History

Celebrating 20 Years on the Web

Friday, November 17th, 2017 at 8:26 pm by Dan Musick

The year was 1997. The Internet was just coming of age. Interest in the profit potential of web-based businesses was reminiscent of the gold rush in the last century. It was the year that my 12 year old son, Erich, posted our first web page.

It began, “Welcome to our web site. God knew we could not afford a computer guru to develop this so He gave us one about 12 years ago at the local hospital.”

We had registered our domain, www.garagedoor.org on April 16, 1997. The man who arranged this said businesses use the .org as well so I took his word for it as the www.garagedoor.com URL had already been taken. For more than a decade afterward customers would ask, “Why are You a .org?” That took a lot of explaining.

The company name at the time was DDM Enterprises, Inc. I was a dreamer; I didn’t want to limit the scope of our business to just the garage door industry.

My 12 year-old son was also experimenting with an email link. I can’t remember if he actually posted it.  

Erich also posted a picture made from a photo taken with an old 35 mm camera. At the time I was proud of it. If you can imagine how much computers have changed in 20 years, you might appreciate how this image degraded through multiple file transfers.

After explaining what I was doing, one of my suppliers warned me that people go to the internet just to get free information, and he advised, “you’ll never make any money that way.” I continued posting free information on our site. I later discovered that I was pioneering what later came to be called “content marketing” in college courses. And, we continue to offer service before the sale.

The wild web gold rush exploded in the next few years. Companies invested and lost millions. But not us. We certainly didn’t have any money to invest, and we hadn’t even made enough to pay the quarterly web hosting fee.

My family also had this thing about food, shelter and clothing, so I continued a full time job at Area Door from about 1995 until about 2010. I also had my own repair business on the side and I continued to sell parts. Many of these orders had come from printed catalogs we mailed in the early 90’s.

In 2005 we noticed that people started buying parts from us after getting our name and contact information from the internet. In the same year we posted instructions for replacing garage door torsion springs, along with a second page explaining torsion springs. This page also included a conversion program for longer life springs. These two pages soon provided enough income for me to leave my full time job.

In the same year we encountered what is still a lingering problem – intellectual property theft. One competitor stole both of our pages. He copied the text to his server but he linked to our images, so we found a nifty way to warn customers that the page had been stolen. In one of the earlier images we substituted one of the images with this one. It showed up on his page, but not on ours.

The thief who had stolen several of our pages and who still has much of our property on his site, was booted off Richard Kinch’s site. I had asked Google for help but I don’t think they had their DMCA notice program in place.

From there the business has continued to grow. My older son, Erich, went on to graduate with a software engineering degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering. Now, he’s a senior software developer at Microsoft.

In September of 2011 we moved out of our garage. I had earlier assumed that our kids would just clean out the garage when we died. But God had other plans.

My younger son, David, studied physics, math and German at Wheaton College. Early in his college years he photographed and posted most of our garage door parts, and during most of his remaining college years he worked on our high lift conversion instructions and conversion quote program.

There are three things I remember about his high lift work. One is that he was a perfectionist; he kept me up until 2 AM taking pictures as I installed that high lift for the tutorial.

I also remember the conversion quote program. The first month the program was up high lift purchases almost died. I later discovered that the diy-ers were doing their homework and it took more time before they were ready to order.

A third memory was that David’s program didn’t always match the calculations from our supplier’s program. After some testing we discovered he had actually improved the industry calculations.

David later picked up a masters degree in photonics from the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena, Germany, and is now working in the same city for Jabil.

Much has happened since those early years. Today we’re in a large warehouse –  the size that customers used to imagine when they saw the magnitude of our web site. They assumed we had a big warehouse, and they were surprised when I would lead them back to our garage to help them get the part they needed.

God never ceases to surprise me.

 

WWJD – What Would Jesus Do?

Friday, November 3rd, 2017 at 5:25 pm by Dan Musick

Many years ago I was replacing a gear on a Chamberlain/Liftmaster/Sears opener. I had learned from previous jobs that the top neck of the drive shaft often wears from dried grease. I put two and two together and I concluded that if I replaced just the gear, I would probably need to return in a few months to replace the drive shaft and another gear because it is not possible to purchase just the drive shaft.

At the time each repair cost over a third of the price of a new opener. What should I do? Then I asked, “What would Jesus do?” And I thought, Jesus would not just replace the gear; He would also clean and lube the neck of the drive shaft. He would treat others, in this case the customer, the way I would want to be treated if I were the customer. That’s the golden rule.

