Archive for October, 2012

Just Sayin’ Blog – Hopes for the New Year (Fall Update)

We are now in the last quarter of the year; so how has 2012 been for you so far? In the first month of this year I posted a blog titled ‘Hopes for the New Year’ and then wrote a spring and summer update to that posting. When you take a look back over the past 9 months pretty much all the hopes for 2012 I had have fallen short.

The first hope was that:

“Our industry is affected by three key business drivers:  weather, the economy and miles driven. Sadly we have no control or influence over any of these so I’m hoping for some luck for 2012.”

The weather this year hasn’t been very cooperative for the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry. We started with a snowless winter in most of the northern states and as reported by HailReporter.com we’ve experienced about 2/3 of the hail storms that we had in 2011. You know that snow, ice and hail all are big influencers to auto glass breakage and all were busts (pun intended) this year.

Early in the year many experts forecasted the economy would be anemic. Most of those forecasts were accurate. Kiplinger.com provides a variety of information on financial advice and business forecasts via its Economic Outlook section of the website which they regularly update with current outlooks. As of September 27, 2012 Kiplinger reported that:

“The stubbornly tepid economy will persist for the rest of this year and next.”

“It’s clear now that job creation will continue at a sluggish pace in the second half of 2012.”

“The U.S. is likely to add fewer jobs this year than last — about 1.6 million, compared with 1.8 million in 2011.”

“Instead of lending, banks remain wary.”

“Higher gasoline prices pushed inflation in August to an annualized rate of over 7%.”

“Business managers will remain very cautious about expansion at least into the early half of 2013.”

Expect the recent roller coaster in oil prices to keep on going a while longer.”

“Rising prices of fuel and other goods pose a risk to the increased growth rate, even as consumers shrug off anemic job growth and continue to spend.

Not very positive views from Kiplinger’s relating to another key influencer – the economy – to the AGRR industry.

Miles driven had been trending upward this year, but with rising gasoline prices the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Commission reports that as of July 2012 miles driven starting heading lower again. Earlier this year many forecasted that 2012 would not be a good year for gasoline prices and it appears that the forecasts were fairly accurate. This is the time of year when historically prices decline, but even though the price of oil has moderated; issues with a number of gasoline refineries across the country has caused prices to go higher as reported by a GasBuddy.com blog. The AGRR industry would like to see miles driven go back to the peak levels of seen in 2007 – 2008 for this key influencer.

The second hope was that someone becomes a market leader for the AGRR industry. I’m not holding my breath, but I’m still hoping for that one. My third hope was for fewer imported (non OEM) auto glass parts in 2012 so that prices might be able to stabilize. There may be fewer imports this year, but that’s only because the overall market size is down. The fourth hope was that every windshield be installed according to the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard – AGRSS®. It’s the right thing to do for your customers.

 

The fifth and final hope was that somebody would step up and compete against Safelite® at the both the retail and network level. It was a tall order considering the extremely envious dominant position that it enjoys with its strong retail and network. It’s not as though there aren’t individuals or companies at all levels of the AGRR industry with the unrelenting goal (and hope) of providing consumers with an alternative. At some point you have to believe that insurers and fleets might become wary of the tremendous influence the market leader has achieved with its dominant market position. It’s hard for me to see how Safelite® could maintain its market position or really grow its market share larger long-term. Unless they are willing to restart its acquisition program or maintain the onslaught of media advertising over the long-haul it’s going to be tough for Safelite® to move its sales upward in a meaningful way. Time is running out this year, but who knows what the New Year will bring.

 

Here’s hoping that in the last three months of 2012 you’re seeing positive signs pointing to improvement in your business or at the place that you’re working.

Just sayin’……….

 

 

Cartoon courtesy of Tom Fishburne

 

 

 

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Inconvenient Truth(s)

An inconvenient truth is a truth that no one likes to admit, but it is the truth nonetheless. A number of these inconvenient truths exist in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry and everyone in the industry deals with them every day.

 

 

Over the years it has become more and more difficult to find success in the AGRR industry. Once upon a time, anyone could own a retail auto glass company and survive, but I think that has changed. One inconvenient truth is that some in our industry aren’t going to survive. As an owner you’ve got to master many new tasks that didn’t even exist 10+ years ago and some owners just aren’t capable of doing so. As a business owner you’ve got to figure out how to attract customers, especially in a time when the weather, the economy and miles driven are working against your business.

