47 Years at ProVia

Esta Winkler is Customer Service Team Leader for ProVia

Esta Winkler is Customer Service Team Leader for ProVia

Esta Winkler has worked at ProVia for 47 years and has seen a lot as the company grew and went through many changes. These days it’s quite unusual for someone to spend their entire career at one company, so we asked why she made this choice and how this has worked out for her. Following are a few excerpts from our interview with Esta, who will be celebrating her retirement at the end of this year.

How did you get started at ProVia?
I turned 19 in August of 1968, and in September I was hired to work for Alsco, which was the Sugarcreek facility where we made storm doors and storm windows. I worked in production for 10 years, mostly in the storm door department, and I ended up being a team leader in that department for several years. I really enjoyed working in the plant and making storm doors! Then there was a job opening in the payroll department in the office, so I applied and did that for a couple of years. Then I worked as a shipping clerk for a couple of years and also in the order department. Just all kinds of things, and I enjoyed learning as much as I could, doing different things. At one point they asked if I’d be interested in a newly created position as a customer service manager. I’ve been doing customer service ever since.

Esta with Lonnie Hershberger, Director of Customer Service

Esta with Lonnie Hershberger, Director of Customer Service

What did they see about you that was a good fit for customer service?
At the time, I knew the product very well. I also enjoyed people. I was very friendly with everybody in the production area and of course in the office. I just obviously loved working with customers and we got along well. I guess I’m a people person!

What were the early days like in your customer service role?
By this time Alsco had gone through some changes. Then an investment company out of New York purchased the company and it became Sugarcreek Window and Door. That’s when I started in customer service, toward the end of that era.

Esta with Kari Crilow (Left) who will take Esta's place as Customer Service Team Leader; and Ashley McClellan, Customer Service Rep

Esta with Kari Crilow (Left) newly appointed Customer Service Team Leader; and Ashley McClellan, Customer Service Rep

What was it like being owned by an out-of-state investment company?
It was a little scary. We didn’t know what was going to happen. We had a pretty good company all those years, but this was something new for us. It started out fine but then things got challenging and the company went into bankruptcy. We didn’t know if we were going to have jobs or not. Then we heard that a company named Precision Door (under the leadership of Bill Mullet) was interested in purchasing the company out of bankruptcy. That was in September of ’95. Of course, at the time we weren’t too sure of that either! But it turned out to be the best thing that had ever happened to the company at that point.

What do you mean by “the best thing”?
They invested in the company. They invested in the employees. They improved the facility at the Sugarcreek location and there were other facilities as well that they purchased over the years. The company has excellent management and they know what they’re doing, so it’s very successful.

Esta with Randi Miller, Customer Service Rep

Esta with Randi Miller, Customer Service Rep

What was it like, being with a company that changed so much over the years?
It’s just been a joy and a privilege to work this long with the same company. During the transition they interviewed us and thought we were valuable enough to keep around and they’ve been so good to us ever since, and it’s just been a joy. The company invests in all of us, even in things like character development. I’ve become a better person, I think, having worked for Bill Mullet and his family.

How do you feel about your job, do you enjoy it?
Never once have I had that feeling of “Oh, I have to go to work now.” I love my customers, and I love my company. Sometimes things get super-busy but it’s invigorating. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with me in the customer service area and everybody else. We just have a great team all around.

Esta with Deb Sommers, Order Entry Rep

Esta with Deb Sommers, Order Entry Rep

Did you ever imagine ProVia would grow as much as it has?
I actually did imagine it! I always felt that with the right management and the right kind of people running this company, it would be very successful. I was not proven wrong on that. It’s just amazing how much we’ve grown. I predict the company will grow even more in the next few years.

It’s pretty rare these days that someone would work at the same company for 47 years. What would you say to the younger generation who often change jobs throughout their career?
I think they’re missing a lot. I don’t think that you can build relationships with people and customers – good, solid relationships – jumping from one job to the next. I have some very close friends from working with people over the years, it’s like family.

