- October 1, 2018
When Bill Daubmann talks about creating and growing a business, he tends to do it in triplicate. He references the “business triangle” principles of price, quality and time, for one. There's also the “three P’s” of product, people and process.
Even one of his businesses, D3 Glass, is a nod to the three-Daubmann founding and management team of himself and his sons, vice president Keith and secretary-treasurer Doug.
Adhering to the principles of this triple trifecta has enabled My Shower Door/D3 Glass to grow from a 2,000-square-foot showroom and assembly operation in 2003 to a $13.4 million company enjoying an average of more than 18% growth in the past two years. It has a headquarters and fabrication plant in Fort Myers, and seven retail locations in central and Southwest Florida. The company designs and installs custom glass enclosures and frameless shower doors.
Daubmann says achieving two of the three principles of the business triangle can result in success, and My Shower Door was succeeding. But adding manufacturing in 2013 with the founding of D3 Glass, he says, allowed it to complete the business triangle while at the same time adding the third “P” — product.
“We figured once we started making our own glass, we actually had the trifecta,” says Bill Daubmann, a partner in the companies. “I think that was the turning point. Once we were able to talk all of our partners into making our own glass, we achieved a competitive advantage over everybody in this area.”
By next summer, My Shower Door/D3 Glass will move into a new, 60,000-square-foot headquarters under construction at 16431 Domestic Ave. off Alico Road in Fort Myers. It will house offices for the combined companies, in addition to tempering, fabrication, lamination and distribution of finished product. The company currently rents three office suites on Alico Center Road and owns its 10,000-square-foot manufacturing plant a few doors away. It is investing approximately $8 million in its new headquarters.
“It's going to open up all sorts of opportunities for us,” says Daubmann.
Those opportunities include increased production capability with a manufacturing floor more than four times its current space; new equipment that will allow D3 Glass to manufacture a wider variety of products; greater capacity to meet the demands of the growing residential, hotel, restaurant and commercial markets; and emerging markets such as glass for solar panels.
From his start in the business in the basement of his Massachusetts home in the 1980s to launching My Shower Door at Wiggins Pass Crossing in in 2003 Naples, it’s been a steady climb for the Daubmanns. Next year’s move will be the fourth expansion by the company in 15 years. If the 60,000 square feet aren’t enough, the 7.5-acre site can be expanded by another 10,000 square feet if needed.
The move will allow the companies to meet current and growing demand for frameless shower enclosures plus anticipated growth in other commercial and residential applications for tempered glass.
“The demand for frameless shower doors has really increased,” says Daubmann. “The frameless door is more open, it's a heaver glass, the hinges allow it to swing in and out, it’s easier to clean and it makes your bathroom look more beautiful.”
With the new facility, D3 Glass will also arrive early at the intersection of manufacturing and innovation as new equipment and more space will allow the company to design and fabricate shaped glass and electrified panels with embedded on-demand privacy features and even video screens.
Like most other shower glass retailers and installers, for a decade My Shower Door sold and assembled pre-made shower enclosures. And while that business was doing well in Naples where the demand is high for luxury finishes, it was when the decision to vertically integrate was made in 2012 that the company found its stride.
When D3 Glass began manufacturing in 2013 My Shower Door was its first, and remains its largest, customer. Having the only tempering furnace in Southwest Florida and the ability to fabricate and customize products also opened new markets.
“Now we're doing commercial work as opposed to just residential work,” says Daubmann. “We’re doing multifamily and hotels. Recently, we completed the Inn on Fifth in Naples. We've done LaPlaya Resort in Naples. We’re doing Buena Vista Suites in Orlando.”
Word began to spread after one of the early D3 Glass jobs was 432 shower enclosures for renovations at Trump National Doral Miami. Then came an order for glass for the conversion of the top six floors of the Contemporary Hotel at Walt Disney World into executive suites and for villas built on the water at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. The company also fabricated glass for Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
D3 Glass was also positioned to capitalize on the trend of replacing aluminum railings on luxury high-rise condos and hotels with tempered glass barriers, and glass increasingly used as open-concept office partitions.
“A lot of luxury hotels that were built 25 or 30 years ago are going through remodeling, and that includes showers and glass railings,” Daubmann says. “We’re now getting into community and golf course clubhouse renovations. There are dozens of them that are updating and a lot of them are calling for glass.”
'I don't know anywhere better than Southwest Florida to move to. If you make glass in Ohio or Michigan, anywhere that gets ice and snow, Florida is an ideal spot.' Bill Daubmann, My Shower Door
But the most significant competitive advantage, Daubmann says, is in the delivery time afforded by in-house manufacturing. If it had to, D3 Glass can turn around a piece of custom glass in half a day. Previously, the fastest possible order fulfillment was two weeks.
Those efficiencies and quality offered by that vertical integration, says Ryan Benson, principal of A. Vernon Allen Builder of Naples, is what earned My Shower Door/D3 Glass 100% of his company’s luxury custom home business.
“They are faster and have greater quality control because of their vertical integration,” says Benson, whose company at any one time has 10 homes under construction at $4 million or more. “They do everything. We send them a set of plans and they give us a proposal for shower doors and glass railings, they come out and measure the space and then put it into their fabrication protocol. Two weeks later they arrive on-site and install the finished product.”
Benson says the business model of My Shower Door/D3 glass is what sets it apart from others in the construction industry. The company is more professional, he adds, than the typical supplier or subcontractor.
“They are more in the business of fabricating than they are glass fabricators,” Benson says. “They run it like a professional organization, and it’s very rare in our industry to have people who operate that way.”
Once the move to the new facility is complete, Daubmann can turn his attention to growth of My Shower Door locations, first in Florida, then outside the state. The newest store in the Orlando-Winter Park area is performing so well, he says, that a second Orlando store may be next. With locations in Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Tampa and Orlando, he’d like to continue toward the East Coast, then work south toward Miami.
Outside the state, the company offers an affiliate store program in which Daubmann works with shower and interior glass retail and installation companies, providing brand-building consultation services. As long as those stores order exclusively from D3 Glass, Daubmann guarantees exclusivity in their markets.
Affiliate stores are in Minnesota, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. Daubmann says the goal is to spread the affiliate program nationally and also make My Shower Door a national brand. It's also part of the company’s diversification approach, says Daubmann, "so if one pocket of the country does badly, at least we are selling to other regions.”
In addition to stock and custom tempered glass, the company designs its own hardware, including the hinges, which Daubmann calls the “bread and butter” of the business.
At 94 employees, Daubmann expects the company to be over 100 when the new facility opens. Like other growing companies, it faces staffing challenges.
“It's a good position to be in, but finding help is difficult,” says Daubmann. “We will have to go to a second shift when we get to the new building because we will producing that much. Wages have gone up. I have to compete with great benefits and wages, but I have to do that to attract and keep people. We also compete by creating a great culture. Turnover costs a lot of money.”
Recruiting efforts extend beyond Southwest Florida.
“People in the glass industry will move to a better job, and I don't know anywhere better than Southwest Florida to move to,” Daubmann says. “If you make glass in Ohio or Michigan, anywhere that gets ice and snow, Florida is an ideal spot.”