Posts Tagged auto glass installation

Just Sayin’ Blog – A Matter of Self-Interest or Consumer Choice

Dominos

 

Last June 3, 2013 Dannel Malloy, Governor of the State of Connecticut signed a bill that was passed by Connecticut’s House and Senate the previous month into law. This link to the summary of the act that was first introduced in the Insurance and Real Estate Committee of the Connecticut House states,

“The act requires that a glass claims representative for an insurance company or its third-party claims administrator, in the initial contact with an insured about automotive glass repair services or glass products, tell the insured something substantially similar to: “You have the right to choose a licensed glass shop where the damage to your motor vehicle will be repaired. If you have a preference, please let us know. ” By law, appraisals and estimates for physical damage claims written on behalf of insurers must have a written notice telling the insured that he or she has the right to choose the shop where the damage will be repaired (CGS § 38a-354).”

This law seems to be a reasonable approach to provide and ensure consumer choice to the residents of Connecticut.

As it appears on the State of Connecticut’s General Assembly bill tracking web site the law – Public Act Number 13-67 – states,

 “AN ACT CONCERNING AUTOMOTIVE GLASS WORK.

To require an insurance company doing business in this state, or agent, adjuster or third-party claims administrator for such company to provide additional disclosures to an insured regarding such insured’s right to choose a licensed repair shop or glass shop where such insured’s motor vehicle physical damage or automotive glass work will be performed.”

Again, this language also seems to be a reasonable expectation for residents of the state. Everyone believes that consumer choice is a good thing right?

The signing of the law was reported by number of industry publications (glassBYTEs.com, Autobody News, Automotive Fleet) due to the dramatic effect that it would have when fully enforced on insurance companies claims management programs, as well as automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry players (Harmon Solutions Group, NCS/Netcost Claim Services, TeleGlass/Strategic Claims Services, Gerber National Glass Services, PGW Lynx Services, Safelite Solutions)  that provide network and/or Third Party Administrator (TPA) services to the insurance industry. AGRR networks and/or TPA’s tend to steer business to either company owned stores and/or to affiliated network repair or glass shops that conform to the pricing or service requirements of the network and/or TPA. That has been a long standing business practice of networks and TPA’s and it’s not hard to understand the financial benefit to these companies to continue doing so. The passing and subsequent enforcement of this law requires a pivot away from the long-standing AGRR industry practice of placing the decision of which company provides the repair or replacement into the hands of the consumer needing service and out of the hands of a network and/or TPA that has always been heavily involved in the decision. This also seems to be a positive for consumer choice. Again, everyone believes that consumer choice is a good thing right?

In order to protect its network and TPA business Safelite Group, Inc. and Safelite Solutions LLC (the Plaintiffs-Appellants) have gone to court against GEORGE JEPSEN, in his official capacity as Attorney General for the State of Connecticut and THOMAS LEONARDI, in his official capacity as the Commissioner of the Connecticut Insurance Department (the Defendants-Apelles) in hopes of overturning the law. The law clearly prohibits the steering of Connecticut consumers to specific repair shops by TPA’s and/or auto damage appraisers so one can understand the self-interest involved. Connecticut’s “Department of Consumer Protection” web page states that:

“Ensuring a Fair Marketplace and Safe Products and Services for Consumers”

The purpose of this government department is pretty obvious by its title. Public Act Number 13-67 protects the interests of consumers in the state and their “right to choose”; and the State of Connecticut unquestionably is within its rights to enact such a law, right?

If the State of Connecticut prevails in its defense of the constitutionality of Public Act Number 13-67 through the appeal process, as Safelite continues to fight to overturn the law, the future landscape of networks and/or TPA’s that provide AGRR services to consumers in the state will forever be changed. And if this law stands it will have an effect on the landscape of the AGRR industry in the entire United States. You can be sure that similar consumer protection bills will be introduced in state assembly’s’ across the country. Is that why Safelite is so strongly fighting this law duly enacted by the State of Connecticut?

If you visit the Safelite web site you will find that the company describes Safelite Solutions LLC as providing:

“….complete claims management solutions for the nation’s leading fleet and insurance companies.

