View-Tech, Inc. ; A Certified WBE with a Stellar Reputation in the Industry

By: Sarah Hall

Sean and Allison Smith are partners in every sense of the word.

The married couple owns View-Tech, Inc., a commercial window installation company in Syracuse. While Sean handles the construction side of things, Allison is in charge of the business end.

“[It’s] a good blend of our skill sets, working together. We aren’t stepping on each other’s toes and we accomplish a lot,” Allison said. “It’s like passing the ball back and forth.”

View-Tech was started in 2011 when Sean, who had been working in commercial sales for a window and door manufacturer, wanted to be more involved in the way products were installed and improve the quality of installations.  

“Sean had a broad background in construction,” Allison said. “He had worked as a carpenter, project manager, architectural consultant, and then in commercial sales. He knew there was a market for commercial window and door installation. He knew the technical aspects of the products, and how they should be properly installed. In the fall of 2011, he was ready to start his own business.”

Meanwhile, Allison has a strong background in business. In addition to View-Tech, she has owned ISSI Technology Professionals, a recruiting and staffing business, since 2001. Together, with her business acumen partnered with Sean’s technical knowledge, they had a great foundation to get the company started.

“Being in a commercial market really requires you have to have a strong back office,” Sean said. “There is a great deal of contract negotiation, vendor management, business operations, and project-related paperwork involved. 


 Business administration is crucial to the success of any type of commercial construction business. It’s a lot more than just swinging a hammer.”

Allison said the partnership has been extremely successful.

“We did it together, because our skill sets complemented each other,” she said. “I had the business experience and he had the construction and technical knowledge, so it really was a very good match.”

‘You’re doing something right’

That partnership has spawned a business that has seen increased growth each year, Allison said.

“It has been an exciting business challenge for me, the chance to learn a new industry,” she said. “I have enjoyed expanding my skill set and growing professionally.”

“Our primary focus is direct sales and services to the building owner or design team,” Sean said. “I enjoy getting into the details and providing a complete system for a turnkey installation. This is what drove me to the commercial market. The projects are sizeable and more complex.”

View-Tech specializes in the replacement market, which means they are usually working on buildings that are occupied.

“The team that we have does an excellent job working in occupied spaces,” Sean said. “We are able to minimize disturbances by putting up protective barriers, floor protection, using noise reduction and keeping the work areas as clean as possible. We really work hard at trying not to disturb people that are working or living in these spaces.”

Allison said that the crew earns plenty of praise from customers for their conscientiousness and cleanliness.

“When we receive compliments from the clients, we make sure that we share them with our team. It really matters, and they like that people notice,” she said. “Our crew is respectful, again because they are occupied spaces. They are friendly, easy to work with, and clean up after the work is done.” 

Allison said the team takes pride in their work.

“You’re always happy that they care about the job as much as you do,” she said.

And it’s not just the workers earning kudos. View-Tech in general has a stellar reputation in the industry, often doing multiple projects with the same owners and architects.

“If you can specialize in something and be really good at it, that is the best way to grow and build your business.  A good reputation will generate referrals and repeat business,” Allison said. “It is rewarding when we work with the same people, and get the opportunity because we did a good job.”

“That is a testament to we’re doing something right,” Sean said.

From condos to castles

While View-Tech has had projects all over the Northeast, the Smiths expect to see more work in Central New York in the coming year as the company continues to grow.

“We’re very hands-on. We are out at the job sites daily,” Sean said. “It doesn’t matter how far away the work is, we are visible, we take great pride in our work and will be at the job site.”

View-Tech has worked on a variety of projects, including K-12 schools, universities, apartment buildings, historical preservation sites, correctional facilities, condos, and senior living facilities. Right now they are completing work at the Westside Academy at Blodgett in the Syracuse City School District, as well as replacing the windows at Whiteface Castle in Lake Placid. Previous notable projects include the Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Syracuse and a large historical preservation project in Binghamton, New York, that consisted of converting two factory buildings that were the Endicott Johnson shoe factory into apartments, now called Century Sunrise Residences.

“Endicott Johnson was a large project that was very complex due to the size of the openings, 20 feet by 15 feet,” Sean said. “The project required us to invest in a glass lift machine due to the windows weighing over 500 pounds each. We had on-site training for our crew, and it was exciting for them to use new technology. EJ was a fun job, and we were very happy with the end result.”

Getting more women in construction

View-Tech is a New York state certified Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and the only WBE-approved Glass and Glazing company by the city of Syracuse.

“New York state has an initiative to find more opportunities for women-owned businesses,” said Allison, the majority owner of the business. “I look at our WBE certification as an advantage in that respect, especially with the increase of federal, state and local projects.”

But more importantly, she said she hopes the existence of the WBE certification will help to attract more women to the industry.

