Posts Tagged David Rohlfing

Just Sayin’ Blog – Rube Goldberg Machines and Business

I was recently sitting in an airport waiting for a flight and for 30 minutes I stood mesmerized watching an amazing sculpture designed by George Rhodes known as a ball machine. This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen one of these ball machine sculptures. The first one of Rhodes designs I saw was in the late 1980’s while walking through a terminal at Boston Logan Airport. I remember almost missing my flight watching and listening to the sculpture. This Rhodes sculpture at another airport attracted young and old alike. The sculpture really doesn’t serve any practical purpose, but is an intriguing piece of kinetic art. It’s hard to pull yourself away from watching all that is going on – a sculpture that often uses a combination of drums, cymbals, gongs and depending on your point of view makes either a virtual cacophony or euphony of sounds.

In a way these sculptures remind me of a Rube Goldberg machine. Wikipedia defines a Rube Goldberg machine as follows:

“A Rube Goldberg machine is a contraption, invention, device or apparatus that is deliberately over-engineered or overdone to perform a very simple task in a very complicated fashion, usually including a chain reaction. The expression is named after American cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg (1883–1970).”

An Example:

Rube Goldberg Guinness World Record by Purdue Society of Professional Engineers

________

Rube Goldberg and Business

While watching the steel balls that roll endlessly though the intricate Rhodes sculpture I started thinking about examples of how some businesses work effortlessly and continuously in a similar endless fashion. Businesses that provide the same exacting levels of customer service and delivery of a product (or products) over and over again that are a key to success. Some businesses have developed very simple processes to find success while other companies tend to overcomplicate processes in an attempt to achieve success.

While at the sculpture I was holding a Starbucks coffee and that company certainly comes to mind as a business that invariably delivers both simple and very complicated orders efficiently and effectively. This Seattle based company that got its start almost 40 years ago has today become the largest coffeehouse with over 23,000 locations in 64+ countries. I just order a Venti black coffee when standing in line at Starbucks. I can never tell if the barista is happy or somehow saddened by my straightforward order. A Huffington Post blog titled “The Most Obnoxious Starbucks Drink Orders“ details some of the complicated orders at Starbucks such as a ‘Venti Iced Skinny Hazelnut Macchiato, Sugar-Free Syrup, Extra Shot, Light Ice, No Whip’. Now that order would be a challenge to any barista fulfilling Starbucks “delicious, handcrafted beverages” mantra. It makes me smile when I hear someone standing in line ordering a similar concoction. It really doesn’t matter where in the United States or the world you place your order; Starbucks seems to always deliver the same level of consistent service regardless of the local. The company has obviously spent a great deal of time and effort in perfecting the delivery of consistent levels of service, but it all seems pretty simple to the casual observer ordering coffee. Everyone knows that you’re going to have to wait a bit when ordering one of the “delicious, handcrafted beverages” mentioned earlier versus my Venti black coffee order, but those who order the complicated drinks don’t mind. They know they are going to be rewarded with a delicious drink made to order by a barista that has perfected his or her craft. In plain sight the platform seems pretty simple. Do you think that behind the curtain there resides a Rube Goldberg machine? Doubtful.

Can you think of other businesses which deliver products consistently in a simple straightforward manner? Maybe FedEx, Amazon.com or even MacDonald’s could come to mind. Fortune Magazine lists 50 of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” and the top 5 are:

  1. Apple
  2. Amazon.com
  3. Google
  4. Berkshire Hathaway
  5. Starbucks

I’m sure you’d agree that each of these companies is the polar opposite of a Rube Goldberg.

I’ve worked in a business or two that have taken great steps to simplify business processes through employee training and the use of technology in an effort to reduce back office costs that keep company investments focusing on people and growing the platform. And I’ve worked in a business or two that seems compelled to use a Rube Goldberg machine mentality. I think that those who insist on making simple processes overly complicated could find greater success by streamlining operating procedures, but as long as shareholders are pleased with the return on investment, changes in operating styles aren’t likely to happen. In a highly competitive industry companies that are overcomplicated ultimately could be disadvantaged versus others in the same industry that have found ways to reduce the Rube Goldberg machine mentality.

Do you know of businesses in your industry which operate more like a Rube Goldberg machine (deliberately over-engineered or overdone to perform a very simple task)? I’m sure that you do. Noted management doyen Peter Drucker is quoted as saying:

“Only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.”

It has to be frustrating for people who work for companies that use complicated procedures or policies in an industry where other companies have found a simpler way of delivering the same service. I’m sure you can come up with some examples in your industry.

So, what’s it like at the company you’re working? Does your company operate more like an Apple, Amazon.com, Google, Berkshire Hathaway and Starbucks; or does it operate more like a Rube Goldberg? Imagine the potential for those companies that operate using a Rube Goldberg machine mentality that pivot to find a better way to provide the services or products they offer. If you look at your company and think you see an area of the business that might resemble a Rube Goldberg machine, perhaps you should seek ways to make it a little less complicated. Isn’t that what leadership is all about?

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Road Trip

A few weeks ago we decided to take a road trip. The trip has taken us through Indiana, Michigan, Canada, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina and now onto South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and then back to Illinois. We could add a couple of other states to the trip. It has been a great road trip. Besides keeping my eyes on the road I also kept an eye out looking for windshields in need of repair or replacement as I have since I entered the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry. I was also looking for mobile auto glass vehicles along the way.

Road_Signs2

In an article titled “April Miles Driven Increases” that appeared in glassBYTEs.com last week, the web site reported that there was an overall 1.8% increase in miles driven in 2014 versus 2013. Only the Northeast reported fewer miles driven. Based on our experience, the number of vehicles of all types on the road has been pretty amazing. We’ve encountered very heavy traffic everywhere we’ve been so far and, since one of the three key drivers for the AGRR industry is miles driven (the weather and the economy the other two), perhaps this is another good sign for glass breakage and future business….at least in the states visited on this road trip.