The company currently serves as a third-party administrator of auto glass claims for more than 175 insurance and fleet companies, including 19 of the top 30 property and casualty insurance companies. Safelite® Solutions manages a network of approximately 9,000 affiliate providers and operates two national contact centers in Columbus, Ohio and one in Chandler, Arizona.”

The Connecticut law could serve to undermine a business practice that has existed in the AGRR industry since the late 1970′s. The genesis of call centers (a.k.a. a network or TPA) was when Joe Kellman, former owner of Globe Glass & Mirror, visited an auto glass call center facility in Bedford, England operated by Belron’s Autoglass and brought the idea back to the United States starting the U.S. Auto Glass Network. Since then, the impact, influence and control of consumer auto glass losses by networks and/or TPA’s operating in the AGRR industry has continued to grow each and every day. The networks and/or TPA’s obviously work hard to control and steer auto glass repairs and replacements to either company owned stores or to glass companies that agree to join and follow pricing arrangements that benefit the goals of the network and/or TPA. A business practice worth fighting for right?

The State of Connecticut is interested in protecting consumers in the state, who are in need of auto glass repairs or replacements, from being steered by a network and/or TPA. This law seems like a reasonable next step action in a state where those that are engaged in the AGRR industry are required to be licensed by the state (in my last blog I wrote about “Is it Time for Licensing?” in the AGRR industry). The Department of Consumer Protection oversees the licensing flat glass and automotive glass work.

We will have to wait for the appeal process to work its way through the courts to find out if this law stands, is amended or falls. But whether you believe that the law is a positive development for Connecticut consumers or you believe that the law violates free speech in commerce, the fight will continue as the stakes are too high. If the law passes through the appeal process and stands, it could be the tipping of the first domino and could be the beginning of big changes for the AGRR industry.

So where do you stand on Public Act Number 13-67? Are you on the side of consumer choice or on the side of the networks and/or TPA’s? Perhaps it depends on your own self interest.

Just sayin’.

 

Dominos

 

 

Associated Articles and Reference Material:

Zauderer’s Scope (page 589) https://www.law.upenn.edu/live/files/1566-keighley15upajconstl5392012pdf

http://www.autobodynews.com/news/regional-news/northeastern-news/item/7277-connecticut-governor-signs-anti-steering-bill-into-law.html

http://www.nldhlaw.com/content/uploads/2013/07/UpToSpeed_July2013A.pdf

http://www.glassbytes.com/2014/04/connecticut-officials-file-brief-in-support-of-anti-steering-law-in-appellate-court/

http://www.glassbytes.com/newsConnAutoGlassBillGoestoGov20130523

http://www.glassbytes.com/newsConnecticutSteeringPasses20130606

http://www.glassbytes.com/documents/03192014SafeliteSecondCircuitBrief.pdf

http://www.glassbytes.com/documents/04232014SupplementalIndex.pdf

http://www.glassbytes.com/documents/04232014JepsenBrief.pdf

http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=5072&which_year=2013

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5 Comments

Interview with Eric Asbery, President/CEO www.Equalizer.com

Today I’m talking with Eric Asbery, President of   Equalizer Industries, Inc., an undisputed premier provider of innovative tools and products for the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry in the world. The company was founded by Eric’s father Ray Asbery in 1987. Ray unexpectedly passed away last September 27th at the age of 67.

Over the years Equalizer has received many awards, including several “Best of Show” awards. Company executives have also received a variety of industry awards including Eric’s being recognized in 2007 by the National Glass Association (NGA) with its prestigious NGA “10 Under 40” award; in 2005, Equalizer Vice President of Sales, Gilbert Gutierrez was awarded the prestigious Len Stolk Award” and Ray was honored by being awarded in 2004 the “Carl Joliff Award” by the Independent Glass Organization, in 1994 the NGA’s “Professional of the Year” and in 1992 Inc. Magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award. In fact, Auto Glass Week 2012 will be dedicated to Ray’s legacy.

Equalizer is headquartered in Round Rock, Texas which is about 15 miles north of the Texas state capitol of Austin.

 

DR:  Thank you very much for taking the time to answer some questions Eric. I’m a big fan of Equalizer and I only wished that the tools that your company has developed and brought to the market over the past 25 years would have been available when I first started as an auto glass installer 40 years ago.

