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Seize the Day

World

The coronavirus is possibly the most significant disruptor to companies in the automotive aftermarket repair industries that you’ll experience in your lifetime. It’s solely up to you and your business associates to navigate the turmoil it has caused. How your business survives this black swan event will be determined by how well you can develop new strategies that will benefit your company.

It’s interesting to see how some market leaders in automotive aftermarket repair segments have completely pulled budgeted advertising spend in the face of an 18.6% decrease in miles driven in March 2020 versus March 2019, as reported by the U.S. Department of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration.

During business downturns, historically, companies that continue to keep their marketing and sales strategies in play often capture market share from companies that dramatically reduce spending in those areas. Marketing, advertising, and sales costs are often the easiest to slow or stop completely and then restart.

If you’ve been unable to match the typical spend of the market leader you compete against during good times, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make an impact with potential customers and be known as someone who stepped up long after the market leader restarts marketing spend for attention.

Don’t sit back and wait for your company to recover from the coronavirus downturn; make sure that you, your company, and your personnel are participating in activities that help your community weather this storm. Be sure that you’re seen in the community as someone willing to step up and help others in need. That could be volunteering time and work in the market you serve, offering to deliver meals to healthcare workers, first responders, charities, or offer special discounts for healthcare workers who use your services.

Now is not the time to wait and see what happens. Now is the time to be seen as someone in your city that everyone can count on in difficult times. If you do that, not only will it make you feel good, but it should provide your business with the benefit of new opportunities when we return to normal.

Just Sayin’

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

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Being Thankful

When I woke up the morning of Tuesday, March 19, 2019 I was feeling great. That day began the best sporting event and for me the greatest time of the year. The first play-in games for NCAA Men’s Basketball’s March Madness 2019 featuring Belmont versus Temple and Prairie View versus Fairleigh Dickenson. What I didn’t know was that just a couple of hours later I’d be dead. Not what you could consider the best start for the day. I’m writing this months later, so obviously I didn’t die. My being able to write this is nothing short of a miracle. An amazing number of interconnected actions taken by a number of equally amazing people who in my eyes are all heroes saved my life.

That day started like most of my days by having coffee and reading. Shortly after 10:30 a.m. my wife and I were sitting talking when I suffered sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). I was literally alive one second and dead the next. SCA is defined by The Mayo Clinic:

“Sudden cardiac arrest is the abrupt loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness. The condition usually results from an electrical disturbance in your heart that disrupts its pumping action, stopping blood flow to your body.”

My wife knew immediately that I was gone. She called 9-1-1 from our home phone and the dispatcher that answered, after quickly confirming the address she was calling from, instructed her to immediately begin Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).

Within a couple of minutes of calling 9-1-1 a police officer arrived at the front door. Fortunately the officer was only a few blocks away when he received the call over his radio. After quickly letting the officer into the house he took over giving me CPR. After five to six minutes from my wife’s call to 9-1-1 paramedics arrived at the house to take over for the police officer.

The paramedics found me unresponsive with no pulse. They attempted shocking me with a defibrillator several times and were unsuccessful restarting my heart. At the same time the paramedics began utilizing a device called the LUCAS 3 Chest Compression System. According to the web site for the maker of the LUCAS 3 it:

“Deliver(s) high-performance, continuous chest compressions with less strain, micromanagement, and risk for the caregiver. The LUCAS chest compression system, provides benefits both to the cardiac arrest patient and the resuscitation team.”

I was incredibly fortunate that the city I live in had equipped the ambulance that was sent to provide assistance to me with the LUCAS 3 and the paramedics were trained in its proper use. Not all cities equip ambulances with this device.

After the initial call to 9-1-1, my wife, a police officer and a team of paramedics working non-stop to resuscitate me finally got a pulse 15 minutes later. One of the biggest concerns of SCA is a lack of oxygen to essential organs, especially the brain. That is why immediately initiating CPR and continually providing CPR until a pulse is found is so critical. The incredible efforts of my wife, the police officer and the paramedic team who together provided me CPR allowed me the chance to survive SCA.

