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.”
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.”