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Live from IDA 2019: Interview with Mark Stuenkel of The Door Company

Apr 18, 2019


A longtime customer and friend of Janus, Mark Stuenkel from The Door Company was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule at IDA 2019 to give us some advice and insights into his lengthy career in the commercial door business.




How long have you been in the door business? What was your entry point into this industry?

Since late 1974. I had graduated from college in business and finance and interviewing for jobs was running into a new requirement [as of that same year] to have a Masters Degree for the positions. This would have required me to retake courses that made up the majority of my senior year and that wasn't going to happen with me having paid for college myself. A few weeks after interviews died out, my Dad called and said a friend of his had talked him into sharing the purchase of an Overhead Door Corporation franchise covering Northern CA and that he was busy all day working his job and his friend had just retired and didn't want to work hard enough to run the business, so they wanted to hire someone to get it started.......



How many years have you been attending IDA?

Since Far Western and DODA merged.



Can you tell us a little bit about The Door Company?

Our goal has always been to provide excellent service for a fair price and be on the cutting edge of the industry for products offered and the education of our personnel. From our start [a $10,000 line of credit and a "Hi-Ho-Silver".....remember the Lone Ranger?] we have grown to four locations throughout Northern California and a large number of great employees. Thanks to the wonderful people at our Company, donating time back to the Industry was possible and I spent 11 rewarding years on the Board of Directors with IDA. At last count, nine of our superb technicians have certified as Master Technicians and three others are ready to certify once they complete a few more fire door drop-tests in the next couple of months. We are meeting our goals, expanding our product offerings, continually adding to our knowledge in the field and in sales and making customers happy. We are proud to be a small part of this industry and our communities.





How long have you been working with Janus?

Decades now...but not as long as I've been friends with Rob Finelli, who suggested you contact me. He now owes me a dinner!



In your opinion, how do you think the industry has changed over the past few years?

I believe the industry watches out for itself more vigilantly against harm being done to its reputation and customers. There is more of a push to bring deceitful practices to light as the true exception, as opposed to anyone getting the idea that it may be the norm because it happened to them. IDA and DASMA, dealers across the country, local and national news programs and now Google are leading the charge.


Dealers went through a major recession and contracted personnel-wise when things got slow. Many have been unprepared for the uptick in business we have had since January 2017 and our extremely strong economy. Finding good people is always tough, but when all of America is employed and a number of those in various construction trades (including the door industry) had to find other work during the recession, the available labor base is extremely small. This affects the ability to grow and to take on new products to diversify, even with the potential out there to do so.


Manufacturing has been consolidating for years, foreign investment in manufacturers has increased and we have been seeing vertical integration as manufacturers buy dealers/distributors. Product development by manufacturers has been exceptional and allowed their dealers to continue to bring new concepts to market.



Along those same lines, how do you think it’ll evolve over the next 5 or 10 years?


There will be continued consolidation of dealers and manufacturers. Regulations/codes will be an even larger factor in product innovations and how work gets done in the field.




Do you have any advice for folks who are just getting into the business? What are a few things you wish you’d known when you first started?

Rather than what I wish I'd known, this should be approached as what should be known........

People new to the business need to be aware that:

1.) Contracts they sign can, and will bind them, to levels and coverage of insurance most do not have and can't afford (and in many cases for years after the contract is completed) - so read them carefully and don't be afraid to use an Attachment to a contract to modify or exclude what needs to be.

2.) Retention requirements (these dollars can be held for up to a year after you have been paid 90 or 95% of your contract) and you need to figure how that is going to be capitalized - the more work you do, the more money that will be subject to retention and not in your pocket until some later date to spend.

3.) The dangers of having "a buddy" help on a job when the contractor is "exempt from workers compensation requirements" and what could happen if that person were injured - if you have "buddies" helping out, you need to get WC insurance.

4.) Figure your jobs from margin on cost and not from mark-up.

5.) Learn how to protect yourself so you get paid in a timely manner.

6.) Cash flow is King.

7.) Growth takes capital, lots of work hours and the ability to deal with huge amounts of contract paperwork/online contract administration as the level of projects changes.

Factory Shoot - Model 3100_2

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