Posts Tagged David Rohlfing
In these cold days of winter my sports focus starts shifting away from the NFL, even though the ultimate game is taking place this coming Sunday night. The so called “HarBowl” pits the San Francisco 49ers coached by Jim Harbaugh versus the Baltimore Ravens coached by John Harbaugh. I wrote a blog last year titled “Meaningful Quotes – Harbaugh, Hogan and Einstein”. In that blog I used a quote from their father Jack Harbaugh
“Attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”
While watching this NFL season we’ve witnessed how both of these coaches have guided their teams this season and on to win their divisional playoffs games. The two teams and coaches will meet in New Orleans on February 3, 2013 at Super Bowl XLVII. The Harbaugh brothers’ enthusiasm for the game and life is quite evident.
How about you? Do you have a similar level of commitment and enthusiasm for what drives you in your life? Are you committed to doing the best that you can each and every day? Be that in business or in sport, there are times when you face difficult challenges that require you to make that extra effort that separates your company from another, one sports team from another.
The ability of you and your company to excel in business today demands that you have that enthusiasm and that you must surround yourself with those who you know have it too. Enthusiasm and the ability to give it your all, to use every play in the book and design your own new plays to beat your competition are keys to your success. This doesn’t mean that you’re always going to win just because you gave it your all,but you have to put yourself in the position to win. That’s certainly what I’m attempting to do and I want to associate myself with team members with similar enthusiasm who will help us to win.
As I mentioned earlier, this is the time of year that my sport focus moves away from the NFL and moves to NCAA Men’s Basketball. It ends quickly with March Madness, but right now, as a fan, I enjoy watching big games between NCAA powerhouse names. Whether you’re a fan of the Big 10, 8 or 12; the ACC; the SEC; the Big East; the Pac 12 or other conferences, you know what those big games are. In any game a top team can be defeated by another team not as highly ranked and seemingly with less talent. How? With enthusiasm and the desire to win underdogs can prevail. Upsets happen and, as long as your team is not the loser, it’s always fun to watch. In recent games you could see:
13th ranked Butler Bulldogs (now 9th)
over the then 8th Gonzaga Bulldogs (now 7th)
25th ranked Miami (Florida) Hurricanes (now 14th)
over the number 1 ranked Duke Blue Devils (now 5th)
unranked Villanova Wildcats (still unranked)
over the 3rd ranked Syracuse Orange (now 6th)
unranked Georgetown Hoya’s (still unranked)
over the 5th ranked Louisville Cardinals (now 12th)
Just to name a few.
The Gonzaga versus Butler game on Saturday, January 19, 2013 played at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis was especially exciting and turned into an instant classic. After a hard fought game, Butler won the game on a last second shot by sophomore forward Roosevelt Jones. After the game Butler Bulldogs men’s head basketball coach Brad Stevens in an interview with ESPN suggested that,
“The pain of losing isn’t as great as the pain of regret.
You have to give it your best.”
The message is do everything you can to win your game even if you sometimes come up short. Don’t let anyone or any company determine the path you take and then find that you regret it later.
Win or lose in business or sport you must have what Jack Harbaugh exhorted his sons to always do and give it your all.
“Attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”
Great advice. And as Jack Harbaugh has also told his family for a longtime,
“Who’s got it better than us? Nobody!”
With his sons battling each other as head coaches in Super Bowl XLVII it appears a fitting motto for his family.
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I was talking with someone the other day and she asked, “What’s your line-up?” We were talking about business, but the question threw me for a second. Was she asking about my fantasy football team? I wasn’t quite sure so I asked, “My line-up for what?”
I live in Chicago and like many big cities we enjoy a number of professional teams. The Chicagoland area has an:
NFL football team – The Chicago Bears,
NBA basketball team – The Chicago Bulls,
NHL hockey team – The Chicago Blackhawks,
AHL hockey team – The Chicago Wolves and an
MLS soccer team – The Chicago Fire.
Each of these professional teams have enjoyed well known successes and equally well known failures over the years. Champions in one way or another, but for some it’s been a while (i.e. Bartman…just an excuse). One common element of each is that it’s the job of ownership and/or management to put together the best team possible to ensure success week in and week out which will drive increased fan interest and that equals increased revenues and profits. That right mix of team members should determine how the goals that are set for the team are accomplished.
For me, this time of year my focus moves from football to NCAA basketball. In an article in the USAToday from December 10, 2012 the University of Illinois men’s basketball coach John Groce calls the bond between team members “T-n-T” (toughness and togetherness). That seems appropriate for getting the team through a season of home and away games working their way to the ultimate prize of getting an invite to the dance – March Madness. March Madness is one of the greatest sporting events and to get there Coach Groce is right that it takes “T-n-T”. I think he’s onto something.
Getting back to the question, “What’s your line-up?” When I asked what she was referring to she said, “Oh. I meant who’s on your team?”
Over the past year or so in blogs I’ve posted I’ve talked about what I feel is the most important thing in business – people. In a blog titled Inconvenient Truth(s) I wrote,
“You can’t really find the greatest success in your business without surrounding yourself with the best people you can find. Basketball legend John Wooden was quoted as saying,
“Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.”
Sound advice from a true winner.”
You obviously need to have a good product and service offering that differentiates you from others in the market, but if you look at other past blog posts you can see a reoccurring theme of what I think is important and that’s the people. In order to find real success in business you have to be able to assemble a great team that can deliver on the promise you make to your customers for your product and service.
It really doesn’t matter what kind of business you have, you have to surround yourself with the best. So whether the business you’re responsible for running is a sports team, a body shop, a donut shop, a retail clothing store, an auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) store or company you had better make sure that your team is comprised of the best and you better find a way to keep them.
Let’s face it, businesses thrive, languish or ultimately fail depending on how their team performs. You can’t take your team for granted. The best people want to be a part of a winning team and they don’t want to settle for second best. Great team members embrace the vision you have for your business and for your team. They are your team as long as you keep them motivated and focused on delivering on your customer promise, while providing them an environment for them to excel. They are after all stars and they want to perform and be a part of the best.
