hullander

After opening a Buck Stove dealership in 1977, Bill Hullander began manufacturing vinyl storm windows the following year to stay busy during the summer. In 1981 he changed the company’s name from Buck Stove Center to Hullco Inc., to account for the breadth of products and services he offered homeowners. In 1985 the business started selling and installing replacement windows.

Matt Hullander earned a two-year degree from a local community college after he graduated high school and went to work for his father. He helped build windows in the shop, managed his own installation crew and then sold jobs to customers in his 20s. As the company grew, Matt became more involved in management until one day in 2005, when Bill walked into his office with a gift.

“He set a box of business cards on my desk that said I was president,” recalls Matt, who worked with his father over the next few years to purchase the C corporation without sacrificing the bulk of the family’s wealth. Bill presented him with one share of Hullco, which made Matt the owner, and the corporation bought the business from Bill, who pays capital gains on annual installments.

Matt sought to uphold the integrity his father instilled in the company, but he also networked and joined several peer groups to strengthen its financials. Bill had worn many hats while running the business, so Matt learned to hire capable managers and delegate the responsibilities more evenly. His experience up and down the Hullco corporate ladder has provided valuable empathy as well.

“It did give me the perspective from each of those job positions that I worked over the years,” he adds. “It also let the employees know that I’ve been there and done that, and kind of established myself as an expert in this industry. I do a weekly TV show on our CBS affiliate called ‘HouseChatt.’”

The program aims to educate homeowners and has no ties to Hullco, which does not advertise on the station during the segment. Matt spends close to 10 percent of revenue on marketing, though, whereas his father relied more on repeat customers and referrals. The increase in advertising has allowed the company to scale up from $3.5 million when Matt took over to $12 million this year.

“I took a big role in the marketing; I’m the face of it, so I’m in all the TV commercials,” he says. “[That’s] where I think we differ from a lot of the guys in my peer groups. I don’t have outbound calling. I don’t have canvas teams. I don’t do sweepstakes and shows and events every weekend. We really just try to build it from being the best at what we can do from a branding perspective.”

In 1997 Bill moved the company from Apison, Tennessee, to a new location in Chattanooga that displays Hullco products. Before expanding into Knoxville last year, Matt partnered with former University of Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer, who serves as athletic director for the school. Hullco will collect about $2 million from its Knoxville business in the first year, he adds.

“When we started looking at the market, we found that we have a lot opportunity there for a few reasons,” Matt explains. “There are about 250,000 more people [there] versus Chattanooga. It’s [also] only an hour and a half north of Chattanooga, so logistically that helps. Then we formed a partnership with the university, which gave us an opportunity to sell to a different set of people.”

In 2013 the company introduced bath solutions—tubs, showers, walk-in tubs, and tub-to-shower conversions—but does not plan to launch any new services or locations soon. Hullco instead will focus on its current offerings and continue to empower its employees to do the right thing, as the remodeling industry evolves with technology and new generations of home improvement clients.

“I think all of this is going to change in five years. In 10 years, nobody will be doing it the same way; everybody will be buying a replacement window on their smartphone,” Matt says. “I see it changing drastically. We’re going to change with it and be in front of it—instead of behind it.” | QR

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