One-on-One Customer Service
Liberty Doorworks, Inc. delivers client-centric, customized services to New York metro area builders
Liberty Doorworks, Inc. (Liberty), a midsize commercial door and hardware supplier, serves general contractors, subcontractors, owners, developers and facilities managers in the New York metropolitan area. The company has completed thousands of projects of all sizes, both public and private, during the past three decades.
“Liberty has never been about just placing an order,” says President Lorna Smith. “We find or fabricate the best products for a customer’s job and budget.” The company is committed to meeting customer needs in-house. It has a fabrication shop, sales counter and warehouse all under one roof in its Hauppauge, New York, location, which is just off the Long Island Expressway.
More than 30 years after it was founded, the family-owned company remains true to its original mission: to provide a high level of customer service and order customization that are not typically available from larger companies.
Identifying a Need
Liberty was founded in 1986 by Lorna’s family. Its name was chosen to honor the Statue of Liberty’s centennial, which occurred the same year.
Lorna’s father owned a commercial carpentry company at the time. “Dad identified a need for a door company that could customize standard items and really listen to a client’s needs,” she explains. He noticed that doors were a continual issue for contractors; they were typically ordered very late in the construction process and customization was often needed.
Lorna helped her father start the company and learned every aspect of the business as she worked her way up. She became president in 2012. Soon after, Liberty was designated as a New York State-certified Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE).
Today, the company has 15 employees, including estimators, project managers, a sales counter representative, a hardware specialist and a warehouse supervisor. It also has an office dog: Pinky, the French Bulldog. “We’re dog people!” Lorna admits.
Custom work is a significant part of the company’s business. “You’ll hardly ever find two identical doors on a project. That’s where our customization skill set comes in,” says Lorna. Because it is a UL-certified shop, Liberty can alter hollow metal doors and frames while maintaining its UL fire rating.
Pamela Gordon, senior project manager, shares just one example of the value of this capability: “A customer ordered doors and hardware for a project. Two weeks later, the measurements changed, resulting in 25 doors with incorrect preps. I took the new measurements to our shop and asked, ‘What can we do?’ Our team worked its magic. They re-cut the doors, saving the customer from paying a huge surcharge.” The customer was happy and so was the customer’s client.
Inventory, Expertise and Counter Sales
In addition to customized orders, Liberty maintains a significant level of stock in its large warehouse, including all major brands of hollow metal doors and frames, architectural wood doors and hardware. It can often provide materials when a customer has an emergency.
“If someone urgently needs door frames, we can grab them out of our stock, weld or alter them as needed and get them to the job site straight away,” Pamela says.
“A contractor’s job could come to a halt without those frames on-site. We’re often able to solve that problem for a customer and make them look like a hero.”
To help expedite orders, the walk-in counter is always staffed by a knowledgeable sales person who is able to help customers interpret their requirements when needed. A hardware expert is also on hand to talk to contractors. “People come to see us because of our flexibility and reputation as problem solvers,” Lorna says.
Liberty’s success is built on one-on-one relationships with customers. This approach creates significant repeat business. “We have clients who have been with us since 1986,” Lorna says. “I work with customers today that I’ve worked with since I joined the company more than 10 years ago,” adds Pamela. “Some projects last two to three years. We’re there until the last door stops and silencers are installed.”
Architects and end users rely on the staff’s product expertise. “Architects are brilliant, but they can’t know everything,” Pamela says. “If they specify a certain piece of hardware, we work with them beforehand to ensure it’s correct for the intended application.” That includes completing research and contacting the manufacturer.
Troubleshooting and Continuous Learning
Liberty helps troubleshoot any issues that arise during or after installation, including late changes to original door and hardware selections due to end-user preference or budget issues. Operations manager Joe Botti is a hardware expert with extensive installation experience. He travels to job sites for consultations and troubleshooting and to help customers solve function and installation problems.
For example, one customer ordered bathroom doors for patient rooms in a hospital based on the flooring plan. These double acting specialty doors are inherently challenging to machine and prepare. “During the project, the flooring plan changed; eight doors no longer lined up correctly,” Pamela recalls. The contractor faced the prospect of ripping out doorframes already set in the drywall. Joe visited the job site to review the problem. He recommended changing the locksets and filing down the strike plates. “This solution worked perfectly,” Pamela says. “The customer avoided the delay and cost of new drywall installation and painting.”
“We are diligent in staying on top of the latest approaches, innovations and products and educating our customers about them,” Lorna says. “We’re door nerds and always have been.” Liberty’s membership and involvement in the industry association is part of that. Pamela serves as board secretary for the New York Chapter of the Door and Hardware Institute (DHI). This hands-on role, which includes helping plan the group’s educational programs, fosters technical knowledge as well as a network of connections.
Access Control, Safety and Security
Due to the ever-increasing focus on incorporating security and safety measures into construction projects, Liberty provides the latest in specialty door and hardware technology to help keep spaces and the people inside of them safe and secure.
“Doors are not just another structural element,” Lorna says. “They may save someone’s life one day.” Liberty does a full review of architectural designs for access and security to confirm they are appropriate and effective for the intended use.
Liberty does the legwork to ensure a desired solution is the right one—that it provides security while meeting life safety and fire codes. “If a customer wants to install bulletproof glass in a door, we first confirm if that will affect the door’s fire rating,” says Pamela.
“There are various products that can keep an intruder or active shooter out of a space,” Pamela adds. “However, some can potentially cause unanticipated problems; for example, if a door is locked by students after a teacher leaves a classroom and she can’t re-enter. Great care needs to be taken in design and product selection.”
Lorna recalls a project for a high-security space with lots of access control. “We coordinated not just with the customer and client, but also with the end user’s security team,” she says. “We sat down with them to discuss their concerns and needs and provided product guidance.” All the security elements had to be up and running at move in—and they were.
A Culture of Caring
According to Lorna, Liberty has a family-based culture. “We don’t want our employees to miss important events in their children’s lives, like a kindergartner’s Halloween parade or a daughter’s Little League game,” she says. The company accommodates employees’ family and volunteer commitments on workdays by allowing scheduling flexibility. It also supports its employees’ good works by contributing to the charities that are important to them.
“There is strong support for life/work balance here. To work in a place where that exists is golden,” Pamela says.
This caring approach instills a sense of loyalty. “I’ve found that happy employees are happier people in general,” Lorna says. “And happy employees keep clients happy, too.” As Liberty has demonstrated, one-on-one relationships with team members and customers can drive a company’s success for decades.