So if someone asks you “What’s your line-up?” Think about who makes up your team. Do you have a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, a basketball player like LeBron James, a hockey great like Wayne Gretzky?
Who’s on your team? Who can make a difference for your company? Who is it that helps make your product better than anyone else in the market(s) you compete? Do you surround yourself with the best you can find? You should.
“What’s your line-up?”
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The ability to accept and adapt to change is a critical component to finding success in business. As much as we find comfort in the places we know best, we must continually push ourselves and our company toward a place that no one else has found yet or will never figure out.
How do you set the bar higher than your competitors so that you can outperform them? That’s a question that you need to answer for your market and business.
In 1964 the singer songwriter Bobby Dylan released a song “The Times They Are A-Changin’” which portrayed a time of great change in the United States. Every new generation looks back at the preceding generation as one being unwilling or unable to change and stuck in the past unable to move forward. The 60’s were a time of great change in social norms, fashion and music, as well as in the political landscape. We’ve been experiencing a great deal of change in retailing for quite some time, but especially so in this new Millennium and it doesn’t seem to be abating.
Right now there is a ferocious retail battle royal in the retail consumer market with two of the largest retailers, Walmart and Amazon.com (big box versus internet retailer), fighting to determine how consumers will buy countless products in the years to come. In 2009 Amazon.com began rolling out a program offering same day shipping in a number of cities. It has since developed a large network of warehouse distribution centers to service its customers across a large part of the United States. To counter Amazon.com, Walmart started a Walmart To Go offering online shopping of a select number of products shipped directly from their store locations to customers. And in a few markets Walmart is offering same day delivery of products. The strategy that Walmart is attempting is difficult and a potentially dangerous one as it already has 4,000 big box stores (including Sam’s Club) which have a very high cost to operate. The margins that Walmart operates under are also very small, so the gambit is one that is sacrificing current profits to maintain and hopefully gain market share against Amazon.com and other retailers unable to compete. When your sales are $ 444 billion a year versus Amazon.com’s $ 48 billion it would seem that you’d have an edge, but last year Amazon.com saw a 41% increase in sales versus Walmart’s 6% overall increase in sales.
Which company is following a strategy that will allow it to be the most successful retailer in the future? Time will tell, but even when you’re Walmart you’ve got to consider that your strategy for taking market share from the mom & pop businesses, which has proven to be such a successful model for years, could ultimately be at risk from other companies with strategies that don’t require big box brick-and- mortar stores. Each is trying to find a unique selling proposition (USP) that will attract consumers to ensure long-term success and neither will stop until it is found.
Who remembers A & P (The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company)?A company that once was considered the Walmart of its time, A&P held the title of the world’s biggest retailer in the 1930′s when it had 16,000 stores in the United States. In the late 1930′s A & P began the self-serve grocery store concept, but by the 1950’s it failed to recognize the changing marketplace and failed to listen to the demands of the ever-changing consumers. It eventually became an irrelevant retailer. By not adapting to the changes that were taking place in the marketplace, A & P began a decline in sales that ultimately caused it to file for bankruptcy. The company did emerge from bankruptcy, but A & P probably never again will capture the greatness it had once achieved.
There are many ways for your business to remain relevant and continue to survive in the retail world. Whatever you believe it is that you must do to remain relevant you need to make sure that your customers believe it too. For some businesses remaining relevant may mean selling or merging with a competitor. In recent weeks several businesses have announce that they are doing just that. You’ve probably read about recent acquisitions announced or completed by Gerber Collision & Glass (in Florida), ABRA Auto Body & Glass (in Minnesota), Guardian Auto Glass LLC (in Maryland) and Safelite Auto Glass (in Wisconsin and South Carolina). Of course buying and selling companies in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry isn’t new, it’s been going off and on in spurts since the mid 1980s. During the past 30 years, a number of companies have acquired others in the AGRR industry to increase their own market share and separate themselves from or take out competitors. It certainly seems that there has been an uptick in acquisitions of companies of all sizes and I’m sure you’ll be hearing of others very soon.
Other ways you can remain relevant are by finding that USP that separates you from your competitors. So what is that something that only you can do in your market, something that raises the bar so high that your competitors either can’t or won’t try to achieve it therefore distinguishing you from others in the eyes of consumers? If you find that USP, you will survive against other retailers in the battle royal that exists in your market. Of course the need to find that extra something has always existed in business, but maybe more so today with the pace of change that you see across the retail industry. When you see the mega-retailers like Amazon.com and Walmart fighting over current customers to determine which will find the USP that will secure future customers and separate it from others, you know that the same battles that have been going on for years aren’t subsiding anytime soon. It is the same in the AGRR industry and you can be sure that things that you’re doing today in your business will change tomorrow and you need to change with it.
So when Bobby Dylan wrote in the last stanza of his hit tune in 1964,
“The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.”
I think that he could have added another word to the last lyric, “For the times they are always a-changin”.
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In the current presidential election season I’ve been seeing several news outlets play clips of Ronald Reagan in 1980 during the presidential election when at the end of a debate with then President Jimmy Carter he asked a question to the viewing audience,
“Are you better off than you were four years ago?”
The question Reagan asked was a seminal moment during that year’s presidential campaign with the majority of voters answering with a strong “NO” catapulting Reagan into the Presidency.
It made me think about how those who compete in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry are doing this year compared to the past one, two, three or more years. Are you, your family or the company you work for better off this year than the past few years?
This past week I attended Auto Glass Week 2012 (AGW) in Louisville, Kentucky and while there I talked with a number of attendees who all work in the AGRR industry. I spoke with retailers, wholesalers, distributors, suppliers and networkers; and I didn’t get very many positive answers to the question “are you better off?”..… That’s not to say there weren’t those in attendance who felt that their company was doing better this year than over past years, but since I asked the question at an industry conference even people who aren’t doing better may be trying to put a more positive spin on their own story.
