By nearly any measure, employees at Quality Enclosures should be a grumpy lot.
After all, they work for a company that primarily manufactures and fabricates glass shower doors, an industry clearly crushed by the recession. But the Sarasota-based company, run by entrepreneur Steve Schwartz, is boom-like busy.
So much work, in fact, it recently added space and seeks to hire a few more people. “We are finding that customers are coming our way more than ever,” says Schwartz.
The company's 30 employees have taken notice. Schwartz says morale is so good and the company is so busy it reminds him of the heady boom days, when Quality Enclosures peaked at a little more than $4 million in annual sales.
“It has consistently been stronger and stronger,” Schwartz says. “[Employees] are starting to notice.”
One aspect of the business Schwartz has noticed is a trend seen in several other industries, such as retail and hospitality: An emphasis on value. “People are spending a little bit more (often),” says Schwartz. “But they are still looking for quality.”
A key move in Schwartz' recession survival efforts, going back to 2008, was to diversify the company's product line. For instance, Quality Enclosures moved into five glass-related businesses and product lines, including glass outlet covers and other decorative plates. Everything but car windshields, Schwartz commented in April.
Another key move: Quality Enclosures cut expenses everywhere it could, like many other businesses. Eventually, margins started to improve, even though revenues were still down.
Sarasota County officials also recently recognized the company's success. In doing so, county commissioners offered the company up to $150,000 in incentives if it follows through with plans to hire 30 to 50 people over the next three years.
Schwartz plans to put some of the new employees to work in new divisions, including one that offers decorative glass fabrications.
Finding the right employees, however, has been one of Schwartz' toughest challenges. He thought the pool of applicants he received the past few months would have been significantly better given the weak job market. “We've been hiring,” he says, “but it's hard to find good people who fit in.”
Schwartz has been with Quality Enclosures since the early 1990s, when his father, Manny Schwartz, ran the company. He took over the business a few years ago. Steve Schwartz, an accomplished martial arts trainer, also owns the West Coast Martial Arts Academy in Sarasota.
Schwartz says his goal when the economy began to fall was to survive long enough for Quality Enclosures to be a viable company when the economy came back. And while the economy still hasn't completely recovered, Schwartz is pleased with how the company has done so far.
He expects another solid year in 2011. “I think it's going to continue going upward,” Schwartz says. “It's not going to be fast, but it's going to be steady, which is exciting to me.”