For Gilbert La Crosse, there is nothing quite as beautiful as a handcrafted wood-framed window. La Crosse’s
passion for windows goes back to his youth in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where he learned from an elderly
carpenter how to make residential windows. He learned about the characteristics of good wood, the best tools
to use, and how to choose the best glass from local suppliers. La Crosse apprenticed with the carpenter in his
small workshop, and when the carpenter retired, he was given the opportunity to operate the business
himself. La Crosse hired his own apprentice as he built up business in the local area. His small operation soon
expanded as the quality of windows built by La ...view middle of the document...
Production employees enjoyed the times when he would gather them together to announce new
contracts with developers from Chicago and New York. After each announcement La Crosse would thank
everyone for making the business a success. They knew that La Crosse quality had become a standard of
excellence in window manufacturing across the eastern part of the country.
It seemed that almost every time he visited, La Crosse would repeat the now well-known phrase that La
Crosse products had to be of the highest quality because they provided a window on life to so many families.
Employees never grew tired of hearing this from the company founder. However, it gained extra meaning
when La Crosse began posting photos of families looking through La Crosse windows. At first La Crosse would
personally visit developers and homeowners with a camera in hand. Later, as the “window on life” photos
became known by developers and customers, people would send in photos of their own families looking
through elegant front windows made by La Crosse Industries. The company’s marketing staff began using this
idea, as well as La Crosse’s famous phrase, in their advertising. After one such marketing campaign,
hundreds of photos were sent in by satisfied customers. Production and office employees took time after work
to write personal letters of thanks to those who had submitted photos.
As the company’s age reached the quarter-century mark, La Crosse, now in his mid-fifties, realized that the
organization’s success and survival depended on expansion to other parts of the United States. After
consulting with employees, La Crosse made the difficult decision to sell a majority share to Build-AU Products
Inc., a conglome rate with international marketing expertise in building products. As part of the agreement,
Build- All brought in a vice president to oversee product ion operations while La Crosse spent more time
meeting with developers. La Crosse would return to the plant and office at every opportunity, but often this
would be only once a month. Rather than visiting the production plant, Jan
Vlodoski, the new production vice president, would rarely leave his office in the company’s downtown
headquarters. Instead production orders were sent to supervisors by memorandum. Although product quality
had been a priority throughout the company’s history, less attention had been paid to inventory controls.
Viodoski introduced strict inventory...