I attend Bethel Baptist Church where redeemed sinners learn to be more like Jesus. In our small group last night, David Kells, one of the elders, wrote on the white board two words, “excellence” and “obedience.” Then he asked, “Which is more important?”

The answer that quickly came to my mind is “obedience.” Treating customers the way I want to be treated – obeying Jesus’ golden rule – will produce excellence in all we do.

When I sold our service and installation company to Matt’s Garage Doors, I reminded Matt to honor Christ in all he does, not to worry about reviews, and to continue serving customers as he did so well when working for us. And I remind him and our employees even now: “Pursue Christ’s standard of perfection and it will inform every dimension of our work. Sacrificing to serve a customer is as much a part of our worship as singing the rich hymns of our faith on Sunday morning.”

We are different because of our hope. As we were reminded last night, God has shown us mercy – not giving us the punishment we deserve, and He’s shown us grace – giving us the joy we don’t deserve. We received that hope through faith in Christ’s perfect life, His death for us, and His resurrection from the dead. It’s good news indeed!

The reality is that our lives are hidden in Christ. (Colossians 3:3) And, as the quote on our church’s website reminds us, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) If you see anything commendable in us, it is Christ you see, His work, not ours.

It is for His kingdom and His glory that this business exists.

Business Kingdom Purpose

Friday, October 20th, 2017 at 5:09 pm by Dan Musick

Business Focus

Over the years our main focus has been to honor God by being good stewards of the resources He has provided.

I learned this principle from two Christian business men, Bill Pollard and Dick Lauber, elders at a church I attended many years ago. Several years ago I began a Twitter Page expressing my gratitude for them. The purpose of that page is to help other entrepreneurs understand business from God’s perspective.

In the early years of our business the resources to steward included a camera, my writing skills and my son’s internet skills. As the business grew, the resources God provided became more specialized, from photography to video, from html to PHP, from employees and accountants to lawyers and numerous other skills and professions.

One of the more recent treasures God has provided for us to steward is the Convene business network which links Christian businessmen.

Their site states: “We believe two heads are better than one. And a peer team committed to each other’s success is exponentially better. . . . Time is money. At Convene, we can guarantee that your time is well-spent. The people, resources, and materials available to our members help to multiply their time.”

This is my first month in their program; the resources they provide are incredible. One of my first tasks was to help focus the business by establishing a kingdom purpose.

It took time, but I knew the time invested would be worth it. Here it is.

“God has uniquely positioned, gifted and called DDM Garage Doors to glorify God by exemplifying Christ-likeness in our leadership, by praying for and discipling our employees, by sharing the gospel with our customers, and by funding ministries that take the gospel to the ends of the world.”

To God be the glory!!!

 

Way to go, Jorie!

Friday, October 6th, 2017 at 2:23 pm by Dan Musick

In an earlier blog we mentioned Jorie’s and Neal’s wedding. Neal is our warehouse manager and Jorie has helped here with personnel matters, including completing a company policy manual that had been started several years previously. She also helped to see that the orders got to their intended destinations.

At the time she had just finished her education. After a little time to get settled and to look for a career in her field of study she is embarking on a career in human resources in the corporate offices at Aldi Foods.

As part of her going away celebration we brought in scrumptious fresh cooked pot pies from Pie Boss. The owner there is the worship leader at Neal’s and Jorie’s Faith Bridge Church.

In the card we gave her I let her know I trust her husband, Neal, will keep me apprised of all Jorie’s achievements. We expect to hear great things about her.

Best wishes, Jorie. We’re all proud of you!

Garage Door Sections

Friday, September 29th, 2017 at 4:49 pm by Dan Musick

Most garage doors consist of sections that are connected with hinges. The end hinges and fixtures have rollers to allow the door to roll up into the tracks.

History of Garage Door Section Construction

In the early decades of door construction most sections were made of wood. There were four main types.

Wood Flush Sections

These sections had exterior skins of hardboard or thin plywood that was glued to internal rails. The surface was kept uniformly flat with styrofoam strips.

 

Fully insulated flush sections were also made, but the temperature difference between outside and outside often caused the sections to bow.

Masonite Panel Sections

These sections consisted of horizontal rails and vertical stiles that were pinned, glued and nailed together. Inside these components were grooves that held the hardboard or plywood panels.

Wood Panel Sections

These were designed like the hardboard panel sections, but the panels were made of redwood or fur. As the redwood trees in California diminished the cost of panels increased and soon were no longer available.

