Let the Sun Shine In
Thermo-Tech Premium Windows and Doors
Thermo-Tech Windows, LLC is on a mission to make and sell the best possible windows and doors on the market. Premium vinyl is the company’s manufacturing material of choice, which it says is superior to wood in durability and energy-efficiency. Thermo-Tech is experiencing a huge growth spurt, with a massive plant expansion and new product line in the works for this year.
Based in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, Thermo-Tech does not sell directly to contractors or individual consumers. Thermo-Tech’s product line – which includes windows and doors for new construction and replacement applications – is sold at lumber yards and other dealership locations. Most of the firm’s business is done in its home state.
“Probably eighty to eighty-five percent” of the company’s business “is Minnesota-based,” says President Michael Kutay. “The other states we have sales in are Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Michigan. We do dabble a little bit in Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska. In the future, we’ll go further southeast with distribution from our current facility, and may also look at other manufacturing [locations].”
About eighty percent of Thermo-Tech’s windows are used in the residential market in single-family homes. The company offers a showroom in its plant for homeowners looking to inspect its product line in person. If the homeowner in question wants to purchase anything, they are steered to a lumberyard that distributes Thermo-Tech’s products.
The remainder of the firm’s window business is with the light commercial sector, primarily low-rise buildings, such as apartment complexes up to roughly four stories high. Thermo-Tech windows are perfectly suitable for higher elevations, but because the company does its own servicing, it is easier and safer to stick close to the ground when it comes to replacing and repairing windows, says Kutay.
In similar fashion, most of the doors the company sells are for residences and commercial firms.
Thermo-Tech’s trucks and drivers will deliver products to local customers. For longer hauls to more distant clients, the firm uses outside carriers.
The company houses a head office and manufacturing plant under one roof in Sauk Rapids. Altogether, management and manufacturing currently take up about 135,000 square feet. However, Thermo-Tech is currently preparing for an expansion that will see the manufacturing plant grow by 56,250 square feet. The expansion is scheduled to be “completed by year’s end,” says Kutay.
Thermo-Tech’s window and door products are primarily manufactured from virgin vinyl, a highly durable material. According to Thermo-Tech, vinyl is greener and more energy-efficient than wood, a traditional material used for windows and doors. Vinyl lasts longer than wood, meaning Thermo-Tech windows and doors don’t need to be replaced as often as their wooden counterparts. Also, the company’s vinyl-based products do not require the use of paint, thinner, stripper stain, or solvents.
Thermo-Tech windows and patio doors contain interior chambers that trap air and offer excellent insulation. Double or triple pane options are available.
Popular product lines from Thermo-Tech include its Classic Series of premium windows and Classic French sliding patio doors. Choices available within the classic window segment include casement windows, sliding windows, double- and single-hung windows, awning windows, bow and bay windows. Classic Series windows are intended for new construction.
Classic French sliding patio doors, meanwhile, offer wider stiles and rails for improved appearance and dual ball-bearing adjustable rollers.
Thermo-Tech is gearing up for the release of a new product line called ‘Northern Elevations,’ that is expected to be released later this year. Kutay says the new release will add to the company’s already high-end products.
Thermo-Tech originated as East Side Glass. The firm was opened by Jim Ferkinhoff in his family garage in 1953 and was initially based in St. Cloud, Minnesota. It expanded and changed over the years, branching out to create Thermo-Tech as a separate company in 1993. The new version of the company put a heavy emphasis on vinyl windows and doors.
At present, Thermo-Tech Windows and Doors has about 120 full-time employees, up from 110 last year at this time. The added staff is a reflection of the company’s explosive revenue trajectory, propelled by double-digit sales growth within the last three years.
Kutay attributes this growth to several factors. Most obviously, the company provides “a very sound product,” he states. “We’re a higher price vinyl, but we have a lot of value to offer.”
Thermo-Tech provides excellent service and has a fully engaged workforce. The firm also recently embarked on a growth strategy, forming partnerships, working hard to determine and manage customer expectations and educate customers and staff. The company will “reach out to contractors. Even though we don’t sell directly to them, we’ll go to their worksites and educate them on why our product performs better,” says Kutay.
Community service is prized at Thermo-Tech, but the company, while strongly supportive of the actions of individual employees, avoids taking credit for their work. “We’ll do stuff for the Salvation Army, for Toys for Tots, but it’s not through Thermo-Tech; it’s our employees as a group who do it,” he states.
Thermo-Tech has a website and social media presence and attends trade shows to promote itself. For all that, the company relies on the personal touch for much of its promotional efforts. “I will personally visit our top twenty-five customers on a yearly basis, and we do several Thermo-Tech Universities annually as well,” states Kutay.
Thermo-Tech University consists of seminars for people who handle the company’s products, such as lumberyard sales representatives. Builders, or anyone else either currently installing Thermo-Tech windows and doors or thinking about it, are also welcome. Sales people from Thermo-Tech offer product training and performance data and answer questions from audience members. Management staff, including Kutay himself, try to attend as many Thermo-Tech University seminars as possible, to offer further insights on the company and its products. Also present are Thermo-Tech customer service, field service, engineering and marketing staff.
At these seminars, the company listens closely to what customers say about their needs and their opinion of Thermo-Tech’s offerings. The ultimate goal is to determine, “how can we serve you better?” says Kutay.
Thermo-Tech also trains each of its employees on the features of its product line. “Who is our best sales force? It’s our whole workforce. So we train them as well. Now you have that one-on-one connection with [your workers],” states Kutay. As for new hires, “we look for someone who definitely wants to work as a team,” he continues.
The company offers profit-sharing programs for employees and holds regular communication meetings to instill this team spirit, states Kutay. Thermo-Tech hosts events for staff, including a dinner for all employees and families during a baseball game.
The team’s principles and beliefs extend to maintaining the highest quality standards. Thermo-Tech does all the usual quality assurance procedures, including internal quality checks, product testing, getting regular audits and making sure vendors are properly qualified. As well, each employee is expected to keep an eye out for anything that does not meet company standards.
“We encourage everybody to be the inspector and catch [problems with] quality. Staff do measurements after so many pieces, and randomly check pieces all the way through,” states Kutay. “We want to instill that [spirit of] quality in every employee. We want the first person from customer service when they take an order, to enter it properly, to make sure it allows time for manufacturing to produce the item on schedule. Our quality, our delivery, our performance has to be better than everybody else’s for our next order because we’re judged on our last order.”
“I believe part of our quality is, we have an excellent workforce. They take a lot of pride in what they do,” he adds. “The other thing is, if we get a new customer, we do not distinguish a new customer from an existing customer. A lot of companies say, hey, make sure this first order goes perfect. [At Thermo-Tech] no one out there in the plant knows if it’s the first order or the millionth order, there is no distinction between any of our customers. It’s a consistent message of quality. I mean, how can you tell your employee, on this order make sure it’s good, but on the next order, who cares?”
While Thermo-Tech officials have big plans for the company, uncontrolled growth is not on the agenda. “We want to continue to grow and grow aggressively but in a controlled manner. We’re interested in controlled growth because we know the product today has to deliver the same quality tomorrow,” states Kutay.
And for Thermo-Tech, tomorrow is looking good. “I believe five years from now we will probably be expanding markets a little bit in the southeast. We will probably at that point be saying ‘At what location do we want to start another facility? Will that be through acquisition or do we do a startup?’ I also believe we will continue our double-digit growth,” states Kutay.