Voice of the Modern Manufacturing Economy Since 2013

Sashco

by Eric Peterson on July 18, 2016, 07:05 am MDT

www.sashco.com

Brighton, Colorado

Founded: 1936

Privately owned

Employees: about 100

Third-generation owners Nick and Jeff Burch are taking the 80-year-old to new heights of productivity and innovating merchandising and packaging.

Now sales manager and brand manage, Jeff and Nick Burch came to work with their father and the company's president, Les, in the last five years.

Their grandfather, Don Burch, started the company at his home in Denver. "In the midst of the Depression, he decided he could find a lot of buyers for window sashes and oil-based putty and sealants," says Jeff.

Don soon moved the company into an industrial space near the old Gates Rubber plant on the south side of the city by the late 1930s, institutes a unique flying sales force, and passed away in the 1940s. His widow, Alice, took the reins and led a comeback in the 1960s, and Les took over soon after coming on full-time he was fresh out of college in the 1970s.

The company had about a dozen employees at the time, but Les quickly set it on a growth trajectory. He moved Sashco to Commerce City in the 1980s before building its current Brighton facility and relocating in 1996.

Nick joined in 2011 after working in finance at PepsiCo and his brother, Jeff, came on the following year after working in aerospace in Boulder County.

"Les never pushed us into the family business," says Jeff. "The stars aligned where we felt there was an opportunity to make an impact."

Both brothers saw it as an opportunity to make a bigger impact at a smaller company, but there was no family favoritism. "We were owners of the company and we still had to interview for our jobs," says Jeff. Experience made a difference, he adds. "I've been underneath every machine here. I've literally been in the dirt."

Today Sashco is focused on two product lines: caulks and sealants for residential construction, including such national brands as Lexel and Big Stretch; and stains, sealants, and other products for log homes, a market the company initially entered in the 1980s and now represents about a quarter of the company's sales. "We're growing both of them in significant double digits," says Jeff.

Nick is managing the log home brands. "We have a phrase, 'Log's ain't wood,'" he says. "What is required from a log home stain is something that can move with the wood and resist UV."

Don's innovative spirit still guides the company, adds Nick, and a belief "that the next great idea's around the corner," he says.

"Innovation is really in our blood," agrees Jeff. "We appreciate great ideas. That's our passion."

One big area of innovation has been merchandising. Sascho provides its network of 22,000 retailers with a wide range of in-store tools that give customers the chance to see and touch samples of cured sealants.

Nick says that most people had the same feedback -- "The caulking aisle is confusing” -- which led to a multi-year merchandising revamp.

"The only thing worse than caulking something is having to caulk the same thing the next year," says Jeff. "Helping [customers] make the right decision is half the battle."

The goal of most of the merchandising is to eliminate the confusion. Transparent packaging, for example, allows customers to see what they're getting. Notes Nick: "A lot of companies don't want to have clear packaging because it shows how cloudy their product is."

They also merchandise stains with imagery that shows how the wood looks after 18 months in the sun next to wood stained with a competing product. Nick calls it "a very powerful tool."

Retailers who carry Sashco's full line of sealants have the opportunity to become a "Fully Loaded Retail Partner," or get "FLRP'd," says Nick, which includes color-displays, demo blocks, and other point-of-sale tools. "Every time we FLRP a hardware store or lumberyard, we increase distribution," says Nick.

Another recent push has been the implementation of Lean processes as of early 2015. Employees meticulously map inventory  levels and goals, every tool is labeled, and tanks and workstations are adorned with characters from comic books and fairy tales for easy identification. Jeff says the results speak for themselves.

"We are seeing strong-double digit growth while seeing 15 percent improvement and complete and on-time, all while reducing inventory by 20 percent," he touts. "That requires a team effort from the entire company."

Such perks as a company-owned Plymouth Prowler going to a different standout employee every year and a program that recognizes innovative ideas from employees underpin that effort.

And the Burches have big goals for Sashco's next 80 years, starting with the next two. "Our target is to be at $50 million by 2018," says Jeff.

Challenges: "I think the biggest challenge for us right now is to maintain focus on who we are and where we're going," says Jeff. The key is "making sure we don't become our own worst enemy," he adds.

Opportunities: There's runway for growth on both sides of the business. "We have a ton of room to get in lumber and hardware stores across the country," says Nick.

He points to the growth potential for the log home side of the business. "There's more than a million log homes in North America."

Needs: Customers’ needs drive Sashco needs, the brothers say. "We desperately need to go after the end user and stay connected with them," says Nick.

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