Case Studies

Western Window Systems: Helping Customers Live Better

  • Written by: Western Window Systems: Helping Customers Live Better
  • Produced by: Western Window Systems: Helping Customers Live Better
  • Estimated reading time: 6 mins

Jason Funk, president of Western Window Systems (Western), has been with the company since 1999. With a degree in global business management, and a master’s degree in business administration, Funk entered Western as a human resources manager. His gifts of leadership and innovative problem solving helped Funk make the company better in countless ways throughout the years. Funk’s success helped him work his way up the ranks to vice president of operations before the business was sold in 2006.

It was then that Funk took the reins from Benny Ellis, the company’s patriarch, with whom he trained and received mentorship for many years. Since the change in leadership, Western continues to operate with a drive to succeed and change the construction industry.

Since opening company doors in 1959, Western has focused on taking care of customers first and foremost. Therefore, with Funk in his current position, he embraces his broad-based experience. This has prepared Funk to emphasize service and make sure the company never loses the heart of what makes it great.

“Since I’ve become president, Western has experienced a lot of growth,” says Funk proudly. “While that success has been great, we have never forgotten who we are and what defines us as a company. To me it all comes down to great people: great employees, great customers and great partnerships.”

The Western team, which includes just fewer than 200 professionals, specializes in manufacturing and distributing specialty window and door products. Based in Phoenix, Ariz., the company’s growing footprint has expanded across the country and into Canada and Mexico. Western is soon celebrating 55 years in business, and is coming off of record growth over the past several years.

Premier Products and Practices

Western began over half-a-century ago manufacturing insulated glass. “That technology was rare in those days,” notes Funk. “Along the way, we evolved into a window and door manufacturer, focusing on luxury homes, high-end restaurants, condos, education buildings, etc. We produce very unique products that customers want, and we are entering new customer segments all the time. We specialize in products that promote indoor-outdoor living, including moving walls of glass that open entire walls that bring the outdoors into your home or commercial property. This trend is catching waves across the entire construction industry and we are one of the best at helping customers meet the need.”

Through innovative planning, Western has been able to make each of the company’s products more affordable to much wider demographics, including clients who thought they could never afford such custom products.

Throughout the company’s expansion, Western continues to produce the finest quality luxury-quality windows and doors on the market. Though a broader demographic calls for more affordable pricing, Western decided from the beginning that even as the team entered new markets, the company’s commitment to quality would never suffer. Excitingly for the consumer, Western found a way to bring the price and lead time down without sacrificing quality. The end result is an outstanding value proposition for each Western customer.

“Our projects are more diverse now so we have to be flexible,” elaborates Funk. “We’re providing products in $13 million to $14 million homes, but also in $140,000 homes. The variance in consumer groups produce very different needs depending on which customer you are talking. While the product stays the same, the logistics and options can differ greatly. We pride ourselves on the ability to meet very different needs of very different customers.”

On top of entering new consumer groups, Western is also excited to be offering new products, as well. “In 2012 we introduced our first wood door product, as all previous products were thermally broken aluminum only,” says Funk. “We call it our 2600 series multislide door, and it has stain-grade wood on the interior of the glass door panels and extruded aluminum on the exterior.”

The multisliding glass door offers warm, traditional styling on the inside without sacrificing durability on the outside. “Though there are a lot of wood window and door manufacturers, very few build a good wood multislide door,” continues Funk. “We created this door to compliment their products and be used in rooms on the house in which the customers want to open their entire wall to the outside. It’s a beautiful door, and U.S. Glass Magazine recently named it one of their products of the year.”

The company plans to expand Western’s product offerings with a wood bi-fold door in the near future. “We want to be the leaders in providing customers with indoor-outdoor living solutions,” says Funk. “We want to help everyone live better.”

Open to Lasting Relationships

According to Funk, to better understand the success Western is having one would have to understand the basics of who the company is. Western operates on three core values: excellence, innovation and partnership.

“That really summarizes who we are as individuals and a corporation,” explains Funk. “It takes good people to make a company work, especially if you want to keep growing. We have great people that embody these values everyday in the workplace. They help us grow and maintain our relationships with our customers and vendors. We treat anyone that does business with us like partners and that’s led to some outstanding long-term relationships.”

According to Funk, it is not uncommon for a business to see customers as important, but often times vendor relationships do not carry the same level of importance as the end consumer; not at Western.

“Our reputation in the market is driven by our ability to get our products in the hands of our customers,” continues Funk. “For that to happen, we need our vendors to share the same sense of urgency we do so we can get high-quality materials to our factory on time so we can deliver on the level of excellence we have promised our customers. We challenge our vendors to maintain high standards just like we do. In the same breath, we also want to make sure they know how much we appreciate them.”

Embracing the golden rule has proven successful in business dealings, but extending good faith does not stop at the facility’s doors. Western is regularly involved in the community and has completed several charity projects in the region.

“We love to give back to our community whenever we can,” says Funk. “We recently provided windows for the new Phoenix Rescue Mission. It’s a place for people to go for meals, to warm up and recuperate. It was a small way for us to give back to a good cause to help those that need it most. Community service is important to us and always will be.”

Embracing Local and Global Opportunities

With Phoenix as Western’s hometown, the company continues to do business and volunteer locally. However, in a global economy, Funk and the team have taken advantage of opportunities to go international with Western. As the construction industry took hits during the recession, the company pushed back, expanding its product line and geographic footprint to maintain growth. The business grew over 40 percent in 2011. Then, in 2012, Western was up 70 percent from the previous year.

The success derives from Funk’s leadership and his team’s willingness to keep pushing, even in a tough market. “We’re doing it by having a good reputation for creating excellent products,” Funk simplifies. “We’ve also found better ways to communicate and broaden our reach in the construction industry internationally. Canada, for example, is a great market for us. Our sales have increased substantially there, and we’ve had to hire on more employees to keep up.”

Instead of cutting costs and surviving on a lean operation, Funk and the Western team made investments. “We did a little cutting back, of course, but we invested in infrastructure,” elaborates Funk. “We got new cranes, new inventory racks, new equipment, etc. We renovated the plant and we rearranged our production flow. We hired more sales staff, increased our marketing, and worked hard to do things better than the competition. The exciting thing is, in spite of the recession, we are seeing incredible success as a result and the company has never been stronger. I think, when this economy gets on stable ground, we’re really going to boom.”

Funk is clearly proud of all that Western has accomplished over the years. “Seeing this kind of success makes what we do everyday a lot of fun,” he says. “Everyone that works at Western is part of growing a company that is changing the way people live. We believe in 10 years everyone will have a door system like ours in his or her home. We are so excited to play a central role in making that happen.”

As the economy picks up, the team is braced for an increase in business. Though some of Western’s growth numbers are already staggering, Funk believes the team is just getting started. Western Window Systems has grown in spite of the bad economy, and sets an example for business leadership that should be followed all over North America.

Published on: April 1, 2013

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