What are you going to do with your retirement time? Do you have any plans?
I’ll spend time on my gardening, which I love to do. Now I won’t have to rush to do this on the weekends. And I’ve joined the Senior Center, believe it or not! They have a nice fitness area and walking track on the inside, and I plan to spend a lot of time doing that. I love to walk and I probably will do a lot of walking with our little dogs, Frodo and Bella in the summer. I’ve even thought about taking a cooking class and learning how to cook after all these years. We plan on doing some traveling too. I plan to keep busy. I enjoy being busy.

Esta with Wanda Seilhamer, Customer Service Rep

Esta Winkler with Wanda Seilhamer, Customer Service Rep

Well it sounds like ProVia has been very lucky to have you.
It’s been very interesting. People don’t know what they’re missing when they don’t stick around with the same company for a while. I’ve truly loved my career at ProVia and feel very blessed to have been a part of this company. I would like to thank the Mullet family for allowing me to be a part of the company.

Esta’s retirement party will take place on December 16, 2015. Feel free to add your comments below as we celebrate and thank her for 47 years of excellence at ProVia!

More: You can read a detailed history of ProVia in our e-book “The Professional Way, The Story of ProVia’s Past, Present and Future.”

Shining Our Light in Romania

Bill Mullet is Founder and CEO of ProVia

Bill Mullet is Founder and CEO of ProVia

By Bill Mullet

Recently 18 ProVia employees traveled to Bacau, Romania to participate in a very special mission – building homes for those in need with the Habitat for Humanity organization. It was a mind-opening and heart-warming experience for all, and here we share some candid stories from this “adventure with a purpose.”

I have a thing for Romania. My relationship with this European country goes way back to 1995-96 when I served there as the Director of a teaching ministry program, and also as the Director of an orphanage. During this time I really did learn to love the Romanian people. They’re very warm and delightful, and we fell in love with them.

Bill Mullet working at the Habitat for Humanity Romania job site.

Bill Mullet working at the Habitat for Humanity Romania job site.

The Romanian people have lots of needs, and in particular the very poor in the countryside have a huge need for basic housing. Habitat for Humanity Romania targeted a very specific population, the people who have a job and can actually pay for a house but have a difficult time coming up with a down payment that would enable them to improve their housing situation. One of the people receiving a house we built is a night manager at McDonald’s, which is considered a very good job.

Another requirement for the home recipients is they have to personally volunteer their own labor in building the group of homes for that particular project. Each family has to work 1,000 hours, and not just on their own home, they have to work on everyone else’s as well.

A Romanian family, excited to become homeowners!

A Romanian family, excited to become homeowners!

The families were extraordinarily excited and grateful. A lot of times they’d be virtually in tears because this was something they’d always felt was out of their reach. My wife Ellen and I had the opportunity to visit one of the family’s current homes, and they were just surviving there with one bedroom, a very tiny living room and a mini- kitchen for the four people who lived there. This husband and wife were on the jobsite working all the time, and they were extremely good workers. Many of the families worked very hard.

“It Makes Me Feel Good”
Chatting with a young Romanian lady working next to us, I asked if she was student. I was surprised when she said she was 30 years old. She looked like she could have been 17. Then I asked, “What makes you come out here and do this? She replied, “I just volunteered to come work for a couple of days.” Again I asked, “Why?” After a brief pause, she said, “It makes me feel good.” That was an interesting comment, because it shows that within us, there’s something that feels good, that is rewarding, when we are able to help someone who is unable to repay us. I believe our entire ProVia team would have said the same thing!

A Rewarding Contribution
The ProVia team arrived on Saturday October 3 and worked through the 9th. Then we hired a small bus and toured Romania through the Carpathian Mountains. I couldn’t have asked for a better team than the ProVia folks who joined this trip. Even though some of them had no construction experience, they worked very diligently and did a super job. For all of us, we felt like this trip was so worthwhile, not just for the experience but because we were able to make a contribution. It was very fulfilling.

When we returned home, everyone who participated in the trip was asked to share their impressions during a company presentation. Below are just a few quotes from their speeches.

