Ray Ferraro of All Trades Contracting in Clinton, N.J., has a long list of what he looks for in a window supplier. Specifically, the owner of the $1.5 million remodeling company specializing in kitchens and baths wants the following:

  • A fast quote turnaround that's inclusive of tax and delivery costs
  • Delivery to the jobsite
  • Sales and marketing seminars on products
  • The ability to buy direct from the manufacturer, "or at least to know what the requirements are for buying direct"
  • A personal relationship with someone at the company
  • All that's on top of a product that looks great, is priced competitively, and has, at minimum, options for low-e, argon gas, sculptured grill between the glass, and tilt-and-wash hardware for cleaning.

    Consistency is Key

    Reis Calfayan, production manager of Calfayan Construction Associates in Huntingdon Valley, Pa., wants windows at the jobsite when they're supposed to be, or at least within three days of when they're supposed to be.

    "If they don't come on time," he points out, "the customer thinks we're not organized enough to have them on time, and that's one layer of confidence stripped away."

    Mike Weiss, owner of Weiss and Co., Carmel, Ind., agrees that there needs to be "consistency in respect to furnishing. If they say four weeks, I don't want it to be three weeks one time and five the next, because that plays hell with our scheduling."

    At the moment, Calfayan splits his window purchases between two suppliers. "I used to be loyal to one supplier," he says, "but their buying power dropped off and that affected the quality of service and turnaround time on estimates." He found that the difference in the supplier buying $1 million worth of windows vs. $200,000 translated to product availability and responsiveness to service requests. "If the supplier is getting, say, half a trailer a month, manufacturers are more apt to squeeze in an extra order. So it speeds up service and it speeds up delivery." In addition, if that supplier calls with a problem, "it gets handled a lot faster."

    Information, Please

    Ten years ago, Brian Elias, owner of Hanson's Windows and Siding, Detroit, did business with multiple manufacturers. Because the $40 million a year Hanson's buys direct, Elias decided to streamline the process by concentrating his purchases with one source. Using multiple manufacturers, Elias says, "made it difficult to systematize the ordering process, since each one has his own forms and ways of doing business." For Elias, rapid turnaround and window quality are givens. The key factor in staying with a supplier is information, specifically computer-to-computer product tracking.

    Tips from a Pro

    Jason Larson, whose San Diego-based Lars Construction operates a window division buying direct from a single manufacturer, says if he were switching suppliers, he'd require at least the following:

    A good warranty. "That adds value for the customer," Larson says.

    A good rapport with the company representative. That way, they'll show you new products, make sure your displays are current, and give you a price break when you need to be more competitive.

    A competent service department. It's important that there's "a part of the company that will back up what we're selling," Larson says.