Archive for July, 2012

Just Sayin’ Blog – A Lesson in Perseverance

(Autographed Pin Flag from Ernie Els last major win in 2002 at The Open Championship held in Scotland)

Perseverance is a key trait to achieving success in any undertaking. It doesn’t matter if it’s a personal one or one that you have in your business life. It doesn’t matter whether the undertaking is a big or small one. The ability to maintain an unrelenting focus on any goal that you are pursuing requires you to work through the difficulties and obstacles that confront you.

This past Sunday you saw that trait in the 2012 Champion Golfer of the Year – Ernie Els – by his winning The Open Championship that was played this past week at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club in Lancanshire, England. The Open is the 3rd of the four majors (The Masters, The U.S. Open, The Open Championship, and The PGA Championship) which are held each year and where winning one of them defines a PGA Tour player’s career.

Sunday’s final round was a test for the 83 tour players who had made the cut after the end of the second round on Friday. Only Ernie and 8 other players were able to shoot under par on Sunday with Ernie carding a 2 under par. After 72 holes were played during The Open Championship this year only 18 golfers scored level par or better. Ernie was able to put pressure on Adam Scott who had started the final round in the lead at 11 under par and who led the tournament through 16 holes. Ernie made a crucial birdie putt on the final hole of his round that placed added pressure on Adam Scott who ended up bogeying the final 4 holes on Sunday and saw his goal of winning his first major championship slip away.

Ernie Els is a storied professional golfer who has certainly had great successes in his 22 year career, but at 42 years of age he hadn’t had a win on the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour since 2010 (the Arnold Palmer Invitational) and earlier this year he was questioning whether he would ever be able to find a way to win again, let alone win a coveted major. With all the success Ernie had achieved in his career he seemed to have lost many of the considerable natural talents, along with ones he had developed over years of practice that together made him a successful PGA Tour Pro. Over the past several years he changed a number of people he surrounded himself with who he felt could help him find the right mix of ingredients that would allow him the opportunity to win again. As he focused on 2012 he had a number of heartbreaking near misses at winning tournaments which would have allowed him to gain an invitation to The 2012 Masters Tournament, a tournament which he had played for 19 consecutive years. Having suffered that professional setback to his career Ernie continued to work on his game, despite many opining that his career was over or certainly had to degrade to a level where he would be unable to again regain the level of play he had achieved.

Ernie’s ability to utilize all of his talents to emerge as The Open Champion this year is a testament to his perseverance. After winning he thanked his wife Leizl, along with his daughter Samantha and his son Ben for all the support they give him. Ernie also thanked a number of others who stood by him as he worked his way through the many issues that he faced in his journey to again win. And winning a major; a feat he felt he may have never achieve again, but did with hard work, dedication and perseverance.

If you operate a business in the retail or wholesale automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry; or if your business sells products to those in the industry, 2012 has probably been a year full of difficulties and obstacles requiring you to show perseverance. As I mentioned in a recent blog titled “Hopes for the New Year (Summer Update)”, the key drivers – the weather, the economy and miles driven – have not been trending positively this year and have been affecting many (6 out of every 7 of you in a recent survey question I asked) in the industry. Without those key drivers being a help to many in the industry, business owners and those who lead organizations are required to find solutions which will allow them to survive the negative environment we find ourselves. How you persevere and deal with the issues your business faces today will have a long-lasting effect on your business and for all the people who work for you. The various steps that you’re taking now will unquestionably determine whether your company will be able to take advantage of opportunities that will certainly exist in your market when the key drivers turn positive and business improves. What steps are you focusing on in your business to ensure that you’re in position to take advantage of your competition when the current environment begins to improve?

Ernie Els didn’t lose sight of what was most important for him to focus on during Sunday’s final round at The Open and that was his own game. He could only do his best, making the best decisions in ensuring that he played at the highest level he could which would allow him to post the lowest score possible and put him in a position to win. Ernie was able to accomplish that by changing his strategy on how he was going to play those final 9 holes. He knew he was lagging behind and that Adam Scott was leading by 4 strokes with just a few holes to play. Ernie decided that he would become aggressive in how he played those final holes. At age 42 he never lost hope that he could play with against the best golfers in the World and find a way to win. By utilizing skills he had accumulated over his lifetime; and with the help of those he surrounded himself and trusted most he once again found the path to success and to win and win a major.

