Posts Tagged Insurance

Hobson’s Choice (a Free Choice or No Choice at All?)

I recently read the argument that attorneys for Safelite Group Inc. (Safelite) made relating to Connecticut’s Public Act-13-67(c) (2) in a glassBYTEs.com article. They argued that,

“it puts appellants Safelite Group Inc. and Safelite Solutions to a Hobson’s choice….”

Hobson’s choice[1] refers to a businessman by the name of Thomas Hobson who ran a livery in Cambridge, England in the 1600’s. Hobson required that every rider asking to hire one of his horses to always take the horse nearest the door. If a patron didn’t want to use that particular horse no other horse could be used. A “take it or leave it” choice. As another source on the origins of the phrase states[2], “A Hobson’s choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered.” I thought using “Hobson’s choice” in this particular instance an interesting one considering the origins of the term. More on that later.

This link to the summary of the act that was first introduced in the Insurance and Real Estate Committee of the Connecticut House and ultimately signed by the Governor of the State of Connecticut required that in the handling of any insurance auto glass claim in the State of Connecticut that:

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

Fairly straightforward.

A public radio program called “A Way with Words” talked about Hobson’s choice on one of the program segments. One of the hosts of the radio program, Martha Barnette tells us:

“The phrase Hobson’s choice goes all the way back to 17th-century England. For 50 years, Thomas Hobson ran a stable near Cambridge University. There he rented horses to students. Old Man Hobson was extremely protective of those animals. He rented them out according to a strict rotating system. The most recently ridden horses he kept at the rear of the stable. The more rested ones he kept up front. That meant that when students came to get a horse, Hobson gave them the first one in line—that is, the most rested. He’d let them rent that horse, or none at all.”

Perhaps you see where I was thinking that Hobson’s choice was an interesting phrase for the attorneys to use in their argument. First, Public Act-13-67(c) (2) is a duly enacted Connecticut law so their client really doesn’t get a choice in deciding whether they wish to follow it or not. As is their right, they can dispute the law which is obviously why the company is filing the appeals to the act which provides Connecticut consumers a choice in what company repairs or replaces their damaged auto glass. It’s just that at his stable Hobson didn’t want the same horse(s) being used each time by his patrons. Hobson wanted his patrons to use only the horse(s) that he wanted them to use. You can understand why Hobson wanted to rotate his horses so that each got equal use. Safelite wants Connecticut consumers to only use the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) company that Safelite wants them to use. In this case it would appear that Safelite is Hobson.

By enacting Public Act-13-67(c) (2), the State of Connecticut took steps it deemed appropriate to protect consumer choice for residents of the state. There are any number of AGRR companies operating in the State of Connecticut for consumers to use when they sustain auto glass damage. So is it “A Matter of Self-Interest or Consumer Choice”? Isn’t it Safelite that is attempting to provide Connecticut consumers with a Hobson’s choice?

Just sayin’.

Take it or leave it

Another example of a Hobson’s choice would be from Henry Ford’s book titled My Life and Work and written in 1922 referencing options available for the Model T Ford.

Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”

 

[1] Merriam-Webster.com meaning of Hobson’s choice

[2] Wikipedia.org description of Hobson’s choice

Other sources:

http://www.glassbytes.com/documents/07302014SafeliteLettertoCourt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobson’s_choice

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hobson’s%20choice

 

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Interview with Chris Thornton, Managing Director – Auto Windscreens, United Kingdom

It’s always an interesting exercise looking at automotive aftermarket retailers that excel in the industry they compete to understand reasons for their success. It doesn’t matter where in the world a company operates; be it in the United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom or elsewhere in the world. Those companies that do standout and outclass rivals, take on market leaders in the industry they compete and are recognized for the high levels of service they provide to customers, deserve our admiration, respect and emulation. One such company is based in the United Kingdom. Auto Windscreens is headquartered in Derbyshire, in a town named Chesterfield 150 miles north of London. Originally formed in 1971 Auto Windscreens has gone through a number of evolutions to get the company to where they are today. Auto Windscreens is the United Kingdom’s fastest growing and most dynamic provider of (auto) glass repair and replacement services (AGRR). Suffice it to say that the company has a lot of things going for it right now.

