Associated Building Supply, Inc. supplies high-end window and door systems to California’s luxury-home market. It’s rated one of the best by its own industry, and driven to be one of the best by its own beliefs.
The company was established in Oxnard, California in 1993 by founder Chris Cole. With Chris at the helm ABSi grew over the next decade into a 3.8 million-dollar company, well established in two locations and with a solid foundation in southern California.
In 2006 Scott Thurber joined the organization and helped Cole grow it into a leading supplier in the region. Today the company employs 30 people and operates nine showrooms and two corporate offices spanning the entire state. As California’s leading supplier of high-end window and door systems, ABSi has seen consistent success and last year achieved 35 million dollars in sales.
The history of ABSi has been 26 years of learning, and focusing on, what matters most to its customers and its vendor partners. “Part of what we do really well is representing our brands,” says Vice President Scott Thurber. “Our vendors provide a super high level of service to us because of our ability to sell their products. When we bring on a brand to sell we’re very selective and we work very closely with the vendor to develop a joint plan to build both their brand and our brand together.” Over the course of its existence ABSi has carefully cultivated a premium vendor network and a streamlined product offering.
Focus on trust
In the beginning, ABSi focused on just a few brands whose products the leadership trusted. As the company grew, so did its vendor network. Today it offers solutions in every product category. For many of those vendors, ABSi is among their top dealers. For example, the company is the number one dealer in California for JELD-WEN Windows and Doors and the number one supplier in the nation for Western Window Systems brand aluminum-window products.
Overall, the company’s performance rates at the top for nearly every brand it works with. “It really increases the level of service we can offer to our customers because of the solid relationships we have with our vendors,” says Thurber. “We’re different that way.”
ABSi aims to be much more than a typical supplier. Going far beyond just the product, the company provides a complete solution to every job by working closely with the builders, architects, and homeowners to develop a clear understanding of all their needs, providing a unique solution designed specifically for the project at hand.
This means that ABSi gets involved early on so that its experts can work with the architects, helping them specify products that are right for the design. This involves not only aesthetic decisions, but application- and performance-based decisions as well.
As a result of this, ABSi helps ensure that all the products specified in the architects plans are structurally feasible, and that they are suited to the weather and exposure requirements of the house. Once the designs are completed, ABSi will work with the building team as well, ensuring that everything fits within budget and code requirements, and that the products are properly installed.
To call ABSi just a supplier is to seriously underrate what it brings to each project.
And there’s another level to this process which sets ABSi apart from its competitors. While ABSi is liaising between homeowner, builder, and architect; while it’s ensuring that everyone’s needs are met; and while it’s providing everything from pre-sale consultation to post-sale commitment, it’s all rooted in a written, tightly-defined policy of fairness that shapes everything.
In fact, ABSi’s commitment to this approach is laid out in a unique document called the Fairness Doctrine. “When Chris and I were talking about expanding the business, he gave me this small employee handbook he’d written,” says Thurber. “I was reading it at my kitchen table and he had the fairness doctrine in there on the last page. I read that and thought, we can build a company on this alone.”
Important enough to be encapsulated on the company website, the Fairness Doctrine says that “in the conduct of all our practices one requirement exists; if it is fair to both parties, it is correct. We must treat our customers with respect and consideration and they must in turn reciprocate.” This tenet is repeated twice more, for the benefit of employees and the benefit of suppliers. The Fairness Doctrine promises fair treatment for everyone involved in every project as the only way to long-term success. With this commitment to fairness in its dealings as the rock on which everything is built, ABSi has developed an array of solid business relationships that have stood the test of time.
Integrity and fairness
ABSi’s Fairness Doctrine and its commitment to integrity have been instrumental in the company’s ability to operate successfully in the luxury home market. Customers trust ABSi, and are therefore willing to make these investments through them. For ABSi, this is a key differentiator. While the majority of its competitors focus on mid-range products, ABSi aims exclusively at the higher end of the market. By concentrating so much effort on building relationships with customers and vendors, the company has built a reputation for integrity that has enabled consistent growth.
In the north, ABSi has showrooms in Santa Rosa, Truckee, Burlingame, Los Gatos, and Dublin, and in southern California in Costa Mesa, Torrance, Oxnard, and San Diego. It has corporate offices in Oxnard and Auburn. From these locations the company serves primarily all of California, with a lesser presence in Arizona. Within the next year the company hopes to expand its geographical reach both within California and outside the state.
Range of products
ABSi has also expanded its portfolio of high-end, luxury-home, window and door systems suited to residential and commercial projects. Every single product is diligently vetted and selected with utmost care, resulting in a line of premium quality windows and doors in wood, steel, aluminum, fiberglass, and vinyl, of varied sizes and price points.
Some of these products are immense. Single door panels can reach twelve feet high and six feet in width, or even more. These single door panels make up massive door systems that can span 10 panels wide or more reaching widths of 50 plus feet. At the high end, they can cost fifty- to one hundred-thousand dollars. By anyone’s standards, they can be a significant investment; one that customers only want to make with a company they can trust. ABSi has focused its entire business model on earning that confidence. “You have to have a good relationship with the homeowner,” says Thurber. “One of the mistakes that a lot of the sales people make in our industry is thinking they don’t need to spend time with the homeowner. But you do. You have to develop their confidence. They want to spend a lot of time making sure they get exactly what they want.”
ABSi actually bills itself as “Your local supplier statewide,” and its reach has given it a significant advantage over the competition. While many competitors operate in smaller, localized markets, ABSi can follow its customers wherever they go – in California, and beyond.
There for the customer
This has enabled the company to maintain its network of builders and architects by being accessible for all their projects. “It’s easy for us because we have all of these locations,” says Thurber. “If they want to have a meeting in a local market they can. Our sales people can access any of our showrooms at any time and have meetings anywhere. They don’t have boundaries or territories so they can follow their customers wherever they go.”
California sprawls over a huge area, and the economic situations, north and south, are very different. When the economy booms in southern California, the northern economy is often down and vice versa. Having roughly half of ABSi’s business in each market has been a great stabilizer. Operating statewide has been a major contributor to the company’s success.
As is to be expected, with ABSi’s impressive performance so far, the industry has recognized and awarded it with some of its top accolades. In just this year, the company won Best of Houzz in the customer service category, was ranked fifth in the nation by Door and Window Market Magazine, and 33rd fastest-growing company in the nation by the Pacific Coast Business Times.
The conclusion is self-evident: There is a value in building business relationships through a focus on fair dealing. Throughout its 26 years in business, ABSi has shown the industry everywhere just that.