Chad Lofthouse is the President and second generation owner of Courtland Vinyl Windows based out of Courtland, ON. After purchasing the company from his father, Wayne, in 2013, Chad intends to carry on the business legacy through three main pillars: faith, integrity, and work ethic. I sat down with Chad to learn more about how he conducts business and maintains the level of success Courtland Vinyl Windows has accumulated over the years.
Being a second-generation owner, did you feel any pressure from your parents to take over the family business?
There was absolutely zero pressure to take over the business. It was actually my goal to go to school as I had no interest in the business at any age, especially considering I had opportunities to work with my father throughout high school and college as a summer job. My original career path was actually to be in insurance. I worked in that line of work for about 6 years through a company out of Princeton, Ontario. With the limited education that I had, I hit the ceiling with where I could take my career with insurance and, at the time, my father was trying to sell the family business. I actually had to put the pressure on him to let me pursue that endeavour and convince him I was serious and could perform well in this line of work
What is the biggest difference between the way you ran your business when you first started compared to how you run your business now?
I think the biggest thing for me was that when I started, I had debt to pay because I was buying this company. I was worried about where the money was going to come from and, if we got into a slow season, I felt like we had to drop prices to compete. Thankfully, I had the wisdom of my father because he would sit back and watch me struggle a bit, then through his wisdom and encouragement would show me the trends and cycles and ultimately have patience. Work would always filter through, but different seasons always had ups and downs.
Now that the business is paid for and my family is comfortably in our home, I can operate the business with a little bit less stress and know from experience that the calls will come in. I am not a high-pressure salesman, I offer people a package of what they’ve asked for, give insight or ideas if I feel something would work out better for them, present our proposal for the work involved, and when/ if they are ready, they will call or come in to see us. The bottom line is that the biggest difference is the amount of financial stress. I really feel when you have a handle on cash flow and managing your finances, it allows you to focus more intently on different avenues of your business.
In your opinion, what quality or approach has helped you most to run a successful business?
There are three things that we try to focus on in the way we run our business. The first being our faith in Jesus Christ, as I put my hope and trust in Him, and He is the foundation of everything we do in our business. The second being our integrity and how we treat people, as we believe that a smile, looking a customer in the eye, and giving them a handshake can go a long way in combination with standing behind the products and services that we offer. And lastly, our work ethic. This doesn’t mean working around the clock or working hundreds of hours, but it means being efficient within the hours that we do operate. From 7AM to 5PM, Monday to Friday, we are striving to get done as much as possible, while maintaining the highest quality of work that we are able.
As a business owner, what do the words, “patience”, and, “persistence”, mean to you?
You have to have patience in a lot of different avenues, such as patience with customers when we’re delivering quotes and if they might not be ready to go ahead with a project until next year. There also has to be patience with employees since some jobs take longer and are more complicated. Allowing them time to trouble-shoot and work through those projects themselves is super valuable. There may also be times when we are hoping to jump on to another project the next day, but the current job is taking longer and spills over into the next project. So, from a scheduling standpoint or an ownership standpoint, we have to have the patience to let our installers handle it.
Persistence isn’t really a word that I live by. We aren’t pushy and we don’t go after people as we try to be transparent about what we do, what we offer, and what we are about. We provide customers with what we feel is a competitive price and package, and if they don’t wish to pursue that, then I won’t push them to change their mind.
What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to young people who have a dream of running their own business some day?
I feel that the younger generation wants to jump into business and start making top wages right off the bat. I truly believe that it’s a benefit to engage in all avenues of a business. For example, I worked at this business growing up throughout my teenage years and dabbled in it throughout college. When I first got heavily involved with the business, I started as an installer. Starting as an installer gave me the background of how things are measured and installed, but after over a year as an installer, I broke my ankle. This injury put me in the office, so I began digging into bookkeeping, costing, retail, and how to sell. Then, from there, I was able to progress into the sales component and when it was time to purchase the company from my father, I had knowledge from an installation point of view, a paperwork point of view, and a sales point of view. I felt that those three things were a stable enough base for me to move in to running the company. If I had come into this cold turkey, then there would have been too much to learn in a short amount of time.
I also found my experience in Insurance gave me a great starting point on how to be professional. From templates, proposals, dealing with people, managing my schedule, etc. Don’t be afraid to try a few different lines of work to find what you like and what fits your personality and style.
Again, this all depends on the size of the company and where you are planning to go with it. If you’re a hard worker, attentive, and a forward thinker, go out and prove your worth, you should advance in a company quickly. It is good to start from scratch to see how things operate from all levels and departments, so, for example, you can understand when your installers come in and say that they need a specific tool or that something happened on the job, I can talk the same verbiage, I understand what they need from an equipment standpoint, and I know what is safe and what isn’t, so it allows me manage much more effectively.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Patrick MacDougall and I am a licensed REALTOR® based out of Tillsonburg, Ontario. I service the Oxford, Norfolk, and Elgin County areas and work everyday to bring as much value to others as I possibly can.