AW_logo with strapline

Auto Windscreens has won several prestigious awards over the past several years. Among them:

  1. At this year’s 2014 British Insurance Awards Winner Auto Windscreens won top honors for two award categories:
    1. Customer Care Award
    2. Service Supplier of the Year
  2. Both in 2014 and 2013 they were recognized by The Sunday Times being selected as one of the “Best 100 Companies to Work For”.
  3. Auto Windscreens was ranked second in the United Kingdom and when the received recognition as a “Top 50 Call Centres for Customer Service” in 2011. At the same time they were also named the “Best Newcomer” and the “Best Service Provider”.

These are very impressive awards for any company. George Bernard Shaw said, “Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s the sincerest form of learning.” I think that there is a lot automotive retailers can learn from Auto Windscreens.

Chris Thornton is the Managing Director (the U.K.’s version of Chief Executive Officer) of Auto Windscreens and I thought hearing from him on a number of topics would be interesting to readers of this blog. Chris took over as Auto Windscreens’ Managing Director earlier this year.

Chris Thornton

 

DR: Thank you for taking the time to talk Chris.

CT: My pleasure David. I like nothing better than talking about Auto Windscreens

DR: Auto Windscreens has certainly seen some great successes of late. What do you believe are key the reasons for the company’s successes?

CT: It’s all about being the best at everything we do in delivering the finest service possible to our customers. And in order to do so every member of the team has to play their part. As we offer a Customer Satisfaction Survey to every customer, we can see exactly where and when we are delivering this outstanding service and where we may have some improvements to make

DR: What were some of the issues (positive and/or negatives) you and your management team faced in moving the company forward after you joined Auto Windscreens in 2013?

CT: The atmosphere and approach within Auto Windscreens is outstanding. Everyone knows what we are looking to achieve and how to get there. I am a firm believer in clear and regular communications within the business.

Our biggest challenge is maintaining this as we expand. Many of the UKs biggest insurers and fleets are in discussion with us at the moment as we are clearly THE automotive glass company to be dealing with.

That expansion impacts across our business and one critical area is recruiting and developing technicians to work at the same high standards as we do now. At the end of the day we are a people business.

DR: Of the issues you’ve mentioned which one do you feel made the biggest difference in getting everyone focused on providing customer excellence?

CT: Communication and training is essential.

From the moment we take the customer call, the focus is on finding the right appointment to fit the customer needs. Our automated system generates a selection of appointments for the customer to choose from and once selected the appointment is guaranteed. We spend a lot of time training our contact centre agents in both call handling and technical skills.

Auto Windscreens has the only accredited training centre in the UK. Our facility not only provides an excellent workshop environment for new starters but on-going training, development and advancement to higher qualification.

All our technicians are kept fully up to date with the latest information. All work is processed on Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) which have a detailed Technical and Training programme on them to support the technician. In addition our Training department supports the technicians with a team of field based trainers and a 24 hour support line.

DR: How have the partnerships Auto Windscreens has made with insurance and fleet customers improved your customer service?

CT: Both insurers and fleets have recognized the quality Auto Windscreens have brought to the industry. We demonstrate this through leading Management Information and more critically through Customer Satisfaction Surveys and Net Promoter Score.

Our surveys are both offered by Auto Windscreens and through an independent survey analyst which creates total transparency for our clients. In turn they have total confidence in Auto Windscreens in our service delivery.

DR: Can you provide an understanding how your value proposition is resonating with your customers? How does your relationship with your customers differ from what other competitors offer?

CT: In 2011 we noticed that customers were regularly getting in touch with us to thank us for the quality of the work they had received. This told us we were doing something right.

From this we created the Praise Log, an internal document sent to everyone in the business each month showing where customers had called to say “Thank You”. And our people love to see their names on there.