I’ve spoken with a number of people who either own or work for AGRR retail and wholesale companies; regardless of the area in the country in which they compete, each says business has been great this year! In other road trips over the past few years there have always been a plethora of windshields in need of repair or replacement on the drive, along with countless plastic and tape wrapped broken door, quarter or back glasses (the “do nothings” – those who break glass and don’t repair or replace it). On this road trip I have been surprised to see very few broken windshields or taped up door, quarter or back glasses. Hopefully this is a sign that people are repairing or replacing glass when it breaks.

I saw the first AGRR mobile van on the road trip in Canada – a Speedy Glass van (I was the President and CEO of Belron Canada in the late 90’s and early 00’s). I didn’t see my next mobile van until I saw a Tiny & Sons Auto Glass mobile van in Massachusetts. I have driven by a number of glass shops on the road trip (and stopped by a few) and I didn’t see any mobile vans parked at the shops so I assumed (hoped) that each was busy doing mobile replacements. I’m in North Carolina now and I haven’t seen any more mobile vans. Odd I think as I see them in Chicago all the time.

After the strong winter season across much of the country we experienced some “Wind at our Backs” which was discussed in previous posts. Perhaps with a steady increase in year-on-year miles driven, and if the economy will come out of the doldrums we will see some positives for the AGRR industry. You still have to have to figure out how to deal with the big guys increasing market share and the brand recognition programs in play. If this year’s weather provided and continues to provide AGRR opportunities, if the miles driven continues to grow providing further opportunities and if the economy going forward gains strength and provides further opportunities; you’ve got something to work with. Not always easy I understand, but if it was easy you’d have a lot more competitors to deal with. You just need to continue to figure out what you can do to push and pull consumers to your business.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Disruption Innovation in Business

 

Clayton Christensen developed his disruption innovation theory studying the computer industry. Disruption in virtually any industry will determine winners and losers in business. If you visit the Christensen Institute web site you’ll read that:

“The theory explains the phenomenon by which an innovation transforms an existing market or sector by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility, and affordability where complication and high cost are the status quo. Initially, a disruptive innovation is formed in a niche market that may appear unattractive or inconsequential to industry incumbents, but eventually the new product or idea completely redefines the industry.”[1]

Image

Courtesy of TomFishburne.com

At the annual Code Conference held at the Terranea Resort, located in Rancho Palos Verdes, California that brings together some of the world’s geekiest folks; Google’s Sergey Brin debuted Google’s driver-less car (link). These cars were designed without a dashboard, steering wheel or a brake pedal. Why? A driverless car doesn’t need any of those accessories in the cars of the future as seen by the visionaries at Google. Could this be an example of “disruptive innovation” that could affect multiple industries?

This Google designed driver-less vehicle is very different from the self-driving vehicles that Google equipped with the driver-less technology installed on the Toyota or Lexus models that Google first began using. The initial self-driving cars Google used were off –the-lot models made by original equipment manufacturers so each came equipped with a dashboard with all of the typical accessories you’d expect to find both on and under the dash. But this new Google car comes without many of the accessories deemed required, up until now, and Google added a few other things that you will find disruptive long-term. It evidently is equipped with a flexible plastic windshield.

The car can only top out at 25 miles per hour and you’re not going to be seeing it on the highways anytime soon, but nonetheless with Google behind it one can only assume that the company’s long-term goal is to dramatically change driving habits. Will this technology be successful in disrupting the car industry? It would take time and a lot of treasure, both human and monetary. Google certainly has the wherewithal to attract the best and brightest to make this project a reality and money isn’t an issue.

Experts believe a self-driving car will make driving safer. Imagine that you can text or talk on your phone to your heart’s content as you won’t need to be concerned about distractions. Human driving errors should be greatly reduced if all the other cars around you are interconnected resulting in greater safety. Older drivers would have more freedom which would be good for them and great for everyone else concerned about grandma and granddad getting behind the wheel. Disabled drivers would also gain new freedom to rely on themselves versus others. An EY Automotive study says that autos with Autonomous Vehicle Technology will surge from 4% in 2025 to 75% by 2035.

There are going to be winners and losers as self-driving cars gain traction in the coming years. What will greater safety and independence for everyone mean to the insurance industry and all of those in claims departments today if the number of accidents drops? To the collision and automotive parts repair industry? To the rental car industry? To the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry? To the trucking industry? Countless industries will be affected. There’s going to be a lot of businesses that will rise and fall with this disruptive innovation and a lot of people at risk of losing their current job in an industry affected by the self-driving car.

There will probably be a day when those who want to drive their own cars could be viewed similarly as today’s drunk driver or someone that is texting as they are putting self-driving car riders at risk.

What will the likely outcome be if Google’s self-driving cars become a “disruptive innovation” and disrupt car manufacturers, the transportation industry as a whole and change the habits of the driving public in the years to come? We’ll have to wait to see.

So is there something a company or companies are doing today (or will be doing) in the AGRR industry that is (or will) disrupt the way things operate? Are there innovations that will “completely redefine(s) the AGRR industry”? I think the answer is yes to both questions. There are plenty attempting to disrupt what it is you are doing today and I know that there are those trying to disrupt the future of the industry with new innovations.

Here is another definition of disruption innovation:

“A disruptive innovation[2] is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in a new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market.”

You probably think we already have enough disrupters in the AGRR industry, but what is your plan going to be if you’re not one of the one’s who has designed or is designing a “disruption innovation” in the industry? Something is certainly coming.

Just sayin’.

 

 

 

[1] http://www.christenseninstitute.org/key-concepts/disruptive-innovation-2/

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_innovation

 

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Becoming Somewhat Extraneous

Let’s face it, the National Auto Glass Specifications (NAGS) List Price™ used in the auto glass replacement (AGR) industry for decades that has a pricing (and parts numbering) mechanism seems to have become extraneous.

Glasslinks.com has information that was detailed on a NAGS™ web site from 1998 that provides the following historical information on the company:

From N.A.G.S. Website of 1998:

National Auto Glass Specifications was founded in 1927 by Madison Tracey who made patterns to cut flat glass for automobiles. He assigned part numbers for these patterns to ‘catalog’ them for his inventory purposes. NAGS Part Numbers were soon adopted as the industry standard to identify glass.

