Sunday, May 23, 2004

Look Who's Talking: Michael Gilkey

Waltzes and windows

Michael and Sue Gilkey strike a ballroom dance pose in the company showroom in Sharonville.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/GARY LANDERS
Higher utility bills tend to lead consumers already shopping for windows to consider more expensive replacements.

Few know more about that trend than Michael Gilkey, president of the Sharonville-based Gilkey Window Co. Inc., a window-manufacturing company for commercial and residential properties that employs 190 people in offices here and in Chicago, Louisville and Dayton. It earned revenue of $21 million last year.

He and his wife, Sue, also find time to lead a local ballroom dancing group.

WE ARE SEEING some soaring fuel prices. What does that do to energy-efficient window sales?

When the fuel bills go up, people are more likely to buy our glass that's higher-performance glass: triple glaze - that's two thermopanes back to back. With the higher fuel bills, people can justify, easily, paying for the higher-performing glass.

When fuel prices are going up, people tend to want to invest it in their house. We've seen a bump in the performance level of the windows that they're buying. As far as volume, our volume is up, so we probably are getting more sales from the people we see.

It's easier for us to make triple-pane glass because our equipment when we brought it in was designed to do that. The upfront investment was about $600,000 in 1996.

ISN'T IT A CHALLENGE for a family-owned business to figure out who in the family has an interest and who doesn't have an interest? How do you sort it all out? How do you keep peace at the Thanksgiving dinner?

Sometimes the children feel obligated, even though they don't want to be there. But they move on. I let them know they don't have to work for dad, so they're free to work wherever they want. Keeping peace at the Thanksgiving dinner, well, we're all kind to each other and we do pretty well.

YOU'RE PRESIDENT OF the Cincinnati Ballroom Dancing Association. Any parallels to the world of commerce?

In ballroom dancing, you're in competition. Performance is very important. You have to know what you're doing. You have to look good. You have to impress the judge, similar to impressing the consumer, a buyer, a homeowner. In ballroom dancing, you have coaches. In business you have consultants.

Naturally, winning contracts is always a lot of fun. It's the same with dancing. I have a good time at it.

John Eckberg

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