Archive for August, 2011

Factotum: A Day in the Life of an AGRR Owner

When you own or operate an auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) business, you find yourself wearing a lot of hats.  I know that was the case when I was operating a small business in Florida back in the late 70’s and 80’s. I worked hard to make it successful, and luckily I had the help of a lot of great people.  If you work in a small to mid-sized shop, there are a number of tasks to handle after the phone rings:

  1. Answer customer questions
  2. Offer quotes and (hopefully) take orders
  3. Input customer data into the point-of-sale program
  4. Participate in one of those never ending conference calls with TPA’s (Third Party Administrators) and get all of the required approvals (and probably put other customers on hold in the meantime)
  5. Contact your supplier for required parts via phone or online order
  6. Coordinate and schedule an appointment for the installation of the glass
  7. Invoice the person paying for the replacement
  8. Make collection calls for slow payers

And these are only some of the things that you have to do to properly take care of a customer.  Just think of all the different tasks that you do every day to run your business.

Then there’s the challenge of figuring out how to make the phone ring vianewspaper and Yellow Pages ads, internet advertising, social networking sites, and face-to-face sales calls to potential customers who you hope will send you referrals. There are countless other sales and marketing tactics that you can use to help customers to find your business, and you have to spend a lot of the time and money to make that happen.

Then there is the time that you spend managing the people who work for you, scheduling jobs, ordering parts, making sure that you’ve got the right materials to do a proper installation, and maintaining a clean and safe shop. You have to purchase trucks for mobile installations, and buy all of the different types of insurance for your business to operate. You have to keep records for your business, pay bills, hopefully pay yourself, and of course account for and pay taxes to the federal, state and sometimes local governments.  When you start to write down the list of things that you do, the tasks are endless.  The various skills that you need to be successful are truly impressive.

If you’re lucky enough to have a larger scale business, then you must find a number of dedicated people with similar skills who can help you to run the business as it continues to grow.  It’s an exciting and somewhat daunting task, isn’t it?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines FACTOTUM as, “a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities.”  The origin of FACTOTUM is Latin and the word literally means to “do everything.”  When you own a small business you have to wear a lot of hats.  You need a lot of knowledge about everything in your business.  There are many resources in our industry that can help you to run your business.  For example, there are a number of AGRR associations that can provide helpful inside information about our trade – the Independent Glass Association, the National Glass Association, NWRA and AGRSS® to name a few.

Running a business is hard to do.  Wearing all of those hats keeps you very busy and you’ve got to truly master countless parts of your business to keep a step ahead of suppliers, TPA’s, insurance companies, competitors and many others who often make running your business even more challenging.  It’s tiring to constantly focus on controlling costs. It takes a lot of work to find the right recipe for success that ensures that your business is profitable and viable.

But in the face of all of this, it’s worth the effort. Just know that you are indeed a FACTOTUM, so hold your head up high.


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Q & A with Deb Levy

I’m going to turn the blog over to Deb Levy today.  I asked her if she would mind answering a few questions that I think many of you would like to ask and she graciously agreed.  Deb wears countless hats in the glass industry she’s been a part of for the past 20+ years.  Since 1991 Deb has been the President and CEO of Key Communications, Inc. which publishes 8 industry related publications for the glass industry; she is the President of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards (AGRSS®) Council and sits on the board of the non-profit organization and a number of ANSI committees related to glass safety issues.

Thank you for agreeing to answer some questions in my blog Deb.  I know that you hold a special place in our industry and I think that there are many who are interested in you and your views on a number of topics.

If I asked you who you are both personally and professionally, how would your answer that?

Deb Levy:  They say you should go with your first thought and mine was an extremely busy, overweight, middle-aged woman… [laughs] but I don’t think that’s what you were looking for in an answer …

As a very successful and influential woman in an industry dominated by men, what do you see as opportunities today for women in the AGRR industry?

Deb Levy: The proverbial “glass ceiling” if you will, is beginning to break in the architectural glass industry and in the collision repair industry, I see pretty much the same opportunities for women as I see for men. One of the raps the auto glass industry has always gotten is that is can’t hang on to its talented people—they leave for other industries. And a lot of the talented people are women, so maybe they’ve moved on [another laugh]. I think I can recall all the women who have held top management positions at large auto glass companies in the past twenty years. One, sadly, is deceased, one has sold her business and the others have all moved on to other industries.

Do you think there are more opportunities for women in the industry today than when you first entered in 1981?

Deb Levy: Hard to say. When I first entered the industry, women had plenty of opportunity; what they didn’t have was visibility. Many of the best companies were actually run by women—husbands ran the installs, wives ran everything else. There are many successful companies that still use that model today. I believe there is a bit more opportunity for female technicians now, you see a few here and there while there were none in 1981, that’s a difference.

This is a hard question to answer I’m sure, but of all the things that you do in your professional life, what do you find most rewarding?

Deb Levy: Helping people for sure. If our company can help people get info to run their businesses better, or sell more products or increase the use of glass, that is extremely satisfying to me. Helping to make the industry safer also feels good. I’ve been involved with a number of glass safety issues over the years, including wired glass, glass furniture and safe auto glass issues, and knowing that improving glass safety can help save lives and avoid injury is very rewarding.

When you started glassBYTEs® did you anticipate it to be the main source of news in the glass industry so quickly?

Deb Levy: Honestly, no. We bought glassbytes.com® a number of years ago right as the Internet was exploding. Of all the industry segments we cover, the auto glass industry makes the most news and people really need a daily news vehicle to keep track of it all—and that’s what glassbytes® became—a daily electronic news service. We’ve worked hard to be the source of accurate, credible information whether through analysis in AGRR® magazine or daily on glassbytes©. People often tell me that glassbytes® is the most valuable business tool they have and that makes our staff feel great.

I have the honor of serving with you on the Board of AGRSS®.  We often hear comments from some in our industry that are wary of AGRSS® and there are others who seem to work to undermine AGRSS®.  Why do you think people are wary or try to undermine the goals of AGRSS®?

Deb Levy: Some of it is ignorance, in that they don’t really understand what AGRSS® is all about, that’s first. And some of it comes from the “bottom feeders”–those who work to undermine it and don’t have any intention of following a Standard or doing the job right. They are the equivalent of the school kid who is failing and wants everyone to fail with him. And some of it, frankly, is fear. Some companies fear what AGRSS® is and has become. They fear it may undermine their own business models. They are the equivalent of the school kid who tells you he’s a straight A student, but will never show you his own marks … and along comes this group of students who says “hey we are straight A students and we have independent verification of it.” How does the other school kid respond to them? He can’t so he tries to undermine them instead.

Is there anything that those who are supporters of AGRSS® can do to further the organization?

Deb Levy: Get involved. Ask questions. Participate. Contribute. Become a member. Come to Auto Glass Week in September to learn more about AGRSS and how to be part of it. There’s tons of things available for all levels of involvement.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for both flat and/or auto glass companies today?

Deb Levy: For both segments, the economy for sure is the major issue. Many companies in both segments continue to fight for survival. Eroding margins and loss of market share, especially in the auto glass arena, are very big challenges

Your publications are usually the ones asking the questions of the industries movers and shakers, how does it feel to be on the other side?

Deb Levy: It has given me a newfound appreciation for what they go through. I am looking forward to heading back to my side of the table.

Thank you very much for being willing and take the time to be the one answering the questions today.

Deb Levy:  Thanks David.

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I hope you enjoyed this blog.  I would appreciate any comments or thoughts you might like to share.  Until next time….

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