  • The first NAGS glass pattern (#1) was for a 1926 Model K, Series 5, Touring and Roadster Chevrolet.
  • The oldest car for which NAGS has a pattern is a 1915 Touring and Roadster Ford; Pattern #49 is a 2-part (upper and lower) windshield pattern.
  • NAGS first “bent” glass Part Number was #XXX1 for the back glass on a 1940 Lincoln Zephyr
  • The first curved windshield for which there is a NAGS Part Number is #XX22, for a 1941-42 Chrysler.

In the 1940s, curved glass appeared and the pattern business declined. NAGS continued to assign Part Numbers to catalog curved and flat glass and published the ‘NAGS Catalog.’ NAGS also published a chart to ‘calculate’ the price of flat glass.

In the 1950s, manufacturers were in conflict over their published list prices. As a neutral party, NAGS was asked to assign list prices to NAGS part numbers, establishing the NAGS List Price. These list prices reflected the industry practice of discounting and were based on manufacturers’ truckload prices. NAGS started publishing the part numbers with prices, establishing the ‘NAGS Calculator’.

Through the 1980s, NAGS information was available exclusively in print form. There was little change in the industry business practices. In the late 1980s, change started happening quickly as advances in technology produced more curved, tinted and coated parts. Networks began operations and electronic commerce was introduced to the industry.

In 1991, NAGS joined the global information marketplace through its acquisition by Thomson International, a world-wide publishing and information services company, and began development of the GlassMate® Database. Today, this database is used in many ways in support of the Auto Replacement Glass industry; e.g., part identification, inventory management, purchasing, invoicing/billing, EDI, auditing, etc. The vehicle configurations in the database have been adopted as Code Source #474 by the X12 Accredited Standards Committee of the American National Standards Institute.

 

* In 1991 NAGS™ was sold to Mitchell International and Mitchell International was acquired in 2013 by KKR and Co. L.P., a large global private equity investment firm.

When I first entered the AGR industry in the 1970’s the NAGS™ list price was factored by the auto glass truckload discount listing produced by the then leading industry auto glass original equipment and replacement manufacturer. The NAGS™ formula for computing the suggested NAGS™ list price was easily understood by everyone in the industry. As a retailer you could calculate a new NAGS™ list price by using the truckload pricing list that manufacturers provided to retail customers. There was always a lag period between the time the manufacturer provided its current truckload price list and when NAGS™ then published a updated list price schedule making it available to the AGR industry. Life was certainly much simpler then.

With the rise of the “global economy” over the past several decades, the subsequent improvement in quality (certainly debatable) of auto glass manufactured from countries with lower cost from around the world, along with cost cutting achieved by domestic manufacturers; many auto glass parts have become a commodity at the wholesale level. With the mix of manufacturers the long-used NAGS™ formula to determine the list price of NAGS™ parts may have become somewhat outdated. The vaunted formula for determining the NAGS™ list must have greatly changed over the years. It was once a very open and transparent pricing mechanism.

I found an article on glasslinks.com from December 1998 titled “NAGS™ Announces Benchmark Pricing for 1999”. It’s a great article that in detail describes the “Benchmark Pricing” model NAGS™ used when the company reevaluated the list price for auto glass parts (and at the same time made changes to NAGS™ labor hours). According to the article, the revaluation that NAGS™ made reduced the list price for windshields by 68% and tempered by 53%, with NAGS™ labor hours reduced by 20%. The reduction in NAGS™ list price was intended to eliminate the large discounts that retailers were offering to insurance, commercial and cash customers off previous NAGS™ list price schedules. Discounts at the time ran as high as 65+% off the NAGS™ list price schedule with the thought that the revaluation and new re-engineered NAGS™ list price schedule would become the actual price charged by retailers to the retail customer base. That was the idea anyway…. We all know how well that worked out for retailers.

When NAGS™ was sold in 1991 to Mitchell International there was a concern raised by many retailers at the time that the treasured independence of NAGS™ pricing, that was sought out by manufacturers’ in the 1950’s, would be at risk. A major customer of Mitchell International was the insurance industry.

It’s difficult enough to fully understand pricing offered from AGR manufacturers and suppliers to retailers. Pricing is rather fluid, meaning that you receive whatever pricing you can negotiate with manufacturers and/or suppliers and there is no consistency upon what pricing is being offered to retailers. So how does or can NAGS™ have a formula today to determine suggested NAGS™ list price for auto glass parts which can be consistently used across the industry?

In an “open letter” dated May 5, 2014 written to Mitchell International/NAGS and signed by Independent Glass Association President Matt Bailey, the company was asked,

“What are the specific sources that you have collected data from since independent glass retailers and the referenced suppliers have all confirmed wholesale price increases?”

I haven’t heard if Matt received a reply to his question.

The question was a reasonable one and was related to an industry wide 5% +/- price increase put in place by a number of AGR manufacturers/suppliers to retail customers instituted on April 1, 2014. It is difficult to understand how a 5% +/- price increase from AGR manufacturers/suppliers could result in a reported .7% increase in the NAGS™ list price for the top 100 NAGS™ parts as detailed in a glassBYTEs.com™ article titled “NAGS Spring Calculator Released, Average Price Increase of Top 100 is 0.7 Percent” written by Jenna Reed. The article stated,

“The Spring 2014 National Auto Glass Specifications (NAGS) International Benchmark Calculator has been released and shows the average price change of top 100 most popular parts was a 0.7 percent increase since the last catalog. The total average price change of top 10 parts was an increase of 0.4 percent.

To view the top 100 parts, click here.

In a comparison from the Winter NAGS Calculator 2014 to the Spring NAGS Calculator 2014, the largest price increase by percentage was on the 2005 Honda Civic windshield (FW02184GGYN), which increased 4.5 percent. To view this analysis of largest price increases by parts among the top 100, click here.

In the same comparison from Winter to Spring, the largest price reduction was on 2012 Ford Escape windshield (DW01684GTYN), which is down 3.07 percent. To view an analysis of the biggest price reduction among the top 100 parts, click here.”

It seems odd doesn’t it that prices from suppliers would go up 5%+/- and the top parts would rise less than 1%.

