Pacific Window Tinting Carves its Own NicheApril 29th, 2010 by Editor
When David Vernon first opened Pacific Window Tinting in Portland, Ore., in 1998, he missed the deadline to get an ad in the Yellow Pages. And there, as they say, is the rub.
“To start off without having the Yellow Pages your first year of business, that was tough. So we really had to pound the pavement to get our face out in front of people and to meet people,” says Vernon’s brother-in-law Jared Gray, who relocated to Portland from Kansas in 1998 to help start the company.
“We all started it together [as a family] from ground zero,” says Gray. “And we did the opposite of most window tinters as we started with flat glass and added auto later on. Eventually got out of auto all together.”
All that pounding the pavement so early on paid off, as many of the company’s first clients are still with them today. Pacific Window Tinting, though still a small company, is doing big things and is focused on moving more and more into the commercial arena. Gray and brother-in-law, David, and sister, Genise, all work together to make sure the company is continually moving in that direction. And Gray says one of the key elements that has helped them continue this growth is the one thing they did early on: getting out there in front of the customers.
“We’ve done things differently in trying to find our own little niche, and [our growth] has basically been from word of mouth. We still strive to do that same-day service; if someone calls us we try to get out there that day because the day they call is the day they want to spend money so they are calling for a reason,” says Gray. “So I want to get in front of them as quickly as I can.”
Gray says he’s tried traditional marketing tactics such as direct mailers and local advertising and they have not worked for him.
“The return on investment is just not there,” he says. “We’ve gone back to the way we started: getting in front of people, introducing ourselves and going from there. And now that our portfolio is bigger we can do that; I can get out there and show people something different, compared to when we first started. So the best thing for us has been those clients we met in the very beginning who are still with us.”
Pacific Window Tinting handles both residential and commercial work, but its biggest focus is gaining a stronger commercial presence. Gray says there are a number of differences to working with architects when compared to homeowners.
“Most of the time the architect is knowledgeable and already knows something about film and that’s nice. Homeowners aren’t always as knowledgeable, but it’s also nice to be able to teach them and help them make an educated decision about what they are going to purchase,” says Gray. He adds that when it come to working with the architect there’s also a lot of prep work that needs to be done. “Because a lot of architects [are knowledgeable] if you walk in there and you don’t know what you are talking about you’ve already lost.”
Getting specified can also be a challenge.
“Architects aren’t necessarily familiar with all the film types out there,” says Gray. “And just because your name is in the spec doesn’t always mean it’s going to stay your job.”
With such a strong focus on growing an architectural presence, Gray says these efforts have helped them differentiate as a company. For example, after 9/11 they were able to secure many area government projects.
“We won a the majority of [government jobs] in the Portland area and then there were a lot of big projects that followed,” says Gray. “At the time, I did most of that work myself, and that’s helped and hurt me because now my installers have to be pretty good, because it’s my reputation on the line.”
He continues, “That was the most difficult thing for me, to let go of that portion, because the end result is what you grow your business on. If you have a couple of poor jobs out there, you go from a customer speaking good about you to speaking bad about you.”
Gray also says the fact that they care and take pride in what they do is also important.
“We’re accountable. If something happens and the customer calls us I answer the phone, and that alone is a big thing. And I’m not shy about saying ‘I don’t know.’ But I can make a phone call and find out and get right back to them with an answer.”
A lot of this, he adds, is self-driven.
“If I if I don’t do well, then the business doesn’t do well … we’re just a small, little company trying to do big things and to be respected—to be respected by peers and colleagues is a big thing and I feel like that’s the direction we are going,” Gray says.
Look for our in-depth profile on Pacific Window Tinting in a future issue of WINDOW FILM magazine.