When news that a hurricane is imminent, Floridians burst into frenzied action. In an instant, store shelves are emptied of food, water, plywood, generators, batteries, and other essential supplies. People slap sheets of plywood against windows to protect their homes, businesses, and their very lives from what could be devastating winds. Familiar with this programmed response, Expert Shutter Services in Port St. Lucie provides homeowners and businesses with an alternative to plywood and one of the most tried-and-true safeguards against would-be devastation: hurricane shutters.
“After Hurricane Andrew ripped through south Florida in 1992, leaving so many homes demolished or damaged, we knew we wanted to be part of the solution,” says Mike Heissenberg, President and CEO of Expert Shutters.
Heissenberg founded a small company in 1986 (“We started with just a desk bought at a garage sale and put in my garage and nothing but a phone on that desk”) that largely focused on sales and repairs of shutters; the vast need for protection exposed by Hurricane Andrew spurred a pivot to manufacturing hurricane shutters.
“As soon as we made the decision to make our own shutters, customers gravitated toward us because they saw the quality of what we were making.”
That small company is now one of the 10 finalists for the Florida Sterling Manufacturing Business Excellence Awards (SMBE), which recognizes Florida companies for innovation, quality, and excellence. Innovation that stems from their leadership is at the core of Expert Shutter’s mission. The patented “HV Accordion Shutter” (a shutter that moves horizontally between an upper and lower track and lies flat across windows but folds like, well, an accordion) is recognized as the best of its kind. If that wasn’t enough of a statement, Expert Shutter again proved to be a leader with the production of the “Nautilus Rolling Shutter” the world’s most compact rolling shutter.
“We’ve not only been a leader in what we make, we’ve achieved a 98% use of our materials,” adds Heissenberg. “We’re always striving to outperform ourselves.”
Best Practices: Leadership and Focus on the Community
While this company is a consistent leader in their industry in sales, production, innovation, and efficiency, it was leadership in the community that really distinguished Expert Shutters from the competition.
“The leadership at Expert Shutters really gets it,” says Jay Hess, FloridaMakes Business Advisor who has consulted with Expert Shutters. “They manage a complex fabric of a manufacturing business with operational excellence. What is particularly outstanding is how they do this while also making a real commitment to their community. Expert Shutter’s products protect the community, but their company also fosters a sense of community through all of their employee outreach efforts.”
“We like to publicly reward and celebrate our staff, especially when they share new ideas,” says Heissenberg. “It’s not unusual for us to offer gifts cards for a bright idea that helps the company, but then we also like to take it a step further and have quarterly outings where management serves the employees. The employees help us achieve our goals as a company and we like to make it a regular practice that we serve them with an event where they get to take a moment to relax and let management thank them.”
Another unique way that Expert Shutters exemplifies leadership is through its Volunteer Time Off (VTO) program. Partnering with Habitat for Humanity, Expert Shutters found an innovative way not to cut employees’ hours during the slow months but rather divert their time and labor through volunteering to serve others at Habitat for Humanity.
“This idea came to me when one of our employees received a Habitat for Humanity home and I was at the ceremony,” says Heissenberg. “I was really happy for him and it got me thinking about how we could help this organization. That same employee actually heads up this program for our company.”
The SMBE Awards Process
Expert Shutters is no stranger to getting recognized for outstanding work in the manufacturing sector. Having just won the 2020 South Florida Manufacturers Association “Manufacturer of the Year” award for companies with 31-75 employees, becoming a finalist in the SMBE process was exciting news.
“We were a finalist for this program last year, so we really were excited to be named again,” says Heissenberg. “It was an eye-opening process to go through the evaluation and assess where we were as a company. Overall, we were excited to look at what needed updating and overhauling. We were also put in contact with so many great people along the way who aided in our growth as a leadership team. I would encourage other companies to embrace this process that, in the end, can make a huge difference for your team.”
Although Expert Shutters is at its core a manufacturer of hurricane shutters, as Heissenberg puts it, it’s about family.
“Our employees come to work every day knowing that what they make provides shelter from hurricanes and protects property, but most importantly, it protects families, people, and our communities.”#ManufacturersBestPractices