There are countless retailers that use either a cost plus, flat or tiered pricing models to consumer and commercial/fleet customers adding a “mark-up” to their actual cost of the glass being replaced. Often those prices include both the labor and kit charge required to complete the installation. This provides those that use these models comfort that they have a consistent profit margin to operate under. Networks and TPA’s still use a discount to NAGS™ pricing model to most of their clients.

A group of industry leaders formed The Chicago Auto Glass Group over 10 years ago to address industry pricing. The group worked hard at developing a “white paper” on benchmark pricing and suggested that the AGR industry move to a pricing model they detailed as follows,

“This Guide is intended to serve solely as a recommendation for establishing benchmarks and is in no manner intended to set or determine actual prices for auto glass replacement or to reduce open competition in the local, regional, or national market place.”

You can click on this glassBYTEs.com link to read the entire Chicago Auto Glass Group proposal. The Chicago Auto Glass Group wasn’t successful in pushing the benchmark pricing proposal, but many in the industry viewed the proposal as a positive step in making industry pricing fair to all stakeholders.

AGR industry stakeholders should, on occasion, evaluate the pricing model(s) that they use, discard old or outdated ones and replace them with ones that are relevant. What do you think?

Just Sayin’.

 

 

Reference materials:

   http://www.glasslinks.com/newsinfo/nagsbnch.htm

   http://www.usglassmag.com/AGRR/Backissues/2003/0305/future.htm

   http://www.glassbytes.com/newsNAGSWinter20130114.htm

   http://www.glassbytes.com/2014/05/nags-spring-calculator-released-average-price-increase-of-top-100-is-0-7-percent/

   http://www.glassbytes.com/2013/09/mitchell-international-owner-of-nags-purchased-by-kkr/

   http://www.glasslinks.com/newsinfo/nags_history.htm

   http://www.usglassmag.com/AGRR/Backissues/supplement/NAGSNOTES.htm

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Now and in the Future

Last Tuesday, February 4, 2014 there were two items in glassBYTEs.com™ e-Newsletter that I read with great interest. The two articles got me to wondering about how technology could be developed to increase passenger safety in the auto glass replacement (AGR) industry by alerting passengers of potential problems.

The first article I enjoyed reading was the “View From The Trenches” blog post by Neil Duffy. His blog post titled “Nightmare on Stevens Creek” pointed out those in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry who are portrayed as “hacks” in the article; those who lower the quality of installations and how our industry is viewed. Many of these “hacks” don’t follow or worse are even aware (an even scarier nightmare) of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard® and what is required, on their part, to ensure that those they install auto glass for are safe in an accident. The second article was an Associated Press article that appeared on TribLive.com titled “Feds want cars to be able to talk to each other“. Seems like a great way for the cars we drive not to run into cars that others drive. This technology will have to be in full use when we move to driverless cars, but in the meantime it could greatly reduce collisions today if rolled out in new cars.

jetson

Everyone in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry across the country has seen someone who isn’t following proper installation standards and put drivers at risk when auto glass is replaced. There are those in the industry who think the drums are beat too loud about this topic, but it is an issue and Neil rightly points to the concern that he sees with the acts of some lowering the standards which could bring us all down at some point in the future. As Neil wrote,

“This drains the resources and profitability of shops who value quality. By allowing hacks to contaminate our industry we are putting both the public at risk and our own livelihoods. The sad fact is that there is an unwillingness to seek regulatory constraints or to somehow cull the worst offenders in the AGRR industry. Why would a glass manufacturer or wholesaler try to cut the number of sales they could make by calling for the removal of incompetent or illegal customers? Why would a third-party administrator (TPA) demand stringent certification and high-limit liability insurance over negotiating deeper discounts from the same vendors? Furthermore, we, in AGR, play into the hands of our largest competitor who promotes its technician’s training and employee character via the media over smaller companies – the local unknown local glass purveyors – that may prey upon potential clients. That alone can create a bad dream or two.”

Are there auto glass suppliers or urethane suppliers that would walk away from a sale if the supplier is aware of bad behavior on the part of a customer? I for one would like to believe that there are. But would some suppliers step in and provide the products versus losing a sale? Sadly probably yes.

I appreciate Neil Duffy pointing out that there are those in the industry who shouldn’t be installing auto glass in any vehicle because they either don’t know how to properly do a replacement or they don’t care that they are installing a part in an unsafe manner. Bad apples that exist in our industry can lower the value that the vast majority of us in the industry who are doing it right receive as Neil suggests. Consumers believe they are getting a quality product regardless of what company they use. When a company that is doing everything right competes against those who don’t, how could a consumer know that they could be choosing a company that delivers the service and/or products in an unsafe manner which could ultimately cause serious safety issues? They don’t.

The second article that I referenced that appeared on the glassBYTEs.com™ web site on February 4th dealt with the United States government push to require automakers to equip vehicles with technology that will reduce accidents by having vehicles “talk with each other”.

The Associated Press article details the work that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been doing in cooperation with automobile and truck manufacturers since the early 2000’s to prevent accidents via new technology.

The article quotes David Friedman, the head of the safety administration saying that NHTSA “estimates vehicle-to-vehicle communications could prevent up to 80 percent of accidents that don’t involve drunken drivers or mechanical failure”. Imagine the lives that will be saved with the implementation of new technology. Mr. Friedman goes on to say the goal is “to prevent crashes in the first place”. Historically the government’s focus has been on passengers surviving accidents. On the NHTSA web site the department’s mission reads:

“NHTSA was established by the Highway Safety Act of 1970 and is dedicated to achieving the highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety. It works daily to help prevent crashes and their attendant costs, both human and financial.”

The technology that is being developed and installed on vehicles today across the globe is pretty amazing and has been a dream going back over 50 years.

In 1956 General Motors showcased their cars with a traveling show featuring the company’s fleet at events in major cities across the country. The first “Motorama Show” was held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. This “Key to the Future” video was a “featured film at the exhibit that looked into the far distant future of 1976 which predicted a jet age future with electronic digital displays and an On Star like central command that would guide us along our uncrowded path to adventures.”   