It’s important to understand that 95% of people who suffer SCA in their homes die before making it to a hospital. Those are pretty daunting odds to overcome. The American Heart Association web site states:

“The majority of cardiac arrest survivors have some degree of brain injury and impaired consciousness. Some remain in a persistent vegetative state.”

The chances of surviving SCA and suffering no brain injury is less than 1%.

After finding a pulse paramedics then asked which hospital my wife wanted me to be taken. There are two major hospitals where I live, and both are within 6 minutes from my home. My wife wasn’t sure which hospital would be best as we hadn’t been to either and she asked for input, but the first responders said they weren’t allowed to make  recommendations. As my wife was thinking which one to choose someone in the room said the name of a hospital. A few minutes later I was taken from the house, placed in the ambulance and transported to that hospital. As it turned out whoever in the room spoke up provided me a better chance of surviving SCA.

Once I arrived at the emergency room you can imagine that I was receiving a great deal of medical attention. Within minutes of arriving a chaplain took my wife to meet the cardiologist who spoke with my wife about my condition. He informed her that I was in extremely critical condition and the chances of my surviving SCA was minute-by-minute. The doctor was asking her questions to learn about his patient. He was already aware of what had happened and my current grave condition, but what he didn’t know was my prior medical history before SCA and he wanted to understand my quality of life before today.  My wife told him that I was the strongest person that she knew and if anyone was capable of surviving SCA it was me. After speaking to my wife the doctor decided to aggressively treat me, and I was moved to a cath lab to check my heart. They found that I had total blockage in one of my arteries which was a contributing factor causing SCA. Two stints were placed in the artery.

While I was in the cath lab another doctor came to see my wife in a small waiting room available for immediate family members. This doctor wanted to talk with her about putting me into a therapeutic hypothermia. John Hopkins Medicine describes the procedure as:

“Therapeutic hypothermia can help only some people who have had cardiac arrest. Some people regain consciousness right after cardiac arrest. These people often do not need this procedure. It is helpful only for people whose heartbeat returns after a sudden cardiac arrest. If the heartbeat doesn’t restart soon, it won’t help. Therapeutic hypothermia can be a good choice if the heart restarted but you are still not responsive. It can raise the chance that you will wake up.”

I had not regained consciousness once I had been resuscitated by the paramedics therefore I was a good candidate for the therapeutic hypothermia procedure. By cooling my body I would have the greatest chance of saving brain functionality, but there were also risks associated with my having the procedure. The hospital that I was transported utilized an internal cooling process that introduces cooled fluids intravenously to cool my entire body to a temperature below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The procedure would entail keeping my body cooled to that temperature for 24+ hours in an attempt to limit damage to my brain. The other hospital I could have been transported did a similar procedure, but that hospital used cooling blankets and not intravenous fluids. If I had already suffered brain damage the procedure doesn’t reverse the effects, the procedure just helps to reduce further damage.

After suffering SCA everything that could have gone right on that morning did. Taken all together it was the perfect storm for me where literally every minute counts in a SCA timeline.

  1. I wasn’t alone when I suffered the SCA
  2. My wife called 9-1-1 and immediately began CPR
  3. A police officer was only a couple of minutes away and once he arrived he continued giving me CPR
  4. The paramedics who arrived at my home were equipped with a LUCAS 3 which provided me the best chance to keep pumping blood to my vital organs and oxygen to my brain
  5. I was only a few minutes away from a hospital
  6. I was incredibly fortunate that the cardiologist treating me in the emergency room that morning aggressively treated me regardless of my critical condition
  7. I was transported to a hospital that had a doctor and equipment capable of providing me the therapeutic hypothermia intravenous procedure

I was released from the hospital 8 days after I arrived at the emergency room and my life quickly returned to normal. I have no memory of experiencing SCA. I have no memory of being in the hospital except for the last day. I know the distress that I caused family and friends, but I have no recollection of feeling any pain or discomfort. Based on what I now know I experienced severe pain so having no memory of it is a blessing.

