As told to Max Perilstein
In an interview with Glass Magazine contributor Max Perilstein, John Korff, president and CEO of Virginia Mirror Co. and Virginia Glass Products, discusses VGP’s recent product diversification and current market conditions.
Max Perilstein: You are somewhat new to our industry. What brought you here, and how do you like it so far?
John Korff: I was hired in 2009 as COO, and promoted to president and CEO in August 2011. Virginia Mirror Co. and Virginia Glass Products wanted to bring someone in from outside the industry, someone who had new and different ideas but who also understood both the sales and operations side of a business. Although I was not a “glass guy,” I came from a distribution business and [had a complementary] background in sales and operations.
The business overall is more fun today than it was when I first arrived. Although the market is still challenging for us and our customers, there is more optimism and we are seeing signs of improvement.
MP: Virginia Glass has been around for a long time. Was it intimidating joining an organization with such a deep and successful history?
JK: My transition to VMC and VGP was relatively smooth; from day one, I was welcomed and felt right at home. I was lucky to join a company that is focused on what is important: the customer and its employees. This year, we are celebrating our 100th anniversary at Virginia Mirror Co., so our company has a long and rich tradition.
MP: You have led the effort to diversify the product line, now with laminated glass. How did that come about, and what else is on the horizon in terms of new product offerings?
JK: We had been looking at [expanding] our product offering for a long time, and I attended glasstec 2012 with one of our board members to look for the next ‘big idea,’ like everyone else. It really opened our eyes to all the possibilities for Virginia Glass Products. It is no secret that our focus is the interior business, and we intend to continue to play in that space with an expanded product offering in the future. The opportunities in the decorative space interest us [as well]; we plan to add to our offering so that we can become more important to our customers and in the marketplace.
MP: Fun one: I understand you’re a pretty good golfer, so if you had the chance to put together your dream foursome, who would you pick and why?
JK: This is the toughest question you’ve asked! When I was in high school, I was fortunate to caddy for Payne Stewart when he was an amateur. I always liked Payne and wanted to meet him again, so my first draft would be Payne. I like Phil [Mickelson]; he gets crazy at times and takes chances, and I like him for that. His final round in the British Open was one of the greatest rounds in a major, and I am happy he was able to pull it off and finish. Finally, I am a Parrot Head and have always liked Jimmy Buffett. I’d love to meet him on the golf course or on a boat. I think this would be a fun group.
Since Payne is no longer with us, if you can pull Phil and Jimmy together, you could be our fourth. Good luck, and thanks!
MP: The economy has been more challenging for some parts of the country than others. Virginia Glass Products covers a large territory; what is your perspective on the current market?
JK: Fortunately, we do cover a lot of areas and are diversified, but we are getting mixed signals on the recovery, depending on the market. Virginia Mirror Co.’s business is primarily residential. We are seeing a gradual improvement in that space, but it’s very inconsistent. On the commercial side [Virginia Glass Products] , we are still in recovery mode, and it has been a slow recovery. Some markets that you would think would be growing are not, and some markets are surprising us. Some of our customers are hiring, but their head counts are still lower than they were several years ago. Many businesses have not recovered, so they are slow to add people. Adding employees is a bet on the future, and we do not see widespread hiring.