August 31, 2017
As Scott Gates says, few people are born dreaming about working in the window and door industry. But once they’ve joined the team at Western Window Systems, the company’s president and CEO hopes they quickly realize they’ve actually found their dream job.
And not just because of the pride they can take in being part of the design, manufacturing, marketing, and sales of the highest-quality door and window solutions on the market. Surely, that’s part of it. But mostly it’s because of the culture at Western Window Systems, one that focuses on an inclusive, team-oriented, people-first environment where a focus on creativity, innovation, adaptation, speed, and winning results in both profits and a desire to change the game.
Sort of like the Silicon Valley tech companies currently altering the American workplace landscape.
With its eye-popping new manufacturing and office headquarters in South Phoenix, Western Window Systems has taken its boldest move yet toward presenting to the industry just how different it is.
“Most of the market is very aware that we make incredible windows and doors,” Gates says. “Not everyone is aware that our staff and company culture are actually more incredible than our products. We wanted to change that. Our new building is a metaphor and visual representation of what makes Western Window Systems special. When your customers begin to fall more in love with your culture than your products, you are onto something special. This building is the next step in a journey that is so much bigger than just windows and doors.”
Creative energy, style, quality, innovation, positivity, and, yes, a sense of fun imbue all points of the 170,000-square-foot edifice, from the impressive lobby to the break areas to the office workstations to the executive suites to even the shop floor.
It all starts with the glass. Huge moving panels of it, in the form of the company’s giant multi-slide doors, turn the office headquarters into a de facto showroom that inspires each visitor – be it an architect, builder, dealer, or homeowners – who walks through the front door.
Thoughtful and compelling murals by local artists, themed conference rooms (including one featuring a Western Window Systems-inspired sculpture created by a world-renowned Lego artist); a wall-size image of Yoda adorned with his most famous inspirational quote (you know the one); beautiful, custom-made desks created by a local woodworking artisan; spacious, wide-open break areas with communal tables ideal for collaboration; and a wide array of diversions (think: pool table, arcade games, bubble hockey, mini golf) meant to foster teamwork, clear the head, stir the creative juices, or simply lighten the mood. And then there’s the bright red, two-story corkscrew slide beckoning anyone who thinks the dizzying, fast-paced working environment isn’t quite dizzying enough.
“These types of unique office environments were supposed to be reserved for tech companies, not manufacturers,” Gates says. “We flipped the equation on its head because our space was not designed just for office staff, but for manufacturing team members, too. We strongly believe that we are One Team, and our culture proudly proclaims that every person matters, regardless of title.
“I am fully aware that our staff spends more time at work than they do at home,” Gates continues. “Our leadership has a responsibility to be good stewards of their time. It has always been our philosophy that if you can help create an environment that your people love being a part of, they will work harder, work smarter, and create incredible results.”
To be sure, it’s a visceral environment, probably one that’s not for everyone. But it works for Western Window Systems. In fact, it’s uniquely Western Window Systems, an outlier in Phoenix manufacturing and possibly a model that others in the market may one day emulate.
To Gates, an executive recognized locally and nationally for Western Window Systems’ accomplishments, the company’s culture is not a product of a five-year period of explosive growth and record-setting financial growth. Instead, he sees the half-decade of success as the result of a fully invested team of shop and office workers who have bought into the firm and its leadership’s employee-centric principles of enthusiasm, excellence, and accountability.
“You can drop video games, spray-paint murals, Legos, and Friday afternoon happy hours into most other businesses and assume that it would make things fun,” Gates says. “The sad irony is that in most other business, these aspects would feel strangely out of place and eventually wind up ignored, and they’d feel inauthentic. Our new building doesn’t make us who we are. It is simply the icing on the cake that helps paint a picture of how and why we work so hard to do what we do. Other buildings may have a ping-pong table, but they will never have our team.”