This has expanded as customers write about their experiences on review sites such as reviewcentre.com. This is totally independent and Auto Windscreens have a 96% recommendation rate. It is the consumer trust in our brand that is making the difference.

DR: Your company focuses a great deal on providing management information systems to customers to help them find ways to reduce costs and operate more efficiently; how do you feel that helping them understand their windscreen losses is a winning strategy for Auto Windscreens?

CT: Management Information is critical in every business and we support our clients by providing them with the information they need to enhance customer experience and in doing so boosting customer retention.

The information also helps reduce wastage and controls cost but our clients are now being driven by quality rather than cost alone.

DR: How does Auto Windscreens use social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, etc.) to interact with its customers? Do you feel it is time well spent for anyone operating in the retail automotive after-market?

CT: The world of communications has changed significantly in the last decade and like many businesses we have had to adapt. Our marketing department manages our social media accounts not only promoting our business but monitoring and responding to any questions.

It is very worthwhile as it brings us closer to our customers and helps identify trends before our competitors

DR: How many fitting centres, mobile service units and employees does the company currently have?

CT: We have over 40 branches covering the UK (it’s a lot smaller than the USA) more than 350 mobile service units and over 500 staff in total

DR: Do you see further growth for Auto Windscreens in the United Kingdom? With the success you’re enjoying, are there any thoughts of growth outside of the United Kingdom?

CT: Our focus in firmly on the UK for the foreseeable future. It offers great opportunities for us as we expand. We will not get distracted by expansion alone, the key is to continue delivering the best service in the industry.

DR: With the great success Auto Windscreens has found in recent years while facing a large competitor, can you offer some advice to those who also find themselves competing against companies bigger than they are in a market or country?

CT: I believe you need to set your stall out and get your team on board in delivering this. Our message has been Total Customer Satisfaction from our beginnings which meant everybody has to play their part.

DR: Do you use radio or television to reach customers?

CT: We have in the past but not currently. 

DR: What is the most effect way to reach targeted customers?

CT: If you win the corporate accounts then the volume will come. If those clients will support you as the only option for replacement glass and repairs then the business is as good as guaranteed.

DR: Auto Windscreens was a winner in the 2006 Commercial Fleet World Honours – The Environment Award. I know that you and your company have a strong commitment to green initiatives by recycling 100% of the windscreens that you replace. When did this initiative begin and what has been the response from Auto Windscreens’ customers?

CT: 2006! That was a few years back but we are as proud of our environmental credentials now as we were then. We are in a world where recycling is promoted greatly and we have always led in our industry with green policies. Our customers have always been supportive of this approach which started more than 20 years ago. Our resources are finite so we must use them wisely

DR: I read on your web site that 40 replaced windscreens that you recycle fit on a skid, while the materials required for 40 repairs can fit in the palm of a hand. By your commitment to repairing windscreens Auto Windscreens is providing great value to its customers while also fulfilling your green initiative strategy to help reduce the effect replacements have to the environment. That is a strong endorsement for repairing over replacing. How do your customers view your commitment to repair? Can you give us a range of repair rates you see in the United Kingdom?

CT: The repair rates vary by customer type but can be up to 50% of our work. Our customer base encourages repair over replacement and so wherever we can safely make a repair we will.

DR: During my career I spent a fair amount of time in the United Kingdom and I greatly value all that I learned from those I worked with while in country. There is one service component that is offered by your company (and other windscreen companies in the United Kingdom) that hasn’t caught on in the North America and that is 24/7/365 service* with mobile units. Your web site touts that, “Our fitting centres are open from 8:30am till 5:30pm Monday to Friday and on Saturdays from 8:30am to 12:30pm. Outside these hours, work is carried out by our team of mobile technicians who are on call 24 hours a day every day of the year.” Can you provide the reason why this type of service is offered in the United Kingdom and what percentage of work is done outside of the normal fitting centre operating hours?

* Since 1981 windscreens in the U.K. have been laminated. Prior to that date tempered glass was used for some windscreens.

