A sunny outlook Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2008

Michael Rosati knows windows inside and out, but he knows his customers even better.

When he founded The Rosati Window Co. LLC in 2000, he pledged to treat his customers the way he wants to be treated.

“You go into an appliance store, and they jump all over you,” says the founder, president and CEO of Rosati Windows, which posted 2007 revenue of $18 million. “That’s not what consumers want to hear today. They’re intelligent, decision-making adults, and if they want to buy something, they’re going to buy it. That’s one of the main things that I changed in marketing our business.”

Smart Business spoke with Rosati about how he and his 167 employees create successful customer relationships.

Q. How do you grow a successful company?

You have to have a firm commitment for customer satisfaction. In most companies, no matter what they’re selling, the salesman makes the sale, takes your money, and you never see him again.

Three years ago, we started a quality assurance. After the windows are installed, we send a trained professional to do a walk-through with the customer and make sure everything’s the way the customer wants it. If there’s something that’s an issue, we can usually fix it on the spot.

The quality assurance program has been very successful for us. It’s another way to tell our customers that we care about them and that we want them to be happy.

We couldn’t afford it at first — it’s an expensive program — but it was already in my business plan, and I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. The department doesn’t earn a profit; it’s all expense to make sure that my customers are taken care of. It’s part of our cost of doing business, and it has created instant trust and instant credibility.

Q. How does rapid growth affect that credibility?

A lot of companies panic when they start getting a lot of orders because they’re getting busy. They shut down their marketing and advertising, and that’s a huge mistake.

Then, all of a sudden, the customers forget who they are.

Once the machine is going, you don’t want to stop it because it might not start back up again when you’ve caught up with your orders.

Q. How can business leaders manage rapid growth?

They need to contact their customers, tell them they’re inundated with orders and that things are going to be running a little bit late.

About five or six years ago, we had this huge spurt of business. I sent a letter out to every one of my customers, apologized that we were running behind and gave them all a discount. I didn’t lose one order, and nobody was upset with us.

I got a lot of phone calls, and people appreciated the fact that I took the time to be upfront and honest with them. It was just the right thing to do.

If you attack the issue upfront, people appreciate and accept that. When you don’t talk to them and the product doesn’t come in on time, that’s when people get upset. That’s one of the problems with a lot of businesses — they’re not upfront.

Q. How do you deal with rapid growth?

You’ve always got to be thinking one step ahead. You have to recognize the market and have a feel for the influx of orders and customers. You just know that things are brewing. It’s a seventh sense, a gut feeling and a best-guess scenario.

You can’t be a brand-new company and lease 100,000 square feet; you’ll be bankrupt. You’ve got to start small, but you can’t put yourself in a corner or you’re not going to grow the business, the building and the employees.

Q. What happens if you fail to stay one step ahead?

If the business takes off and if you’re successful, you’re going to get overwhelmed with business and you’re not going to have enough people on staff to handle it. You have a responsibility as the owner to be aware of the overall picture.

If you don’t plan ahead, the potential of upsetting and losing customers is very high. If you take an order and don’t have a clue how you’re going to fill it, that’s a real issue. If you do it enough times to enough people, then nobody will buy from you.

One of the most important things you have to do is build a good reputation. There is so much competition in the market today. You have to attract people to your business because they trust you, believe in you and want to do business with you. Reputation is everything. With a bad reputation, you’re done.

HOW TO REACH: The Rosati Window Co. LLC, (888) 866-7800 or www.rosatiwindows.com