The view of the cars of the future from 1956 obviously wasn’t reality in 1976, but we will be seeing more and more technology installed in all types of vehicles. This CarScoops.com article talks about an “Augmented Reality System (that) Allows Drivers to See Through Large Vehicles”. The ‘See-Through’ developed by a team from the University of Porto, in Portugal, is directed by Professor Michel Ferreira. The technology is a great advancement in driving safety and will undoubtedly save life’s’. Imagine being able to “see-through” a large vehicle such as a bus in front of you in order to safely pass on a two lane highway.

Virtually every car on the road today has on-board technology that informs drivers of mechanical issues that have been detected.  Additionally, mobile telephone hands free devices and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technologies are available for most vehicles further helping to improve driver safety. Government authorities, driving safety advocates and organizations in cooperation with automobile manufacturers continue to build on technology that improves passenger safety. The ever changing availability of new safety technologies being developed for vehicles is rapidly changing how we interact with vehicles, how the vehicles we drive interact with us and even how the vehicle interacts with everything near the vehicle. A Bloomberg.com article titled “Talking-Car Systems to Be Required as U.S. Weighs Rules” briefly discussed future technologies being developed by CISCO Systems and others for connected cars, along with companies such as Google and Telsa Motors working to employ that technology in driverless vehicles.

So, after reading both of the articles that appeared on the same glassBYTEs.com™ e-Newsletter I began wondering if future technology could be developed to let auto and truck drivers know if the auto glass in the car they are driving or are passengers has been properly replaced. Perhaps a farfetched idea you’d say, but since we all know that a windshield that is being replaced has to be properly installed to ensure that the passenger side air bag deploys correctly to protect occupants and to also maintain structural integrity of the roof; maybe not. As I’ve heard a number of people say over the years, “It’s going to take some politician’s family member or someone important to be killed for something to be done to ensure the safe installation of auto glass.” Certainly no one wants that to happen. As Neil so aptly wrote:

“This writer is truly tired of having nightmares that “Freddy the hack” is becoming the ugly face of today’s automotive glass industry. I see it more and more each day and most worrisome is the complete lack of concern by many within our industry. How can we police ourselves or be policed is the $ 64,000 question that has to be addressed and answered some day, hopefully sooner rather than later. If we continue to bury our collective heads in the sand, it will be our own necks that get hacked, as well as more unfortunate windshields.”

I know of countless AGRR professionals who strive to ensure that auto glass is installed properly and spare no expense to do so. But without either the industry as a whole taking a more active interest or governmental authorities taking a regulatory role in the AGRR industry maybe someone can develop a technology to alerts drivers and passengers alike that the car they are riding in is indeed safe to drive, or not.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – A Matter of Fairness

Recently I was forwarded a letter that Safelite Solutions (“Safelite” “SGC Network”) sent to an auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) company.  The letter related to work that the company had done for a consumer that happened to be insured with a company for which Safelite manages glass losses. The AGRR company had done a replacement and was required to send the bill for the work that was done for the consumer through Safelite in order to receive payment. The letter that was received started out stating:

“The SGC Network is currently in the process of performing a random fast cure kit Audit.”

The letter went on to state:

“Please fax copies of the work orders/invoices that include the urethane lot stickers. Do not send proof of purchase or receipts. The only acceptable documentation is the urethane lot sticker attached to the invoice or work order. Please forward to ATTN: SGCNetwork at 614-210-9941 within the next three business days.”

Have you seen or received one of these letters? I hadn’t seen one before. What was requested certainly seemed reasonable to me and the company also thought the request was reasonable. The company had the information readily available since the information is required under various sections of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard that is administered by the Auto Glass Safety Council™. What was interesting about the request was that Safelite was taking on the role as an independent 3rd party auditor in asking for the information. Who do you think performs that function when and if Safelite audits its own use of a “fast cure kit”?

Take a minute and look up the word “fairness” on dictionary.com and you’ll find the following:

Noun

“the state, condition, or quality of being fairor free from bias or injustice; 

evenhandedness”

            Adjective

“free from discrimination, dishonesty, etc; just; impartial”

            Adverb

“in a fair way; correctly: act fair, now!”

It’s also interesting to see the word fairness shown via TH!NIKMAP’s Visual Thesaurus®.

 Fairness 2

 

So does it smack of “fairness” that a retail auto glass company that competes for auto glass repairs and replacements in the United States is also given responsibility for performing audits of competing AGRR companies to determine if they are using a “fast cure kit”? It doesn’t seem that Safelite would be the appropriate entity to audit others if you applied the definitions of fairness:

“the state, condition, or quality of being fairor free from bias or 

injustice; evenhandedness”

“free from discrimination, dishonesty, etc; just; impartial”

“in a fair way; correctly: act fair, now!”

They certainly aren’t “free from bias” and it doesn’t seem as though they would have a strong desire to adhere to the idea of “evenhandedness”. I don’t see how they could be “impartial”. And it would seem impossible that the act of their being the auditor would be accomplished “in a fair way”.

To me it seems to defy logic when the corporate mission of any company must be to grow market share and produce increased value to its shareholders for it to be possible for them to be an independent auditor of others in the industry in which they compete.

Safelite’s company web site states:

We must do what’s right, even when no one’s watching

This means living by our values and being accountable. It is about how we treat our staff, our customers and members of our local community. We reinforce this throughout our corporate structure with legal compliances and ethics training, an employee ethics hotline and numerous channels for feedback and concerns.”

Certainly words any company would be proud to adhere. It seem appropriate to ask “who’s watching” those that are watching us? Do you think that there’s a 3rd party auditor that’s auditing the auditor?

I think you can ask the same question relating to the “pre-inspections of auto glass claims” that was discussed in a glassBYTEs article titled Safelite Solutions Accepts Recognition for Pre-Inspection of Auto Glass Claims” in May of last year. Does that practice seem to smack of “fairness” to you?

As most everyone on the planet knows, Super Bowl XLVIII is coming this Sunday, February 2, 2014 between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. The officiating crew this year is led by veteran referee Terry McAulay. What if for the game this year a crew of Denver Bronco fans is allowed to officiate the game instead of the impartial officials that have been selected by the NFL? If that was allowed to happen how many calls do you think would go Denver’s way? Even the most ardent Bronco fan hoping for a win for their team would see that as both blatantly “unfair” and “unjust” to the Seattle Seahawks team.

