B.J. Werzyn is a young guy, just 36 years old. His company is an infant, in the grand scheme of things, at only 7 years old.
That hasn't stopped Werzyn and West Shore Window & Door Inc. from growing rapidly in Central Pennsylvania and beyond in the Mid-Atlantic market. The Cumberland County-based window, door and garage-door retailer and installer has more than 100 employees and three offices, including a new headquarters in Hampden Township.
And it all started with one guy and an aggressive attitude toward customer service.
"There was pressure to grow (the business)," Werzyn said, "but I only had to worry about myself. Then I just made the decision to grow the business and do better. The success was there, but the challenges were magnified by 20. Now I have 100 people depending on me to make good decisions."
In 2006, Werzyn had moved back to Pennsylvania from Florida after helping his brother in a door manufacturing company. Werzyn was familiar with home improvement hardware but always liked the installation end of it.
He worked for another window and door installer but decided to dive into his own business. By 2007, Werzyn had enough work to hire subcontractors to help with window and door jobs.
By 2008, Werzyn said, he realized the construction jobs weren't generating enough return business, and it was time to change.
"Dealing with subcontractors, you realize you have very little control over how they do a job," Werzyn said.
That includes how the subcontractors treat customers, their appearance on the job and how they act in someone else's home, he said. So he hired his own crews and began developing stringent standards for customer service.
In 2008, West Shore Window & Door also switched to higher-end products, which helped improve the company's quality reputation, Werzyn said. That brought in repeat business and referrals.
"That's great, because it's business you get from just doing a good job," Werzyn said. "Then you can spend all your time finding new business."
It worked, despite a slow market for renovation and replacement jobs, he said. Coupled with aggressive salesmanship and community presence, it generated more work than Werzyn could've imagined.
In West Shore Window's first year, Werzyn had revenue of just $250,000, he said. In just six years, the company hit $12 million. This year could top $15 million, and next year could double that, he said.
"Finding good people is what building a business is to me," Werzyn said.
By 2010, West Shore had an 8,000-square-foot office and 40 employees who were constantly on top of each other. Growing pains are never easy.
You have to find experienced installers who know how to hang doors and windows properly, as well as good design people who can help clients get what they need, said Orlando Cleaves, West Shore's human resources director.
Even with the recession and a large number of unemployed people, finding quality employees is difficult, he said.
"We've gone through 500 applicants in four years, just to get 100 employees," Cleaves said. And that doesn't count turnover rates.
Last year, the company built a new 15,000-square-foot office to be its headquarters and sales office for the midstate. By the time it moved in, it nearly had outgrown the space because of the new hires, Werzyn said.
Another building isn't immediately in the works. And expansion is likely to be a matter of filling gaps in West Shore's existing coverage areas, Werzyn said.
"You have to grow smartly, and there's a lot more for us in this area," he said.
The company could look to work in York and Lancaster, as well as Maryland and Virginia, where it's still the "new kid," he said.
However, Werzyn said, he's confident in the availability of work for housing renovations, despite a sluggish economy where general construction markets are a fraction of pre-recession levels.
Home renovations are growing much faster and spending is returning to precession levels, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.
In April, the center estimated U.S. first-quarter homeowner improvement activity was worth $125 billion, a more than 13 percent increase from two years ago and the same level as second quarter 2008, according to the center.
By the end of the year, spending is projected to be about $149 billion, more than the second quarter 2007 peak of $146 billion.
"It's still moving slow, yet we have a lot of work, so I can't wait to see what business is like as people start spending on their homes and it really takes off," Werzyn said.
No matter what happens, West Shore plans to tackle it through aggressive and endless attention to customer service, rather than fretting about factors out of the company's control.
"The only thing we can do," Werzyn said, "is worry about ourselves and move forward."