D&WC:Why did you decide to join Window Bright? How do you hope to contribute to its growth and success?
Gene Demestre: I have been following what I call the movable insect screen business for many years. As a matter of fact, I got my start selling four-sided fixed insect screens up and down the East Coast. I knew that eventually people would get tired of the maintenance and the appearance of fixed screens and it was just a matter of time before someone developed the right technology to help this market take off.
In 1999 we sold Vimco and I needed to find something exciting to do next. I ran into Dan DeYoung as I was leaving a large trade show to catch a plane and we talked briefly. I asked him to call me and he did. What I discovered was that Window Bright had already developed patented technology jumping the gap to make the category marketable. It also had a five year product development plan already to do all the things I saw were needed to become the main player in the movable insect screen market. What really sold me was that Dan had created a small company based on old-fashioned values, such as trust and integrity, which are important to me.
My plan is to use my experience to help the company grow and create a family of Window Bright dealers second to none in the industry.
D&WC: Since assuming the position of vice president of sales and marketing, what areas of the company have received your primary attention? Why?
Demestre: The main thing the company needed was a good family of dealers. Keep in mind I've been following this category for more than 16 years. Window Bright had the best products, but they really didn't have any distribution.
Dan's experience was from another industry which brought fresh ideas, but no industry network. It had done national retail advertising, but without the dealers in place it couldn't capitalize on the leads. As with any emerging category it was the chicken or the egg sort of thing. My primary focus is developing a good team of dealers we can grow with to capitalize on the opportunities already available, and let Dan focus on building the team to develop and manufacture all the products this category will need in the years to come.
D&WC: What do you perceive as the company's strengths in the marketplace?
Dan DeYoung: I suppose the primary reason we started the company in 1997 was because we saw the potential. No one had solved some of the major problems to make disappearing screens a standard on fine homes. Roll up style screens have been around for years, but no one had found a way to make them look nice enough to be considered on middle- to upper-end homes. We developed the window unit, then customers asked us for disappearing screen doors, too. We did a trial at a home show where the response was great, so we decided to go ahead and take the big leap. So solving problems would be our strength.
From a product side, our strength is easy to install, affordable, reliable disappearing insect screens. It has been quite interesting to see the difference between our disappearing screens and other retractable screens. Early on we decided that even if a screen rolls up, it must also look good enough to put on a $500,000 house or it won't sell!
Ultimately though, I think the biggest strength of the company is our people and their integrity. In so many ways it has turned into a customer disservice world. After talking to a machine for five minutes the person you finally reach can't help you! So 15 minutes later you ask yourself, "Was it worth saving $10 for all the time and hassle?" We don't want to try to be a high-volume discounter because the business model seems to be inconsistent with good, local customer service and value.
We all have a commitment to making our units the best looking, operating and fastest to install. If they look good, work good and are quick and easy to install, then our dealers will be successful, and that will make us successful.
D&WC: What are your goals for Window Bright? Where do you see the company one year from now, five years from now?
DeYoung: We would like for all the people who are interested in our products to be taken care of regardless of where they are located. It is frustrating for us not to have a local dealer in an area when we are talking to an excited homeowner on the phone. We also have some new technologies that we hope to be able to develop and market, which we think will really change the way people look at window and door screens.
Our plan has really been pretty simple: 1997 develop the product, 1998 test the market, 1999 add the door unit, 2000 develop a dealer program, 2001 grow dealer network, 2002 introduce additional products, 2003 expand consumer promotion and pull through. By 2006 we should have grown to the point we can start to take advantage of some of the high-volume manufacturing techniques from my automotive background and have our advanced research and development group already finding the next bright idea of opportunity for middle- to upper-end homes.
D&WC: Please tell us a little more about yourself and how you got started. What is your background and experience? In what area does your expertise lie?
DeYoung: I was painting my house and the window sills were rotting because of traditional screens. I told my wife somebody should make a screen that rolls up out of the way so that wouldn't happen. She jokingly suggested maybe I should do it. We started messing around with it and the rest is history.
That was the spring of 1997. Prior to founding Window Bright, I worked my way up through engineering, quality and manufacturing to running the manufacturing operations for Dana Corp., one of the world's largest independent vehicular and industrial parts suppliers. I had been involved in about every aspect of the business, but it is quite different than the retail home products industry.
My expertise lies in building and leading teams to make things. The retail sales and marketing have been a whole new animal for me. I had been looking for a good experienced sales and marketing leader, so it has been great to join up with Gene. We make a great team. Gene brings the experience, vision and expertise to help us really go and grow. I think our dealers will be very pleased in the coming years.
D&WC: What can the retail home fashions industry learn from the automotive industry?
DeYoung: In the vehicular industry you often work with projects that may last five years or more with safety a big issue. Deep down we all know that for good, long-term relationships retailers, manufacturers and suppliers all need to make money. We try to anticipate the needs of the homeowners, dealers and installers so that everyone wins.
We live in the richest country in the history of the world. I remember explaining to a young woman from Uganda what our company did. Her response was that a window in her country was a hole in the wall. That comment brought home that nearly everything here is a luxury, so our job is to help people enjoy the great life this country has to offer. Our job is to help our dealers profitably create happy local customers. Cheap products and prices don't always do this best. The high road may be a harder road, but I believe it is true that your character is what you do when only God is watching.
For instance, take packaging. If something is damaged in shipment, it sure does not make for a happy homeowner or dealer to have to reschedule. We probably spend double on packaging than what we could get by with. Or look at installation. A dealer who resisted our kit concept is now one of our biggest fans because it saves him time and makes him look more professional to his customers. Throw in the fact that he nets more profit than with on-site fabrication and everyone wins. It costs us more, but dealers and homeowners benefit.
Or look at adjustment. With our disappearing screen systems the homeowner or dealer can make adjustments that make the difference between an OK installation and a great installation. These are all things ground into me after 18 years in engineering quality assurance and manufacturing where life and limb are on the line. The entire system is important.
251 Rope Mill Parkway
Woodstock, GA 30188
fax: (770) 592-2734