Eric Asbery:  I hear that very often. As I was growing up, my Dad was transitioning from being an auto glass technician to a manager over several locations. I can remember him always talking about how there were no specific tools that technicians could use and that the taking glass out of automobiles was getting harder.

 

DR:  I know that your father got his start in the AGRR industry with U.S. Auto Glass. How did long did he work for Joe Kellman and what were his responsibilities while at U.S. Auto Glass?

Eric Asbery:  Actually, Dad got his start in AGRR as an installer in Louisville, Kentucky in the early 1960’s. He was hired in 1985 by Joe Kellman to manage the Austin, Texas market for U.S. Auto Glass. He worked there until late 1987.

 

DR:  What was the impetus for Ray to start the company and how was he able to envision the tools he developed over the years?

Eric Asbery:  Early in 1987, Dad and his technicians encountered the problematic 1986 Ford Taurus. It was a radical new design and the lower part of the windshield was attached by a thick, heavy bead of urethane that was nearly impossible to use conventional tools to remove it without breaking the windshield further. Many technicians were so frustrated by it that they resorted to just breaking it out with a hammer. One Saturday morning, after several of these tough jobs had come through his shop, Dad woke up with the design for the original Equalizer tool in his head. He went to work that Monday with the first Equalizer after building it over the weekend in our garage.

Dad was always inventing. He was a working man that really enjoyed working with his hands. He was always trying to improve upon any working situation he encountered. He listened to those around him, when they encountered a problem with their daily work; he always tried to make their job easier. Whether it was a tool or technique, it was very enjoyable for him to make work more productive for everyone.

 

DR:  Equalizer is known for its products all over the world. How did that happen and what are you planning to maintain and grow that presence, especially beyond North America?

Eric Asbery:  In the early days of Equalizer, we received a lot of attention on a worldwide scale. Every trade show we exhibited at or magazine we advertised in, people who did auto glass anywhere in the world were drawn to us because we were producing tools that hadn’t existed before. The timing was right and we knew it. We were fulfilling a need, right when it was needed the most. We simply focused on providing great customer service and the world came to us.

We now have over 100 different distributors worldwide; we are constantly traveling, researching current automotive glass installation trends and training the appropriate people necessary to satisfy the needs of technicians everywhere. As the global economy allows, we are always in search of new areas to market and support our products.

 

DR:  Equalizer has always been known as the dominant company for auto glass replacement tools. Do you plan to do the same for repair?

Eric Asbery:  The auto glass repair market is something we have always invested in. There are several great repair systems out there and we have carried several of them over the past several years. If our coverage of this market is consistent, then there is a chance we can become the dominant supplier. However, our primary goal is to ensure that any product we offer gives the auto glass technician the best opportunity to do their job effectively and easily.

 

DR:  Many people are always looking forward to the new Equalizer catalog. In the last several years, you also established a great presence on the internet. Do your customers still like to look through a paper catalog or is there a shift to see the products through electronic media?

Eric Asbery:  We have found that even though there is an ever-growing part of the industry that is becoming electronically inclined, most people still like to “flip through pages” of our catalog and that will be the direction we will continue to go until we sense that a major shift to electronic media is on the horizon. We think our catalog will continue to stay in printed form for quite some time but we always alternately develop and make available electronic versions of our promotional or marketing materials.

DR:  When did you join Equalizer and what areas of the company were you responsible? How did your responsibilities grow over the years?

Eric Asbery:  I have been at Equalizer since day one. My role at Equalizer, until 2005, had been directly related to developing Equalizer’s brand, image and marketing presence. In 2005, Dad (then 61) and I began work on my transitioning to the daily management of Equalizer. We both considered that transition complete in late 2010. Although Dad had never had any definitive plans for retirement, we all figured he’d work at Equalizer into his 80‘s. In retrospect, I am very relieved we had this foresight.

 

DR:  I know that many of the tools that Equalizer has developed over the years have unquestionably helped reduce countless injuries of auto glass technicians. The number of cuts, lacerations, back and neck strains requiring visits to hospital emergency rooms has had to have gone down by those using your tools and products. I know many companies supply auto glass technicians with Equalizer tools just for that reason. Hopefully this question doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable, but do you hear from those who buy and use your tool thanking you for how Equalizer tools make it easier for them to do their jobs?  