The ProVia Team...and Romanian friends.

The ProVia Team…and Romanian friends.

Danielle Horne, Order Entry Representative:
“After Day 1 of working on my assigned Habitat house I had a surreal moment of ‘ME’ building a house in Romania. Me – an inexperienced female office worker, building a house alongside Romanians and many others around the world! I was very nervous that I wouldn’t be useful and I had no idea what to expect. But by the end of the first day I knew how to hammer nails and which hammer I wanted to use the next day. By the end of the week I had helped put up the frame of the house and walls, set up scaffolding, put up some insulation, stucco, and painted the outside of the house. I had the blisters to prove it.

Danielle Horne, Kendra Mullet and Patti Margo enjoy some hammer time!

Danielle Horne, Kendra Mullet and Patti Margo enjoy some hammer time!

The homeowners were so happy and so grateful, it just added to the accomplishment our team felt. If you ever find yourself with the opportunity to do a build, I encourage you to take it. You may think you’re going just to travel and help others, but it may end up impacting you more in return.”

Kendra Mullet, Production:
“During our sightseeing we had the opportunity to visit the incredible Philadelphia School, which ProVia sponsors on a monthly basis. They even have ProVia windows and doors! From what I gather it is a very well run school and probably one of the best ones in Romania.

Later we drove through the beautiful, picturesque Carpathian Mountains. For someone who has never been in the mountains I was amazed at God’s magnificent creation! This was one of the highlights of my trip, with rock formation as high as the eye could see, rolling hills of forest and small communities in the valleys. It was an honor to live out the ProVia purpose and it makes me happy to know I was able to help.”

A bit of O-H-I-O flair hits Romania!

A bit of O-H-I-O flair hits Romania!

Herbie Kaufman, Receiving:
“I enjoyed the bus ride from Bucharest to Bacau and learning about how people lived the same as they did during communism. People didn’t want to change. I had to ask myself, would I have changed, and do I accept change now when it comes along?

It was an interesting but rewarding challenge, working side by side not being able to speak the same language. It was also interesting that we had almost perfect weather during all the construction days. There were two days when it was supposed to rain, and we could actually look out and see it was raining all around us. It missed us both of those days, and I knew God’s hand was controlling the weather.”

Mihai Cotlet, cuttin' for the cause.

Mihai Cotlet, cuttin’ for the cause.

Mihai Cotlet, Design Engineer:
“I’m originally from Romania, and I lived there until I was 13, when my family moved to the U.S. I have worked at ProVia for 13 years and I was really excited about the opportunity to go back to Romania to help build homes for people in need. It was awesome to see the way God placed a calling in people’s hearts to go and help people way across the ocean.

Some people asked me, why did we send a team to Romania? Why didn’t we just send money? Being able to meet the families and work side by side with them adds to the experience since you get to meet the people you are helping. I honestly feel a lot closer now to the people from ProVia that went along on this trip and it was a pleasure to be part of the ProVia Team! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to go and serve in the country where I was born and raised.”

Keith Miller, Testing Lab Manager:
“40 volunteers on one building can be quite chaotic. One supervisor and a lot of skillsets, or lack thereof, from these volunteers. Our supervisor was Vio. He was a really good carpenter, gave clear direction, was a good teacher and had patience with us while making sure things were done right. I became pretty good friends with Vio throughout the week. We communicated with hand signs and Mihai translating. When they would be having a conversation in Romanian, Mihai would have this grin on his face and I would ask, what are you saying? His only reply was, “Vio is glad you guys are on his team.”

Leroy Yoder cares for the details...

Leroy Yoder cares for the details…

I later learned that Vio was one of the first Habitat house recipients in Romania. At that time Habitat recognized his carpenter skills and hired him as a supervisor. A good example of how Habitat helps the less fortunate and provides the opportunity for them to give back.”

Leroy Yoder, Industrial Engineer:
“One of the challenges at the job site was working with 175 to 200 volunteers per day. That’s a lot of people that had to be given jobs and kept busy. As far as tools, there were no air tools; we used an electric chop saw and a circular saw. When we were on the roof we used good old-fashioned handsaws to cut 1”x2” slats. Language was somewhat of a barrier. Some people did not speak English but each home had at least one interpreter that spoke English and Romanian.

