#YKKAPProud: Employee Perspectives with Orlando Branch Manager, Barry Wampler

Barry Wampler manages YKK AP’s Orlando branch. After 29 years at YKK AP, he shares about his unique career path and lessons learned.

Barry, tell us about how you got your start with the company.

I started with YKK AP in February of 1991. I was in the export business, when a YKK AP architectural sales representative stopped by and shared about the company’s products. I expressed interest, and he recommended me to the president of the company.

I went for an interview the day a plane crashed in Alabama, killing three YKK AP employees. The  president was mounting a search party to walk the mountain and find their employees. The interview went ahead anyway, and I was totally impressed by his passion and care for the welfare of the company personnel. I started later in February 1991 as an Architectural Aluminum Sales Representative. 

Wow. That is a memorable interview experience. How did your career evolve from there?

At the time I started with YKK AP, I believe we had two salesmen in Virginia, one in Georgia, one in North and South Carolina, one in Florida, and one that traveled the southeast.  The goal was to expand our marketing area, so my job was to build sales primarily in Tennessee but my territory at that time was up I-81 through Virginia, across western Maryland, West Virginia, Southern Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

I was adopted by the YKK Zipper branch in Nashville and given space in their offices. I learned a lot about the company from that perspective. We went on to hire a Customer Service Representative for my office and we became a mini-sales branch. I was fortunate to be on the ground floor of developing our territories, so it was great fun to cultivate and teach our new customers.  We ended up with a loyal customer base in many key markets which in turn helped us to expand our service areas.

It sounds like that was an impressionable time in your career. Is there a specific memory that comes to mind?

Yes, 1991 was a busy year because we incorporated and broke ground on a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. When it opened in September 1992, we had a magnificent, vertically-integrated plant that we could take customers, architects and owners to tour. The only one of its kind in the US, this plant allowed us to completely control our quality and was quite the showplace – and still is today.

What has kept you engaged with YKK AP over the long term?

Other than it being a great company to work for, technically YKK AP is very innovative in its design and finish, so we have always had some things we offered that our competitors did not.  Our finish is unlike any in our industry, so in my early career, word spread pretty quickly about our company and our competitors took notice. So much notice that they were talking about us internally to their customers ask questions which created even more interest and possibilities.

At some point in my career, I was offered an opportunity that I could not refuse, and I left YKK AP for three years. It was an amicable departure, with my final comment being that if “I was going to be in this industry, I would only be with YKK AP because I know that we will succeed because of our business ethics and practices.”

As you can guess, I returned to YKK AP in February 2001 to manage the Orlando Branch.

What makes YKK AP different from other companies you’ve worked with?

YKK AP, because of its culture and is privately owned, has the ability to think long-term instead of quarter-by-quarter, so it’s very strategic in its approach. Additionally, our founder, Tadao Yoshida, put forth our core philosophy called the Cycle of Goodness, which says “No one prospers unless they render benefit to others.” This belief permeates the entire enterprise.

Additionally, I’ve been very fortunate to surround myself with highly skilled and motivated people at YKK AP.  We all have the same goal and that is to serve our customers better than any other vendor. I like to say that if a customer has a question we cannot answer, it is a very good question. In the Orlando branch, we have a total experience tenure of 222 years with YKK AP and about 350 years in the industry.

How has the company best supported your career as a branch manager?

YKK AP has a different system than any of our competitors, which organically allows for tremendous support. We have branch operations that operate as semi-autonomous profit centers, which recognize local needs and preferences.  This allows our branches to fit their business practices and culture for each region.  The corporate offices support the branches with all critical items, which allows the branch to focus on customers and sales.

How have you seen the industry change over the course of your career?

The industry has totally changed, especially in Florida.  In 1992 Hurricane Andrew hit Southeast Florida and completely wrecked the landscape. YKK AP immediately set to work designing and testing impact-resistant systems, so we came to market early after that and can now meet the needs of coastal markets, like Florida. Here we have very strict building standards and every product that goes into a new building must be tested, incorporating every part of the process to ensure that it performs as a unit. Over the years our installed products have been tested with actual hurricanes at least seven times, and have passed with extreme success.

What are your proudest career moments at YKK AP?

My proudest moments have been too numerous to detail, but the ones that actually stand out most are the six times our branch, as a team, has won Branch of the Year awards along with two Honorable Mentions.

What advice would you give your younger self?

My advice would be to seize every opportunity and don’t be afraid to take chances.  YKK AP was a great example of a new company seizing every opportunity to expand with great new products, great people, and philosophies that lead to everyone’s success.

What advice would you give to someone joining the company?

I tell everyone who joins our company that they have come “home.” YKK AP puts great value in their employees and their well-being as well as the customer experience.