Glasses with the Stars

Apogee CEO Joseph Puishys waltzes through his presentation at GANA's BEC conference today in Las Vegas.
Apogee CEO Joseph Puishys waltzes through his presentation at GANA’s BEC conference today in Las Vegas.

It takes a skilled dancer to make a presentation before a crowd full of those who consider themselves competitors. Apogee CEO Joe Puishys executed that dance successfully this morning and walked away with the “Glasses with the Stars” equivalent of the Mirror Ball trophy.

Anyone attending who expected a tap dance, or side step, was sorely disappointed, as Puishys delivered a solid waltz through a number of topics.

Puishys opened day two of GANA’s Building Envelope Conference (BEC) in Las Vegas. Apogee owns business segments as diverse as Viracon, Tubelite, Wausau, Linetec and one of the largest contract glazing companies in the world, Harmon.

His talk this morning before nearly 400 contract glazing executives provided insight into how the Apogee CEO sees the future for his company and the contract glazing industry as a whole. Some of the insights he shared with the audience:

  1. Let the good times roll: Puishsys anticipates continued upward growth in the industry through late 2017 or early 2018. “The construction industry will surge until it reaches higher numbers, in dollars, than it had in 2010,” he said. “It will be higher in dollars, but square footage numbers will not reach what we had five years ago … yet the next three to five years look very good. Barring some major geopolitical event, the next downturn will be 2018-2019.”
  2. A snail’s pace would be fast: “This industry moves slower than I could have imagined in adopting new technology,” he said analogizing the speed to that “iceberg speed, not even glacial.” Puishys says when he sees new technology developed by the industry, he often wonders why it takes “five years” to see it in projects.
  3. True to Tru Vue: Puishys also provided insight into Apogee’s Tru Vue unit, which has always been regarded as a bit outside of its core business. “Why do we keep Tru-View when it doesn’t really fit?” he asked rhetorically. “Because it makes a lot of money for us.” He said it is a business that doesn’t have dramatic highs and lows, is not subject to a volatile economy, and it has added more than $8 million to the bottom line last year.
  4. And now keeping me up at night: “We have good handle on the next few years,” he said. “After 2018, construction will start to dip. My board is starting to worry about that fourth quarter of 2020,” said Puishys with such sincerity that it was obvious he was already doing exactly that.
  5. Timing is everything: “I was talking to someone yesterday who told me it was a good thing I wasn’t speaking here four months ago when lead times were 24 weeks,” said Puishys, alluding to legendary long times from Viracon and other Apogee units. In response to the knowing laughter from the crowd, he announced that lead times were now “down to nine weeks, not 24 anymore.”
  6. The market we are all missing: It’s the retrofit market. “The amount of glass in new construction is equal to one percent of the glass in existing buildings, yet we all fight over the one percent,” said Puishys. “Building owners upgrade and renovate for a variety of reasons and that is a very viable business.” He said his company has focused on it in the past few years and “quickly built a $20 million business” out of it. He believes it will eventually represent $100 million in sales for his company.
  7. Why renovation/retrofit is rising: Puishys provided the results of a study his company did quantifying the reasons building owners and managers renovate. Top reasons:

Aesthetics, 74%;
Energy performance , 65%;
Remediation of failures, 56%;
Code compliance , 15%; and
Standards compliance, 14%.

  1. If you can watch only one number: It’s employment. “Employment rates make a tremendous difference in every area of construction,” he said.
  2. The problem’s not this, it’s that: Puishys doesn’t feel float capacity will be a major problem during the next few years, although it will be a bit “dicey” for the next 18 to 24 months. “The industry did not lose enough capacity in the downturn to cause long term issues,” he said. “Our bigger problem is going to be finding a qualified workforce. It’s a very serious issue.”
  3. Five rules to work by: Puishys shared his top five rules for successful business—which in turn provided an insight into how he works:
    1. Family first but bleed company blood, second.
    2. Good leaders take everything personally. “My strength and my weakness are the same; I take everything personally,” he opined.
    3. Remove negative energy rapidly.
    4. It’s okay to disagree, but don’t be disagreeable.
    5. Surround yourself with good people.