So as “A Matter of Fairness”, who thinks that how Safelite operates as an auditor and/or inspector is:

“the state, condition, or quality of being fairor free from bias or 

injustice; evenhandedness”

“free from discrimination, dishonesty, etc; just; impartial”

“in a fair way; correctly: act fair, now!”

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – What’s Your Line-up? – “Updated”

A little over a year ago I wrote a blog asking the question “What’s Your Line-up?” The genesis of that blog was a question I had been asked about who was on my fantasy football team. The question I asked in this blog though actually referred to who did I want to work with.

At the end of the National Football League’s (NFL) recent regular season, 5 teams switched out head coaches in hopes of finding new direction and sought after success. This annual event is known as Black Monday. With the NFL football play-offs in full swing and the field narrowing, all the teams that didn’t make it into the postseason had players cleaning out lockers and heading home to think about next season. For a variety of reasons, some of those players won’t be returning to their lockers next summer, but some NFL General Managers are quickly locking up the talent they feel is needed to find success for owners dreaming of holding up the Vince Lombardi Trophy at the end of next season.

We’ve seen a similar pattern taking place in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry haven’t we? There have obviously been a number of companies changing ownership during the past several years. Whenever there is a change in ownership that change often comes with different values and vision, along with a whole new way of doing business.

As with professional teams, every glass company wants to “put together the best team possible to ensure success”. If you have the right mix of team members in your business, achieving goals and finding success is much easier when you’re working hard to find that “special sauce” or recipe for success against others in your market.

Getting back to the original question, “What’s your line-up?” The real question is, ”Who’s on your team?” People are what make a business successful or not. It doesn’t matter what it is you’re trying to accomplish, its people that make any endeavor a successful one. You’ve got to show differentiation in what it is you deliver of course by using superior products and services versus those you compete, but its people that ultimately separate you from the herd and consistently drive above market results for your business.

If you’re running the New England Patriots, the Denver Broncos, the San Francisco 49ers or the Seattle Seahawks; you’ve assembled a team that is comprised of the best you can find. The NFL team owners, general managers and coaches that put together that “special sauce” and get through the regular season and playoff games intact get the chance to get to Super Bowl XLVIII and hoist the Lombardi Trophy at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014.

Those teams that didn’t get into the playoffs are working hard to find team members to add to their rosters during the NFL Draft May 8th – 10th 2014.

As I wrote in the original blog asking “What’s your line-up?”…as “an auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) store or company you had better make sure that your team is comprised of the best”. With all that’s happening in the AGRR industry perhaps there is someone you know that’s a perfect fit for your team.

royalty-free-teamwork-clipart-illustration-1050836

Every player in the NFL wants to go to the Super Bowl, but few really ever get the chance. The best teams with the most Lombardi Trophy’s over the years: The Pittsburgh Steelers hold the most Vince Lombardi Trophies, with six. The San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys are tied for second with five each. The Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants are in third with four; and the New England PatriotsWashington Redskins and the Oakland Raiders are all in fourth with three.The best in any industry want to be members of winning teams. You always try to associate yourself with the best. And you know when you’re not.

So I ask again the questions I asked in December 2012:

     What’s your line-up?

     Who’s on your team?

     Who can make a difference for your company?

     Who is it that can help you make your company better than anyone else in the market(s) you compete?

     Do you surround yourself with the best you can find?

Just sayin’……

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Interview with FDNY Chief Richard “Pitch” Picciotto

Each of us knows exactly where we were and what we were doing on September 11, 2001 and we will remember that day of infamy for as long as we live. 343 fire firefighters and paramedics, along with over 2,400 civilians were killed by terrorists on the day that brought down the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. While the of terror wrought was so shocking on 9/11, the day also brought out the best of what America is, means and stands for. A few of the antonyms of infamy are esteem, honor and respect. On that day and the days that have followed showed the world the greatness of America.

Richard_Picciotto_Photo

One of the featured speakers at Auto Glass Week 2013 was Richard “Pitch” Picciotto. Pitch is a former New York City Police Officer, who for 28 years served with the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) as a fire marshal, an arson investigator, then as a lieutenant and as a captain before becoming a chief in 1992. When the North Tower of the World Trade Center was bombed by terrorists on February 26, 1993, Pitch was given responsibility for ensuring that the entire building was completely evacuated. He was on duty in New York the morning of 9/11 and he knew immediately that the attack was done by the hands of terrorists. His experience told him that the first tower hit on 9/11 was a terrorist attack and not a small plane hitting the building on a beautiful sunny day.

When Pitch arrived at the World Trade Center on 9/11 he was assigned responsibility for leading the evacuation of a number of floors of the North tower. The 110 story tower had 99 elevators which were rendered useless when the plane struck the building. Everyone who escaped from the North Tower that day came down one of three stairways, one each on opposite corners of the building and one in the middle of the building. On opposite sides of the building were stairways (Stairway A and C) which were 44” wide. The inside stairway (Stairway B) was 56” wide. You can imagine how difficult it was for fire fighters to go up those stairways to help evacuate the building when the stairways were already filled with panicked people trying to leave.

Although the North Tower was hit first, the South Tower was the first to collapse at 9:59 a.m. Inside the North Tower at the time of the collapse of the South Tower Pitch knew the tower he was in was going to also come down and he ordered the immediate evacuation of the building which meant every fire fighter dropped their equipment where they were standing when they heard the order and they started down the stairways.

Pitch was in between the 6th and 7th floor stairwell at 10:38 a.m. when the North Tower collapsed. He and 12 others in the stairway near him at the time of the collapse survived as the building fell in around them. Five hours later they were able to find their way out of the building and walked over the rubble of the Twin Towers to safety. Pitch tells the entire story of his experiences that day in a book he wrote titled “Last Man Down: A Firefighter’s Story of Survival and Escape from the World Trade Center”. Since 2004 Pitch has been a Battalion Commander responsible for Battalion 11 which covers the Upper West Side of New York.

