During the 40 years Louis Sigman has worked in Colorado’s glazing construction industry, he has lived through the leanest of times. So he had a pretty good idea of what to expect when he took the reins of a glazing contracting company shortly before the economy took yet another nosedive.
While working for his family’s glazing company in the late 1980s, he watched the savings and loan crisis devastate the industry. Then, as the general manager of a Harmon Glass facility in Denver throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, he endured the collapse of the dot-com bubble and the effects of 9/11.
In 2006, Sigman acquired and became president of Horizon Glass, a large and well-established glazing contractor in the Denver area, just two years before the onset of yet another national economic nightmare.
When the recession hit in 2008, Sigman and his team members were able to think and plan ‘outside the glass box’ by promoting additional services which not only helped the company weather the immediate and severe recession, but later emerge as an even stronger and more capable overall organization, Sigman says.
Two is better than one
As a glazing contractor, Horizon Glass specializes in furnishing, fabricating and installing architectural aluminum framing systems for commercial curtain walls and storefront openings. The company also provides aluminum entrance doors, hardware and all of the glass and glazing associated with this work. Headquartered in Denver, and founded in 1978, Horizon has performed glass and glazing projects across Colorado, with emphasis on the Front Range. Projects include healthcare and education facilities, office buildings, hotels, retail, mixed use and all types of public sector buildings.
Sigman says what differentiates Horizon is its service division, which provides glass replacement, door repairs and after-hours emergency repairs for residential multi- and single-family homes and non-residential buildings.
“To our knowledge, we’re the only contract glazing operation of our size that not only does new construction and renovation, but also operates a congruent service division,” Sigman says. “And while the service unit of Horizon generates a smaller level of sales volume, these two lines of business and revenue streams work very well together, positioning Horizon as a company with highly diverse product and service offerings.”
When Sigman took over ownership from Founder Clyde Gagnon in 2006, the construction industry was unknowingly on the verge of the Great Recession.
But even after defaulted housing loans caused the stock market to plummet in 2008, Sigman knew Horizon’s operations wouldn’t be affected right away.
“It’s important to realize that non-residential construction is a trailing economic indicator,” he says. “It almost always holds true nationally that when the leading market indicators, such as housing, automotive and retail are in the proverbial ‘potty,’ we in non-residential construction will most certainly follow. However, our destiny does not typically arrive until several fiscal quarters down the road.”
Horizon continued successfully fabricating and installing both exterior and interior glazing systems throughout 2008 and 2009.
However, the company wasn’t going to sit and wait for the levee to break, Sigman says. Instead, Horizon Glass set about reinforcing both sides of the business.
“To Horizon’s credit, before I came along the company was already pursuing both construction and service opportunities. We just added some capable new team members to the recipe, and became more deliberate and proactive in promoting these strengths,” Sigman says. Horizon also found that these two types of business feed into each other, creating new leads and opportunities, he says.
Additionally, Horizon began developing relationships with building and engineering consultants who focused on “sick building” diagnostics. That built up the company’s repairs and renovations capabilities. Soon, Horizon Glass was positioned as the “white knight” in the engineering community by helping to resolve issues with air and water infiltration, Sigman says.
Double the detail
Similar to many construction and specialty contracting firms, Horizon employs estimators who bid and procure new work, and project managers who take the reins when a project is sold.
A similar process takes place when field operations personnel are looped in by the project managers sooner than might occur at most companies.
The reason for this, Sigman says, “is the extreme level of detail that is collected and conveyed from one segment of the company to the other [which will] ideally affect final project outcomes that are viewed as true successes by ourselves, and more importantly by our clients.”
Today, Horizon Glass has between 40 and 45 active projects at any time, ranging from small thousand dollar repair jobs to a $6 million exterior glass installation project for Google’s new campus in Boulder, Colorado.
“Five or six years ago, we would not have foreseen or even dreamed of winning a $5 million or $6 million glass project, and now we are very blessed to have three of them in our backlog simultaneously,” says Sigman in awe. “We could not be prouder of the team we have, and everyone here is a valued and endeared asset, regardless of their position or the tasks they undertake.”
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