By >Jill C. Lafferty
Ed Burak says that when it comes to awnings, there are no secrets. As an awning juts out from a home, office or retailer, it’s clear how the construction has been welded, finished and sealed.
So what is the secret behind Burak’s success with the 128-year-old Hudson Awning & Sign Co. Inc. of Bayonne, N.J.?
It may just be the handwritten thank-you notes. (Blue ink required, so there’s no mistaking it for a computer-generated missive.)
“When we have meetings we send thank-you notes to all of the people at the meeting because eventually people move on, and when they move on they take you with them,” he says.
Burak and his team emphasize constant attention to customer service—from a professional appearance for installers to client education—to distinguish the company from competition.
“It’s really servicing your clients so that they rely on you for solutions. That’s what everyone is looking for—everyone is looking for solutions.”
Hudson has been supplying solutions to Macy’s department stores for 10 years, including the “A million reasons to believe” awnings that adorned Macy’s Manhattan flagship store through the most recent holiday season. The bright red awnings featured graphics, applied using the Sunbrella Graphics System, that began on one panel and continued to the next. One of the keys to Hudson’s relationship with Macy’s has been its commitment to opening up the client’s mind to new opportunities, Burak says.
“It happened strictly by staying on top of them and letting them know what the possibilities were,” he says.
Hudson’s history stretches back to 1881, when it constructed sails for ships docked along the Hudson River. Burak and his wife Lynda took over the company in 1979. Under their leadership it has evolved from a focus on residential awnings to servicing primarily commercial clients, including high-end national retailers, restaurants and the movie industry. About 40 to 45 percent of its business involves graphics, most often applied with the Sunbrella system.
Burak predicts an upheaval in the commercial awning industry, with major changes in architecture and design leading to the use of new awning materials, including hard materials and printable mesh. Add the challenges of the economy, and it may be the seemingly small customer service touches that set a company like Hudson apart.
“Always, no matter what the reason is, thank someone,” Burak says. “It’s almost a lesson in humility in being so thankful for what they are giving you the ability to do.”