“[Construction is] still male-dominated,” Sean said.

And it’s not the only profession where women are under-represented.

“I would say that women are under-represented in the computer and engineering industries as well. These are fields where compensation is competitive and there is equality of pay,” Allison said. “I believe connecting with other women, sharing success stories, and increasing our visibility can help attract more women to construction.”

Sean said there has been some increase in the number of women working in the trades.

“You can go to a construction site today and you do see more women working,” he said. “We have recently seen an increase in the number of electricians on job sites that are women.”

In addition to the WBE certification, View-Tech is doing its part to draw more young people into the field; the company has a paid apprenticeship and training program to offer new crew members a way to enter the industry.

“Our apprenticeship program is a great way to recruit some young women in as well,” Allison said. “It gives them a chance to be mentored and invested in. We provide training and give them the opportunity to learn on the job through hands on experience, while also being paid.”

Growing together

That’s not all Allison and Sean are hoping to see in View-Tech’s future.

“We’ve had really strong growth year after year, and the projects keep getting larger and more complex,” Allison said. View-Tech increased their workforce in the field this year as well as hired another project manager and a project assistant at their office in Franklin Square. Sean said he expects to continue to add to the staff in 2020.

“We are forecasting another year of growth and will be adding to our team.” 

And they owe all of it to their partnership.

“It’s definitely a good blend of our skills,” Allison said. “I am grateful that our skills and strengths are compatible, but opposite. We have our own separate, clearly defined responsibilities, and we really just let the other person do what they are good at. We respect and appreciate each other for doing their part to make View-Tech a success.”

Kondra-DeFuria Puts the ‘Pizzazz’ in Potter Heating & Air Conditioning/Perrone Plumbing

By: Tami Scott

In life and in business, Suzanne Kondra-DeFuria runs on passion and pure energy.

   As the president and sole owner of Potter Heating & Air Conditioning and Perrone Plumbing Services, she climbed her way to the top of a male-dominated industry with spunk, pizzazz, and a can-do attitude.

These characteristics, be them innate or learned, were showcased as young as 10 years old, when during the winter, she would shovel all her neighbors’ sidewalks.

   “I just had this energy,” she remarked.

   Then she met her father’s boss — a woman, who was the president of a trucking company, another male-dominated field.


“I remember her always saying, ‘Suzy, you can do anything you want,” said Kondra-DeFuria, who spoke of the times she would watch her dad’s boss at the office, dressed in suits, interacting with her team — and loved it.  “Honestly, I think the seed was planted way back then. I really was into doing what I want to do.”

The beginnings

   Potter Heating & Air Conditioning was already well-established years before Kondra-DeFuria and her husband at the time, David Kondra, came into the picture. The company, founded in 1944 by Homer Potter, began as a one-person operation based in Fayetteville. Over the years, the company grew in size and relocated several times. But Potter’s health was failing, and he was preparing to sell his business.

 “We knew the Potters,” said Kondra-DeFuria, noting the Potters had tried for a few years to persuade Suzanne and David to buy the business. Finally, after giving the idea more consideration, Kondra-DeFuria spoke up and said: “Let’s take the risk.”

   In June 1981, the keys changed hands. Potter remained an active participant in the company he nurtured for nearly four decades, until his death in 1986. That same year, the Kondras acquired Perrone Plumbing.

   More changes occurred in the years following. When the Kondras acquired the small business, they had less than a handful of employees, Kondra-DeFuria said, and Potter Heating & Air Conditioning/Perrone Plumbing generated an average $100,000 in work. As typical of most businesses, the numbers fluctuated, and internal reforms were made. Suzanne and David divorced in 1995, but they remained business partners for another 15 years, until she bought him out in 2012.

   “It was a good move because then I really expanded the business,” specifically as a 100% Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE), she said.

   Prior to the buyout, however, she still made notable strides. In 2006, she was certified as an 8A contractor with the Federal government and remained one for a period of nine years.

   “When people first found out that I obtained the designation, they’d say, ‘How did this happen?’ To get it, you have [to prove] discrimination, and I just happened to have [experienced] some major discrimination, especially [as] a woman in my business, because there were no women in my business back in the ‘80s.”

    Kondra-DeFuria’s biggest challenge to overcome in the industry was, as a woman, being able to convince customers — and counterparts — that she was knowledgeable in the mechanical field.

   She shared a story about the company’s first big job — it was $200,000. The contractor, who was from Albany, thought he had put Kondras-DeFuria on hold over the phone. He didn’t. And she heard firsthand some choice words about what he thought it would be like working with her.

   “Then all of a sudden, he realized I wasn’t on hold and he says, ‘Hello?’ And I said, ‘You know what? Why don’t you wait and see how I am before you make judgments.’”