Eric Asbery:  It is a very humbling experience to hear from someone who has benefited greatly from something you created for them. We receive feedback from hundreds of technicians each year thanking us for offering these products to them. My favorite memories from over the years have been when a technician has walked up to my Dad or any of us working at a trade show or open house and proceeded to tell a “before and after” story about our one of our tools and how it has greatly impacted their life in a positive way. It is truly the best part of my job.

 

DR:  When new car models come out each year they often have auto glass parts factory-installed in ways that many responsible for replacing those parts feel were designed by diabolical design engineers who seem to try to cause problems. How quickly do you start looking for replacement solutions for those parts that could cause difficulties?

Eric Asbery:  We have a network of “Equalizer Inventors” who are mostly auto glass technicians who have worked with us to design or create products over the years that we sell and/or produce for them. These technicians will encounter new design problems during their job on a daily basis and within a very short time they inform us of it. In many cases, they will offer a potential solution based on their experience and that’s what gets the ball rolling to create a product that will simplify the experience.

 

DR:  With the sudden great loss of your company’s leader, mentor, friend and your father, what plans do you have in the future to continue to grow the business and provide the AGRR industry with leading edge and innovative products in your leadership role?

Eric Asbery:  Since the beginning of our company, our focus has been to serve the needs of auto glass technicians everywhere. We developed relationships and processes to ensure we have been on the leading edge of technology for this industry. Nothing has changed or will change in this area. This is why Dad founded this company, this is our purpose.

We are always on the lookout for the next big thing, the next viable trend. Be it a tool, a process or just an idea or concept. We will travel, learn, adapt and teach. We will continue to gain from the experience of technicians in the smallest auto glass shop to the biggest national chain. We will always listen, respond and provide the best products available. This is what we do.

Thank you very much for spending the time to answer my questions Eric. You have a great company and I wish you continued great success.  You and your team have provided the AGRR industry with amazing products. I know that many join me in anticipation of the next great product that you develop to further improve the installation process as well as the safety of technicians around the world. Thank you for all you and your company do.

Just Sayin’

Equalizer Industries, Inc.

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4 Comments

Mike Paley – Retail auto glass entrepreneur

Mike Paley is someone I think you should get to know.  He experiences all of ups and downs of being an entrepreneur in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry.  Mike is the owner and president of Freedom Glass, an independent auto glass repair and replacement business providing auto glass repair and replacement services to customers in the greater Richmond, Virginia area markets.  He started his AGRR business in 2004 after working as Service Manager at a car dealership in the Midlothian, Virginia area.  Mike served as a Gunnery Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, where one of his assignments was the business of recruiting.  His patriotism remains steadfast, as is evident by his aptly named business, Freedom Glass and its red, white and blue colors.    

Last year at the 2010 Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard® Council (AGRSS®) Conference, held in Oakbrook Terrace (Chicago), Illinois, Mike was honored for having the first auto glass company to successfully complete the AGRSS® independent third party validation process with a 100% score on November 11, 2009.  I know that it takes a lot of work to make sure that your organization follows AGRSS® and being the first company to be validated and pass the validation with a score of 100% was an amazing feat.

Additionally, at the September board meeting of the AGRSS® Council Mike was elected to the Board of Directors of AGRSS®.

On a personal side, Mike is the proud father of three sons; Jason, Justin and Austin, all of whom reside in the Richmond area. 

First let me thank you for your military service Mike.  I’d then like to congratulate you for being the first AGRR company to be validated by the auto glass safety organization.  Sadly, that is one experience (or risk) that many in our industry are unwilling to allow their companies to have. 

With an estimated 45 – 50% of the auto glass that’s repaired or replaced in the United States being installed by independent single owner businesses, Freedom Glass is a great example of the vast number of auto glass repair and replacement companies in the AGRR industry today.  I think many in the industry would like to hear from someone such as you Mike, a strong competitor providing the highest level of quality workmanship to the customers in your marketplace.  What attracted you to the AGRR industry?