CT: It has been customer led and is for “emergency” work such as broken rear and side glass. We cannot allow customers to be left stranded in a vehicle that cannot be driven or is insecure. Such urgent requests may be low in volume but very high in importance.

DR: What do you feel are the strengths and weaknesses of Auto Windscreens and what are you doing to take advantage or fix them?

CT: Some of our IT infrastructure was getting old so we have created a data centre, 24 hour IT monitoring team and issued new PDAs to all technicians. This significant investment will cover our requirements for the next 10 years.

Our strengths are many. Our independence allows us to develop the business as we need without interference from head offices, shareholders or partners. Our clear leadership in high quality service provision is proving very difficult for our competitors to get close to and as we further develop this, the gap will increase.

And as technology becomes more prevalent in windscreens, companies who cannot demonstrate and prove that they have the proper training processes in place will fall away.  

DR: I know that you focus a great deal of time and effort on training Technicians. You obviously feel that you’re reaping dividends on these initiatives. Can you give us a brief overview of your company’s approach to training?

CT: By having highly skilled technicians we have created a team that is prepared to go that extra mile and takes pride in its work. The training starts from the moment a technician, either skilled or a new recruit, joins the business and that training never ends.

It may take place at our Technical Training Centre or through field accompaniments. All technicians are assessed annually to ensure they continue to work to the standards expected of them whether a repair technician , replacement technician  or a master technician.   

AW technician 1

DR: You have an amazing Net Promoter Score (NPS) that is off the charts in the mid 90’s. That is the highest number I’ve ever seen in our industry. As a company how have you been able to achieve that result?

CT: We are very proud of Net Promoter Score and Customer Satisfaction results. It has not been easy but by creating a customer centric culture as mentioned previously we have all staff aligned in delivering an outstanding service

DR: With that high level of NPS you’ve been earning a great deal of new business and contracts with fleets and insurers alike. How was Auto Windscreens able to garner this new business from the incumbents?

CT: That’s a question our customers would have to answer but I would say it’s down to the breadth of service we can offer at a rate which works for everyone. As a progressive business with a clear vision we will attract like minded businesses.

DR: I have been very impressed with what you and your team(s) have accomplished at Auto Windscreens. I firmly believe that that some of the strategies and tactics that Auto Windscreens has been employing can be exported to other countries and used by those who are interested in growing and/or making a difference with their company. I appreciate your taking the time to talk with me. I wish you and Auto Windscreens continued great success.

CT: It’s been a pleasure David.

 

Auto Windscreens is a great case study in how to turn a company around and make it into a world class service provider. It takes great leaderships and dedicated teams throughout the business, but I believe that Auto Windscreens has shown how to take on competition (big or small) and consistently win against them by focusing on the needs of each and every customer. I applaud Chris and all at Auto Windscreens for all they’ve accomplished.

Just sayin’.

 

 

Auto Windscreen Training

GQA Qualifications Limited

(Auto Windscreens only offers GQA qualifications to their employees)

GQA Level 2 NVQ Certificate in Windscreen Repair (QCF) (GQA Qualifications Limited)

GQA Level 2 NVQ Certificate in the Principle of Windscreen Repair (QCF) (GQA Qualifications Limited)

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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 – 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.

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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 – Doing the Right Thing Isn’t Always Easy

Whether you are an auto glass shop owner or an auto glass technician working in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry, following the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard® isn’t easy, nor should it be. The AGRSS® Standard has rules and best practices which requires a higher level of diligence and reporting to be adhered to on the part of both the auto glass company and its technicians. Deciding as a company to fully embrace the standard and fulfill all of its requirements separates your company and your auto glass technicians from other companies which you compete. As a company you make the decision to follow the AGRSS® Standard then take the additional step and join the Auto Glass Safety Council™ as a registered company. Being a registered company requires that you participate in the non-profit organization’s Validation Program. Understand that if you’re a registered company, following the standard tells your customers that you are willing to open yourself to a 3rd party validation and inspection to ensure that you indeed follow the rules of the standard.