   When the job was complete, the contractor made a point to express his final impression. He sent flowers and told her it was the most well-run job he had with a contractor and would have never thought that, she said. “I never forgot that.” 

  Also, In the ‘80s, Kondra-DeFuria was the only person who completed the Syracuse Builders Exchange Mentorship program for Minority and Women-owned businesses.

   “I still have a working relationship with my mentor at SAI and we are in our second five-year MATOC at Fort Drum,” she said.

   Kondra-DeFuria didn’t wait for change; she made it happen. “I was constantly trying to drum up business” by going to events and constantly meeting new people, she said. “I learned to do things on my own because if you wait for other people to go with you, it just doesn’t work.” 

   Today, the company thrives, bringing in millions annually. Potter Heating and Air Conditioning offers services for residential, commercial, and institutional/federal clients. Heating services include installation of gas furnaces, radiant heat systems, and hot water steam systems and boilers. Cooling services include air conditioning and improving indoor air quality. Perrone Plumbing is known for its expertise in repairs and installation; clogged sinks, drains, and toilets; new sewers and water services; faucet repairs and replacements; water heaters; pumps; grease traps; gas lines; and thawing frozen pipes.

  Kondra-DeFuria, 72, admits she likes being different. She is one of two women in Syracuse with a heating license. She was the first woman appointed to the City of Syracuse Mechanical Board in 79 years, then reappointed this year for another four-year term. In 2013, Governor Cuomo appointed her to the State Workforce Investment Board. Kondra-DeFuria was also the first woman elected president of the Syracuse Heating and Air Conditioning Contractors Association, serving four terms as president. She was the second woman recently elected as president of the Subcontractors Association of Central New York.

   In addition to her industry achievements, Kondra-DeFuria has been a volunteer at St. Joseph’s Hospital for 45 years and serves on numerous civic boards.

   Not one to ever stop, even when diagnosed with cancer more than 10 years ago, Kondra-DeFuria is a living legacy of her own making.

   “A positive outlook makes a big difference. You can’t let it take you down,” she said.

   Indeed, her diagnosis and subsequent treatment did not slow her down in either her personal accomplishments (as a former active crew member with the Syracuse Chargers, she still participated in Nationals) or business, as evidenced by the company’s double digit growth during that period and continued volunteer contributions.

   American author Earl Nightingale is quoted as saying, “The key that unlocks energy is desire. It’s also the key to a long and interesting life. If we expect to create any drive, any real force within ourselves, we have to get excited.”

   For Kondra-DeFuria, those first sparks of child-focused energy, interest, and exposure to independent thinking from a woman who was way ahead of her time, created a lasting and productive excitement that continues to this day.

Mary Shepherd at the Top and Close to Home with her own business; BGM Supply.

By Martha E. Conway

Mary Shepherd didn’t have to go far from home to rise to the top; the 55-year-old owner of BGM Supply in Utica, a New York state-certified woman-owned business, was born and raised in Westmoreland, graduated from high school there and still lives there today.

After Shepherd earned her two-year accounting degree from Mohawk Valley Community College, she got a job working at a bakery then later moved into a job at a car dealership before realizing she’d reached her potential with the degree she had.

“I couldn’t move up in the workforce, so I went back to school,” Shepherd said, explaining she put her four-year accounting degree to work at a major non-profit. “Then I came here.”

Shepherd said when she worked for the dealership, she said she handled all the warranty work and traveled with the owner to all its locations to get their systems in order to correctly keep track of things.

“Again, I went as far as I could go,” she said. “I knew I had what it took to go somewhere else.”

That was about 1994, she said, and she’s spent nearly three decades looking at every opportunity to realize her vision of success for BGM. Her husband was a driver for the business, and the owner used to suggest she join the team.

“It was supposed to be a little part-time thing,” Shepherd said, adding that she soon learned the business was struggling to grapple with the business end of operating a business, explaining businesses can lose big money without proper tracking systems in place. “I wanted to turn it around.”

Shepherd said she implemented proper recordkeeping systems, streamlined everything she could and started working to grow BGM’s customer base. Dec. 31, 2015, she finalized The Shepherd Group, LLC, with a DBA for BGM Supply, and it was all hers.

“I’m good with people and connect well with them,” she said. “Why not take on what you’ve helped build to success?”

Two months after taking ownership of the business, Shepherd wound up gravely ill. Hospitalized and not expected to survive, her son, Eric, 27, quit his job and stepped in to help out.

She helped him run the business by telephone from her hospital bed after about a week. About two weeks later, Shepherd was able to show up in person to explain what needed to be done, and eventually returned to full-stride.

