Born and raised in Wilkes County, North Carolina, Tammy Whitworth’s mission to honor her roots guides her as much as her vision for the future. Serving the community that she and her family have called home for generations is part of what keeps Tammy driven to shepherd Window World®, America’s largest exterior remodeler, successfully into its third decade and beyond.
After attending Meredith College and earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration & Political Science, Tammy began her career in the renovation and remodeling industry. Initially working at a wholesale window company and managing the measure-and-install program, Tammy quickly learned the ins and outs of replacing windows. She and her husband, Todd, purchased their first Window World store in Wilmington, NC, and quickly opened their second store with life-long friends Darren and Michelle Kennelly in Winston-Salem, NC.
In 2007, Tammy and Todd purchased Window World, Inc., the corporate office of Window World. While they were committed to implementing the change necessary to see the company into its next era, they remained steadfast in their resolve to keep the core of Window World, its family approach, constant.
Tammy and Todd started Window World Cares®, the charitable arm of Window World, in 2008. Their eldest child, Anna Grace, was premature and spent the first days of her life in a hospital. Having experienced the strain of worrying about their child’s health, Tammy and Todd decided to partner with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®. Named for the patron saint of lost causes, St. Jude takes on the toughest cases of childhood cancer and other life-threatening illnesses and does so without regard for a family’s ability to pay. In 2010, Window World Cares was named St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s New Corporate Partner of the Year, and Tammy’s passion for the hospital has led to over $13 million in fundraising.
Overcoming personal tragedy, Tammy became CEO of Window World after the passing of her husband in 2010. Since then, she has led the company in its pursuit to establish world-class training for franchisees through profound changes in product, installation, and standards regulations established a Board of Directors and created an Advisory Council of franchisees. Her vision for Window World remains to position store owners with the best possible tools to be successful, providing opportunities for hard-working families across the nation.
Still proud to call North Wilkesboro home, Tammy serves on the foundation board of Wilkes Community College and supports local initiatives year-round. As a mother of three children, an avid horse enthusiast, and a full-time executive, she uses her experience in both life and business to guide other aspiring working professionals as they pursue their own dreams.
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Table of Contents
Thank you so much for giving us your time! Before we begin, could you introduce yourself to our readers and take us through what exactly your company does and what your vision is for its future?
Tammy Whitworth: Of course! I was born and raised in North Carolina, and that’s where the company I lead resides today. I studied business and political science in college, and I began my career in the renovation and remodeling industry soon after graduation. I became CEO of Window World in 2010.
Window World is a national home remodeling franchise with over 200 stores in 47 states. Each store is individually owned and operated by members of the local community. This special dynamic of being both “locally owned and nationally known” gives our customers peace of mind. Not only are they doing business with a neighbor from their community, but everything is backed by the national brand, a lifetime limited warranty, and over 25 years of industry-leading service and award-winning products.
Our stores sell and install high-quality products to enhance the exterior of any residential home. We offer windows, siding, patio doors, entry doors, shutters, gutters, roofing, and more for homeowners across the country. We have a tagline that might just sum up what we do best: “Improving Homes. Changing Lives.”
My vision for the brand is always to grow bigger and better in everything we do. After over 25 years in business, I’ve found the best way to do that is by providing the ultimate experience for our customers.
We’ve come quite a long way since I took over as CEO in 2010. That year, Window World had 200 stores, selling 1.1 million window units and bringing in a topline revenue of $371,728,92. Finishing 2021, we have 210 stores around the country selling 1.6 million window units with a topline revenue of nearly $1 billion.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO/entrepreneur when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get where you are today?
Tammy Whitworth: Early on, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I’m told it was because I liked to argue (but the jury’s still out on that one). I double-majored in business and political science at Meredith College but decided to hold off on grad school. Before I knew it, life happened, and student loans were due.
When Todd and I got married, he was a regional sales representative for a window manufacturer. We originally moved to Greenville, SC, then Atlanta, GA. In Atlanta, I worked for one of Todd’s customers at a building supply wholesaler, thus beginning my career in the home improvement industry. In 1998, we moved back to North Carolina and purchased the Window World store in Wilmington, NC. I ran the office in those days while Todd handled the sales operations.