Mike Paley:  “Attracted” is an interesting term.  I think it was more fate than attraction!  While transitioning from my job as a Service Manager, a chip in my windshield spread into a crack that required replacement.  During the replacement process, the technician asked how long it had been chipped.  When I told him three years he asked why I never called to have it repaired.  I confessed that I had never heard of repairing a chip.  (As a dealership Service Manager, no one had ever approached me about repairing chipped windshields for our service clients bringing their vehicles in… hint to those in marketing).  So I began looking at every parked car’s windshield and was surprised to see how many were chipped.  From there I started researching the “repair” industry and I felt it was  a job I could perform without employees for the time being.  And I’ve always been confident  that I could “sell” anything that I believed in.  So Freedom Glass was created with only the repair industry in mind.   

In May of ’05 I started to contemplate adding replacements to our services.  But since I didn’t know anything about replacing auto glass I needed to research that, just as I had done earlier for repairs.  During my research, I learned just how critical windshields were to safety in the event of a crash or collision.  Shortcuts or errors could be catastrophic, so I wanted to make certain I was replacing windshields correctly.  I contacted a glass company in Jacksonville, Florida, and asked if I might come down to shadow a couple of their technicians for a week.  They graciously agreed, and in July I went down.  I learned a tremendous amount in a very short time from those two technicians.  In September I traveled to Charleston, South Carolina to attend the NGA’s Auto Glass Technical Institute (AGTI) course.  Exactly one year after opening our doors, we began doing replacements in addition to repairs. 

 

Without a background in the AGRR industry, what prompted you to want to enter this industry as a business owner rather than an employee?

Mike Paley:  Two words come to mind as for why I wanted to own rather than work for the business; leadership and responsibility.  The Marine Corps instilled in me leadership by example.  I have never asked, nor expected, an employee to do anything I would not be willing to do.  Case in point, I required of myself to get trained and certified before I ever brought on a technician.  That enabled me to learn what was expected and required to perform the job.  As the owner, I am responsible for the technicians and their ability when I place them in the field.  To this day, we have never installed a windshield whereas an NGA certified technician was not at that job.  Some owners may not deem that necessary, but it is for me!  Someone is trusting Freedom Glass with their most precious cargo, and I take that responsibility very seriously.  Another responsibility the owner has is the material his technicians have to work with.  I often say the greatest technician in the world can’t be great if his company’s owner refuses to provide him with the best material.  But likewise, if an owner provides the absolute best material available and the technician is untrained or doesn’t care, the installation can still be compromised.  It takes both.  

      

Independents have to stay competitive by finding ways to differentiate themselves from not only the larger companies they compete against in their local markets, but also other independents such as themselves.  What advice can you offer independents such as yourself to stay competitive against the larger chains?

Mike Paley:  There are several things that we emphasize.  We encourage our clients to call me if there is ever a question, concern or issue about a job after our technician has left.  Plus, I let people know that when you’re dealing with a company our size you’re no more than two phone calls away from talking with our President; try calling a “big” company to talk with their President.  I would strongly encourage smaller independent shops to focus on quality, not quantity.  I would rather have a technician do five jobs a day correctly, then eight incorrectly.  I also express to clients and contacts that because we don’t have a TPA feeding us business we must rely on referrals and word-of-mouth.  So we “ask for referrals”!  If you don’t ask, you probably won’t receive.    

 

By your being the first auto glass company to pass the AGRSS® independent third party validation, what advice do you offer those in the industry who are considering joining the association?  Why did you join and why should other AGRR companies join AGRSS®?

Mike Paley:  There are a multitude of associations and organizations that an AGRR company can join, and they all have their place.  But for me, our participation in AGRSS® is my priority because its focus is on the safe installation of windshields.  And without that, nothing else matters!  To me that is.  And so, if an auto glass company is genuinely concerned about the safety of its clients, they owe it to themselves, their staff and their clients to be a part of AGRSS®.