As far as the experience, it was great to be able work with the homeowners side-by-side, realizing that we were helping them build something they could not accomplish on their own. We literally saw their home become a reality to them.”

Pete Schwartz demonstrates some awesome teamwork skills.

Pete Schwartz demonstrates some awesome teamwork skills.

Pete Schwartz, Customer Service Representative:
“One of my favorite parts of the Romania trip was interacting with the locals. It’s hard to know what to expect when traveling to a foreign country, especially when you are unfamiliar with the culture, but the Romanian people couldn’t have been more beautiful. On the first day I befriended a high school student named Vlad who was working as a translator. I enjoyed learning a few simple words and phrases in Romanian such as “thank you” (multumesc) and “good” (bine). Often times people would giggle when I tried using these words but I think it was a bit endearing because I was taking the time to learn their language.

At ProVia we have 19 Core Values that we try to adhere to on a daily basis. I believe many of these values, things such as Quality, Teamwork, and Compassion, were on display at the job site. We also have a common purpose, ‘To let our light shine before others, so that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven.’ I truly believe ProVia’s light was shining brightly in Romania.”

4 Ways You’re Like Family To Us

Kent Price is Director of Distribution for ProVia

Kent Price is Director of Distribution for ProVia

If you’re a ProVia dealer, who do you see on a regular basis, more than anyone else in our company? Your delivery driver! In my role as Director of Distribution, I hear so many stories that tell me a lot about the relationships these drivers have with our customers. The bonds they’ve created become more like family, that’s how tight-knit they are. So I thought you might enjoy a few anecdotes that show what it’s like to be part of the ProVia family.

1. Down (But Not Out) in New York
One week our New York driver was headed out to Long Island when his truck broke down. Now the normal thing to do would’ve been to wait inside the dealership until the repairs were completed. But this driver wouldn’t take waiting as an answer. He took it upon himself to go out and rent a U-Haul truck, he brought it to the dealership, and then unloaded all the ProVia products from the truck into the rental vehicle so he could make his deliveries on time. Keep in mind, these are windows and doors we’re talking about, so they’re big and heavy for one man to lug around! When the loading was complete he promptly hit the road and delivered our products. That’s taking care of the customer.

Arlen Troyer, ProVia Driver for our Richmond Route

Arlen Troyer, ProVia Driver for our Richmond Route

2. Calling With Concern
Every once in a while we have a situation where a driver needs to take an extended leave, sometimes for personal, or medical reasons. When customers hear about this, immediately they start calling in. They want to see how he’s doing, check in for updates, and they can’t wait for him to come back to their route. In my entire career I’ve never seen anything like it, the amount of customers who call in with concern for the well being of their drivers. That’s a relationship that’s just like family.

3. Delivering a Taste of Home
As most of you know, ProVia is headquartered in the heart of Amish country in Ohio, and one of the things this area is famous for is the amazing homemade cooking. Driver Arlen Troyer, who handles our Richmond route, has a customer who’s discovered Amish fry pies. Sometimes they casually mention, “gee, it sure would be nice to get some of those

For those of you who aren’t sure what a fry pie is, this will give you the idea

For those of you who aren’t sure what a fry pie is, this will give you the idea

famous pies someday.” Well someday came, and Arlen picked up a box of fry pies from the local Walnut Creek Cheese shop, where they bake them onsite – apple, peach, chocolate, you name it. So Arlen delivered doors, windows and fry pies that day, to the customer’s delight. That’s caring for details.

4. The Personal Connection
I’ll never forget the day when I sat down to talk with one of our drivers who’d spent many years on the road but now works here in our distribution office. We were talking about the relationships our drivers have with customers, and he spontaneously told me a personal story. He said during his last week making deliveries, he was astonished by how hard it was for him. There were several times he became emotional when he realized this was the last time he’d be able to visit with his customers. That’s personal dedication that runs deep.