For the purposes of full disclosure, I sit on the board of directors of the Auto Glass Safety Council™. The Auto Glass Safety Council™ consists of countless industry members who donate their time and efforts to maintain the standard. They and/or the companies they work for pay for the time and travel required to spend working on behalf of the AGRSS® Standard. No one is paid for the work that they do.

By following the AGRSS® Standard you set yourself apart from others in the industry that’ve chosen not to do so; whether for reasons of profit, lack of knowledge or perhaps that you just don’t care about the safety issues involved. I’m not sure what would cause a company to not follow AGRSS®, but it has to be for one of those reasons. There are 8 deliverables that an auto glass company must adhere to comply with the standard. They are:

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Adhering to the AGRSS® Standard requires that you follow all 8 of the above deliverables. Does your company follow the standard and the deliverables? How do your customers know that you do?

A number of networks and/or third party administrators (TPA) require that auto glass shops that do replacements on the behalf of network customers replace glass according to the AGRSS® Standard. How is it possible for those networks to know that each replacement is actually performed to the standard? The only way for a network to confirm that every glass replacement is completed according to the standard is to require membership of every glass shop that does work on its behalf. No network or TPA, to my knowledge, requires 100% of the glass companies that do its replacements be members of the Auto Glass Safety Council™ to validate that its members are indeed completing replacements according to the AGRSS® Standard.

There are insurance companies that require auto glass shops that do replacements for their policyholders to complete them according to the AGRSS® standard. But what, if anything, do those companies do to enforce their own requirement? I’m not sure the answer to that question, but I’m not aware of anything more than an auto glass company being required to just say that they do installations according to the AGRSS® standard.

Do insurance companies ask you to install used glass on older cars or on cars involved in collisions? That claim has been made recently and that request is not allowable under the AGRSS® Standard. If asked would you install a used part in a consumer’s car when you can’t determine how it may have originally been installed?

Here are a few questions that are important to ask if you say you follow the standard, but don’t use a 1 to 4 hour fast cure Safe Drive Away-Time (SDAT) urethane:

·         If you’re an auto glass shop that uses a urethane that requires 24 hours or more to provide a SDAT do you actually inform your customer that they can’t drive their car for 24 hours?

·         Do you really think that if your customer is told that the car isn’t safe to drive for 24 hours that they actually will follow your instructions?

·         What do you think happens when you do the installation at their place of work knowing that they will be driving at the end of the day?

If the urethane you’re using requires a specific humidity and/or temperature level to cure properly, do your auto glass technicians have equipment with them that tells them that they are in compliance with the urethane they’re using?

What do you do if you encounter rust when doing an installation? Do you do the repair required to ensure that you comply with the standard? Do you go ahead with a replacement when there is rust damage that must be repaired according to the standard without actually doing all that needs to be done to ensure compliance? Would you walk away from a job if the customer won’t do what is required to fix a rust issue? It’s not easy to follow the AGRSS® standard.

To be sure, to do all that is required to be done by an auto glass company, auto glass technicians that perform the replacements and those who are tasked to keep proper records to execute all of the deliverables of the AGRSS® Standard isn’t easy as I said, but it is certainly achievable by companies and auto glass technicians that care. Fully knowing that a company or network or TPA that professes it follows the standard can certainly be called into question. The only way to know if some company is truly conforming to the standard is to be validated it by an independent 3rd party company.

The standard is a challenge. It is made to be. Validations can only be confirmed by an independent 3rd party organization approved to complete the inspection of an auto glass shop that says it adheres to the standard. To proclaim that you follow the AGRSS® Standard and not also back it up with an independent 3rd party verification would be similar to saying that the Affordable Care Act and HealthCare.gov has been a rousing success from its rollout on October 1st. The Affordable Care Act and HealthCare.gov may indeed ultimately provide what some profess that it will provide, but just saying so doesn’t mean that it has or will.

By the way, just because you are a registered company with the Auto Glass Safety Council™ and follow the AGRSS® Standard doesn’t mean that insurance companies or consumers will beat a path to your door. Not yet anyway. Doing the right thing when it comes to ensuring your customers safety should be enough.