 

Why did we join AGRSS®? Let me first say that it took some time for us to join AGRSS® and the reason was purely fiscal.  I had read the Standard and recognized that we were following it, but for anyone to be able to simply write a check (and sign an affidavit) stating they were doing installations correctly without any way to substantiate it didn’t sit well with me.  Perhaps I was being too cynical, but I expressed this concern to someone at AGRSS®, and was advised that a validation process was in the works.  So I politely asked to be contacted once that validation came to fruition.  Several months later I was contacted and advised the validation process would be rolled out soon, so we jumped at the opportunity to demonstrate that we were indeed performing our replacements correctly and in accordance with the AGRSS® Standard.  Unfortunately, the roll out didn’t take place as soon as we had expected.  But ultimately validations did start and we are thrilled to have been the first auto glass company in the Nation to pass the third-party validation with 100% compliance.   

 

Why should other AGRR companies join AGRSS®?  David, I didn’t realize my “sometimes” lack of being politically correct would be tested this early!  While I do believe that every AGRR company “should” be registered with AGRSS®, I know that not all companies can be!  As someone who is still very close to the front line of windshield replacements, I will tell you that far more windshields are being replaced improperly than should be the case.  And I’m confident that our area is not the exception, but rather the rule.  So let me answer your question this way.  I feel as though any auto glass company that “claims” to be performing safe and proper windshield replacements should be, and should want to be, a registered company with AGRSS®!!!  I don’t know why those companies wouldn’t be excited about being registered with and connected to AGRSS®.  After all, AGRSS® is trying to educate and promote that there is a difference between a safe and an unsafe windshield replacement.  And they’re promoting those shops that care enough about wanting to keep their clients safe.  So I guess I’ll answer your question with a question.  Why would any auto glass company performing replacements properly and safely NOT want to be a part of AGRSS®?  Personally, I can’t think of one reason! 

  

What can you share about the experience of what it was like for you and your people to go through the AGRSS® validation process that other registered companies will be going through in the next few years?

Mike Paley:  When I learned of our scheduled validation, I did get nervous.  But my nervousness stemmed from the validation process being new and perhaps there being some bugs in the system that may not have been worked out yet.  I felt we had a lot riding on the results of our evaluation.  So our company went over the Standard again, worked with our adhesive manufacturer representative and prepared for what I feared would be an interrogation.  Turned out it was anything but an interrogation.  The validator, who is not a glass-industry person but rather statistician or assessor, went down a list of questions that everyone familiar with the Standard will already know, and merely asked questions.  The questions weren’t tricky or deceptive.  It was almost as if our validator were simply curious as to what we were doing and why.  I likened it to a curious client watching and questioning a technician during an installation.  The one piece of advice I would offer everyone, regardless of your company’s size, is to have a trainer, manager, or owner present during the actual validation for each technician.  We found this to be invaluable to clear up any misunderstandings about nomenclature, verbiage or procedures.         

 

Regardless of the size of your company, whether you’re the biggest or the smallest, why doesn’t (or shouldn’t) everyone who installs auto glass strongly embrace AGRSS®?

Mike Paley:  I think every auto glass company should embrace AGRSS®, and its intent!  A major part of my presentation when a potential client calls in for a quote is to educate them on windshield safety.  Yes, I want Freedom Glass to perform their replacement, but most important to me is that they know what to look for and ask about.  For those AGRSS® registered companies in my area, if you didn’t already know it (but I suspect you do), I am constantly promoting you.  While I’d love to install every windshield needed in my area, I recognize that we simply can’t do it; we’re just not large enough.  So if someone elects not to use Freedom Glass, I strongly encourage them to contact a competitor who is also registered with AGRSS®.  Some may question my reasoning for that, but I do not.  As I tell everyone that will listen, my family and friends will be safe with their windshield replacements because they will have us do the installation.  However, I can’t protect those I care about from someone else’s windshield coming out during an accident and striking them.  So I feel as though it behooves me to insure that everyone has a safe windshield installation.  And with that, I believe it is in every AGRR owner’s best interest to promote education, not lowest price.  I don’t ever want to read another story about a fatality resulting from a windshield failure.  As much as I hate to actually say this, I believe there are two types of auto glass companies out here today; those who genuinely care about safety and those who will do anything for the almighty dollar.  At Freedom Glass we have, and will continue to, turn down any job that will not result in a safe installation.  Making a living is important to us, but not at the expense of someone else not living!       

 

What do you see as key opportunities for you (and for others like you) in the AGRR industry and what do  you feel differentiates you in the marketplace.