Subsequent to fully recovering from SCA I’ve learned a few things. The cardiologist that treated me had recently joined a practice at the hospital that I was transported. He had moved into the area from another state and had been recruited to join the hospital team due to his medical expertise related to the heart. I was lucky that he was the doctor on call providing treatment to me in the emergency room. Based on my medical condition many doctors wouldn’t have taken the extraordinary steps he did to treat me. I was without a pulse for 15 minutes and the chances of my arriving at the hospital alive were less than 5%. I had a 1 in 5 chance to survive after arriving at the hospital alive. If I was the 1 patient who survived then there was little chance that I would have full brain functionality.

Once my cardiologist decided to have me taken to the cath lab, if I had died, my death would have been recorded against him and his treatment decisions. In a world were scores matter he took a risk with me. A risk that he was willing to take regardless of the outcome. With my cardiologist making the decision to treat me, that allowed the therapeutic hypothermia procedure to be scheduled. This procedure causes the body to shiver uncontrollably and required my being given paralytic drugs to ensure that I didn’t move during the procedure. The cooling process causes intense pain and they also gave me drugs for the pain and drugs to ensure that I had limited brain activity. My prognosis was grave. Family members were told to expect the worse. Family and friends who are medical professionals who fully understood my condition expected the worse.

After 24+ hours the cooling procedure is slowly reversed to bring the body temperature back to normal. The procedure is considered successful if the patient regains consciousness 24 to 48 hours after the body is back to normal temperature. It could take a patient up to 7 days to awake from the procedure. The cooling process began Tuesday afternoon with the warming process starting late Wednesday afternoon. There was no way to know how I would awaken from the cooling. It was possible that I would never regain consciousness and die, it was possible that I could live and be in a vegetative state, it was possible that I could awake with severe brain damage, it was possible that I could awake with some brain damage or I could awake with no brain damage. To awaken with no loss of functionality is unusual.

Between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. each morning the hospital had asked that family and friends not be present which allowed them to perform patient tasks. My wife stayed in my room each night and she’d go home during those hours. On Thursday morning when she was leaving at 8 a.m. she was told that the earliest I could be starting to awake from the cooling process would be later that day. When she returned a little after 10 a.m. she was told that I was awake and had already been taken off the ventilator. The doctor arrived and asked me the name of the President of the United States, what year it was and my wife’s name, along with a few other rudimentary tasks such asking me to wiggle my toes. I’m told that I quickly and correctly answered his questions and performed the tasks requested. Over the next few hours and days nurses asked my wife if  I was acting normal and was this my personality. She responded that it was. I’m not sure exactly why they asked that.

As you can imagine I consider myself incredibly blessed that I survived sudden cardiac arrest. The fact that I survived with zero loss of brain functionality is a miracle. There is no question that the prayers of family, friends and strangers made all the difference.

Those who know me will know that I’m a private person. There are relatively very few people, including friends, who know that I suffered SCA this past March. The only reason that I’m telling this story now is that since I suffered SCA a number of family and friends have gone to their doctors for checkups to see if they have any heart issues. Their rational is that if this could happen to me, someone who most believed was in very good health, SCA could certainly happen to them.

There are a number of simple tests you can take to see if you should make changes in your lifestyle, including diet, exercise or medications to dramatically improve your heart health. One of them is an inexpensive procedure called a heart scan, also known as a coronary calcium CT scan. If you follow that link you’ll learn that Mayo Clinic will tell you that:

“A heart scan, also known as a coronary calcium scan, is a specialized X-ray test that provides pictures of your heart that can help your doctor detect and measure calcium-containing plaque in the arteries.

Plaque inside the arteries of your heart can grow and restrict blood flow to the muscles of the heart. Measuring calcified plaque with a heart scan may allow your doctor to identify possible coronary artery disease before you have signs and symptoms.

Your doctor will use your test results to determine if you may need medication or lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of heart attack or other heart problems.”

As I mentioned, family and friends have taken this simple inexpensive (locally it costs under $ 100) procedure to find out if some changes in your life are needed. Several of those who’ve taken this scan have learned that they needed to take immediate steps because of the results. I wished that I would have known about this scan before I suffered SCA as it would have allowed doctors to properly treat me prior to having my heart stop for 15 minutes.