It certainly isn’t easy to make the hard choices that business owners or business managers must make in order to be fully prepared for when business does improve, but those who just sit by and watch their market share dwindle as they hope for better days aren’t going to be in a position to take advantage of opportunities when they do appear. You have to be able to take an honest look at your business and assess the value proposition that your business brings to customers in your market, you have to evaluate the capabilities of your competitors and take all of the appropriate steps that you can to ensure that you are positioned correctly, which will allow you to take advantage when things do improve in your market.

Ask those people closest to you that you trust and respect for their opinions; solicit their honest views of the pros and cons of your abilities, of your company in the marketplace, ask them about their views of your fellow workers. Are you marketing your company properly? Are you just copying what your competitors are doing or are you trying new things to improve how your business operates? You can’t just sit back and hope for the key drivers to improve because they might not improve fast enough, you certainly can’t just sit back hoping that a competitor or two in your market will falter or that something else will somehow happen to improve your business prospects. You have to focus on what can you do to improve your business; without worrying what others are doing around you. What steps can you take to ensure that you’re ready when things turn positive for you in your market?

You will find that by your continually working hard to find ways to improve how you market or position your business to your customers, making sure that you have the right mix of talented people to work with you in your business and then ensuring that your business is operating as a “low cost” provider in your market that you will be prepared to find new success and to win in your marketplace when the key drivers begin to improve. Work through difficulties and obstacles that you face so that you can persevere.

Admittedly, sometimes even by working hard and being dedicated to your business things may not work out for you, but you can’t stop trying. Ernie Els never gave up on his goal. He believed that if he worked hard and continued to tweak his game; he’d find a way to beat his fellow competitors and win again.

So can you.

Just Sayin’……

 

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Interview with Marc Talbert – Guardian Auto Glass

Today I’m talking with Marc Talbert, Vice President and Managing Partner with Guardian Auto Glass, LLC.   Marc was formerly the president of PGW Auto Glass Wholesale, LLC until he left the auto glass manufacturer and wholesaler in late 2009. In the Fall of 2010 Marc, along with Jim Latch (a former executive with PGW Auto Glass and PPG Industries, Inc.); and Jerry Ray and Neil Smith (who passed away on June 17, 2011) who together were founders involved with Glass Pro and Elite Auto Glass formed a partnership titled LRST LLC. The four equal partners joined with Guardian Industries and LRST was given the management responsibilities of Guardian Auto Glass, LLC. This unique partnership was formed to grow the number of stores under the Guardian Auto Glass banner. The goal is for Guardian Auto Glass to provide automobile glass repair and replacement (AGRR) services using a local ownership/management model. The model looks very similar to the one that Wes Topping and his partners (including Jerry Ray and Neil Smith) used to rapidly grow Elite Auto Glass across the western United States before selling to Belron in 2005. Guardian Industries Corp. had owned the platform for years.  At this time Guardian Auto Glass operates over 90 stores in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

DR:  I know that you and your partners have been busy the past two years working on growing Guardian Auto Glass and I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today Marc.

MT:  Thank you for the opportunity to participate.

 DR:  What year did you get your start in the AGRR industry and what was your first position in the industry?

MT:  My ARG (automotive replacement glass) experience began in 1994 as manager of PPG’s branch distribution centers in Dallas/Ft Worth.  I started my career with PPG in 1980.

 DR:  What were the positions and responsibilities you’ve had since you first started in the industry in 1994?

MT:  I relocated to Southern California in 1995 as manager of PPG’s western distribution locations, then to Pittsburgh in 2003 with responsibility for PPG Auto Glass, LLC.

 DR:  Which of those jobs did you find most interesting and why? And which was the worst one and why?

MT:  Honestly all were equally interesting because they presented increasing challenges and responsibilities.  Working in the field for the first 23 years of my career I anticipated the move to PPG’s corporate office would be the most intimidating, but I was fortunate to work with some very good people who made the transition much easier, and even enjoyable.

 DR:  You left PGW Auto Glass in 2009 as a President and your responsibilities at PGW included wholesale sales and distribution for the company. What made you jump from the wholesale side of the AGRR industry to retail?