While at AGW I had several retailers tell me that they’ve been looking closely at what they’re currently allowed to charge to insurers for replacements versus their costs to acquire the part to be replaced, cost of labor and benefits, the cost of urethane (and primer cost if needed), fuel costs for mobile vans, insurance costs, etc. Each of them told a story that they had seen profit margins shrink over the last year or years. One retailer told me about a customer for whom he had replaced a windshield for a few years ago and again replaced the windshield in the same car. The customer happened to be insured with the same insurance company and they still had the invoice from the first replacement in the cars glove box. When the retailer looked at that prior invoice and then looked at the current invoice, with the pricing that he’s allowed to charge under the insurance pricing guidelines, he saw that he was getting less money today for the same replacement. More than a little surprised when he got back to his store he went back to look up what he had paid for the part and urethane from a few years ago versus his current costs and found out that he actually paid more for the part and urethane this time around too. So he got less for the sales invoice and paid more for the part and required supplies to install it; and that doesn’t even take into consideration the increase in all his other costs.
He started to question why he’s agreed to the pricing guidelines and was also giving consideration about whether he should pull out of or stay in the pricing/billing mechanism required to bill for work he does for the network that the insurance company uses to manage its auto glass losses. He asked me what I thought about that. His idea which might be beneficial to some, could also be a very risky strategy for others. Still it is an interesting question to ponder don’t you think?
While talking with another retailer he was lamenting the fact that gasoline prices are killing margins. That’s understandable since the price of gasoline has gone up over the past year and depending where you live regular gasoline is up $ 2.00 a gallon since 2009.
As per the American Automobile Association Daily Fuel Gauge Report the average price of regular gasoline today is $ 3.81.
By the way, in 1980 the average price of regular gasoline as per the website 1980sflashback.com was $ 1.25.
The retailer said that the price he’s paying at the pump to fill up mobile vans, along with the delivery surcharge he’s being charged by his auto glass supplier due to the rising cost of gasoline is a killer; with no opportunity to pass those costs along to insurance customers.
One supplier complained about competition from foreign suppliers in the market with goods of “lesser quality and price” putting even further pressure on wholesale prices.
Another supplier talked about the market size shrinking and suggesting that surely some weaker competitors will drop out of the market this year which could certainly benefit the stronger competitors.
One supplier mentioned that this coming winter was going to be a good one (of course meaning a bad one) since acorns are abundant and that woolly worms are darker this year and not as light as last year…. I said, “What?” He went on to explain what he read in the Farmers’ Almanac. I went online and looked up both of these legendary prognosticators of a bad winter and he was right! The Old Farmer’s Almanac says that when woolly bear worms are darker in color it signifies a bad winter coming. I found in the Farmers’ Almanac a story on when there are more acorns than normal it can predict a rough winter as well. I’m not sure about either as true predictors of this coming winter’s weather, but maybe if we all also cross our fingers; find a four-leaf clover or a penny face up; knock on wood; see a rainbow; rub a rabbits foot and don’t step on a crack, break a mirror or open an umbrella indoors……… I think you get the idea.
Certainly other costs of doing business have gone up over the past year or more which most AGRR businesses are bearing with little opportunity for upside revenue to cover them. Many of us have lived through lean years and bountiful years in this industry. It’s always been that way hasn’t it? Hopefully the pendulum will swing back to an improved time for the AGRR industry in 2013.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities 1859
The reality is that the current marketplace demands that everyone in the AGRR industry find ways to deliver or provide a superior product and/or service offering via a low cost model to combat those who are willing to deliver or provide a poor product and/or service via an even lower cost model, if you want to survive.
So if you’re asked the question,
“Are you better off than you were four (or one or two or more) years ago?”
what would your answer be? Obviously you are the only one that can answer that question, but here’s hoping that you’re surviving all the turmoil that’s been experienced by many in the industry over the past few years. And that the upcoming year will have a definite swing to the better for you, your family and your business. Wouldn’t that be a welcomed change? You bet!
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“Can’t tell the players without a scorecard”… an old school expression but those words seem particularly relevant today, as one looks at recent events surrounding the subject of auto glass networks.
In my recent blog titled “Network Participation Agreement” from August 6, 2012, I discussed the ADDENDUM announced by Safelite® on July 20, 2012 regarding its www.SGCNetwork.com Network Participation Agreement. It stated in the last sentence of Section 1.10 of the ADDENDUM, “Further, Participant shall not offer, directly or indirectly, to any insurance agent or its personnel anything of value in consideration for the referral of work paid for from the proceeds of an automobile insurance policy.”
In that post, I also asked “do you think that Safelite® is also a participant, having signed the Network Participation Agreement and having to follow all of the sections of the agreement? If yes, then Safelite® has to follow the same rules as everyone else. That seems fair right?”
I guess that question entered the spotlight sooner than I could have imagined with the publication of the glassBYTEs.com™ article from August 23, 2012 titled “Safelite Funds Allstate Windshield Repair Marketing Material” written by Casey Neeley.
In that story, an Allstate consultant is quoted as saying, “Safelite approached us about creating marketing material for our agents to distribute and the first run of such materials was funded entirely by Safelite and provided to our agents”.
Now we get to the scorecard part because I have to wonder “which” Safelite it is that is funding promotional materials. Would that be Safelite® Solutions LLC, the self-proclaimed “third party administrator” of glass claims, or Safelite Auto Glass®, the self-proclaimed “largest vehicle glass repair and replacement organization in the U.S.” After all, both those entities are involved – but as noted in the prior blog, it is just not very clear about the role that Safelite® Auto Glass plays in the equation, either with the insurance carrier or its agents. If you follow the link at the end of this sentence, Safelite® refers to all of its organizations as “A Family of Companies” (*referenced from http://scheduling.safelite.com/companies.jsp).
While this distinction, or lack thereof, is not at all apparent from any public information I find on this subject, one thing becomes crystal clear – the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry could certainly use a whole lot more transparency. In fact, one could make the case that much of the recent legislation efforts have been focused on creating such transparency in auto glass claims transactions, with particular attention, rightly or not, on Safelite® and its “Family of Companies”.
