While it may not be a household name, products of AmesburyTruth are in over 95 percent of all homes in America. With 13 manufacturing sites across North America and a corporate office in Edina, Minnesota, AmesburyTruth is the premier manufacturer of window and door components in North America. In a recent interview with Jeff Graby, President and CEO of AmesburyTruth, he offered some insight into the challenges of leading a company that has multiple locations, each with their own culture.
AmesburyTruth, a division of Tyman PLC was formed in July 2013 when Amesbury acquired Truth Hardware, a company with a complimentary product portfolio and similar history. Over the last 18 months, AmesburyTruth has gone through a lengthy integration process including new branding, footprint evaluation and an internal reorganization.
The company, with facilities in Cannon Falls, Minn.; Owatonna, Minn.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Canton, S.D.,; Fremont, Neb.; Rochester, N.Y.; Amesbury, Mass.; Statesville. N.C.; Ontario, Calif.; Brampton, Canada; Juarez, Mexico and Ningbo, China — produces window and door hardware, sealing and extrusion components for both the residential and commercial markets.
Prior to his current position, Graby was CEO at Truth Hardware, which he joined in April 2012. At Truth Hardware, Graby oversaw the divestment of the business from Melrose PLC to Tyman PLC. Prior to working with Truth Hardware, he held a number of senior management positions within Schneider Electric/RAM Industries and GEA/FES Systems Inc.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about merging corporate cultures?
At first, I believed my biggest task was merging two corporate cultures. Then, my team and I quickly realized that the challenge involved merging 13 facilities — each with its own unique culture. The biggest challenge is leading employees to move away from their natural behavior through an adaptive process engaging “the new normal” behavior.
Each site might move through behavioral and cultural expectations more quickly than another. We have to be mindful that we can’t allow a site that’s not moving as quickly to lag behind — we’ve got to have everybody together.
What advice for others would you have for those with aggressive growth plans and aiming for new markets?
Both Amesbury and Truth Hardware had general areas where they wanted to grow. However, you have to do your research and understand exactly where you want to grow — what segment of the market. Know who your competitors are in the space and what is the competitive product. Then, define your white space and do a rigorous review of your product portfolio of existing products. Know what white space can be filled with existing product and new product development. Regarding new product development know exactly at what pace you can commercialize the product. Lastly, determine if you need an acquisition to fill that white space.
Was there an “aha moment” for you in building bridges between people who have long tenure there and those who are new?
My aha moment came just when I thought we were making great progress and then realized what was happening was more of a passive aggressive agreement. I was observing others nodding yes to new processes, changes and methodologies and realizing as soon as individuals left the room that we were not progressing as believed.
You have to be diligent in helping people manage through their normal behavior to the new normal behavior. I recommend cursory audits engaging everyone in conversation. You’ve got to continue to reinforce. Find your own method to measure to see how you’re progressing and see how you’re sustaining.
I recommend walking around and noticing if people are cooperatively working together. Find areas where your manufacturing associates have ranging years of service and ask how change is being accepted. And continue to ask questions — a lot of questions.
We know there is no secret bullet for all employees to be instantly and easily more open to change, but what have you learned works in helping leading people in that direction?
Continue to urge people to be honest and candid. You just have to continue to seek multiple opinions. You have to ask different folks the same question and ask “Why?” multiple times. And have facts to support the anecdotal responses you receive.
To be successful as an integrated company focused communication is key with constant reinforcement. We want candid and respectful feedback allowing us to know how and where to place our bet. How and where do we place our investments? How and where do we know we have the best chance for success?
What are the challenges of having a 95+ percent household penetration yet most consumers haven’t heard of you?
Before I became CEO of Truth Hardware, I didn’t know what Truth Hardware business model was or what they made. Yes, we have a 95+ percent household penetration and the biggest challenge is sustaining that level of penetration.
Our channel to market is B2B. It’s paramount that we keep our OEM customers at the center of our success. Customer intimacy is extraordinarily important for our success. We strive for good candid conversations with our OEM customers — not terribly different from the relationships we need with our employees.
We endeavor to have quarterly and mid year solid reviews of our performance with our OEM customers — what we are doing well or not doing well. We have to help them be successful. If they are successful, we are successful. When hearing critical feedback we must react quickly, take that information and internalize it to bring forth immediate corrective action — whether that is a plant process, engineering process or supply chain process. The more we can engage, the more we can drive the results. We can only control the activities — we cannot control business activities.
What’s the big take-away you’ve learned from integrating a number of independently operating businesses under one umbrella?
It’s a lot harder and more time demanding than I ever imagined. Simple company policies such as PTO, vacation, cell phone, auto allowance, gain sharing incentives and management incentive programs are cumbersome and time consuming.
Getting everyone integrated into the same programs is essential. My advice is to do as much as you can humanly achieve in year one. It’s absolutely essential to gather the facts and then move swiftly and not let issues linger. There are the low-hanging issues you have to address — do those quickly.
What insights regarding hiring the right person for the job have you learned through the years?
First, when you hire the wrong person in the organization, you know it. Don’t ignore it. Take immediate action to remedy the mistake. If you’re seeing you’ve hired the wrong person, everyone else around you is seeing it also. There is so much potential for wasted energy. It is about hiring the right person for the job — and it often requires rigorous review and effort to correctly fill an open position.
One simple vetting technique offers a lot of insight for us and tells me a little bit of what prospective hires know about our business. Five minutes into an interview, we ask them what they know about our business. In today’s technology world, the expectation should be that the candidate have a good understanding of the business and their role before attending the interview.
What long-term trends are you seeing in the window/door and hardware and sealing systems industry?
Security is first and foremost on people’s minds. Security on sliding patio doors, entry doors with multi-point locks, as compared to just the single deadbolt. We now have locking systems that are three-point and five-point locks. Security is key.
How do you see technology intersecting with the fenestration industry?
Smart home technology is a big push within our industry. We’re a fairly stable industry with amazingly long product life cycles. As much as I love technology and what it’s done for businesses the question remains, “At what price point can we make this product a viable proposition for our OEM customer?”
For example, we have some basic electronic entry door keypads, motorized sky light actuators and solar sky light actuators available. The really interesting opportunity is when we begin to actuate windows as an integrated part of smart home HVAC technology in response to controlling the home environment. When are we going to be able to actuate single hung and double hung vertical sliding windows and when are we going to actuate horizontal sliding windows automatically? It’s going to be a balance between technology and cost.
Our industry is not fast changing. People are definitely more and more acutely aware of what it costs to manage their home utility and energy usage. Energy efficiency and energy management with smart home technology can be the future.
The challenge for us, as the manufacturer and engineered solutions provider, is balancing the stability of the technology, the value proposition, and the cost to manufacture versus the price point of what the ultimate consumer is willing to pay.