In the movie The Princess Bride, Miracle Max the Wizard, played by Billy Crystal, had a line saying “Turns out your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. See, mostly dead is still slightly alive.” It’s now easy for me to joke about what happened as my outcome couldn’t have been better. I will be eternally grateful for the actions taken by the 9-1-1 dispatcher, the incredible police officer and paramedics who gave me CPR and got me to the hospital alive, for the two life-saving doctors who treated me at the hospital who provided me extraordinary care, for the nurses and staff in the emergency room, ICU and recovery who cared for me and talked to me constantly while I was unconscious and during recovery leading to my full recovery, to family and friends who were by my side or were aware of what had happened praying for my recovery and especially to my wife who initially called 9-1-1 and gave me CPR until others arrived to help.

I can tell you that surviving SCA and all that I experienced since that day is overwhelming at times. To consider the odds of me surviving and suffering no brain damage is difficult for me to fathom. As you can imagine I’ve gone through a number of tests subsequent to experiencing SCA and my doctor found that I also suffered no damage to my heart which is unusual. For me every new day is a blessing. I’m looking forward to spending a long time with family and friends and I’m looking forward to March Madness in the years to come. That reminds me of the Yiddish proverb, “Man plans. God laughs.”

I would strongly advise anyone who reads this to have a coronary calcium CT or heart scan as soon as you can schedule one. It could save your life.

Just sayin’.

being thankful

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What Will Winter 2019 – 2020 Bring?

Winter 2019 2020 v2 Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

If you read the recent “Farmers’ Almanac’s Extended Forecast 2020” article on the outlook for the coming Winter in North America you’d have seen that it’s predicted to be what the self-proclaimed provider of “perception, experience, and common sense” is calling a “Polar Coaster”. Their forecast for this Winter anticipates that we will experience bitter cold from the Rockies to the Appalachians. A forecast likes this tends to be great news for the retail automotive aftermarket as weather extremes are a key driver whether you’re in the Emergency Roadside Service (ERS) industry or the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry.

For 201 years the Farmers’ Almanac has been providing seasonal weather predictions and this Winter the worst areas for cold and snow include the Northern Plains, Great Lakes Region all the way to the Northeast. The prediction indicates that the worst weather could take place from late January through early February.

Winter weather often brings feast or famine to the automotive aftermarket depending on whether it’s a colder or warmer season. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a manufacturer of products used by the automotive industry’s that operate in the aftermarket, a company distributing replacement parts into markets across North America or a retailer providing services to the end user, the spikes in opportunities that cold weather extremes bring includes probable logistical and supply issues. Potential issues that extreme cold, ice and snow brings can include keeping plants open and fulfilling increased parts orders, keeping delivery vehicles on the road getting those products to the retailers who also have to deal with scheduling repairs that come along with the increased opportunities.

With the current historically low unemployment rates that we’re seeing across North America an extreme Winter also will bring additional stress due to difficulties finding those qualified to manufacture, distribute and provide repairs that consumers and businesses alike will require. Currently there are numerous examples of difficulty finding and keeping qualified technicians in both the AGRR and ERS industry’s. In the AGRR industry a glass repair or replacement can often be deferred for some period of time, but weather extremes effect on automotive batteries will drive volume spikes in jump starts and replacement opportunities putting strains on companies that provide services in the ERS space.

So if the Farmers’ Almanac prediction turns out to be accurate for Winter 2019 – 2020, has your company planned and prepared its best so that you can take care of your customers parts and service needs? Those who have done the best job planning before any extreme cold, ice and snow appears will be the ones able to capitalize on the opportunities that are available.

Just sayin’.

 

* Photo by Vel Vesa on Unsplash

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The New Normal

Today the competitive landscape in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry in the United States was dramatically altered. We saw this morning an announcement that Safelite, the largest company in the space, purchased the second largest company. As the clear market leader Safelite was perhaps 14+ times or so larger than TruRoad Holdings. By acquiring the companies that make up TruRoad and bringing them into the Safelite platform the gulf between Safelite and the possible number two AGRR company Glass America is even more gigantic.