I had the extreme honor to introduce Battalion Commander Richard “Pitch” Picciotto to the audience attending. Those listening to his talk that day heard him tell in vivid detail his experiences that day in the North Tower. He spoke of the heroism of the countless fire fighters who put their lives at risk to save the vast majority of those in the Twin Towers on 9/11.

Pitch also talked about five points that he feels are important for all to focus on in the post 9/11 world we live:

1.    Priorities in your life are what’s important

2.    Get focused on family and friends – don’t give up on relationships

3.    Be kinder and gentler

4.    How do you get through life? With the help of generous support of people

5.    Prayer

DR      First let me thank you for taking the time to talk Pitch.

RP      My pleasure.

DR      When you spoke at our recent conference I know that everyone was mesmerized by the story you told; one of leadership, perseverance and faith. What are the key traits that you feel are important to being a leader?

RP      First and foremost you have to be competent. You have to know what your job is and how to accomplish it. Unfortunately we have too many incompetent leaders. They may be nice people, but they are not competent in their field.

DR      In your experience do you believe that people are born with the traits required to be a leader or can someone learn to become a leader?

RP      I think it is a mixture of both. There are people born with traits to be a leader, but these traits also have to be developed. And you can develop many (probably not all) by studying and learning from other leaders.

DR      You first became a police officer for the City of New York and then made a career change to become a fire fighter in New York. What drew you to becoming a fire fighter?

RP      I just loved the camaraderie and also the tremendous amount of gratification of doing the job. There is no greater feeling in the world than knowing that you and your team saved a life.

DR      I understand that there is a term used by fire fighters – accountability – that has a different meaning to the one most are familiar. Can you explain the meaning of accountability as it relates to fire fighters?

RP      As a firefighter you’re accountable for your actions, as a leader you are not only accountable for your actions, but also for all actions taken by those who you have trained and lead.

DR      Like many in the room listening to your talk I was mesmerized by the story you told. The experience you recounted seemed more of serendipity. The takeaway I got from your talk was that all of us need to celebrate and embrace those around us in our lives. As harrowing the experience of 9/11 had to have been for you, you seemed to have emerged from the events of the day with an amazing outlook on life. How were you able to achieve that?

RP      I really don’t think I had a choice. It seems that if you dwell on the tragic events and repercussions of any tragedy it will consume you. I know myself and many of the firefighters did dwell and were consumed by the events of 911 to the point of depression, but for me I am now able to compartmentalize that part of my life (even though I reflect on the events of 911 every day) I try to enjoy life.

 DR     You ended your talk telling us five points that you feel are important for everyone to focus on. What was the genesis of those five points?

RP      You listed the points. I truly believe this is what helped me, and hope it can help others. I came to this realization after a long time reflecting on the events of 911 and life and what is necessary to be happy.

DR      Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions today Pitch. After you finished your talk you spent a great deal of time talking with those who attended one-on-one. I also saw you walking around the show floor and the hotel lobby. You were and are very approachable. I had a number of people tell me that you were someone that they’d enjoy having a beer with in their local bar. A man who would be comfortable anywhere, talking with anyone about anything. I have to concur with that as you and I talked several times and you were very kind and gracious to everyone you came in contact with. With what you went through on 9/11 you must have one huge heart.

Battalion Commander Richard “Pitch” Picciotto is an American hero. One of countless heroes, not seeking that badge that emerged from the events of 9/11. What makes people like Pitch so remarkable is that in his view he didn’t do anything more than his job on that day. Although he was only doing his job as Pitch says, he and other fire fighters saved the lives of over 27,000 people by getting them safely out of the Twin Towers on 9/11. I know that as a nation we remember the loss of lives that day, but in his eyes we should also celebrate life.

Just sayin’.

  

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Wind at Our Backs?

As we near the end of the first three quarters of 2013, it appears that we may have some wind at our back. There has been some slight improvement in a couple of the key drivers of the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry. The key drivers of the AGRR industry are weather, the economy and miles driven.

How Optimism Works

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has been published since 1792 and is “North America’s most popular reference guide and oldest continuously published periodical”. Forecasting the weather is a specialty of the Almanac and the publication touts an 80% success rate at correctly forecasting winter weather. The Almanac recently published the weather maps for 2013 – 2014. The Almanac is forecasting the following weather for regions they report for this coming winter:

  • The Northeast a winter milder in the North and colder in the South with slightly above average snow in the region;
  • In the Atlantic Corridor a colder winter with snowfall above normal;
  • The Appalachians will see a colder winter with snowfall near normal;
  • The Southeastern United States will see colder weather and above normal snowfall;
  • In the Lower Lakes temperatures will be slightly milder with below normal snowfall;
  • In the Ohio Valley area winter will be colder, along with below normal snowfalls;
  • The Upper Mid-West will be a mixed bag with a warmer winter in the eastern part and below normal in the western part of the area. Snowfall will be above normal;
  • The Heartland will be colder than normal this winter and snowfall near normal;
  • The rest of the country is expected to be colder than normal with average to above average snowfall;

All-in-all a mixed bag with the weather and I hope that wherever your business is located you’re benefited by a colder and snowier winter.

The economy is also a bit of a mixed bag. Positive news came from new car sales which can be an important factor in an improving AGRR industry. J.D. Powers detailed year-on-year improvement in new-vehicle sales in the United States by reporting in their August 2013: Monthly Automotive Sales Forecast that “August new-vehicle sales reached the highest level in seven years.” The report went on to state, “New-vehicle retail sales in August 2013 are projected to come in at 1,270,400 units, 12 percent increase from 2012”. That’s great news for the AGRR industry. J.D. Powers is predicting growing new-vehicle sales for the remainder of 2013 and well into 2014. Really great news for the AGRR industry!

CNNMoney reported this past week in an article titled, “Jobless claims fall to 7-year low, but…” the rate of unemployment showed signs of dropping which is great news, but is tempered with the suggestion that it’s a result of people continuing to drop out of the work force. There are “11.3 million Americans who remain unemployed” the article reported with “three unemployed people for every job opening”. As with the weather, unemployment figures vary by region so its how your local economy is doing is what could affect how good your business will be in the next year.