From the view of this blog, transparency only serves to benefit consumers in making informed claim decisions, making their policy dollars work to their fullest, and identifying safe auto glass replacement services.
I guess I have to rephrase my original blog question to now ask, “Do you think that Safelite® [Auto Glass] is also a participant, having signed the Network Participation Agreement and having to follow all of the sections of the agreement?”
One can only hope that in the interest of transparency and consumer informedness, the players involved make it quite clear about the roles and participation as pertain to Safelite® Auto Glass, an entity portrayed as separate and distinct from Safelite® Solutions LLC. And there is one organization that could answer that question today.
For the rest of us, the best course of action might be to continue to focus on the customer and provide exceptional value with outstanding transparency.
In the meantime, not a bad idea to keep the scorecard close by to recognize the players on the other team, and act accordingly.
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In my last blog I wrote about Safelite® Auto Glass and its SGC Network, which is one of the networks (or third party administrator -TPA) that operates in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry in the United States. Safelite® released a new addendum to its Network Participation Agreement that outlines new guidelines or requirements on AGRR companies that either participate in the SGC Network as sub-contractor’s that Safelite® uses to do repairs and replacements for Safelite® or those AGRR companies that are forced to invoice work they do for certain customers through the Safelite® SGC Network. A reader of that blog suggested that I write about networks in general, so here goes.
While Safelite® is the largest AGRR network it is by no means the only one. All AGRR networks share some similarities, but each is unique in how it operates. Since there is no single AGRR company that covers every square mile of the United States providing services solely through its own AGRR technicians to consumers, every network must attempt to aggregate the services of thousands of disparate AGRR service providers into a single “quasi-retail” service entity. Each of the networks attempt to replicate a full service AGRR company that looks like it is capable of servicing each and every consumer with a single price and service offering that suits the needs of every insurance or fleet company customer it has in its network. That’s where the problems begin.
The first problem a network has to manage is the reality that each of the AGRR companies that participate in its network are not under its control, so a network has to deal with inconsistency of service levels to its customers. That is an issue; a really BIG issue. Currently, a network attempts to counter inconsistencies by stipulating increasingly detailed and specific guidelines in its effort to create some semblance of uniformity amongst a very large, broad and diverse set of participants. How do the networks accomplish that? It takes a great deal of work to try to herd all those cats. Some do it poorly while some are more accomplished at the task.
It’s quite the challenge though, and perhaps never so clearly indicated as by Safelite®’s recent addendum whereby it now seeks to go beyond standards of repair and replacement practices to actually regulate the business conduct of its participants. By venturing into this area it may seem as a case in point that the network may be leaning into “too big to fail” territory, as it tries to corral a wide range of participants into a single product offering. It is likely to be very difficult, if not impossible for a large network to monitor and enforce all of the stipulations on which it seeks agreement from its numerous participants.
It makes me wonder if the newest Safelite® addendum might actually be showing off some of the real challenges that at least one of the largest network entities is experiencing in trying to solve a problem and meet its entire customer needs.
As I mentioned, every AGRR network must attempt to cobble together its own group of AGRR service providers (participant) attempting to provide a service model that it hopes attracts its targeted customer(s).
That’s the networks strategy. Now how about your decisions as an independent AGRR retailer? It’s probably best to make your own assessment of how network participation fits into your overall marketing and sales strategy. You may not be able to avoid networks altogether, as most insurance companies require that billing for the service provided be processed through a network. But remember, in all cases, it is the choice of every AGRR company to decide whether it will or won’t participate in the opportunity to receive repairs or replacements from every AGRR network. As an AGRR retailer, you may prefer to do work for one or more of the networks because the network provides value to you in exchange for the value you provide. Some AGRR retailers choose not to agree to the pricing or service requirements that a network has on participating. That again is the choice of the AGRR retailer. It’s probably not a good strategy if you’re relying on a network for your repairs and replacements, but if you do you should be consistently working on lowering your costs as you can be assured that the network will be looking for you to lower the value you receive for repairs or replacements.
Networks are an established part of the AGRR industry and they aren’t going to go away. Legislative initiatives may be attempted state by state to help regulate or moderate how networks operate, but networks do provide value to the customers that use them. Whether or not the networks that operate today will be in business five years from now will be determined by the value, service and quality that it provides to its customers. Only the strong will survive. More on how networks operate in a future blog posting.
Perhaps the best advice for today’s AGRR retailer is simpler than we all have been thinking: “focus intently on the customer, listen to what they need, and set about to do the right thing.” A very simple and straightforward concept.
Sam Walton is quoted as saying,.
“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
Stay focused on your customer and provide value to them and you should do okay.
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(Autographed Pin Flag from Ernie Els last major win in 2002 at The Open Championship held in Scotland)
Perseverance is a key trait to achieving success in any undertaking. It doesn’t matter if it’s a personal one or one that you have in your business life. It doesn’t matter whether the undertaking is a big or small one. The ability to maintain an unrelenting focus on any goal that you are pursuing requires you to work through the difficulties and obstacles that confront you.
This past Sunday you saw that trait in the 2012 Champion Golfer of the Year – Ernie Els – by his winning The Open Championship that was played this past week at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club in Lancanshire, England. The Open is the 3rd of the four majors (The Masters, The U.S. Open, The Open Championship, and The PGA Championship) which are held each year and where winning one of them defines a PGA Tour player’s career.
Sunday’s final round was a test for the 83 tour players who had made the cut after the end of the second round on Friday. Only Ernie and 8 other players were able to shoot under par on Sunday with Ernie carding a 2 under par. After 72 holes were played during The Open Championship this year only 18 golfers scored level par or better. Ernie was able to put pressure on Adam Scott who had started the final round in the lead at 11 under par and who led the tournament through 16 holes. Ernie made a crucial birdie putt on the final hole of his round that placed added pressure on Adam Scott who ended up bogeying the final 4 holes on Sunday and saw his goal of winning his first major championship slip away.