So you see, when we say “we serve by caring for details in ways others won’t,” it’s not just another company slogan. We mean it, with all our heart.

P.S. For our dealers out there, if you want to give a shout-out for your favorite ProVia driver, here’s your chance! Feel free to enter your comments below.

8 Keys to Customer Service Success

Julie Bien is Customer Service Rep for ProVia

Julie Bien is Customer Service Rep for ProVia

By Julie Bien

Here at ProVia, our mission is “To serve, by caring for details in ways others won’t.” You can find this pretty easily on our website. We don’t hide it in a tiny font on some page you have to click through ten links to get to, because it’s integral to who we are as a company. We understand that making sure our customers feel heard and valued is key to your success and ours. We’re a team. I’ve worked in Customer Service for a long time and there are some key ideas that are incredibly important to the success of our team. I’d love to share these with you so you can get to know us, and how we operate, a little better.

8 KEYS TO CUSTOMER SERVICE SUCCESS:

1. Every customer is important.
This is the core of who we are. I can’t “care for details in ways others won’t” if I don’t believe this. Whether you’re the most recent customer to sign on with ProVia, or you’ve been with us since the beginning, you’re important, and we value your opinion.

2. We don’t know everything.
Sometimes we like to think we know everything. But when it comes down to it, we’re going to get questions we don’t know the answer to. What I’ve found is that most customers don’t expect us to know every answer, but they do expect us to be able to find every answer. We have a team of experts here at ProVia that we can leverage to get any information you need about our product lines and we’re committed to getting it right the first time, even if we have to spend some time looking for the answer you need.

3. Do what you say you’re going to do.
This can be easy to forget when the busy days come. If you say you’re going to call someone back, call them back. Even if you have to call your customer to say you don’t have an answer yet, that’s okay! It’s better than leaving them twisting in the wind wondering what’s going on. If the customer has to follow up because you didn’t, it probably won’t be a pleasant call.

keys4. When I’m wrong, I fix it. Now.
As much as we try, we don’t always get it right. Return calls don’t get made. A re-order doesn’t get entered correctly. But we believe in the value of recovering together. That means if we make a mistake in the manufacturing or ordering process we admit it. And we fix it. Now. We take ownership and offer accountability: “Here’s what I’m going to do to fix this issue today.”

5. We don’t just listen when suggestions are offered.
We take action! Your opinions matter and we take them into account as we work to improve our offerings. We have a feedback system we use to forward all of your questions, comments and concerns to the appropriate departments. We’re always looking for ways to improve what we do. In fact, Continuous Improvement is another one of our Core Values.

6. Have fun! Not every word of every conversation has to be about ProVia.
We want to get to know you! We might not ever know you as well as your best friend, but we still want to have some fun with you. How’s the weather? Any fun plans for the weekend? Did you just come home from an awesome vacation? Talk to us about it! We have a great team here in Customer Service. We’re always ready to share a laugh. If you can’t think of anything to talk about, ask us about our monthly “theme days.” Some of the costumes our teammates come up with are pretty funny.

7. Come see us!
We offer tours of our plants (you can set this up with your account manager), and we love it when customers stop by at Customer Service to say hi. It’s always fun to put a face with the voice and spend a few minutes chatting.

8. Please give us a call.
Don’t hesitate to call us. That’s what we’re here for. No question is silly if you don’t know the answer to it. And you know what, if we do decide it’s a silly question, we’ll tease you about it. But it’s all in good fun. And you’re allowed to tease us if we give you a silly answer, too!

If you’ve stuck around to read the end of this blog, I hope you’ve realized we like to have fun while we’re at work. But we also take our jobs pretty seriously. We strive to be the premier building products manufacturer, providing unmatched quality and service. Customer satisfaction is a top priority and we will do whatever is needed to make sure you’re taken care of. So, thanks for being a ProVia customer. I hope we get the chance to talk soon!

