We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Joe Altieri, a business leader, entrepreneur, and inventor of FlexScreen - the world’s first and only flexible window screen. Altieri appeared on the hit reality show Shark Tank™, where he landed a deal with “The Queen of QVC,” Lori Greiner. Since then, company growth has skyrocketed, and Joe and FlexScreen have won multiple prestigious industry awards for their leadership, product, and innovative technology. Joe has a unique story and a lot of beneficial business wisdom to share. Enjoy!
Tell us a little bit of the history behind FlexScreen.
The 100-year-old technology behind old-style window screens hasn’t changed in, well, 100 years. Flimsy aluminum frames that bend, dent, and damage easily, scratched paint, broken hardware, and complicated, frustrating installation and removal are just some of the problems that begged a solution. As a salesman in the industry who constantly dealt with customer complaints, I knew there had to be a better way. So, I cleared a workspace in my garage and determined to fix it - all of it. After years of trial and error, I emerged with what I called my “bubble gum and duct-tape prototype” – an elegant, low-profile window screen made from PVC-coated spring steel that had ZERO attachment hardware, was extremely durable and disappeared in the window screen track where it was held by tension. I shopped it around to some of the big names in the window industry, who advised me to patent the technology and get this product to market ASAP. A few years later, I landed on the hit reality show Shark Tank™, where three Sharks battled for FlexScreen, with Lori Greiner winning the deal. Since then, sales have skyrocketed, we’ve won multiple awards, and currently have seven manufacturing locations across the US and Canada. In a few short years, FlexScreen has gone from an idea in my garage to a real force in the window industry.
What was it like to start your own company?
Starting and running a business is not for the faint-hearted! I was unprepared for the grit, determination, and sheer will it would take not to throw in the towel over the years. You have to really want it. And I mean REALLY want it, or you won’t succeed. On the other hand, besides the family my wife and I have built, nothing is more satisfying than seeing a business dream come to life and working toward a common goal with people you love and respect.
What is one of the greatest challenges of running a business?
One of the most significant challenges of running your own business is what I call “the battle of the basic,” – which really just means don’t resist change. Be willing to constantly reevaluate, innovate, improve, and move forward, even when things are good. It’s so easy to slip into “good enough” mode, but when you stop reevaluating, you stop growing.
Tell us about your company’s staff and their skills.
A good leader knows their weaknesses and hires accordingly. I don’t want to be the smartest person in the room, so I’ve surrounded myself with talented, dedicated, hard-working people with different skill sets who help keep FlexScreen and me on track. My teams are encouraged to put forth ideas, offer feedback, and give constructive criticism. I would be nowhere without them.
What kinds of technology does your company utilize.
We recently partnered with the premier automation company in the industry and invested millions into automating our process. The new award-winning automated FlexScreen manufacturing line is simply the fastest and most efficient window screen line in the world. This genius innovation requires only a fraction of the typical space and workforce while producing at a mind-blowing rate of 4 screens per minute. Simplifying our process has allowed us, for the first time in our company history, to offer a licensing option – a total game changer for us and the window industry
What would you say is one of your leadership strengths?
Probably the ability to see the big picture and not get caught up in the weeds.
What differentiates your company from others?
Our patented, one-of-a-kind product sets us apart in the market. We manufacture the world’s first and only flexible window screen made with highcarbon, oil-tempered spring steel. We currently own 13 patents on our flexible technology, and there is no other window screen in the world with the attributes of a FlexScreen. Constantly having an eye toward innovation keeps us among the fastestgrowing companies in the country, and our nontraditional “edgy professional” presence on social media and fierce commitment to digital marketing has also drawn much attention.
How did your career path get you to your present position?
I’m a 3rd generation self-described “born entrepreneur.” I watched and learned from my father and grandfather as they navigated entrepreneurship. By age 12, I was doing odd jobs and finding ways to earn money and run my own little businesses. But what pushed me toward where I am now was my 20+ years as a sales rep in the window industry, where I dealt daily with customers’ constant complaints about their oldstyle window screens. It was a huge problem, and I was just crazy enough to believe I could be the one to solve it.
What are the values and mission of your company?
Passionate. Generous. Healthy. Grateful. Honest. These are the five values that guide my personal and professional life. Our company values are the same, but we regularly add to them. Recently we printed t-shirts for our employees that say “Relentless” and gave them out to everyone along with their yearly Christmas bonuses. It was the word I wanted to focus on and inspire our teams toward going into the new year. And years ago, I crafted a personal mission statement to help keep my focus on what really matters. I have it on the board in my office and other places where I will be reminded regularly; “My purpose is to use all of my gifts and life experiences to serve and inspire others to live their best life.
What are the overall goals of the company?
To continue to innovate, grow, and provide gainful, beneficial employment opportunities. (And to cover the world with FlexScreen.)
What makes you the leader of this industry?
There are many inspirational leaders in this industry, and I’ve learned so much from them along the way. I aim to continue gaining knowledge about every aspect of the business and share what I know every chance I get.
Where do you foresee the company will be in the next few years?
There’s no crystal ball, and trying to predict anything in this fairly volatile post-pandemic time of inflation, material and work shortages, etc., would be unwise. But I am optimistic. FlexScreen has grown exponentially – especially since our appearance on Shark Tank™. And now that we have the ability to license our manufacturing technology, I believe there is no limit to what we can achieve.
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