From the Fabricator: Big Second Half Ahead

With the July holidays in the United States and Canada behind us, the second half of the year can begin. There have been some frustrating feelings out there as not everyone was as “swamped” as they expected to be in the first half of the year. Some areas of North America stayed softer into the second quarter vs. others; however, that all looks like old news as work is seemingly breaking free all over. The expectations are very high for a very strong last half of 2018. I think that’s what we all want, so bring it on!

Elsewhere…

Time for the monthly Glass Magazine review. It’s the June issue featuring the MGM National Harbor on the cover. Once again, jammed packed with content led by the annual Top 50 Glaziers report. I love looking at this list each year. So many good people doing great work. There’s also a fabulous GlassBuild America preview (get registered and book your hotel if you have not yet). And Bethany Stough continues to deliver extremely helpful articles on the workforce with yet another strong piece. Last, I am big fan of Matt Johnson of the Gary Law Group and he had a very smart article on “When to Call a Lawyer.” All of this and much more. Plus, if you are headed on vacation soon, you could save it for pool or beach reading. You'll look like the smartest one there! 

Last, before my interview this week, kudos to my friends at Trex Commercial Products (I still want to type SC Railing) on some of their amazing recent work. I am a big fan of creativity with glass and what these folks did with the glass railing portions on the new soccer stadium in California was sharp. Congrats on a job well done!

Big 3 Interview

Scott Rowe, principal and glass geek, Rowe Fenestration

This was a really fun interview. I only recently met Scott at the past GlassBuild America, so getting a chance to do this with him was very cool for me. With just getting to know him, the more I follow Scott and his company, the more impressed I get. Manufacturers’ representatives can get a bad rap (some deserve it, believe me), but guys like Scott and his group surely do a fantastic job of making the companies they represent and our industry look good!

Did I read your profile right that you were a math major in college? How did you end up in the glass world from there?

I actually ended up in the glass business well before college.

It was the summer of 1969, as a sophomore in high school, I took a summer job at a tiny upstart glass company that was soon to move to my hometown in the Midwest. I started as a loader on the line and moved up to glass cutter, before automated cutting and optimization. I moved through the plant working many of the stations, until the day that changed my life.

It was a hot, humid corn belt kinda day in the factory. A group of five or six coolly sophisticated looking guys came in the side door. They wore pink and purple madras shirts, penny loafers with no socks, and were all sunburned. “Who are those guys?” I asked. They were a couple of our customers and the sales guys after a day of fishing and golf. I knew in that moment that I wanted to be like them: their freedom, style of communication, and that footwear. I continued to work in the plant all through high school and during every college break. “Scotty, bring a clean shirt, run to the airport to pick up our vendor/customer/architect.” Every opportunity presented brought me closer to connecting with people, talking to them, learning about them, and ultimately to sales. I started full time as a management trainee in 1975. But back to your original question, I did use my trigonometry knowledge to figure out the algorithm for the stretch factor on a vertical tong-held tempering furnace using a slide rule.

You started your manufacturers rep firm in 2005, which was when things were rolling, but then the recession hit pretty quick after that. What kept you going and then eventually growing?

By 2005 I had been in the business over 30 years at many different levels of the industry and had the opportunity to learn from some great mentors. People are the core of our business, and I am fortunate to have been surrounded by an innovative and hardworking team, a brilliant business partner, and have the support of my incredibly smart and patient wife. Like many of us, we have the urgent need to eat, sleep out of the rain and cold, and support our families. When you are a small business you are not necessarily tied to national trends. With insight and effort, we can influence and affect our own reality. We have built a small team of talented people from different backgrounds, and they are leading us to continued success as the world evolves.

A lot has obviously changed in the industry from when you started, is there anything specific (products, plants, people etc.) that make you laugh at the way things were vs. the way they are now?

Life is change. The technology of the products, the design, the process, the systems, the applications, and methods of communication have all changed greatly. The need for top quality, dependable, honest, and timely transactions and communication is as relevant as it has ever been. The speed with which things happen now is nearly in real-time. The days of the traditional library and catalogue are virtually gone; you need to have a digital footprint, social media and an online presence with a positive user experience. Technology facilitates these opportunities. As they say, “there’s an app for that.” Transition into this new world is vital.

Many of the “shazam” type products and organizations that we have expected to be overnight phenomena take far longer to develop than first expected. I liken it to a Bonnie Raitt interview I heard the year she won Grammys in four categories. “How does it feel to be an overnight success?” She replied, “Amazing, and it only took me 25 years.”

Our business has changed in many ways. We can now build better buildings with greater energy efficiency and more innovative design options as we continue to evolve toward net zero facilities. What has not changed is the need for humanity in the process. The need to develop understanding and a collaborative spirit between the ownership/design, the corporate manufacturing entities, the GCs and the specialty subcontractors remains a vital challenge for a successful outcome.

Madras shirts are back (for some of us never gone). I still love fancy socks and a great pair of velvet shoes, but I do stay out of the sun now on advice of my dermatologist. I was able to do it, and I still love what I do. We truly respect and enjoy the culture of this wonderful industry and are extremely fortunate to have the support of excellent vendor partners. We continue to get up every day to assist our customers as they work to complete successful projects.

Read on for links and video of the week…

Max Perilstein is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications.E-mail him at MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

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