Mike Paley:  David, I sincerely believe AGRSS® brings us the single greatest opportunity to demonstrate to the driving public that those of us registered with and adhering to the AGRSS® are indeed putting safety first.  As the saying goes, a lot of glass companies talk the talk, but only a few of us walk the walk.  And again, the way we try to differentiate ourselves from our competitors is by educating.  I do not want a client because I’m the cheapest out there.  I want that client because they care about those persons in their vehicle, and they’ll heed our warnings, i.e. Safe Drive-Away Time.  I feel if every AGRSS® registered shop would spend more time educating and less time concentrating on price, some of the 800-lbs gorilla’s business would come our way and some of the fly-by-night installers would either leave the industry or get trained and certified.          

 

From your prospective, what do you see that is right with the industry and what do you see is wrong with it?

Mike Paley:  There are several things that I see as right in our industry, and that gives me reason to hope more positive things are forthcoming.  I sincerely believe that the formation of AGRSS®, and its validation program, is the absolute best thing that could have occurred for our industry.  I also know from attending the conferences over the years and talking with other glass companies around the nation, there are others that truly care about consumer safety and place that in the highest regard.  And while independents, especially small independents, can’t compete head-to-head with that 800-lbs gorilla in our industry, if we can work together to educate and demonstrate our collective professionalism, I believe that we can gain some of that gorilla’s market share.

As for what I see wrong in our industry, there are several things there as well!  Of course the biggest is that gorilla.  Anytime a company can have an affiliation with the majority of the insurance companies out here; answering their glass claim calls, dispatching their own installers, using the glass they manufacture, and getting paid a Guaranteed Average Invoice (GAI) price; that’s about as “wrong” as it can get for the rest of us.  And there are several “wrongs” I feel are being self-inflicted by many in our industry, including some by independents.    Freedom Glass does not, has not and will not waive any portion of a client’s deductible.  If a client wants a zero deductible, I encourage them to talk with their agent.  After all, if anyone reading this does waive even a portion of that deductible and our industry’s compensation keeps getting smaller and smaller, I would implore you to write a letter to AGRR Magazine as to how you’re doing that and staying profitable.  But the truth is, I already know!  And my company will never do anything to compromise anyone’s safety.  The other issue I see are the numerous installers who, after working for someone else, have decided to open their own auto glass company.  The problem is that while they may have the best of intentions and may even be very good technicians, their inability to quote and market properly is driving the value of our industry into the ground.  Often times these “new” independents will survive for a month or two based on family, friends and connections, then they begin calling other glass companies to inquire about performing subcontracting work for them.  Then, within six months their company is no longer in business.  And finally, we have those companies in our industry, large and small, that do not see the value and importance of training and educating their personnel.  To me, that’s a frightening shame.          

 

What industry associations or organizations do you belong and why did you join them?

Mike Paley:  We have been members of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS®); Independent Glass Association (IGA®); National Glass Association (NGA®); and, National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA®).  We currently belong to only AGRSS®.  The reason we joined each of these associations was to learn more about our industry as a whole, each association independently including its goals and objectives, and to become certified by each.  I don’t believe we can ever learn too much.     

 

You may be uncomfortable answering this question, but what advice can you offer others in the industry that you feel could possibly help them improve their businesses?  Can you pass along any ideas on how they can grow sales in their markets in the difficult environment that the industry is facing?

Mike Paley:  I believe I’ve already addressed a couple of ideas, but let me offer this.  In my humble opinion, I believe owning an auto glass company is a marathon, NOT A SPRINT!!!  Go to work each day with the goal of educating everyone and making at least one friend.  Share something about auto glass safety with everyone you come in contact with.  Do those things and the sales will take care of themselves.  People ultimately do business with people they like and trust.  Sure, the cheapest guy may get the job today, but he probably won’t be around tomorrow when that client needs their service again.  So stay true to yourself, your clients and your industry.  It may be tempting to lower your prices or your standards, but once you’ve compromised them, they’re gone!             

 

And finally, one thing I have to ask you about is how your Carolina shag dancing is coming along with the Richmond Shag Club and how do you rate your dancing prowess versus your skills in the auto glass repair and replacement industry?