Ernie Els is a storied professional golfer who has certainly had great successes in his 22 year career, but at 42 years of age he hadn’t had a win on the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour since 2010 (the Arnold Palmer Invitational) and earlier this year he was questioning whether he would ever be able to find a way to win again, let alone win a coveted major. With all the success Ernie had achieved in his career he seemed to have lost many of the considerable natural talents, along with ones he had developed over years of practice that together made him a successful PGA Tour Pro. Over the past several years he changed a number of people he surrounded himself with who he felt could help him find the right mix of ingredients that would allow him the opportunity to win again. As he focused on 2012 he had a number of heartbreaking near misses at winning tournaments which would have allowed him to gain an invitation to The 2012 Masters Tournament, a tournament which he had played for 19 consecutive years. Having suffered that professional setback to his career Ernie continued to work on his game, despite many opining that his career was over or certainly had to degrade to a level where he would be unable to again regain the level of play he had achieved.
Ernie’s ability to utilize all of his talents to emerge as The Open Champion this year is a testament to his perseverance. After winning he thanked his wife Leizl, along with his daughter Samantha and his son Ben for all the support they give him. Ernie also thanked a number of others who stood by him as he worked his way through the many issues that he faced in his journey to again win. And winning a major; a feat he felt he may have never achieve again, but did with hard work, dedication and perseverance.
If you operate a business in the retail or wholesale automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry; or if your business sells products to those in the industry, 2012 has probably been a year full of difficulties and obstacles requiring you to show perseverance. As I mentioned in a recent blog titled “Hopes for the New Year (Summer Update)”, the key drivers – the weather, the economy and miles driven – have not been trending positively this year and have been affecting many (6 out of every 7 of you in a recent survey question I asked) in the industry. Without those key drivers being a help to many in the industry, business owners and those who lead organizations are required to find solutions which will allow them to survive the negative environment we find ourselves. How you persevere and deal with the issues your business faces today will have a long-lasting effect on your business and for all the people who work for you. The various steps that you’re taking now will unquestionably determine whether your company will be able to take advantage of opportunities that will certainly exist in your market when the key drivers turn positive and business improves. What steps are you focusing on in your business to ensure that you’re in position to take advantage of your competition when the current environment begins to improve?
Ernie Els didn’t lose sight of what was most important for him to focus on during Sunday’s final round at The Open and that was his own game. He could only do his best, making the best decisions in ensuring that he played at the highest level he could which would allow him to post the lowest score possible and put him in a position to win. Ernie was able to accomplish that by changing his strategy on how he was going to play those final 9 holes. He knew he was lagging behind and that Adam Scott was leading by 4 strokes with just a few holes to play. Ernie decided that he would become aggressive in how he played those final holes. At age 42 he never lost hope that he could play with against the best golfers in the World and find a way to win. By utilizing skills he had accumulated over his lifetime; and with the help of those he surrounded himself and trusted most he once again found the path to success and to win and win a major.
It certainly isn’t easy to make the hard choices that business owners or business managers must make in order to be fully prepared for when business does improve, but those who just sit by and watch their market share dwindle as they hope for better days aren’t going to be in a position to take advantage of opportunities when they do appear. You have to be able to take an honest look at your business and assess the value proposition that your business brings to customers in your market, you have to evaluate the capabilities of your competitors and take all of the appropriate steps that you can to ensure that you are positioned correctly, which will allow you to take advantage when things do improve in your market.
Ask those people closest to you that you trust and respect for their opinions; solicit their honest views of the pros and cons of your abilities, of your company in the marketplace, ask them about their views of your fellow workers. Are you marketing your company properly? Are you just copying what your competitors are doing or are you trying new things to improve how your business operates? You can’t just sit back and hope for the key drivers to improve because they might not improve fast enough, you certainly can’t just sit back hoping that a competitor or two in your market will falter or that something else will somehow happen to improve your business prospects. You have to focus on what can you do to improve your business; without worrying what others are doing around you. What steps can you take to ensure that you’re ready when things turn positive for you in your market?
You will find that by your continually working hard to find ways to improve how you market or position your business to your customers, making sure that you have the right mix of talented people to work with you in your business and then ensuring that your business is operating as a “low cost” provider in your market that you will be prepared to find new success and to win in your marketplace when the key drivers begin to improve. Work through difficulties and obstacles that you face so that you can persevere.
Admittedly, sometimes even by working hard and being dedicated to your business things may not work out for you, but you can’t stop trying. Ernie Els never gave up on his goal. He believed that if he worked hard and continued to tweak his game; he’d find a way to beat his fellow competitors and win again.
So can you.
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Is your glass half empty or half full in 2012? It depends upon your point of view.
Last January I wrote a blog titled ‘Hopes for the New Year’ and in March I updated the blog with how events were influencing that blog posting. In the original blog I offered the hope that 2012:
“turns out to be a great year for those in the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry (or if great is too high a bar to set at the very least better than 2011)”.
I’ve talked to a number of people across the country and, by virtually every measurement, the first two quarters of 2012 certainly have not been seen as very favorable to the AGRR industry, especially when compared to 2011. So far this year it has been a bust for the vast majority for most in the industry.
There are a few exceptions of course. With one of the warmest winters on record, 2012 has started out with little help from one of the three key driver’s effects the AGRR industry – weather. During the second quarter a few markets have had some favorable bad weather. If you happen to have a store(s) in markets that have had hail storms this year such as the greater Dallas metropolitan area that was battered by big storms earlier this month business has probably been GREAT. The storms in Dallas could cost insurers up to $ 2 billion in automotive body and glass damage as suggested by the Southwestern Insurance Information Service and reported by www.propertycasualty360.com. Those hail storms in Dallas, along with large storms in the greater Saint Louis, Louisville, Denver and Indianapolis metropolitan areas, as well as those in a few other marketplaces scattered across the United States have certainly provided a welcome benefit for some in the industry.