There will certainly be those who read this blog who will disagree with me as to the “how” we ensure that consumers are protected when it comes time to having their glass replaced, but ensuring that consumers receive adequate protection when having auto glass replaced should be a concern to us all. That is of course if you care about consumers and the AGRR industry you wish to participate.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Interview with Dave Taylor and Cindy Rowe-Taylor

Two of the most respected people in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry are Dave Taylor and Cindy Rowe-Taylor who together built Cindy Rowe Auto Glass into the dominant AGRR company in much of Pennsylvania and Maryland. They retired to Florida a few years ago and spend much of their time cycling the world and enjoying their lives.

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At Auto Glass Week™ 2013 that was held in Tampa, Florida last month Rich Campfield, president of the National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA), presented Dave Taylor with a new industry award named in his honor. As a founding member of the NWRA, Dave was a force in helping to mold the organization. Cindy was in the audience during the opening ceremony where Dave was presented with the inaugural award.

While at the Auto Glass Week™ Conference I had the chance to talk with both Dave and Cindy and they agreed to an interview. 

DR      First, thanks to you Cindy and Dave for taking the time to talk with me today. Special congratulations to you Dave for receiving the NWRA award that was named in your honor. I can’t think of anyone more deserving to be recognized for the work you have done to bring windshield repairs to consumers.

My first question is how do you both like retirement versus the daily challenge of being in the AGRR business?

DT      Retirement is terrific. As many folks know, we are avid bicyclists and living in The Villages in Florida is a bicyclists dream come true. We would have retired sooner if we had known had much fun and satisfaction retirement life had to offer.

CR-T  Retirement has been an easy transition and so enjoyable.  It is not sitting on the couch eating bon-bons, but having a very busy schedule and having such fun being busy.

DR      It sounds like you’re both making the most out of retirement. Cindy, what year was it and what was it that drew you to the AGRR industry that caused you to open the first Cindy Rowe Auto Glass store?

CR-T  I was a registered nurse for 13 years and decided I wanted to be my own boss.  That was when I became aware of the windshield repair (WSR) possibility in my area. In 1979 I started out with my repair kit in the trunk of my Vega, seeing dealers and fleets, where the volume was.  No sales experience ever.  I loved it from the start. I am the WSR pioneer in the Harrisburg, PA, and surrounding areas.  Dave joined me in 1986, working mobile WSR for one year; it was after that year that we bought our first glass shop.  We kept on both technicians and learned about replacement.

DR      Dave, what was it that you found attractive (besides Cindy) to the industry?          

DT      Self employment is the short answer.  After a 25 year career in department store retailing I wanted to be independent of the corporate world. Joining Cindy’s business was the logical next step. Being able to work together added icing to the cake.

DR      What was it Dave that made you such an early and strong supporter of repairs versus replacements?

DT      Cindy founded the business as a windshield repair-only business before we had even met. Eventually we expanded from repair to full service.  Unfortunately for the consumer, and perhaps fortunately for us, 25 years ago most glass companies were focused on replacement. They probably felt it was best for their glass company.  Solid business management practices made repair profitable for us and a well executed repair program gave us a significant and profitable competitive advantage. Providing customers with their best solution to an auto glass problem, be it repair or replacement, was our primary business strategy.

DR      This question is for both of you. What can you tell the readers of this blog made the biggest difference in the growth and sustainability of Cindy Rowe Auto Glass over the years?

CR-T  Staying ahead of the industry with their many changes, starting with the early 90’s and on.  Customer service was not to be compromised and keeping valued employees.  Early on, Dave and I decided that advertising heavily and educating the public would do well.

DT      Consistently providing the best quality service to customers and aggressive brand building through media and public relations.

DR      I know that in my own career finding the right mix of people made all the difference in my finding success that I’ve enjoyed. At Cindy Rowe how were you both able to always ensure that you surrounded yourself with the best people, that you got the best from them and what advice can you offer those in business today as to that importance?