As we entered the new millennium, who in our industry really would have seen the need to understand the concept of search engine optimization (SEO) for a “website”? Who would see social media sites such as Facebook™, Twitter™, Craigslist, etc. becoming such an important way to market and communicate with customers; or that the Yellow Page Book™ that we once relied on would become a relic of the past?

Who, other than Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple®, would have thought that you could ask someone called Siri, the lady that lives inside my iPhone to list the “closest auto glass shops” near where I live in Chicago. Siri told me “Careful with the broken glass, David,” and then she gave me a listing of fifteen AGRR shops with two names (Safelite® Auto Glass and Gerber Collision & Glass) you’d easily recognize in the market because both are big advertisers in the local media. I also told Siri I was looking for “auto glass in Chicago” and she told me “I found fifteen glass repair shops in Chicago:” followed by a slightly different list of companies, but including the same two names aforementioned. Somebody is paying attention to their internet strategy aren’t they? Are you?

How convenient you make it for your customers to interact with you online will contribute to your future success. If you’re not willing to embrace innovative ways to grow your business in the ever changing marketplace you compete, you will not attract the customers willing to pay you the best price for the products and services that you provide. The truth is that if you’re going to survive and thrive as an AGRR retailer or as a network, you have to know that no one is going to turn the clock back to make it easier for you to be successful in your business. You have to compete in the marketplace with the hand that is dealt to you each day and if for some reason the way business is done changes tomorrow, you’ve got to figure out how to deal with it.

 

Another inconvenient truth is that AGRR networks provide great value to the clients that utilize the various services offered. As much as those who don’t participate in networks complain about the existence of them; clients vote with their feet and they obviously perceive value in the bundled services that networks provide. Can, or will, that change? Certainly it can change, but in the absence of a client deciding to take back direct responsibility for managing its AGRR losses (or a new platform that could take the place of the current networks that operate in the AGRR industry) it’s unlikely. We could certainly see movement of clients from one network to another network in the coming year(s) of course; and depending upon the relationship that your company has with the network that “wins” a new client you can hope that more profitable jobs come your way. But if that hope is what you need to make your business successful you might look for another source of jobs that you have more control over.

 

And staying on the topic of networks; I don’t think that a network that utilizes a “buy/sell” or “spread” (when the network “buys” the glass repair or replacement from an AGRR retailer providing the repair or replacement and then “sells” the repair or replacement to its client at a higher price) pricing model for its clients can continue to exist long-term in the marketplace. Relying on the AGRR retailers who actually do the repairs and replacements to accept lower and lower prices, while continuing to provide high quality repairs and replacements has to someday hit a wall. At some point AGRR retailers will push back and the networker that only makes profit on the “spread”  is going to have difficulty providing its clients with the same levels of service other competitors can provide in the marketplace. Those networkers must know this.

 

You can’t really find the greatest success in your business without surrounding yourself with the best people you can find. Basketball legend John Wooden was quoted as saying,

Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.” 

Sound advice from a true winner.

If you’ve been in the AGRR industry for a while you’ll remember one of the true gentlemen that help build it –Larry Anderson, President of Harmon Auto Glass back when it was a part of Apogee Enterprises, Inc. On his office desk in Minneapolis there was a small sign that read “Delegate Authority. Ruthlessly.” Larry surrounded himself with many of the best in the industry. There are some owners in the AGRR industry who don’t value the people that work for them. You can’t be successful if you don’t take care of those who work for you and let them have a voice.

 

Yet another inconvenient truth is that just because you have money, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to find success in the AGRR industry. History has proven that businesses owned and managed by those who have direct experience in the industry find the greatest success. Sadly, those that don’t have the experience, regardless of the size of their checkbooks, historically have tended to not be successful.

 

In writing my blog posts over the past year I’ve tried to raise issues about which I think those in the AGRR industry (or are associated with it) should give thought. I know that there are more inconvenient truths regarding the industry that no one likes to admit that I’ve not touched on, so please let me know what yours are.

Just sayin’……

 

  

 

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