The second key driver for the AGRR industry is the economy and by most reports that’s not working to our advantage either. A number of United States economic metrics as reported by CNNMoney shows that:
- consumer confidence is at a five month low
- home prices are at the lowest level since 2002
- the annual Gross Domestic Product in the first quarter of 2012 is down versus the fourth quarter of 2011
- in May the U.S. manufacturing growth has slowed, the May jobs report shows that hiring has slowed and unemployment rose for the month
- after taking out the lowering cost of gasoline, retail sales grew by 0.1% overall in May and
- inflation was down .3% in May, but after taking out the impact of gasoline and food inflation was up .2% for the month trending at an annual rate of 2.3% year-on-year.
None of these economic metrics provide very much good news for how the rest of 2012 will fare.
Additionally, as reported by Bloomberg.com the Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke announced last Wednesday that if the job outlook didn’t improve in the near term that the Federal Reserve would move to further stimulate the U.S. economy and then last Thursday the U.S. Labor department announced that unemployment claims were trending up over the past four weeks versus falling during last fall and winter. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports that the United States could slide back into a recession based on economic performance. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia announced last Thursday that “manufacturing conditions, the diffusion index of current activity, fell from a reading of -5.8% in May to -16.6% (in June), its second consecutive negative reading”. None of these reports point to an overabundance of positivity looking forward for the U.S. economy.
The U.S. isn’t alone in the world as the difficulties that we face on the economic front pale to the issues faced in Europe and if they don’t resolve their problems they could ultimately affect our economy. The European powerhouse Germany reported that manufacturing output was at its lowest level in three years, certainly not a good sign for the rest of Europe and anyone in the AGRR industry that compete in the European markets (i.e. Belron). And to add to the economic woes of the world, in June China hit a seven month low in manufacturing activity as reported by HSBC Group.
One key driver – miles driven – has been showing improvement. Earlier this year the price of gasoline was predicted to hit $ 5 per gallon with the rising price of oil, but with oil prices continuing to drop due to the poor world economy the national average price of a gallon of regular gasoline on June 18, 2012 was $ 3.533 as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Reports shows the national average price of a gallon of regular gasoline at $ 3.411), consumers have been given welcome relieve. There was more good news for continued increases in miles driven as reported in an article titled ‘Gas prices could hit $ 3 a gallon by autumn’ that was published last Friday in USAToday. In a blog post in mid-March I included the picture below left of a sign at a service station at the corner of LaSalle and Ontario in downtown Chicago, Illinois. The picture below right was taken yesterday at the same station and as you can see the price is well above the nation average.
March 19, 2012 June 25, 2012
The U.S. Department of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration had reported that the cumulative miles driven year-on-year through March 2012 are up 1.4% or 9.7 billion more miles driven. The graph below shows how miles driven historically have grown since 1987 until the downward trend that started in early 2006.
Increased miles driven obviously turn into more opportunities for auto glass to be repaired or replaced, but only if the “do nothings” actually do something. Sadly, figures on miles driven out yesterday for April 2012 versus April 2011 point to a reversal in the trend that we had been seeing in miles driven with the month of April being down .4% year-on-year. Not a good sign.
While taking with someone in the industry recently I suggested that you could add another key driver that affects the AGRR industry besides weather, the economy and miles driven. That fourth driver would be Safelite Auto Glass. With Safelite’s capture of the second largest insurer earlier this year, the majority of the U.S. AGRR retailers found a dramatic fall-off in repair and replacement opportunities for Allstate Insurance Company insured’s.
Safelite’s continued dominance in AGRR markets across the country and its constant advertising campaigns that are seen and heard via its television and radio commercials is proof that Safelite is working hard to continue to grow market share. Many AGRR retailers have been curtailing their own sales and marketing spend because of the slowdown in repairs and replacements. You can be sure that Safelite’s non-stop advertising during this slowdown will certainly pay big dividends when economic conditions do begin improve in the future.
I left Safelite in late 1989 and my boss at the time used to talk a lot about “the pendulum swing”. He was referring to a business adage – when sales are good the sales departments of a company rules and has the most influence so the pendulum swings to their side, but if sales are bad the accountants rule and the influence of sales departments wane. I’m not sure how that adage is playing out at Safelite today with my former boss at the helm of the company, but I’m pretty sure that accountants are certainly influencing the decisions being made in many companies today and that’s not good for the people who work at those companies or for the long-term success of those companies.
How’s business where you work? Are you seeing sales improving or are sales falling behind? How are sales affecting you?
In a previous post I wrote:
“People are the ultimate key driver to any successful business. Companies that don’t recognize the incredible value that attracting and then keeping the most talented people undoubtedly will suffer when weather, the economy and miles driven have a negative impact on the business. Recognizing that employees are the key driver that helps every organization find ways to innovate, increase customer service levels and create value for all stakeholders will allow it to flourish and remain competitive in the marketplace.”
With all that’s happening and effecting in our industry today, “Be Smart in 2012” and take special care of the ultimate key driver in your business – your people……
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Just Sayin’ Blog – Auto Glass Repair & Replacement Industry Legislation in South Carolina ***UPDATED***
I have been following with great interest the legislative initiative that has been taking place over the last two years in South Carolina. HB 4042 is attempting to lay out the rules of engagement for all stakeholders (consumers, auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) companies, third-party administrators (TPA) and insurers) of the AGRR industry in the state. Since HB 4042 was first introduced on April 6, 2011 in the South Carolina House and in the South Carolina Senate on May 24, 2011 the bill has gone through several versions. Now that the bill was passed in its final form by the General Assembly on June 6, 2012, it awaits Governor Nikki Haley’s signature to become law. If the governor signs the bill it will take effect on January 1, 2013. ***UPDATE*** On June 20, 2012 Governor Nikki Haley signed the bill into law.
The bill as passed is meant to:
TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING SECTION 39-5-31 SO AS TO MAKE IT AN UNFAIR TRADE PRACTICE FOR A MOTOR VEHICLE GLASS REPAIR BUSINESS THAT ADMINISTERS INSURANCE CLAIMS FOR MOTOR VEHICLE GLASS REPAIRS TO HAVE AN INSURED’S GLASS REPAIR BUSINESS REFERRED TO ITSELF OR TO USE INFORMATION TO SOLICIT BUSINESS.
