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Wood Window Makeover – Growing an Industry, Not a Business


A buddy of mine, an owner of a successful plumbing company in town, came by to pick up a door we repaired for him.  He did me a favor, I did him a favor.  The world works like that.  Life is good.  We got to talking about business and what we’re doing.  Told him about the recent workshop, how it went, and how successful it was. The inevitable question came up, as it always does.  “How is it that you are setting people up to compete with you in business?  Why?”  

The inevitable question came up, as it always does.  “How is it that you are setting people up to compete with you in business?  Why?”  

He’s asking me from what’s become a traditional business model – grow your business as big as you can, make as much money as you can, sell the business, etc. etc. etc….  

Growing an Industry, Not Just a Business

But I am not trying to grow my business.  

I am trying to grow an industry, and that’s the difference.  

Contractors of many types and flavors tend to work within their industries.  

Wood Window Makeover wants the entire industry to expand.

In my neighborhood there 80,000 old or historic buildings with an average of 20 windows each.  Each has an average value of say, $750.  Some need a little bit of work, some need a lot of work, so I picked that price as a sort of a middle of the road place to work from.  80,000 times 20 is 1,600,000 windows.  

1.6 million windows multiplied by $750 equals $1,200,000,000.  That’s a lot of windows and a lot of jobs.  

It’s a shame that people no longer work in the trades. I get that $1.2 billion all to myself because nobody else does what I do.  

There’s practically no competition at all in this industry, with one exception – the window replacement industry – and that is some very real competition.  

The window replacement industry fills a very significant need.  People’s windows get old and need maintenance.  If there’s nobody to work on them, the replacement window industry is happy to step in.  

Crews come in and take out the old and install new.

Problem solved.


Preserving the Human Spirit

Ralph Waldo Emerson explained in his essay entitled, Compensation, how each advancement in technology is met with an equal and sometimes greater loss and even unintended consequences.  With the invention of the automobile, society’s leg muscles begin to atrophy.  Invent the calculator and people forget how to do simple math.  Invent social media – let’s see how that turns out.  

I have a tiny candle holder that a great-uncle made for my great-grandmother on her birthday in 1922, 95 years ago. It was turned on a lathe by hand, with hand sharpened tools. Scrolled up inside is a slip of paper with a note about it written in my late grandfather’s hand. It’s one of the most precious things I own.  

I pulled it off the shelf in my office and showed it to my plumbing buddy and I let him hold it. We read the scroll together and he said, “wow.”  

The door I fixed for him goes in one of his old houses that he’s saved and restored.  He bragged about how all his hundred-year-old windows work.  He bragged how he loves when people come over and “love” his windows.  

He understands my candle holder.  

Everyone who is not a sociopath understands my candle holder.

What is it about my candle holder?  Isn’t it nothing more than a piece of wood?  Isn’t it just some little decoration on a shelf?  

To think that is an insult.  

You have a pocket knife your grandfather gave you, a letter your father wrote, a picture of your late great-grandfather and grandmother as they got off the boat when they landed in America.  I have a quilt my grandmother made, my grandfather’s letter writing desk, my dad’s guitar.  

I am saving my guitar to pass on to one of my children when I die.  

What the heck is going on here?  What are we talking about?  


The Windows and What They Represent

We’re talking about the windows and what they mean.  

They were built by people with human hands.  They have the human spirit encapsulated within them.  We touch them and we touch history.  

They are part of our psyche, they are

  • who we are
  • what we’ve done
  • what we’ve created
  • where we come from and
  • what we can do

And the window replacement companies could care less.  

These are windows my grandmother opened and closed, that my great grandfather built, that your great-grandfather built.  When you touch them, you touch the hands that made them, and those hands touch you.  

Through time they palpably echo, “I built this for you.”  

Window Replacement Companies Don’t Care

They don’t care about any of that.  

They want you to forget all of that.  

They want you to care about “this instant.”

Instant gratification. They want your mind numb to the spiritual connection that people have with one another.  

I’m not talking about something religious, like this faith or that belief.  I am talking about the candle holder and what makes it so important.  My entire family and everyone I ever touch is represented in that one little container.  

Is there anything morally wrong with a replacement window?  

No.  But look at it.  

There’s something different about it.  

  • It’s cold.
  • It’s lifeless.  
  • It has no soul.  
  • It was made by a robot.  
  • There’s no art.  
  • No artisan.
  • Nothing.

 It literally staples to the wall.  It, like so many other products in our world, are designed to fail and to be replaced.  

Walking through Home Depot the other day they had some cabinets on clearance – oak doors, but everything else was particle board – everywhere else you couldn’t see.  It’s like what our forefathers made was real. But today… everything else is just a shadow… a reflection of what’s real.  


The Mission

My mission is simple.  

I don’t wake up every morning thinking about which building I can save next.  

I think about the spirit that’s encapsulated in the building, the artisan spirit.  

We can’t do everything, but I’ve been given gifts and abilities that enable me to contribute to society in one small, but powerful niche – historic windows.  

I know how to restore windows, replicate windows and teach people how to restore windows. The way I see it, I enable every person whom I teach to work on and restore historic windows, to connect with and save the human spirit that I’ve described and with which I connect.  

And to me… that’s powerful stuff.  

There’s never been a better time or opportunity to join me in doing this.  

The fields are ripe for harvest all over America and if I don’t teach people how to maintain and sustain the crops, the window replacement companies will continue to pull up the human spirit by the roots and throw it into the fire until there’s nothing left.  

Make no mistake about it, the window replacement culture is a machine with one motive in mind – profit.  

They don’t care about you, your neighbor, energy savings or anything else.  

They will mow you down and trample you under foot to get it.  

But we are not that way.  

We are people.  

We care about one another, our past and our future.  

And people are lining up in droves to help me preserve that.  

One of our Certified Partners, Mike, wrote an ebook that provides step-by-step details about how he turned his passion for preservation into a six-figure business. It literally covers every step – from his frustration as a homeowner about the lack of qualified preservationists to his first project. It covers how he built a growing, scalable, six-figure company in two years.

It’s free (click the image below) and I think it will help you see that if he can do this, anyone can.

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CEO & Craftsman Steve founded Wood Window Makeover in 2006. His passion and vision for community, connection, historic preservation and excellence in craftsmanship has been a catalyst for homeowners and historical organizations to connect and preserve. He started the annual Historical Homes Workshop to teach and inspire others to passionately and responsibly preserve and connect.

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