How Chris Cardillo built one Castle Windows franchise into a South Jersey empire

Chris and Nick Cardillo

Chris and Nick Cardillo

By Tina Irgang

When brothers Nick and Chris Cardillo took over leadership of a Castle Windows franchise in Pennsylvania from their father, they had big plans. They bought up struggling Castle franchises and other companies in the area one at a time, building a multi-million dollar franchise operation based in Mount Laurel, NJ. Here, Chris Cardillo talks about lessons he learned from his father, and how he and his brother avoid conflicts about running the company.

You co-run Castle Windows with your brother, Nick. How do the two of you make sure you don’t drive each other crazy?

Cardillo: We just always got along in the past. There was never a rivalry or anything like that when we were growing up. We were always very supportive of each other. … So in here, we get along because I kind of push the envelope and try to expand the business in a more aggressive way, and he’s more accounting for everything and making sure everything runs smoothly on compliance. We have two very different jobs, so one doesn’t conflict with the other.

Your father ran a Castle Windows franchise when you were growing up. What lessons about running a business did your father teach you that you’re still using today?

Cardillo: He came to New Jersey and opened I think the most successful franchise of Castle Windows. So when people think of the business, they think of him more than anyone. [He definitely taught me] his strong work ethic. He worked 364 days a year. He would just take off Christmas. I learned there is no such thing as absentee management. People have to see you working. You have to be willing to do anything you want somebody else to do. The other thing was, he was a very numbers-oriented individual. He would base his business model off percentages rather than dollar concepts. Everything was based off a number you were trying to reach, so what I learned is, when you want to affect your business, you have to look at your overall numbers and work each of those categories independently until you’ve arrived where you needed to be.

Is he still involved in the business today?

Cardillo: If we’re expanding to another market or there’s another major person coming into the mix, he will become involved. He still loves being involved in the business, so if there’s a specific concern that needs to be handled, he will take the ball and run with it. Other times, he’s out and about, doing his own thing.

When your father was running the business, it was a single franchise. Since then, you and your brother have bought all the other franchises, one at a time. Why did you decide to do that?

Cardillo: A desire to expand, and just seeing an opportunity with the other franchises. A lot of people were looking to get out of the business. A number of those folks had offices prior to my father being here, so I knew they were on the verge of retiring, and we seized that opportunity. And then there were businesses in which we either reverse-franchised or took an existing company that wasn’t a Castle, and maybe they had some concerns or debt. So we would go in and pay that off, take over that company or convert it to a Castle.

How many franchises are there altogether?

Cardillo: About seven around here, depending on how you count them. Then there’s more in other territories.

Are you hoping to pass the business on to your own kids?

Cardillo: My brother and I both have kids. … If they want to be involved, that’s great. If they want to pursue something different, that’s fine too. They’re relatively young, so they’ll make that decision when they get out of college.

What do you love the most about your job?

Cardillo: What I love the most is that industry-wide, people will seek us out to handle different programs for them. We’ll do marketing for companies that do what we do in other areas we’re not in. Or even competitors will call us and ask us to handle their marketing, and I think that’s a huge compliment. So that’s exciting when I get a phone call and start talking to somebody.

About The Human Element:

The Human Element is a regular, web-exclusive column that aims to get to know the leaders behind great companies. Rather than talking about business models and growth strategies, CEOs open up about what motivates and guides them in their professional and personal lives. To be considered for The Human Element, email ahurst@smartceo.com.