We continued to open several additional locations before eventually selling our interests. In 2002, Todd moved to the corporate office in North Wilkesboro, NC, to become President of Window World, Inc. During that time, I was busy raising three beautiful babies and was the chief fundraiser for our charitable arm Window World Cares. In 2007, Todd’s parents retired, and he purchased the company from them. In 2010, Todd passed away, and I became the CEO of Window World, Inc. overnight.
Tell us something about yourself that others in your organization might be surprised to know.
Tammy Whitworth: I feel like I’m an open book, and I try to be transparent with all our team members. I’m a Christian, a widow and single mother of three, a horse enthusiast, a proud patriot who loves her country, and a breast cancer survivor.
I love spending time with my family, whether it’s my own flesh and blood or my window world family. I’m extremely passionate about everything I do, and I give my all to every aspect of the business.
Something I care deeply about is the work Window World does for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and our veteran and military communities. Since 2010, Window World Cares has raised over $13 million for St. Jude. And we started the Window World Military Initiative (WWMI) in 2020 to honor and serve America’s veterans and their families. These things make us who we are as a brand, and they show the character, integrity, and principles that we embody. I couldn’t be prouder to lead a company with such outstanding values.
Many readers may wonder how to become an entrepreneur but what is an entrepreneur? How would you define it?
Tammy Whitworth: I think either you’re an entrepreneur or you’re not. I personally became one kicking and screaming. In 1998, when my late husband Todd abruptly resigned from his corporate job so we could do this Window World thing, I was terrified. We had a new house, two car payments, student loans, etc. Life was going full blast, and we were taking a huge leap of faith.
At the end of the day, an entrepreneur is someone with the desire for more than just a “safe” job. The Window World family has many entrepreneurs, whether store owners, design consultants, or installation technicians. They’re some of the most driven, hard-working, and resourceful people I have ever met. In essence, they create their destiny through a strong work ethic and the desire to succeed.
What is the importance of having a supportive and inclusive culture?
Tammy Whitworth: When I became CEO overnight, I knew I had to surround myself with smart, loyal people I could trust. My management style is to work as a team and find the best solution together by allowing everyone to utilize their unique skill sets and personalities. When we’re working on something substantial, I like to hear the opinions of all related parties before making a decision. I think it’s imperative for my team to know their opinion is valuable and that their input helps better the company as a whole.
Additionally, I keep an open door at the office, and anyone is welcome to step inside for a chat at any time. When you have so many unique voices and talents in a company, it’s vital to give each one of them a platform to express themselves. I want our employees to feel empowered to reach their full potential, and we do that by making everyone involved, influential, and valued.
How can a leader be disruptive in the post covid world?
Tammy Whitworth: I think being a disruptive leader right now is all about being proactive, looking for solutions to potential problems before they arrive, and establishing new solutions as necessary. The pandemic shook nearly every industry to its core, and it’s forced leaders to rethink how they approach their daily duties.
While it’s impossible to predict what might come next, it pays to be in a state of continual growth and advancement. We don’t want to get comfortable or become static. We must always move forward, search for ways to surpass the competition, and make a positive impact on the business as a whole.
If a 5-year-old asked you to describe your job, what would you tell them?
Tammy Whitworth: I would tell them I help make people’s homes safer and more beautiful to live in.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Tammy Whitworth: One of my most difficult decisions involved terminating a franchise where the owners were lifetime friends. It was a husband & wife team, and when one half passed away tragically, the other tried desperately to hold on. Ultimately, we worked together to take care of the store employees and customers as ownership changed hands. The transition was difficult, but we all came out of it with a renewed sense of promise for the store.
Leaders are usually asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is your most useless talent?
Tammy Whitworth: I lead with my heart, which can be both useful and useless at the same time. And I always try to listen to my gut — if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. If you wrote a book about your life until today, what would the title be?
Tammy Whitworth: Oh, I absolutely think I should write a book about my life someday. It’s been quite a ride. The title would be either “Survivor” or “Just Stupid.”
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Tammy Whitworth for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Tammy Whitworth or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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