These are good days for entrepreneurs in the home improvement industry. Of all the segments within remodeling, home improvement—which is composed of specialty contractors focused on windows, roofing, siding, gutters, decks, sunrooms and other niche services—is among the most bullish. Earl Rahn, the effusive co-owner and leader of Tampa, Florida-based NewSouth Windows, is Exhibit A.
The firm, which launched in Tampa and Orlando in 2010, now operates branches and showrooms in Sarasota, West Palm Beach, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale/Miami, and Naples/Bonita Springs, for a total of seven major markets. Significantly, Earl and his business partner, CEO and co-founder Daniel Ochstein, are alumni of Champion Windows and Doors. That is why, instead of buying from a supplier, they chose to build their own factory in Tampa to supply the company. They follow the factory-direct model pioneered by Champion.
In 2018, the company completed 4,907 jobs on $75,962,813 in installed sales, a 21 percent gain on $59,588,446 in installed sales a year prior, when they completed 3,925 jobs. According to Earl, the company will eclipse $100 million in installed sales this year as it makes the initial foray outside of its Florida base. This December it will open showrooms in Charleston, South Carolina, and Mobile, Alabama/Pensacola, Florida.
“What we’re going to do is follow the coast,” Earl says. “After Charleston, we’re looking at Savannah. We’re looking at New Orleans. We’re looking at Houston. We’re looking north to Norfolk. We’re going to follow the coast so that we can continue to have a window, whether it’s impact-rated or not, for every house on every street in every town up and down the Eastern Seaboard right across the Gulf of Mexico that we can get to. We just think that we have a window that will give them energy efficiency and, God forbid, protect them in the event of a hurricane.”
A Marketing and Sales Machine
When NewSouth opens its Pensacola showroom, it will have coverage across the state. Eighty-two percent of Florida’s entire population will be within a 65-mile drive of a NewSouth showroom. That did not happen without a lot of careful planning. And it is strategic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to have the ability to achieve critical mass from a marketing standpoint.
Amy Rahn, Earl’s spouse, is a long-time consumer packaged goods marketer who has served as the company’s vice president of marketing from the very beginning. They created the brand, NewSouth, and its marketing with the goal of projecting an image of a strong, regional firm. Then, in each market they enter, they buy a blend of television, radio, digital and print advertising to support local showrooms. The overarching message is that each window is made in Florida for Florida homes by Florida workers because they understand the Florida weather.
Earl Rahn, president and co-founder, with Daniel Ochstein, CEO/co-founder
“We’ve always had a high-performance window, and we have wanted our brand to match that window,” Amy says. “We’ve allowed ourselves to evolve and improve along the way. We’ve also been very frugal with our ad spend. We keep everything in-house and we monitor results, but we also manage our media partners. So that philosophy has been part of our success.”
In all, they make the phone ring throughout 10 different in-bound sources: radio, television, newspapers, billboards, open houses, home shows, direct mail, the internet, digital advertising and vicinity marketing.
“Those 10 sources of appointments keep us busy,” Earl says. Leads get funneled directly to each local showroom, where branch leaders run a meticulous sales ground-game.
NewSouth is particularly proud of its open-house events, promoted heavily in advance. Homeowners are encouraged to bring in their measurements, take a tour of the facility, have a hot dog and get a price. A recent one-day event in Tampa netted close to $2 million in sales during the event and the following three days.
Excellent Batting Averages
NewSouth leads are uncommonly fruitful. Whether it is the strength of the brand marketing or the attractiveness of buying a Florida-made window, or the strength of the factory-direct model, a high percentage of appointments lead to sales. Earl shared a recent monthly sales ticker for NewSouth’s Tampa division, where a group of six sales reps and their manager closed more than 40 percent of their appointments with full demos. From Earl’s perspective, it’s the whole system that works together to produce such positive outcomes.
“We’re an invited guest at their kitchen table for 70, 80 or 90 minutes, and that’s based on reputation and the fact that we know how to sort of just shake the trees and our potential customers fall out,” he explains. “Our guys have learned to be so professional, so courteous and ask a lot of questions. They thank the prospects for the courtesy of allowing us into their home, and they specifically state that they are there to earn the right to be their contractor. We are appreciative. We see over a 1,000 people per month, so we want to make a good impression.”
As the company grows and fills more of the manufacturing capacity of its 5-acre plant near Tampa by opening branches in coastal areas on the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Seaboard, Earl, who is 67 years old, says the day is coming when he will slow down and go out and get a fishing pole. But that day is not here yet. QR