Spotlight On Curtis Norman, VSI’s Director of Finance and Administration
When Curtis Norman started working at the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI) as the new Operations Coordinator in February 2014, he felt like he was “coming home.” Even though he moved to the Washington, D.C. area from his native North Carolina to seek new career opportunities, he had grown tired of working with larger corporations in the Charlotte area and needed a fresh start.
“I was doing capacity planning and workforce analytics – which I enjoy, but I felt like I was dealing with thousands of people each day, and the organizational culture was so impersonal,” he said.
Seeking a smaller organization, VSI became the perfect fit. “Even during the interview process, I could tell they had an amazing culture,” he said. “They wanted to know about me as a human in addition to my professional accomplishments.”
VSI needed someone to manage the office’s daily functions, and management was impressed with Curtis’ vast experience in management with Fortune 500 companies.
Six years and a couple of promotions later, Curtis still feels like VSI is home.
“I’m supposed to be here,” he explained. “I feel like I’m part of a family at VSI, which is what I was missing with the previous employers. In all of my interactions with Kate (Offringa, President & CEO) and the rest of the staff, we continue to foster relationships. I made the right choice in joining the VSI team.”
On a typical workday, Curtis handles benefits and insurance, working with contractors on different projects, database management and financial management. He also oversees payroll, onboards new employees, reviews contracts and serves as the association’s HR representative. Additionally, he serves as VSI’s liaison between the organization and its IT contractor.
For the Spring and Fall VSI meetings, Curtis is in charge of registration, including managing the registration desk. And he recently played an integral role in facilitating VSI’s move to its new offices in Alexandria. During this process, Curtis took the lead in re-establishing VSI’s technology infrastructure.
Managing the Pieces of the Puzzle
Curtis’ ability to handle a multitude of different tasks – sometimes simultaneously – can be attributed to his passion for troubleshooting, or what he calls “putting all the pieces together.”
“I love putting together puzzles. I grew up with just me and my mom, and we did a lot of jigsaw puzzles together,” he recalled. “Sometimes we’d buy two of the same puzzles and have contests to see who could finish the work first. So, when I come to work each day, I see multiple pieces that need to be put together to make sure VSI is running smoothly. At the end of the day, when I know that everything is in place, it gets me back to that home feeling – with my mom and me.”
Curtis’ mother passed away just a few years ago, but he says she is always by his side. And although their tiny hometown of Roper is far away in eastern Carolina’s Outer Banks, that down-home feeling lives for Curtis at VSI.
“I knew Sara (Krompholz, Director, Technical and Product Certification) prior to her joining VSI. Lisa (Dunn, Director of Communications) and I are both Virgos. Matt (Dobson, Vice President) lives in North Carolina where I’m from – we’re both country guys at heart. Alex (Fernandez, Director of Advocacy) and I have bonded from our time working in the office together. Rob (Balfanz, Director of Workforce Development) and I had fun getting to know each other better over a staff ping pong tournament last year. And Kate likes to vacation with her family in the Outer Banks near where I grew up.”
“With each team member, I try to create a common link, and then I ask myself: What can I do to make them more successful? I am an individual with a high level of empathy. I see people for who they are – the human aspect – and that ability to connect with each team member helps me ensure that I am providing them with the best levels of service based on their needs. These small moments we share when we take the time to know each other add up to big results. We come together to put the pieces together.”
Curtis asserts that the bond he has with each of his co-workers and how they work together as a team make him feel like he’s back home.
“My hometown is an hour inland from the Carolina shore. It has a lot of farmland. I had a lot of cousins who grew up fairly close together, and my grandparents were just two towns away. Back then, everyone looked out for each other. It would remind you of the town of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show. I know the D.C. area is very different from Roper, but the VSI team looks out for each other, for the members and for the industry the same way that folks took care of each other back home.”
In addition to enjoying puzzles, Curtis is a self-declared “adrenaline junkie.” He has been bungee jumping in Tennessee, skydiving in Virginia, and hang-gliding in Brazil.
“Matt talked me into skiing, so I went to Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia, and loved it,” he said. “Both Matt and Kate gave me great advice for my first time out.”
Curtis credits Kate for the positive culture at VSI that only gets stronger as the organization continues to grow. He believes that all the new directors hired over the past year have been a perfect “culture fit.” Their amazing success in delivering a “record-breaking” year, according to Curtis, can be attributed to the high level of empowerment that Kate bestows upon all of the team members – including himself.
“Kate and I work very well together – she puts a lot of trust in me,” he explains. “You need someone honest and trustworthy, as well as open to change to work in my role.”
Success In a Virtual World
Because some of the VSI team was already working virtually prior to the COVID-19 crisis, they were well-positioned to navigate the pandemic. Curtis was instrumental in setting up all the systems, including making the “in-person” staff virtual should the need arise.
“The things that I have put into place over the last two years, but hadn’t needed to use, were all there to help VSI pivot during the pandemic without any missteps,” Curtis asserts. “One key example was converting hard copies of contracts and other files and making them all electronic in the cloud. I started doing this last year and was able to get all of our files on the cloud. I found myself still using hard copies because I was working from the office.”
Curtis also transitioned VSI’s manual accounting system with hard checks and physical processes (like Kate’s signature) to an electronic business transaction structure.
“What used to take a couple of days to process can now be done in minutes,” he explains. “And for our annual audits, I used to have hard copies ready for them, but now we have it all prepared for our auditors virtually.”
Curtis also consults on the VSI’s open enrollment, analyzing different insurance products and making recommendations to Kate.
“I am doing all the back-end operations for the team,” says Curtis. “While everyone else is member-facing, I am more internal. The members are my customers, but so are the staff. I am always working on something for them to make them better at their jobs from the back end.”
In other words, Curtis transitions from one hat to the next – he sets up the VSI certified products invoicing that goes out to the membership. He collects membership dues and communicates with members through this process. And he plays a significant role in planning the Spring and Fall meetings, ensuring everything goes smoothly.
“I like to take things on and try to create balance,” he said. “I love being a team player. It’s what I’ve always done. I love getting the industry up to speed with regard to the latest technologies from an inward-facing position.”
A Passion for Family and Community
Coming from a close extended family, Curtis loves helping kids and the elderly. His passion for family and community led him to become a Big Brother.
“I don’t have any children of my own, and I was an only child, so when a friend turned me on to Big Brothers in Charlotte, I saw it as an opportunity to fill a void from my own childhood. I was so shy as a kid that I wouldn’t even talk with my own family. I grew out of it, but when I met my first little Brother years later, I saw myself at age 11. He’s 20 now, and he’s still in my life. He’s still my brother. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him. His family is like my extended family. I feel I’ve done a lot for him, but he’s done so much more for me – he helped me heal the inner child in me.”
Curtis also volunteers at an after-school program in southeast D.C. helping kids with reading and math. This is a student component to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in the D.C. area.
But he will tell you it’s working with his VSI family that gives him the most satisfaction. “I’m already looking forward to another exciting year for VSI and the industry in 2021.”
Don Browne is a writer, entrepreneur and local legislator who believes that the power of words can change the world. He provides unique writing services for clients in the construction, health care, IT and hospitality sectors. He has a passion for small business and start-ups, as well as writing about Irish history, family and corporate biographies. As a homeowner and father of four who is passionate about community development, Don looks forward to writing more about the exciting possibilities of creating traditional neighborhoods and more sustainable communities using modern materials.