The price of oil and how oil prices effect gasoline prices is another key part of the equation for the AGRR industry. As reported by the United States Energy Information Administration in the “Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update”, prices year-on-year through September 9, 2013 on regular gasoline show that prices are down $ 0.26. Lower gasoline prices are great for both the consumers we rely on for business and for all of those company vehicles providing mobile service. Hopefully the price of gasoline will stay low.

You can look at reports from the U.S. Department of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration (FHA) as positive or negative depending where you reside. The FHA showed in its June 2013 Travel Monitoring and Traffic Volume Report that year-on-year miles driven were relatively unchanged with a slight decline of 0.1% from June 2012. The news that miles driven is not showing growth wasn’t great news for the AGRR industry that thrives on vehicles out driving on roads, but staying level was better news than a drop.

So how are these three key drivers affecting your business and do you think the wind is at your back? Regardless of whether the wind is at your back or not, I think there is a fourth key driver to your business and it is the most important one for finding success in your business. That key driver is you. So how are you going to take advantage of the marketplace you compete? What is it you’re doing to make your business stand out among all those with whom you compete?

I’ve written in previous blogs “The Times They Are (Always) A-Changing” and “The Times They Are (Always) A-Changing – Part II” about the opportunities in the marketplace for AGRR companies. I strongly believe that there are opportunities for independents in our industry, but you’ve got to surround yourself with the best people and make sure that they are all committed to the goals and aspirations that you have for your business. If you haven’t got that you’re going to be struggling.

What else are you doing to separate yourself from your competitors? Look for ways to be successful and be relevant in your market so that you stand out. There is a recipe for success in your market and you’ve got to figure out what it’s going to take to make sure you find and keep being successful. It starts with you as you’re the key driver of your business.

If the three key drivers are beginning to turn to your favor and with the possibility of the wind at our backs, what is it you’re going to do in the next year to see that you not only survive, but thrive in the AGRR industry? It’s really up to you.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Army Staff Sergeant Ty M. Carter – Defining Moments

This past Monday, August 26, 2013 at The White House, United States Army Staff Sergeant and Calvary Scout Ty M. Carter received the Congressional Medal of HonorThe Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. The medal is generally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress. There have been 3,462 medals awarded over the years and there are 79 recipients still living today. Ty Carter is being honored for his gallantry in helping to defend Combat Outpost Keating, located in a remote section of Afghanistan, from an unwavering attack by a Taliban force. He and his fellow Americans were severely outnumbered.

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When talking about the actions he took at the outpost that day on October 3, 2009 Ty was quoted as saying:

“When good men are dying all around you, you have to decide what your last moments are going to be like. Are you going to die behind something, or are to going to die standing and firing. Are you going to die pushing forward or falling back?”

What a great quote and an amazing mindset to have when you are in battle and facing terrible odds. It is impossible for me to imagine the horrific setting and events that took place that fateful October day.

When reading about Ty’s receiving this amazing honor for his valor and acts of selflessness, I started thinking about the character traits required to possess his mindset. I then thought about traits required to be so determined, driven and/or committed to achieve a specific goal. How those traits determine or define success. That led me to wonder about the traits required to be successful in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry today. Now before you say “what the &$%#”, I’m not in any way attempting to liken the American heroes who are brave enough to take up arms and defend our nation to the issues faced by retailers in the AGRR industry. There is obviously no real comparison. What I am suggesting is Ty Carter’s quote makes you consider that if you are going to be successful as an AGRR retailer or in any endeavor you had better have that determination, that drive and commitment to fight the good fight or you won’t be successful in the task at hand. You must discover the ways to find success as you are confronted with new obstacles; and you had better never take that success for granted because someone is always coming after you and yours.

There was once a time finding success being an AGRR retailer was a fairly easy task. A time when networks or third party administrators didn’t exist and when you didn’t have to deal with steering or any of the other tactics seen today. The landscape has changed and continues to change. In all likelihood it’s not going to be changing in any positive way and certainly not to your advantage, so you’d better be working hard to find ways to ensure your continued success.

In previous blogs (“It’s all a matter of perspective”; “Auto Glass Networks – Part 1” and “Auto Glass Networks – Part 2”) I’ve written about various tactics used and what actions you might consider in maintaining and growing your business. You have to focus and fight for your customer(s) and you can’t let anybody keep you from doing so. You can’t stop pushing forward. You can’t stop trying out new ideas or strategy’s to grow your business. You need to find that special something that makes you and your company stand apart from the others. You can’t ever give up trying. Don’t suffer from what Brad Stevens; former head men’s NCAA basketball coach for the Butler Bulldogs and new head coach for the Boston Celtics said after an NCAA game earlier this year, “The pain of losing isn’t as great as the pain of regret. You have to give it your best.”

Ty Carter didn’t stop fighting at Combat Post Keating on that fateful day in Afghanistan almost four years ago. He didn’t give up and he didn’t let the circumstances keep him from continuing his “pushing forward”. He never allowed himself to “fall(ing) back” as in doing so the outcome of that day would have been very different for both himself and the men he served with at Combat Outpost Keating.

In my last blog post I wrote about “Battles Won and Waged”. Nothing that I have ever done in my life or in my career in the AGRR industry are on the level or scale of the horrific battles that Ty Carter has faced in his chosen field.  As a country we honored Ty Carter for his service to our nation and the many sacrifices he has made and continues to make on our behalf. Just as he never gave up on the day that he faced unimaginable challenges neither should we in the much lesser challenges that we face in being AGRR retailers. In my last blog I wrote,

“You’ve got to try to never let anyone, any company or thing get the better of you. Work hard to figure out a work-a-round to your challenge. Always remember that when you face a challenge it’s not always the battle won, the battle waged is just as important. It defines who you are.”

Ty Carter defined himself on October 3, 2009 and he continues to do so today as he continues to push forward, not falling back in ongoing struggles he faces in dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. He is a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and is one of only 3,462 so honored in the history of the United States Military. Ty is an American hero.

How are you going to define yourself?

Just Sayin’.

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