Quality without Compromise
By Cheryl Long
Sometimes the simplest concept is the most effective one. At Wilcox Door Service Inc., doing the job properly is one of the company’s core principles and a reason behind their outstanding success in the competitive construction sector.
The Mississauga, ON-based company has a distinguished history and even brighter future. Dating back to 1912 when it began as Richards-Wilcox Custom Systems, once the largest manufacturer in the United States, Wilcox Door continues to lead the industry with a reputation for manufacturing and engineering excellence. The 80-employee company is best known for their cranes and custom doors, designing, engineering, manufacturing and installing products that adhere to the highest standards. That commitment to quality also means that they’ll search for an innovative design to meet their customers’ needs rather than rely on standardized products.
Company President and owner Bill Stewart purchased the business in 2006 when Richards-Wilcox began disassembling and selling their Canadian assets. He dropped Richards and chose the name Wilcox Door to differentiate the organization from another Richards-Wilcox door manufacturer in Mississauga owned by a U.S. firm. The two companies continue to maintain a manufacturer-distributor relationship today, and Mr. Stewart’s company still controls the Richards-Wilcox name for the crane side of the business.
Though he purchased a business that already had a long-standing reputation as a quality manufacturer, Mr. Stewart also brought his own wealth of experience to the company. Armed with an education in electronic engineering, he began his career working for an industrial door company, moved into a sales position and then left to launch his own business. That grew into the largest industrial door service company in Ontario, and was followed by several acquisitions including Speedy Industrial Door in Hamilton and the Richards-Wilcox operations in Mississauga, ON. Their locations in Mississauga, Hamilton and Cambridge provide products and services across Ontario.
“We’re a very, very large distributor of hi-speed rubber doors and rolling steel doors. We’re doing one for Viva right now,” Mr.Stewart said. “…we jumped on the rubber door product before anyone else did and became the largest dealer in North America for rubber doors.”
In fact, their products are almost everywhere you turn. At Toronto’s Pearson Airport, most of the hangar doors were built by Wilcox Door. And then there are the retail, condominium and parking garage customers across Ontario. Industrial organizations turn to Wilcox not only for doors, but dock equipment, cranes, heavy-duty fans, energy-efficient lighting and security products such as gates and fencing. The client list goes on and on, everything from long-term private business contracts to government tenders.
It’s the way they operate that has led to Wilcox Door’s success, Mr.Stewart explained.
“I think it’s probably our processes, how we get return business by doing the jobs properly,” he said. “We implemented a quality system so that we could track and regulate how well we’re performing and that gives us a lot of return business.” Some of their processes are more complex, namely the implementation of a program to set up automated dispatch throughout the company. But other changes were simple yet effective enough to impact the bottom line.
“We’re in a muddy industry,” Mr.Stewart said. “We got new trucks, bettered our equipment, hired better people and uniformed our people… did all the things (our competitors) weren’t doing. Obviously in the electrical trades that’s pretty common, but in our trade we didn’t do that. They’d be running around in second hand trucks with guys in leather jackets…it made quite a big difference.”
That difference is evident not only in the number of satisfied and often repeat customers but in the eyes of the industry as well. Wilcox Door has received several prestigious awards over the years, including the International Door Association’s (IDA) Distinguished Service and International Dealer awards in 2005, along with several other service awards over the years. In a continually evolving industry, the recognition is nice but there’s little time to rest if an organization wants to stay ahead of the competition. Stewart and his management team are constantly adapting to changes in both the construction and property management industries.
“During the recession companies were making decisions based on cost, not on foresight or safety, so we were sliding a little bit during that period because they were just going to whoever,” Mr.Stewart said. “Now there’s a very large direction for … all these large multi-national property management companies coming in and they have a hierarchy of many different companies that do quality measurements, safety measurements and you have to get approved by that and it costs a lot of money.”
Many smaller companies can’t afford to go through the approval processes, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, Mr. Stewart said. “…but out of that (process), we could get 10 customers approved without even having to meet them so that’s how we stay innovative, staying on the cutting edge of what’s changing and how the market changes.”
Marketing is another challenge, and Wilcox Door is always looking for new ways to recycle concepts and ideas, and find new ways to market their products. Though they’ve taken advantage of what social media can offer, the latest anti-spam legislation in Canada has them considering a move back to traditional mail. One of Mr.Stewart’s best business tools is his involvement with Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), an international group that brings young executives together on a global level and offers a peer network, trusted mentors and ongoing education. “It’s pretty amazing,” he said.
Many factors contribute to the success of any company. Innovation and quality are two of Wilcox Door’s strengths but they also rely on strong management, a talented sales force and hard-working, skilled employees. “When it comes to hiring people we tend to get better staff and they don’t leave because of the pensions and such,” Mr.Stewart said. “We have a guy who’s retiring and he’s worked for the company for 40 years and he’s still going to work three days a week because he wants to still.”
As well, they’ve built strong relationships over the years with others in the industry like Assa Abloy, Hormann Flexon, Wayne Dalton, Micanan, Raynor Garage Doors and, of course, Richards-Wilcox.
“We’re a company that’s been around for a long time, we stand by our work and we have great people, and that’s really kind of the point…”