Fifteen years ago, I was burned out. My partner and I had built a replacement window business into a regional powerhouse. We had appointment setters, a sales force, installers and a payroll to meet every week. If owning a Porsche that could go faster than I’d ever drive meant I’d arrived, I was there. I was also stressed and miserable.
After seven years in the window business I had come to realize I could quote a job in five minutes and be out the door. It wasn’t that I didn’t like talking to customers; it was that I couldn’t stand wasting their time and mine in a lengthy sales pitch that involved a choreographed dance that had become too familiar.
I walked away knowing there had to be a better way.
I started over, solo. I was going to sell windows without the high pressure. I was going to do it myself, without the employees, and would hire the same installers I had before, only on a contract basis. I was going to simplify my life.
In what may have been my smartest move, I went to an ad agency and asked for help telling my story. David Esrati, chief creative officer of The Next Wave, Dayton, Ohio, looked at what my new brand was and told me it was crap. I had restarted my business with a new name based on the name of the local natural gas provider, thinking people would think I’d been around for a while. Esrati asked me if I wanted to build a company or a brand, a job or a business model? He talked about creating the story of selling windows differently. It took him a bit longer to sell his services than it took me to sell a house full of windows, but it was the best business decision I made.
Within a few weeks, The Next Wave had a list of about 10 names for me to choose from. The one Esrati liked best had me, a religious Jew, worried. It was Zen Windows. When he explained that selling windows was as simple as black and white, that there are good and evil ways to sell, and that Zen was more about a state of mind than a religion, I accepted his choice.
The tagline, “Relax, window quotes in 5 minutes,” was revolutionary, and Esrati’s presentation was so understated I knew it would resonate with anyone who had been through a three-hour, high-pressure pitch.
I set out to change the way I sold windows. But by walking in the right door, I found that just as I’m the window expert, there are people who are marketing and branding experts. I walked into The Next Wave not knowing anything about Zen and left having learned I may have known less about selling windows than I thought. The branding process opened my mind and my business to the possibility of doing more with less, saying more by saying less and has me living more and working less.
Daniel Wolt is president and founder of Zen Windows, Columbus, Ohio.