Mike Paley:  Talk about being blind-sided, LOL!  Having never danced until I reached the half-century mark, and always thinking I had two left feet, I’ve grown very confident in my dancing.  Five years ago you couldn’t have dragged me onto an empty dance floor; today you can’t keep me off one.  My skills in the auto glass industry have also grown tremendously, and with that, so has my confidence.  Without that confidence I would never have even considered accepting the honor of being nominated, much less elected, to the Board of Directors for AGRSS®.  Ten years ago I wouldn’t have dreamt of owning an auto glass company, but today I’m proud of where we stand and the reputation we’re building daily.  And that’s my hope for the future of our industry as a whole, to grow in skills and knowledge, abilities and confidence.  Can we learn more?  Absolutely!  Can we get better?  Without question!  Are we passionate?  We better be; people’s lives depend on us!!!   

 

I want to thank you for taking the time to answer my questions Mike.  I very much appreciate your candor and willingness to share your views on the industry.  We both have a great desire to see everyone who runs and operates a glass company in the AGRR industry find ways to remain viable during the difficult competitive landscape that exists, especially today.  With all of the changes that have taken and are taking place in the industry you need to find ways to compete in the marketplace and not only maintain the customers you have, but grow your business by differentiating yourself in the marketplace.  I hope that many in the industry can see through your experiences and advice in opening Freedom Glass that there are ways to be successful in the industry, regardless of the size of your company.

Thanks again Mike and I wish you great luck in the prosperity and growth of Freedom Glass.  I’m glad I’m not currently competing against you in Richmond.

Just sayin’………….

 

p.s.  The Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS®) changes its name to the Auto Glass Safety Council® effective January 2012.

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Associations

What associations have you joined?  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines associations as “organizations of people having a common interest”.  The definition seems fairly straightforward and easy to understand.  When you join a group with those who have a common interest it could be for something such as a golf club, a church group, the AARP, the NRA, a political party, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, even a company that you work for, etc.  The common interest which you have could be a hobby, a sport, an industry group or it could involve a social issue that you feel strongly that motivates you to join an association.  The list of associations and common interests are endless.  Common interests can remain for a short or long-term period of time.  In all likelihood a common interest is something that you’re probably passionate about.

If you’re in the automotive repair and replacement (AGRR) industry there are a three well known associations that serve the common interest or interests of their members.  There are associations such as AGRSS® (soon to become the Auto Glass Safety Council), the Independent Glass Association, and the National Windshield Repair Association.  You get a good sense of their main interest by their names and when you look at their web sites you’ll find:

  • The common interest for AGRSS®, which stands for the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard, “is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the safe replacement of auto glass. AGRSS® was founded and is supported by companies in the auto glass replacement industry that keep safe installation as their primary goal.” 1 2
  • The Independent Glass Association and its members common interest is “the only association dedicated to the needs of the independent glass companies in North America. Its members are also dedicated to the professional and ethical installation of glass in a safe and proper manner. IGA members are located in all 50 states and ten countries.”1
  • For National Windshield Repair Association members the common interest they share is that they are “recognized nationally and worldwide as a professional source of reliable information on the windshield repair industry.  NWRA membership puts you on the leading edge of timely information and gives you a strong influence in the industry. Your membership not only couples you with the dynamic leaders of the windshield repair industry, but with a voice in your destiny equal to any other member.”1

1)     I have had the honor of being a member of this association.

2)     I am a member of the board of directors and vice-president of AGRSS®.

Each of these three associations has memberships which are strongly aligned to common interests.  When you visit their individual websites, each association clearly states their goals in representing the interests of their membership.  By joining any association members are making a conscious effort to align themselves with other like-minded individuals and companies who share common interests or who share similar goals (values, principals, interests or beliefs).  If you surround yourself with people who have a common interest, then you and the group as a whole should be able to achieve more of those shared goals and the association will further improve or execute on the shared common interest as well.  Associations need to constantly increase membership and grow their sphere of influence in order to build on their success at gaining notice of their common interest or they will fade away along with their shared goals.  If you’re going to join an association, actively participate and you’ll be able to help achieve that common interest.  Passion, along with values and principals are key fundamentals of all associations.

If you find that you no longer share a common interest in the association you belong you can leave and then find and join one that does.

Just sayin’……….

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