Legislation typically requires compromise to reach agreement for passage and to be signed into law. The final version of the bill that was passed by the House and Senate chambers of South Carolina last week does just that. When stakeholders attempt to “improve” and influence legislation to provide their constituents their desired goals that they hope the legislation will achieve, legislation is generally weakened from the original version that was presented. That too happened. Is this bill a win win for everyone?
When you read through the bill and try to determine the sum of the parts, it appears that everyone got a little something. If you were a consumer you probably didn’t take any notice of the fight over this bill, but consumers did receive rights and protections to choose the provider they want to use if they file an auto glass loss with their insurance company. When a loss occurs many insured’s are looking for a recommendation as to what AGRR company they should use when they need a glass repair or replacement. If you’re a consumer insured by a direct writer (an insurance company that solicits and services business directly with the public through its own employees rather than through local agents) and you have a glass loss you’re probably going to be directed to the AGRR company recommended by the TPA, even if it results in the TPA’s related AGRR company doing the work. Another positive section of HB 4042 is that when an insured makes a call to their insurance company claims department 1-800 number to report an auto glass loss; and the phone is answered by a TPA, the TPA that answers that call on behalf of the insurer must immediately tell the insured that the TPA is acting on behalf of the insurance company.
If you’re an AGRR company operating in South Carolina you certainly did receive some relief in the bill as there are restrictions on a TPA’s ability to attempt to steer your customer on a 3-way conference call. The bill does come with some reasonable restrictions as to the business practices that AGRR companies must follow when a consumer files a glass damage claim when insured in South Carolina. The bill has a number of important sections that restrict how an AGRR company markets to consumers who have insurance coverage for an AGRR loss. Some of the restrictions will place limits on the sales and marketing methods used by some AGRR companies who compete in South Carolina.
In the bill insurers received new mechanisms to protect its insured’s from those who attempt to improperly influence claims and the bill imposes penalties for those that are found using improper methods as defined by the bill. There is also language in the bill giving insurers the ability to pay only what is “fair and reasonable” for an AGRR claim and insurance companies may inform its insured that the insured could be responsible for paying any cost of an AGRR loss over what the insurer feels is a “fair and reasonable” price. There are additional provisions in the bill that would appear to benefit insurers regarding how auto glass losses are billed in South Carolina. I’ve detailed all of the provisions at the bottom of this blog post. Time will tell whether the insurers are happy with the final version of the bill.
TPA’s may refer an insured with a glass loss to any company that is a member of the TPA’s approved shops (including its own AGRR company) if the insured does not have a provider of choice at the time they file the claim. The TPA can require an inspection of damaged glass prior to replacement, but the inspector cannot refer or attempt to influence who the insured chooses to use for the repair or replacement during the inspection. If the insurer or TPA does not own a ten percent or greater ownership interest in an AGRR company the provisions of the bill do not apply. As with the insurers, TPA’s have a number of new rules that they must follow in the handling of auto glass claims for insured’s in South Carolina. Some TPA’s will have issues with this bill while others may not. A June 4, 2012 article in glassBYTE’s quotes a senior corporate counsel for Safelite as saying,
“We are very pleased with the compromise reached in the South Carolina Senate on HB 4042. We are hopeful that the House will concur and that it will be signed by Governor Haley,” says Brian DiMasi, senior corporate counsel for the company. “In the end, all parties came to the table and worked very hard to address their respective concerns. Safelite has always honored customer choice, and this compromise not only preserves that choice, but protects consumers by addressing the rampant fraud in the vehicle glass industry in South Carolina.”
While many may have an opposing view to Mr. DiMasi’s comment regarding Safelite having “always honored customer choice”, I was surprised by what he said at the end of his comment where he stated that the bill “protects consumers by addressing the rampant fraud in the vehicle glass industry in South Carolina.” Rampant? Really? The bill certainly offers fraud protection for South Carolinians, but when you look up rampant in the dictionary you’ll find definitions such as “profusely widespread”, an “absence of restraint” and “growing wildly: growing strongly and to a very large size, or spreading uncontrollably”.
Does fraud exist in the AGRR industry? Does fraud exist in South Carolina? Certainly instances of fraud are committed by some in the AGRR industry, but rampant? I think that Mr. DiMasi’s statement is a grossly unfair characterization of the vast majority of AGRR companies that attempt to fairly compete in South Carolina by providing consumers who need auto glass repairs or replacements with excellent AGRR services at “fair and reasonable” prices.
I’m sure that one or more stakeholders see something in South Carolina HB 4042 that turns the advantage their way. With the passing of this bill in South Carolina the battle lines are drawn and there is a panoply of those interested in what’s next. Next year could bring another attempt in South Carolina to gain further advantage for one or more of the stakeholders, but the success that some see with the passing of this bill will help embolden legislative efforts to curb the activities of one or another stakeholder in other states.
Depending upon which side of this debate you support, all should give thoughtful consideration what it is you want. As the saying goes, “Be careful what you ask for,..” as to be sure there are always winners and losers in legislation passed into law and it’s possible that “…you might just get it”, but then again you might not get the outcome you were looking for.
Additional information on HB 4042:
In its final version the legislation provides little wins for all stakeholders.
1. Consumers get in the bill (or law if and/or when its signed):
a. When filing an AGRR claim through their insurance policy the opportunity to choose who they want to do their AGRR claim and they can’t be required to use a particular provider. Both the insurance company and the TPA are covered under this provision.
d. If the insured’s provider of choice IS an approved vendor for the insurance company or TPA, the insurer or TPA must assign the claim and provide a claim number or reference number to the insured’s provider of choice.
e. If the insured’s provider of choice IS NOT an approved vendor for the insurance company or TPA, the insurer or TPA must confirm that the insured’s provider of choice will perform the required work at the insured’s rate of reimbursement for the work which is “fair and reasonable”. If the provider refuses the “fair and reasonable” reimbursement the insured may be told by the insurer or TPA that the insured is responsible for any amount over the reimbursement rate. The insured must be informed that they can use the provider of choice. The insured must not make statements about the warranty of provider of choice and refer any questions the insured may have regarding any warranty to the insured’s provider of choice.