Cladwood Sections

These sections were developed in the 80’s to replace the wood sections that rot and delaminate. Cladwood doors were made of a resilient wood chip product that could be molded to imitate the raised panel design. The material would not rot. These panels were held in place by metal rails on top and bottom. Vertical stiles helped tie the sections together as well as providing material for installing the hinges.

Steel Sections

There are two basic types of steel sections. Pan doors were made of rolled steel with the skins secured to stiles which allowed for installing hinges.

Garage door buckes can be corrected

The more popular sandwich doors like the one pictured below have higher insulating R-values.

A third type of section is found when a surface is added to the exterior of the door. This is the construction of the popular carriage house doors. This exterior surface is glued and screwed to wood or steel sections.

How to Make Wood Replacement Sections

Manufacturers stopped making wood sections about 10 years ago. The only option for replacing a section is to replace the entire door with a steel door.

There are, however, those experienced carpenters who are perfectly capable of making sections.

Many years ago one of my customer needed sections for a type of door that was no longer made, and which had to match the adjacent door.

Here’s how I made the door.

First I made an inside frame out of 1 X 3 lumber. To the frame I glued and screwed outer skins of 1/8″ lauan plywood. Then I routed the edges for the meeting rails. Adding styrofoam will help with insulation as well keeping the section skins smooth.

Here is a picture of a similar door that Andy Hodenius made a number of years ago.

More information is on our garage door sections page.

 

Garage Door Training

Friday, September 15th, 2017 at 5:40 pm by Dan Musick

“We help people fix their garage doors.”

That was written on the first flier I printed back in 1980.

My plan was to provide training for maintenance personnel to repair their commercial and industrial overhead type doors. This was for the bigger companies in Chicago such as Honeywell and Wrigley, the chewing gum company, but I also did some quite effective training for a smaller company, Volvo / Honda of Lisle, IL.

That part of the company did not grow as quickly as I had hoped, but I did discover that many of the companies needed parts, and even more would prefer to have an outside contractor service and install doors. From there I built a catalog business along with a service and installation company that later became Dortrak which I sold around 1990. Later I started what became DDM Garage Door & Dock Services which was sold and became Matt’s Garage Doors. The overhead door training part of the business has always been part time.

This is one part of our business that I will never sell.  I can train men to fix garage doors, but I can’t train someone to train others. It carries the highest risk and liability. It’s our most challenging service and, because of that, it’s also the most expensive. There are men who are qualified to train, but they’re tied up with the more profitable task of running the larger traditional service and installation companies. It’s hard for me to justify the time away from our bread and butter business, but my greatest incentive is the transition I normally see in the trainees from fear and trepidation to a genuine sense of accomplishment.

Next week I’ll provide training for USPS workers in Stamford, CT. A few years ago I trained for the second time the postal workers at the Wallingford, CT facility. The first time I was there I made the mistake of promising to make a manual for the men at no additional cost, and I held off on invoicing them until the notebook was finished. Duplicating the notebook would have cost many times the price they paid for the training.

I guess we all live and learn.

 

BarCol Doors

Friday, September 1st, 2017 at 6:34 pm by Dan Musick

Those of us who have been in the business for a while remember the old BarCol doors. This name is short for Barber Coleman.

The biggest difficulty we remember is accommodating the incompatibility of torsion hardware. While all the other door companies used 1″ shafts, the early shafts on BarCol doors doors had a 1 1/16″ outside diameter. This spring anchor bracket above identifies the larger shaft, and trying for many hours to get parts to fit on the shaft was part of our initiation into the door business. We filed, we beat, we yelled – all to no avail. We learned to carry 1″ shafts or a 1 1/16″ drill bit to get the standard winding cone to fit.

The old BarCol system also used unique 1 13/16″ inside diameter springs that were hooked on the ends. The cones would slide into the cones and hook either the bracket or the raised edges on the cones. The cable drums were also bigger. Many service technicians never noticed the difference and they left behind a trail of heavy doors because of the drums’ higher moment arm.

The newer BarCol doors used brackets with 1″ bearings for 1″ shafts. Many of these used the hooked cones, but the new 1 3/4″ standard screw-in stationary cones would secure to these these compatible brackets.

In the early years BarCol also had special rollers that were tied together with hinge straps. As the door closed a plate welded to the curve of the track would catch the top roller and raise the hinge straps.

These straps would, in turn, pull the straps and rollers  along the full height of the door to force the ends of the door against the jambs and header.

This method of pushing the door against the jambs was designed because Overhead Door Corporation owned the patent to the wedge design that incorporates graduated hinges and pitched vertical tracks.