One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Maintaining a mantra that bespoke is best, World of Windows has risen from humble entrepreneurial beginnings to become a major player in Africa’s construction industry, delivering best-in-class façades
Writer: Jonathan Dyble | Project Manager: Eddie Clinton
The dream of being your own boss is a common one.
According to the OECD, well over half of 18 to 64 year olds said they would rather take a risk and build their own business than work for someone else. Yet despite the aspirations of many, the same research report shows that roughly just four percent of people are able to identify themselves as entrepreneurs with paid personnel.
It’s a stark gap, many unable or unwilling to take the plunge of launching a startup. For Alan Reed, however, the opportunity that presented itself was too good to miss.
“The chance to start my own business came in 1985, when WISEPCO, one of the largest building materials suppliers in Africa, decided to solely focus on manufacturing and leave the selling and installation to an agent network.
“I grasped this opportunity with two hands, setting up an agency in Johannesburg with two partners. One of them did the selling, the other oversaw the site work and being a chartered accountant, I took care of all financial and administrative matters.
“Our business grew quite quickly, and we took on our own manufacturing soon afterwards to accommodate for purpose-made products required by our customers. By 1997, we had established ourselves in Cape Town, which has since become our head office, and haven’t looked back since.”
The company in question is World of Windows (WoW).
Today, offering a full design, supply and installation service for windows, doors, shopfronts, curtain walls, rooflights and any product consisting of glass and/or aluminium, its primary function is to turn the visions of architects into realities by delivering creative building façades.
“We don’t believe in the idea that one-size fits all,” Reed, CEO of WoW, reveals. “Instead, we offer bespoke systems to achieve any design intent within a defined budget.
“We work closely with our clientele to design, develop and extrude a suite of dies to meet the needs of any major project.
“It is our mission to give customers peace of mind, and our best-in-class quality engineers achieve this by acting as a unified force of experience, intellect and passion in our operation.”
It is this that places WoW at the head of the pack.
Business is not considered to be transactional. Rather, the company embraces the visions of its customers from the outset, going above and beyond to source products the world over that exceed their demands, delivering high quality at reduced prices and never shying away in the face of adversity.
“We strive to deliver service excellence on every project and become the contractor of choice in the eyes of our customers,” Reed affirms.
“The construction industry is exciting. Every building is unique and in the façade space, life is never boring. New buildings add to our learnings and experiences and continue to equip
us for the next challenge.”
Through its can-do ethos, the company has delivered more than 4,000 projects to date – a portfolio that continues to comprise bigger and better buildings as the firm’s timeline extends.
Bold investments and diversifications have played a crucial role in propelling this rising curve, the continual development of its glass processing plant and its 3D to fabrication technology standing as current focus areas.
The latter in particular is a flagship innovation, WoW being the first African façade contractor to develop technologies capable of scanning large as-built structures, in turn identifying issues and offering solutions prior to the manufacturing and/or installation phase.
The enterprise can’t take all the credit for its own success, however, it also recognising the crucial role that its partners and employees alike play in facilitating this success.
“While we have geared our operation to be self-supporting, with many requirements met in house, our ability to import high-quality products is testament to our competent and competitive suppliers,” Reed states. “Equally, our staff are fantastic. Without them, the business cannot function, and for that reason we strive to retain our best people wherever we can.”
A new window of opportunity
Staff, partners, customer-centric operations and brave diversifications combined, the future looks relatively optimistic for WoW.
By Reed’s own admission, the South African market is a tough one to operate in at the moment. Economic headwinds including high inflation, increasing government debt and slow growth are providing headaches across numerous sectors, construction being one of those hit worst.
Yet the CEO remains confident in WoW’s ability to continue to secure new contracts, both within and outside of South Africa.
He concludes: “We aim to secure supply or project work outside of SA in the coming year, which is exciting. We already work in many countries throughout Africa and remain excited about every opportunity we are given by our customers, large or small, but raising our profile further afield will add a new dimension to our business.
“Looking closer to home, much like the rest of the industry we trust that an environment will be created in which growth in the construction sector will be stimulated from 2020.
“The potential is there, but confidence needs a boost. Once this happens, there are some great projects planned in South Africa, and also in other African countries, which we are striving to be part of.”