2. AGRR companies get in the bill (or law if and/or when its signed):
The right to have an insured use them without interference if the customer chooses them as the provider of choice and they follow the rules laid out in the bill. The rules are:
a. The AGRR company or anyone remotely associated with them must not:
i. Threaten, coerce or intimidate the insured into filing a claim;
ii. Engage in unfair or deceptive practices;
iii. Induce an insured to file a claim if the damage is insufficient to warrant a repair or replacement;
iv. Perform a repair or replacement for an insured without the approval of the insurance company;
v. Suggest or represent that the windshield replacement could be free under the insured’s insurance policy or
c. The insurer or TPA can require an inspection of the loss if they want by the representative of the TPA the representative cannot offer to repair or make suggestions as to who could do repairs during the inspection.
e. “Notwithstanding the provisions of this chapter, the insurer has the right to inform the insured that the insurer will not guarantee the work performed by a provider that is not in the network of the insurer or third party administrator.”
3. Insurers and TPA’s get in the bill (or law if and/or when its signed):
a. “When an insured does not request to have covered glass repair work performed by a specific provider of choice, the insurer or third party administrator may refer the repair to a vehicle glass repairer who is a member of the insurer’s or third party administrator’s preferred network of providers.”
c. The insurer or TPA can require an inspection of the loss if they want by the representative of the TPA the representative cannot offer to repair or make suggestions as to who could do repairs during the inspection.
f. “Notwithstanding the provisions of this chapter, the insurer has the right to inform the insured that the insurer will not guarantee the work performed by a provider that is not in the network of the insurer or third party administrator.”
i. submit a claim to either an insurer or a TPA if the glass was not damaged prior to the claim being submitted;
ii. if the services were not provide;
iii. use a location to bill for the repair or replacement other than the one that the repair or replacement was actually performed in an attempt to charge a higher price,
iv. have authorization from the insured to do the repair or replacement;
v. show any date other than the actual date of the repair or replacement or
vi. make any material misrepresentations related to the repair or replacement.
j. An AGRR company cannot intentionally misrepresent the cost to the policyholder for a repair or replacement or tell the policyholder that the insurance company or TPA has authorized a repair or replacement.
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Television station WAVE Channel 3 in Louisville, Kentucky, aired an investigative “Troubleshooter” news segment titled “Windshield fraud growing, costing drivers money” two weeks ago. The station reported on the sales tactics one company uses in the Louisville market (and other markets in the United States) to find customers who may be in need of auto glass replacements.
In the segment, WAVE “troubleshooter” reporter Eric Flack spoke with a former auto glass technician from the company. The auto glass technician evidently had contacted the station with a number of accusations relating to his former employer. The story included interviews with a fraud investigator from Arizona, the director of the Kentucky Insurance Fraud Investigation Division and a gentleman that WAVE reported was a sales representative for the company that was the focus of the investigative report.
As someone who has spent the majority of my life in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry, the investigative report WAVE Channel 13 news aired made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps it did for you as well.
There are countless sales and marketing tactics that companies, large or small, use to market AGRR services to influence the decision maker(s) for the key customer groups – whether they are insurance, commercial or cash customers. The barriers that exist today for a small company attempting to access customers have never been higher. Many small companies find themselves in a position where it is very difficult, if not impossible, for them to compete for one or more of the key customer groups due to the changes that have taken place in how customers seek replacements or how insurance company glass losses are managed. Many companies are using more aggressive tactics to attract customers so that they can survive in the marketplace. I’m not suggesting that all of these various tactics are either right or wrong. You may hear the term “windshield bully’s” used to describe some of these tactics.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that an AGRR company would attempt any number of tactics to attract customers, especially when facing possible extinction. The weather, the economy and miles driven have been negatively influencing the market over the past several years. Everyone competing in the AGRR industry is scrambling to find the right recipe for survival in their market(s). I think that a fourth key market driver could be added into the equation and that additional driver is the dominant AGRR retailer, who also happens to be a leading insurance claims administrator, wholesaler and distributor as well.
The dominant retailer uses a number of its own sales and marketing tactics to ensure its position in the marketplace. Perhaps the key tactic is the ability for it to spend millions and millions of dollars on national television and radio advertising to attract current customers to its platform. This tactic also provides the opportunity for the dominant retailer to influence long-term customer choice as well. The attempt to influence customer choice long-term is very costly and not easy to achieve in the large diverse United States market, but it is a tactic that the retailer’s owner has used with great success across the globe.
Many in the industry view other tactics the largest retailer uses as being aggressive. One tactic competitors complain about is the attempt to steer an insurance customer that must file an auto glass loss claim through the retailers claims administration business to its own retail division; even though the customer has requested that another retailer do the work for them. How many of you have experienced that tactic when you are required to call the largest retailer’s claim administration division to file a claim with your customer on the line? I have heard many a customer service representative say to the retailer claims administrator while on a 3-way conference call with their customer on the line:
“You do know that I’m still on the line right?”
“I’m still on the call and you’re talking to my customer trying to take the job away.”
Has that happened to you and/or to your customers when they want to use your service for their glass needs? Is it possible that the largest retailer is the true “windshield bully”?
Whether you’re with the company that was highlighted by WAVE Channel 3 in Louisville or you’re the dominant retailer in the United States; many in the AGRR industry find some tactics cross the line of reasonableness, may go against the rules insurers have set for doing work for their insured’s or in some cases tactics may be against the law, but in the current environment companies may try things that they would have never have considered just a few years ago in order to survive.
It’s all a matter of perspective isn’t it? When looking through the eyes of two different competitors, one company sees the other company as being too aggressive or maybe a “windshield bully”, while the other is just doing what they believe they need to do just to survive when faced with the tactics used by others in the marketplace.
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