spread the word, the Reeds put on a half-day seminar locally with the morning session repeated in the afternoon. "Part of the seminar had to do with fabrics, and part of it had to do with hardware, and part of it had to do with motorization," Lyn recalls. "I was so disappointed because only 10 or 11 people showed up at each session. But three of the people were from Johnson Wax. We ended up doing our first—and rather sizable—motorized job in the Frank Lloyd Wright building at the Johnson Wax complex."
"Our growth has been gradual—up until this last year," Lyn notes. The popularity of motorization and the complexity of many new construction projects calling for Res-Com's specialty solutions has boosted sales to new levels. "Europe, for years, was way ahead of the United States as far as motorization of window treatments," Jim says. "But we're starting to catch up and there are more people out there now that are doing it, although some of them just like to go out and install motors and treatments and when there's a problem they don't want to go back and service the problem. That's where a lot of our repeats and referrals come from." According to Lyn, in the first quarter of this year Res-Com has already billed more than a third of last year's total sales.
Even more, however, the Reeds credit flexibility and service for their success. "We're the only company that I'm aware of that operates the way we do in our marketplace," Lyn says. "We expedite. We can do turn-key projects from blueprint take offs, design consultation, research and toubleshooting through to the pricing, ordering and installation stages. Or we can do any part thereof." When it comes to service, Lyn says that's Res-Com's motto: "Service, service, service times 10. Without that you don't have a business."
Of course, it helps that no one else in the Milwaukee area began working with motorized treatments as early as 1990 or that there is very little competition for what the Reeds do today. "That's a nice place to be," Lyn admits, "but we've positioned ourselves there years ago and created this niche for ourselves."
By volume, roughly 80 percent of Res-Com's sales are in the contract market. "The majority of our work is through general contractors, architects, designers and facility managers," Lyn says. A typical project might be a corporate boardroom in which the motorized window treatments must be interfaced with the room's audio/video equipment.
Often, Res-Com will get a call to resolve a problem after construction is completed. "A brand-new building had a two-story glass atrium reception area facing south and west. No window treatments were specified because they didn't think they needed them," Lyn says. "Within a few months employees were wearing sunglasses and sun visors. The glare was amazing and, of course, there was the heat build up. We went in and retrofitted motorized blinds, and Jim developed a motorized skylight horizontal blind for that project."
"The computer age has made for a real boom in the window treatment business," says Jim. "Architects are wonderful; they create these beautiful rooms with views that are great, but the sun's reflection off of a computer monitor can be really horrendous."
Ideally, the Reeds prefer to enter a project while still under construction. "If you have to go into an area and retrofit for line voltage it gets extremely costly, sometimes the electrical installation is more than the blinds themselves," Jim says. Getting into a project early also ensures the window framing is appropriate for the treatment desired. "One of the things that goes into our contract with all of these motorized projects is that sufficient blocking must be provided by others and must be secured structurally. We're dealing with a lot of weight in some cases," Lyn says.
"You have to check everything," Jim adds. "Sometimes they have freight elevators in these high-rise condos that are not adaquate—I believe—to carry furniture up much less some of these larger window treatments. We've had to have the elevator people come in and lower the treatment on top of the elevator and run it up to the floor where we needed to install it. That becomes extremely dangerous."
Experiences such as these add much to the Reeds' bank of valuable knowledge, but they'll be the first to say there's always more to know. "You're always on a learning curve. The day I don't learn something is a day I might have overslept," Jim says. "We never stop learning," adds Lyn, "it's a matter of how far we choose to take ourselves on this route."
Don't think that Lyn and Jim Reed work exclusively on commercial projects, however. The "Res" in Res-Com stands for residential window solutions. Yet even their high-end residential jobs often include motorization and their clients require special solutions.
For the past two-and-a-half years the Reeds have been working on a dream project: a 20,000-square-foot private residence that has involved all of Res-Com's specialties. Lyn created soft treatments for the house, which include two-story-high arch treatments and custom designed cornices. She also worked with the home owner's wife, a graphic designer, to develop unique interior treatments.
Some of the outstanding features of this home include motorizied wood blinds and motorized shutter arches. With the help of one of Res-Com's suppliers, BTX, the Reeds installed 75 motorized Silhouette window shadings from Hunter Douglas—all of which are controlled through two custom-made control panels. "The house is tied into a computer system," Jim explains. "The owners can call in on a phone line and have the shades open or close from long distance."
One of the most interesting parts of the house is still being worked on. It's a small replica of an elaborate Victorian theater the owners will use as a media room. When finished, the theater will have motorized waterfall draperies as well as decorative draperies, a little balcony for the kids and a popcorn stand.
Lyn and Jim were called into the project while the house was still in the rough opening stage. "We like to work in a team effect and get involved with the contractor and electricians and everyone working on the project including the lighting people," Jim explains. "We like to talk to architects and tell them that if the client is even remotely thinking of doing motorized treatments at all to do the wiring in the beginning rather than have a retrofit," he adds.
In this project, cost is not an overriding concern for the clients. When budget must be addressed, Lyn Reed prepares a master plan and scales back if necessary. "Start with the best-case scenario—be it the best design or the best technical solution," she advises. "After they have been blown away by the price you can go back to them and phase some elements in over time or eliminate others.
"You have to be willing to go that extra step to satisfy the client and to satisfy yourself because we want to do the very best job we can do for anybody. It's the clients' best interest that has to be the driving force. This can't be an ego-driven thing," she adds. "This is their space. You have to understand what their needs are both functionally and aesthetically and put together the project."