You’d have to believe that auto insurers, fleets and even consumers would have a strong interest in ensuring that competition continues to exist for AGRR services. Insurers and fleets especially would have interest in seeing a strong national competitor emerge to keep pricing and service levels in check considering the market share Safelite controls. The prospect of building a true competitor and all that would be required to compete against Safelite in the marketplace would be an incredibly daunting task and in my opinion is highly unlikely considering the new competitive landscape in the AGRR space with Safelite acquiring TruRoad.

Baseball player and coach Yogi Berra was once quoted as saying when asked about the chances of the New York Yankees winning a pennant race one year, “It ain’t over til it’s over.” I’m sorry to say that competition in the AGRR space might be over. Welcome to the new normal.

Just sayin’

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Telling It Like It Is

After a 29-year career, Johnny Miller retired this past Saturday from his job as a golf analyst for NBC Sports and the Golf Channel. Before he took the role as an analyst sitting in broadcast booths located on the 18th greens of golf tournaments, Johnny spent 28 years as a PGA golf pro. As a golf analyst, he was known for his blunt commentary of the play of professional golfers whom he critiqued. Johnny’s style was to never hold back on his opinions while offering positive or negative comments of a pros play. There were a number of pros who often didn’t appreciate Johnny’s comments on their play, but the television audience appreciated the honesty and teaching moments he provided to amateur golfers with his golf analysis. During Johnny’s career he covered 355 golf tournaments in 33 states and 14 countries around the world. Among those tournaments were 29 Players Championships, 20 U.S. Opens, 14 Ryder Cups, 9 Presidents Cups, 3 Opens (British Opens) and 1 World Olympic (Rio). I trust that Johnny will enjoy his retirement and hope that there is someone willing to step into his big shoes and continues telling it like it is.

In business, leaders should surround themselves with people like Johnny Miller who are unafraid to provide:

  1. advice or critique of a potential strategy or tactic under consideration,
  2. views on key promotions or new hires to supplement leadership teams,
  3. opinions on the value of new products or suppliers and
  4. views on potential acquisitions or divestitures being considered, just to name a few.

Those willing to be vocal and share their opinions even when they may not be appreciated are, in my view, one of the most important traits of your most valuable employees. Leaders should be able to surround themselves with those who are unafraid of telling it like it is. By the way, just because they share their views doesn’t mean that their ideas are correct and as a leader you have to follow them, but I would suggest you should still listen.

I’ve greatly valued, even more importantly highly respected, those that I worked with who readily offered their views of a strategy I wanted to follow as either a good, bad or how it could be improved upon. I would suggest that leaders recruit those willing to be like Johnny. So I’d like to say to those like Johnny in my career like Ernie, Charlie, Byron, Mark, John M., David (RIP), Larry, Kevin, Alan, Rick, Ronnie (RIP), Adrian, Louis, Sandy, Nate, Chuck, Jeff, Heather, Terry, Chris, Steve M., Bre, Darshan, Rodney, Warren, Rachel, Ros, Brendan, Robert and Steve K., thank you each very much. (There’s many, many more I could thank.)

Over the years many pros who initially were angered hearing Johnny’ negative televised critiques of their play later grew to appreciate and value his unvarnished reviews. To those whom I worked for who took my suggestions or comments poorly over the years I offer my apologies. But I hope you’ve grown to appreciate those telling it like it is that may surround you today. Leaders incapable of allowing direct reports who work for them that are willing to provide unvarnished advice or critique of critical decisions that are being considered aren’t, in my opinion, going to get the best from them. You might also be at risk losing them to a leader that actively seeks those willing to offer their views.

Just sayin’.

Johnny Miller

Silverado Country Club, Napa Valley, California

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Quintessential President George H.W. Bush

With the passing of the 41st President of the United States, President George H.W. Bush, his death brings us closer to the loss of all the brave men and women who embodied The Great Generation. The life lessons, that so many of us have learned from our fathers and mothers, farther-in-law and mother-in-law, grandfathers and grandmothers, aunts and uncles, along with all the millions of others who were part of The Great Generation;  passed onto us are indeed countless.