MT:  I had the opportunity to partner with Jim Latch who I had worked with at PPG and two of our long-time customers Jerry Ray and Neil Smith.   Jerry and Neil brought significant and successful retail experience along with a proven business model, and together we saw an opportunity to partner with a company like Guardian to expand their retail business.   There remains quite a gap between the largest US retail provider and the next largest and one of our goals is to try and reduce this gap.

DR:  About a year after you entered the LRST partnership Neil Smith sadly passed away. Did his passing change the plans you’d made in your goals at Guardian Auto Glass?

MT:  Neil’s passing was certainly a shock to us and we miss his experience and counsel every day, not to mention his humor.  Our plans to grow Guardian Auto Glass will be more difficult to achieve without Neil but we have not altered our plans.

DR:  What are your key responsibilities at Guardian Auto Glass?

MT:  Jerry and I share the responsibilities for new market growth and acquisitions, and Jim has responsibility for managing the legacy Guardian locations and our administrative support center in Worthington, Ohio.  We all share responsibility for the management of Guardian Auto Glass.

DR:  Did you find the retail side of the AGRR industry a little harder than you had expected it to be?

MT:  I think you ultimately have similar issues with retail and distribution, or any business for that matter.  As you effectively pointed out in a recent blog you try to attract the best people and provide enough support for them to succeed without bogging them down with non-value added work.  That is the focus of our business and the core of our local ownership model, and what we believe differentiates Guardian Auto Glass in each of our markets.  Having local owners with a stake in our collective success changes many aspects and costs of traditional corporate management, and we believe is the key to growing profitably. 

The primary difference we’ve learned in retail is the need in some cases and with certain third-party administrators to retain customers who have chosen a Guardian Auto Glass location to complete work we’ve already sold through our local marketing and customer relationships.   This is a dynamic we did not face in distribution and one we are increasingly concerned with.

DR:  How many brick and mortar locations did Guardian Auto Glass have before you partnered with Guardian on this new venture versus the number that the company has today? How are you doing on achieving the strategic goals that were set for the first two years of the venture?

MT:  We currently pay rent at over 90 locations and I believe Guardian had 25-30 locations when we started.    The economy and lack of weather is certainly not generating a tailwind for us this year but we have continued to expand as anticipated and build a competitive infrastructure.

DR:  Many in the industry are waiting for Guardian Auto Glass to do something with the call center/third party administration (TPA) that you operate, especially with Jim Latch participation in the partnership. Does Guardian Auto Glass have any plans to become a bigger factor in the call center or TPA side of the industry?

MT:  Guardian’s network is not part of Guardian Auto Glass and is not operated by LRST.   As you point out Jim’s experience in this area provides a unique opportunity for us and we anticipate working with Guardian’s network to help expand both businesses. 

 DR:  What advice can you offer other retailers on how to successfully compete against Safelite®?

MT:  I don’t think we are in a position to provide advice to anyone, but we are concerned as I’m sure many ARG retailers are with maintaining access to our customers who have chosen to have their vehicle glass serviced by one of our Guardian Auto Glass locations.   We will continue to direct our efforts and investments in building our local customer relationships, and retaining access to those customers will be an area of increased focus for us going forward.

 DR:  Where do you see Guardian Auto Glass in 5 years? What will make you and your partners feel that it will be a success?

MT: Our mission is to grow profitably through our local ownership model and to continue our expansion, so we will need to see how we measure up at the end of our 5th year.   We remain excited about the opportunities in the ARG retail market and will continue to seek strategic partners and existing businesses in all markets to help us reach our goals. 

 DR:  How’s your golf game coming along? I know that in some circles you’re considered to be a tough guy to beat in a game.

MT:  Must be very small circles, however I would welcome a rematch with you and others free from the constraints of customer golf.

DR:  Perhaps. I look forward to the opportunity to a rematch. Some of my team members I’m going to change out, as I would guess you will too. Loser pays?

Thank you again for taking the time to talk with me Marc. I know that many in the industry are looking for someone, some company to step up and take on Safelite. Perhaps Guardian Auto Glass can be one that does. Good luck in achieving the goals that you have for Guardian Auto Glass.

Just sayin’….

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