A decision Bonnie Durden made several years ago helped reshape the trajectory of the company she oversees, Fort Myers-based Glass Design.
The decision: A concentrated effort to go from working in the business to working on the business. One standout example happened in 2015. That’s when the firm, which does decorative glass work on everything from shower doors to kitchen backsplashes, opened its second showroom, a Naples location to go with the one in Fort Myers. Work was pouring into both locations, and, Durden says, “we were having trouble keeping track of paperwork. We had gotten so big, things were starting to get out of control.”
Durden dove into a solution. Using software program QuickBase, she customized a new database system, which streamlined workflow and created new, easier processes. The project worked, and it was also an epiphany for Durden. “I love being able to come up with an idea and then implement it,” she says. “Working on the business is what really drives me.”
Glass Design dates back to Durden’s parents, Sandi and Don. They founded the business in 1996 but ran it mostly as a hobby. With an adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit, Durden bought the business from her parents in 2007. She changed the focus of the company, expanded the marketing and added products. It’s since grown every year, to now having 15 employees. “We’re kind of unique in that we do a lot of different things,” Durden says, adding she believes top-notch customer service — a do what you say you will do ethos — is Glass Design’s secret sauce.
Durden also emphasizes the company’s employees as the rock stars who hold everything together, and hiring and retaining top people is her No. 1 ongoing challenge. On hiring, she covets no-ego problem solvers, while on retention, she takes employees on annual trips and dinner outings, among other perks. “There are a lot of moving parts to our business,” she says. “It’s a complex business. We’re not selling widgets.”
Also, although taking on the business at the cusp of the recession was certainly another challenge, the pandemic has tested her resolve like nothing else. The company obtained federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, which helped, and Durden is constantly seeking ways to move the company forward. “I’ve never worked harder than I have during the shutdown” period of the pandemic, Durden says. “There was so much uncertainty.”
President and owner
Years on the Gulf Coast
Engaged with a 2-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl
Bachelor's degree in business/marketing from University of Florida
What community group or organization are you most involved with?
Junior League of Fort Myers
What's the weirdest job you've ever had?
I used to hand-paint greeting cards and sell them when I was a kid.
What's your top tip for being productive?
Decide where you want to be in the future and work backwards. Write down the steps to get there, and set deadlines for each step.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be?
To make and sell custom artwork in local art galleries.
What's your favorite off-hours activity?
Spending time with my fiancé and kids. We are members of a boat club, so we enjoy getting out on the water. I also just got a new Circuit Maker, so I have enjoyed being crafty lately.
What's your favorite board game, game show or video game?
Game show: "The Price is Right." Board game: Monopoly or Clue
Uber Eats for takeout, Amazon/Whole Foods for groceries
What do you use most — Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or Google Meetings?
What’s the best binge-worthy show you have enjoyed during the pandemic?
My on-going guilty pleasure is "Real Housewives" (Beverly Hills, NY, etc). Others I have recently binged were "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Yellowstone."
What’s the longest virtual meeting you’ve been on since mid-March?
Tough question. I have been on a lot of virtual meetings! Longest is probably two+ hours with the SBA in regards to the PPP Loans.
How many times had you used video for a work meeting prior to the pandemic?
Two times a month with our online marketing company
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned during the pandemic?
To keep lots of toilet paper in stock! Also, I have learned the importance of slowing down and spending more quality time with the closest people in my life: my family. Life can be so hectic, especially with my fiancé and me running our own businesses. We are always on the go. The pandemic really forced us to slow down. It reinforced the fact that life is short and the health and wellness of my family and closest friends is the most important thing.
What do you miss most about the world pre-pandemic?
Group activities. such as parties, concerts and sporting events.
What have you been spending more time doing during the pandemic?
The pandemic actually forced us to spend a lot of time with our new neighbors. (My fiancé and I just built a new house and moved in several weeks before COVID-19.) We would usually get together in a neighbor's driveway (6+ feet apart) every weekend while everything was shut down. We got to know some of our neighbors really well and have now vacationed with them and still see them several times a week. With everyone's hectic lives, we never would have been able to spend that much time with them if we had not been on lockdown.
Do you prefer working from home or working from an office?
From an office. With two small children, it is almost impossible to get any work done at home!
How have you kept up camaraderie with colleagues during the pandemic?
I had to shut our company down for about five weeks during the pandemic. What an uncertain time. I was in touch with my general manager daily as we were working from home and would email/call all of our employees weekly to keep in touch about what the most recent plan was. I hated the fact that there was several weeks where most of my employees were not getting paid, but I spent hours every day trying to navigate all of the government assistance. We finally got the PPP loan (on the first round), and I started paying my employees again immediately. I also sent Publix gift cards with my personal money to try to help everyone out. Now that we are back to work, we have been super busy, so the camaraderie is pretty good. We have beat our pre-COVID-19 sales goal for the past three months. We are all very blessed.
What’s the first thing you’ll do after the pandemic?
Fly somewhere on vacation. I do not like to drive long distances, so I have felt pretty trapped.