Expansion Into Growth Markets (Part 1): Manufactured Stone

Brian Miller is President of ProVia

Brian Miller is President of ProVia

By Brian Miller

One of our most important jobs as a building products manufacturer is making sure we’re positioned to serve growth markets of the future. As we do so, we must also devise ways to supply these markets using the most efficient, state-of-the-art production processes. At ProVia we have major initiatives underway that fulfill these goals. Here I’d like to share our progress in the area of manufactured stone, plus what this means for our dealers, distributors and ultimately the homeowner.

Stone adds texture and complements other elements of the home's exterior. Shown here are ProVia products: siding in Antique White and Nautica, Ohio Vintage Limestone, and entry door in Pecan (photo from ProVia’s Designer Collections lookbook).

Stone adds texture and complements other elements of the home’s exterior. Shown here are ProVia products: siding in Antique White and Nautica, Ohio Vintage Limestone, and entry door in Pecan (photo from ProVia’s Designer Collections lookbook).

Manufactured Stone Poised for Growth
Heritage Stone by ProVia® has grown significantly since we purchased the company in 2011. Manufactured stone has tremendous visual appeal because it adds texture and complements many other types of products, such as vinyl siding and entry doors. It can be used on the exterior or interior of a home or commercial building.

Stone’s growing popularity is driven by the extremely authentic looks that can be accomplished with today’s manufacturing technology. We don’t envision that this will slow down. In fact, we anticipate that over the next couple of decades, manufactured stone will be a continuously growing product line.

ProVia’s New Manufactured Stone Facility
We recognize that we need to be well positioned for the upcoming growth of the manufactured stone market. In November 2014 we broke ground for a new stone manufacturing facility in Sugarcreek, Ohio. The new facility for Heritage Stone will replace the existing plant located in Zanesville, Ohio, and will include the latest production technology to optimize quality control and manufacturing efficiency. As you can see in the photo below, the construction progress on the facility is moving along quite nicely.

Heritage Stone construction, drone shot, May 2015

Progress in the construction of ProVia’s new manufactured stone plant (photo taken by drone-mounted camera, May 2015).

When we move our stone operations into the new facility near the end of this year, we will have greatly expanded our production capacity. In fact, we’ve established a plan that allows for ten years of robust growth before new capacity needs to be added, and we’ve incorporated expansion capabilities into the facility that will take us beyond ten years.

Beyond Capacity: Other Benefits
Of course it’s exciting for all of us to participate in this growth market. But there are other valuable benefits as well:

  • Lead Time for Orders: With sales increasing, some stone manufacturers will have difficulty keeping up with orders. It’s a known fact in our industry that it’s not easy to create new capacity overnight, and those who are not prepared will experience the unfortunate situation of longer lead times. By preparing for increased production with our new facility, we’ll be well equipped to maintain best-in-class lead times.
  • Maintaining Color Consistency: At Heritage Stone we take great care to deliver consistency in our colors, so they remain true from batch to batch. In our new facility we’ve taken steps to maintain this high standard, even with an increase in production. We’re installing a highly sophisticated water treatment system that will make sure every batch of water we use is exactly the same pH level, and that it doesn’t have any contaminants in it. We’re also retaining the same raw material suppliers. You can expect to see consistency in our stone colors, which has always been a big factor in the appeal of our manufactured stone products.

Growing Responsibly
If this seems like a big undertaking…it is! Yet we expect big results from this large investment. It’s the strength of our existing stone team that’s allowing us to take this step into the future of our business. Our people will take the advantages this facility provides and leverage them to deliver even better service, quality, and efficiency than our customers already receive from us today.

GrowthAs we grow, one of the most important things we want to ensure is that we do it responsibly. I’m a believer that companies need to grow in order to flourish. However, we have no desire to grow for growth’s sake. We want to grow because it’s best for our customers and it’s best for our employees. I think this is aligned with ProVia’s purpose, vision, mission, and values. We will use our resources wisely, and we’ll provide our customers with products and services that will help them be successful, now and in the future.

This is Part 1 in our series on expansion projects at ProVia. Stay tuned for more exciting info about these initiatives, and the benefits they’ll provide for our customers.