DT      Choose wisely, treat kindly.

CR-T  Fairly early on, we decided to hire people “green” and train them, offer good benefits, keep them abreast of the industry and give some autonomy.

DR      At Cindy Rowe you provided consumers in the Pennsylvania and Maryland markets you served with AGRR services, but you also offered paint-less dent repair. Would you suggest paint-less dent repair (PDR) as an additional product line that for those in business looking for additional revenue streams? And if not paint-less dent repair are there other products you think work well in today’s AGRR business?

DT      PDR is a profitable but technically challenging service. While it worked for us, it has proved difficult for many AGR companies to integrate into their businesses. I like what I saw during Auto Glass Week’s joint event with the window film industry.  We would have given window film a thorough evaluation.

DR      Something that some may not have known about you Cindy is that you are a registered nurse and that you’ve donated your time and expertise to those in need while in business at Cindy Rowe Auto Glass and still to this day being retired in Florida. Were you a registered nurse when you first started Cindy Rowe Auto Glass?

CR-T  Yes, for 13 years.  In 2002 I took the “Refresher Course” for RN’s and have been volunteering since in an area where uninsured patients are treated.  It is gratifying to be able to give back in some capacity.

DR      What traits or experiences in your background Cindy gave you the ability to find such success in business?

CR-T  I would guess perseverance, honesty, not afraid of working extra (lots of that for years), organization and time management skills.

DR      Here is a question for you both. Using radio and/or television advertising was a way that you got your name out into the marketplace and helped establish and differentiate Cindy Rowe Auto Glass. It is expensive to advertise on radio and television. When you look back at the genesis of Cindy Rowe through the day you departed the business, what was it that caused you to make that decision to spend money on that form of advertising?

DT      When we expanded from being a car dealer driven windshield repair only business to full service auto glass, we were the new kids on an already crowded block. Capturing the customer through the traditional referral routes would have taken a decade or more. So we went directly to the customer with Radio/TV and created an awareness and demand for our brand. When TPA’s began to capture significant market share, our brand building paid off handsomely. We were the only AGR company anyone in our markets had ever heard of and they asked for us. We never anticipated TPA’s when we began our brand building but brand building saved our skin when TPA’s took over most of the insurance business.

           Radio/TV and now internet are the effective media tools to build your brand with the general public. To influence “choice” at TPAs we wanted to be top-of-the-mind before the customer calls the TPA. Branding is a prerequisite to being “chosen”.  While media is expensive, aggressive purchasing strategies can help control the costs.

DR      Here’s a non-industry question. You mentioned that you are avid cyclers. Can you tell me what countries you’ve cycled and as a follow-up what you’ve learned about yourselves in your cycling adventures?

CR-T Cycling helps keep one in good physical condition and it really is a focus issue while on the bike – lots of issues to watch out; cannot daydream.

DT      United States, Canada, Bermuda, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Hungary, Lichtenstein, South Africa and Switzerland.

DR      One thing I’ve noticed is that you both smile quite a bit. Can you say you’re both happier now that you’ve left the industry? What is it you miss being in business?

DT      Happier? YES! What I miss about the business is the daily challenge to effectively manage the unending stream of issues. In retirement I can choose easier and less stressful challenges.

CR-T  I look at it as another chapter in life. I have always loved my work, but times change and I am now thoroughly enjoying retirement with Dave. One of the things I missed when we first left was seeing the people in the office. My people spoiled me and it did not go unnoticed by me!

DR      My thanks to you both for taking the time to answer my all of my questions.

For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to meet Dave and Cindy I can tell you from personal experience with them that they are good people. Truly fine people; who have effected and changed the lives of those that have come into contact with them over the years. Whether that interaction was in the business they operated together, the AGRR industry they both left their mark on or in their active community service over the years, both Cindy and Dave have given their time to those who sought them out or they felt needed their help.

The industry has been made better by their being a part of it and I hope that they continue to be active in helping to improve it in the future.

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.

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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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