“My son is really good on the tech stuff,” Shepherd said, and she’s working to bring him in on all facets of the business should he ever have to step in again. “I want to make sure the business keeps going if anything happens.”

Shepherd said she wouldn’t have considered starting a new business.

“Here, everything was already started, already in place,” she said. “People knew me, and I had good relationships.”

Customers had already worked with her, she said, and they trusted her and respected her knowledge and experience.

“I’ve made lots of changes,” Shepherd said. “I’ve invested a lot of money into the business. I’ve worked to improve organizational and structural things, cleaned up the place a lot and doubled the staff.”

In addition, she raised employee salaries and offered them a good benefits package, she said.

“I want to take care of my employees,” Shepherd said. “I want to retain them.”

 She said the thing that surprised her most when she took over was writing and signing paychecks.

“That had a very different feel to it,” Shepherd said of the additional responsibilities.

Shepherd said she had run into challenges that men typically wouldn’t encounter, starting with the woman-owned certification process itself.

“This is a male-dominated business,” Shepherd said. “When I was going through the process to get certificatied, people would ask, ‘How can you ever run that kind of business?’ I’ve been questioned about my abilities, and I think that’s just because I’m a woman. Women can bring a whole host of other skills and abilities to the table – organization, for one – and a different perspective.”

The certification process was arduous, she said.

“It took me about three years to get my certification,” Shepherd said. “I knew as soon as I bought the business, I wanted to start the process because I knew it would be to my advantage to have it.”

I was denied at first, but I pursued it, won the appeal and earned the certification April 6, 2018.

Shepherd said she understands women may be reluctant to put themselves out there to work toward their dreams.

“If you put your mind to it, you can do anything,” Shepherd said. “Get good people behind you. This is a tough business, and there’s a lot to manage. You need to learn to delegate and not try to do everything yourself.

“As an owner, you have to put yourself out there and make things happen – show them by actions. There are stereotypes, to be sure, but you have to get past them with your actions and prove yourself. Look for other women in business and connect with them … network.”

Shepherd said she takes time over the holidays to call customers and say ‘happy holidays,’ and thank them for their business.

“You have to give a little of yourself,” she said. “People will do business with people they have relationships with. If they need something and I’m closed, I will come in. That’s the way it should be.”

Shepherd heads the finances for her church, and she said there have been times when parishioners have had no heat and no resources.

“If someone is in need and has no heat, we can make that happen,” Shepherd said.

She is proud of BGM’s ability to help others.

“I’m the full-time caretaker for my dad, and I have an aide who helps with him,” she said. “She was flooded and we helped her get her heat back on. In another case, my son installed a boiler, which shortly after also was ruined in the floods. The homeowner had a disabled daughter who needed hot baths. We were able to work with the supplier to get a new boiler at a discount.

“We do a lot with the community, and if someone is in trouble, I know a lot of people, so we have avenues to help.”

Shepherd said after her personal experience with the process, she has helped other women by being a sounding board for them as they pursue certification.

“I try to help them out whenever I can,” she said.

Shepherd said women need to work on their self-promotion and be more confident.

“Come out of your shell,” she said. “I know fear gets in the way. Go beyond it; take a chance, take a risk and let down your guard.”

Shepherd continues working to build something great that Eric can someday step into.

“I’ve sent my son to business and accounting classes to prepare him to one day take over,” she said. “I want to get him cross-trained, so he can step in. You can’t leave yourself the only person who knows what’s going on. If something happens, the business keeps going.”

Shepherd said hers is very much a family-owned and -operated operation.

“It’s unique in this field,” she said. “There are a lot of chains out there.”

Shepherd said she’s got a young, tech-savvy crew who can find whatever people need.

“People can walk in and ask us anything,” she said.

According to Shepherd, she thinks there is a perception BGM Supply is strictly a commercial outfit.

“We have a very wide range of stock – I think more than anyone around,” Shepherd said. “We do wholesale and retail, and our total service and delivery, I’m told, are better than anyone else out there.

“We have just about everything for plumbing, mechanical and water systems, and more,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd said it can be a little tricky to find BGM Supply on the state’s website for certified women-owned businesses, but she’s right there under The Shepherd Group, LLC.

“That’s really frustrating because public projects require using state-certified woman-owned businesses,” she said. “Roofers who need insulation for school projects, for instance, can come to us for that.”

Shepherd said her vision for the next five to 10 years includes continued expansion of product lines to broaden offerings, as well as continuing to grow her customer base.

Geography isn’t a consideration, either, she said.

“A lot of our jobs are packages we put together to be drop-shipped,” Shepherd said. “Our radius is quite large. We serve the city of Buffalo – corrections and parks – and Battery Park in New York City. I can cover any area that needs to be covered.”

“We stand out because we’re more personable and offer more collective knowledge,” Shepherd said.