Q&A: Brian Hurley

President, CEO Graham Architectural Products Corp., York, Pa.
By David Martin
December 4, 2008
Education: Saint Leo (Fla.) University.
October 2007-present, president and CEO, Graham Architectural Products; 2002-2007, president, Modernfold, Inc., the DORMA Group’s world leader in operable partition systems, Greenfield, Ind.; 1995-2002, served in senior sales and marketing position with The Stanley Works Access Technologies automatic door division, Farmington, Conn.
42; born, West Chester, Pa.; married; two children.
Coaching youth sports, family time, skiing, golf
1551 Mt. Rose Ave., York, PA 17403-2909, 800/755-6274, www.grahamwindows.com

Graham Architectural Products is part of the Graham Group, the York, Pa.-based, privately held entity that includes three “legacy” industrial businesses with combined sales of about $3 billion. The company, founded in 1972, manufactures heavy commercial architectural aluminum windows and doors, with specialties in historical renovation, acoustical, hurricane, and blast mitigation products.

You bring a fresh perspective from outside the commercial window industry. Why is that valuable?
When you manage a business over time, the paradigm often manifests itself, that “we do things this way because that’s the way we’ve always done business.” My philosophy is to always challenge the status quo, creating the opportunity to explore new thinking. In other words, bring new ideas in from outside to a business that maybe hasn’t looked externally for some time. This approach affects all aspects of a business, from product development to marketing to the business mechanics, how we approach key initiatives within the organization, how we accomplish goals. It includes the manufacturing process. A fresh perspective is always valuable.

Even before my arrival, in recent times, Graham had been bringing in some very qualified outsiders to key positions within the organization. One example is Paul Hoeft, our vice president, director of operations, who has helped Graham organize the plant in a way that allows us to realize better parts and materials inventory management. Another is Fred Trimmer, our vice president, finance, who also joined Graham from outside of the window industry. And, of course, the industry perspective is also provided by people like longtime Graham executive, Dennis Kelly, our executive vice president and a former chairman of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, [Schaumburg, Ill.].

Our guiding principle is to serve the markets we address with high quality products produced in a timely fashion to service the needs of the customers. An important goal at Graham Architectural will be to become a more customer-focused organization to maximize growth.

What are some significant similarities and differences between the operable partitions business and the window industry?
Certainly, they are both architectural products, and the market dynamics are similar. Both categories sell to audiences of common vertical markets. The overlap includes the university and K-12 educational markets, institutional buildings, and commercial buildings in the hospitality and office markets. Another similarity is both [businesses] are custom product lines. By size variations, if not by features, the products are produced to fit specific individual specifications, so there is little or no need to build inventory. Lead times are critical in most cases. And in both, you are serving the specific needs of customers and their projects. Quality and solid service, after the sale, are two more important criteria shared by these industries. Both are architecturally driven products, requiring what I call the seed-to-flower approach, beginning with the architect’s specs and ending with the end-user—and touching on all points in between. These include general contractors, consultants, and specifiers.

Considering the economy, where do you see the best short-term sales opportunities?
Our current business is solid, and Graham’s fast-growing blast-mitigation business has contributed significantly. Graham is currently the industry leader in blast window sales. We will stay true to the markets that have served us well in the past.

Tell us about your emerging blast-mitigation business.
Graham has rather quickly become the world leader in blast-mitigation fenestration. We have the most extensive portfolio of tested blast mitigation products. The market is still defining itself. It is a fledgling market and codes are still emerging, seeking to clarify the rules of engagement that are still opaque at best. Graham is heavily invested in the blast products market.

A related but separate growth opportunity for Graham, and others, is the hurricane-impact window market, which we see expanding well beyond Dade County, Florida, where the missile impact codes originated. All coastal areas, and even inland regions, offer excellent potential for wind-protection window sales.

You mentioned acoustical windows are an important part of your business. How so?
There are two sides to Graham’s sound-control windows. Both mitigate environmental noise in mostly urban areas. Our targeted acoustical vinyl window business is part of the Federal Aviation Authority’s Part 150 noise abatement program for qualifying home owners living in the shadow of major airports. The FAA program side of the business, lead times, consistent quality and accuracy are critical. In recognition of these demands and growing volume, Graham opened a dedicated acoustical window plant over a year ago.

Do you see a future for commercial fiberglass windows?
We recognize that pultrusion windows are an emerging market. We are exploring some ways to re-approach this high-performance option. As the technology improves, we hope to be manufacturing fiberglass windows in the future. The potential benefits are certainly attractive.

What’s Graham’s place in the Green Building and Architecture movement?
The Green Movement will have a strong, sustaining impact on the commercial window business, and Graham supports it through its manufacturing processes, product design, energy performance and involvement in LEED building certification. We will continue to invest in green products and practices. We use VOC-free powder-coat paint, plus recycled glass and aluminum. Our products deliver not only strong thermal performance but also protect building inhabitants from potential harm from high winds, street noise and even bomb blast threats. Graham is a member of the United States Green Building Council, which defines and provides important recognition to LEED-certified projects.

The author is principal with Lenzi Martin Marketing, Oak Park, Ill., 708/848-8404, david.martin34@comcast.net