Can Window and Door Competitors Be Friends?

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Yesterday, I had the pleasure to meet a project architect from a firm I have worked with for many, many years on a job site.  We showed some samples and discussed her project’s design intent and special needs.  It was a lot of fun for me because I have not done a lot of site meetings in the last few years. 

Of course, driving almost two hours in ugly morning rush hour traffic and circling the block for 15 minutes to find a parking space took away from the fun.  This is especially true since I live only about an hour from New York City. 

Driving was not the only rub on this otherwise pleasant day.  At the end of the meeting an old friend in the window and door business showed up to meet with the same architect to discuss the upstairs windows and doors which I was not called in to discuss.

GlassBuild or Fensterbau?

We discussed pleasantries since we have known each other for decades and almost did business together several times.  I was trying to remember when we had last met, and I suggested that it was at Glass Build a few years ago.  He thought it was at the Fensterbau which is the largest window and door trade show in the world and is held every two years in Nuremberg, Germany. 

The mention of Fensterbau prompted me to fill the architect in by saying that it was where we all go to find new technology to steal.  Of course this was said tongue-in-cheek.  We don’t actually steal ideas, but Europe in general and Germany in particular is where almost all of the great and innovative ideas for hardware and system design have originated for decades. 

So-called innovations like tilt-and-turn windows, lift-slide-doors, roll shutters, and many more ideas were developed and used in Europe years before being introduced into the U.S.  My friend had to respond in a pointed manner to me, that “some of us develop new technology ourselves right here in the U.S.” 

His was an effort to snipe at me for having had Swiss and Polish partners in the past who I cooperated with on developments and was one of the “thieves” stealing ideas from Europe while he was pure of heart . . . a real American, unlike me. 

I was taken back that he felt the need to put me in my place to raise his own credentials.  It was totally uncalled for and reinforced the thing I hate most about marketing and competitors which is that idea that all product development is a zero sum game.  If I win, you lose.  If my product is great, yours must be crap.  If I’m a true American innovator, you are an impostor.

Can’t we all just get along?

Competition and competitors don’t need to act this way.  I didn’t feel compelled to remind him that his original manufactured product was developed in Canada or that he is the biggest imported of Chinese extrusions and parts that I have ever met.  I believe he sells and might actually manufacture some of the tilt-and turn windows he looked down his nose at because he didn’t use, borrow, appropriate, or steal European ideas.

I consider myself a window and door innovator, and every idea that I have ever had has origins going back to every product, invention and innovation that I have ever seen or experienced.  None of us living today invented the wheel or fire.  Almost every innovation today owes its success in some small way to pioneers and innovators of the past.  Hubris is an ugly thing.

Made in the U.S.A.

Each of our products has unique ways that it satisfies customer needs and at different price points.  I love the 2Fold® product that we manufacture here in New York State . . . U.S. of A.  We use American built hardware that I am sure gets some parts from China and whose design has an Australian heritage.  Our locking system is our invention and the framing and thermal break design is also ours.  We currently have a patent application pending. 

There is a place for each and every one of us in the marketplace.  I can present my product’s benefits without trying to belittle or minimize the product alternatives.  I will point out the differences, but dear lord, I hope that I am never so snarky about our superiority.  We’re not the best product fit for everyone, but our clients will make their own minds up without competitor’s help. 

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