The past few days I’ve heard and seen those who were close to our 41st President share stories of his great strength and character. One of those was that of Samuel Palmisano, the former Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of IBM, who is a close friend of the Bush Family. Mr. Palmisano shared the contents of a handwritten letter written in 2009 on the personal stationary of George Bush. The contents of the letter were read on television.

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George Bush

              I cannot single out the greatest challenge in my life. I have had a lot of challenges and my advice to young people might be as follows

  1. Don’t get down when your life takes a bad turn. Out of adversity comes challenge and often success.
  2. Don’t blame others for your setbacks.
  3. When things go well, always give credit to others.
  4. Don’t talk all the time – Listen to your friends and mentors and learn from them.
  5. Don’t brag about yourself. Let others point out your virtues, your strong points.
  6. Give someone else a hand. When a friend is hurting show that friend you care.
  7. Nobody likes an overbearing big shot.
  8. As you succeed be kind to people. Thank those who help you along the way.
  9. Don’t be afraid to shed a tear when your heart is broken because a friend is hurting.
  10. Say your prayers!!

George Bush

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Regardless of whether you’re young or old, in business, sports, politics, academia, these are amazing words recommending how to live one’s life.

RIP

Just sayin’.

GHWB Letter 2009 Advice to Young People

Passing the White House

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Mentoring and Leadership

You may or have seen this short YouTube video (link below) titled:

Steve Kerr Explains How Steph Curry Has Changed the League

Kerr Curry

It is a great example of mentoring and leadership. The video shows a series of vignettes highlighting interactions between National Basketball Association (NBA) Head Coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors (also a former NBA player) and his remarkable NBA superstar player Steph Curry. The interactions between this great coach and player are amazing to watch.

There isn’t much you can add to the power of Steve Kerr’s words of encouragement to his superstar guard. You could argue that Steph Curry was destined for an amazing career in the NBA based on his natural talents and the very hard work he has put into ensuring that he is able to give his best every game, but Coach Kerr should be given credit for helping him achieve even more.

If you provide similar positive reinforcement like Steve Kerr with the people that work for you, imagine how great a company you will have. Of course, the reality is that not all managers or company owners are good mentors or leaders. Nor are all employees’ top performers. That doesn’t mean that you can’t spend time encouraging everyone to get the best that you can out of those that report to you or work for your company.

I’ve worked for good and bad bosses. I’m sure you have as well. The best one for me was unquestionably John Mason, the President and Chief Executive Officer at Belron from 1989 – 2000. The good ones tend to delegate authority ruthlessly with confidence. The bad ones? Well, Geoffrey James, a Contributing Editor for Inc. Magazine and Inc.com wrote a great article titled “5 Traits of a Micromanager (and How to Fix Them)”. Mr. James writes that those five traits are:

  1. Measuring too many things.
  2. Monitoring too closely.
  3. Building too much consensus.
  4. Intervening too much.
  5. Setting too many priorities.

Hopefully those aren’t traits you possess if you’re a boss, but perhaps you recognize them as traits in your boss?

So, if you’re a leader and mentor I would strive to be like Steve Kerr. He has the qualities I would want to have.

Just sayin’.

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Using Data as Actionable Information

Does your company provide customers with amazing reporting that presents them actionable or unique information derived from your analysis of their data? If you don’t you’re missing a great opportunity to highlight the value that your organization can bring by presenting data they either haven’t thought about or don’t access to help improve performance.

I received an email from Uber® that detailed my rides during the past year. Most of the information wasn’t actionable, but it was interesting. I learned that I traveled 285.25 miles via Uber® in 2017. I was labeled a “Weekday Warrior” suggesting that most of my rides took place between 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. on weekdays. Their take was I was using Uber® for rush hour, happy hour, heading to a morning meeting or a ride to the airport and they were right. I used Uber® in 11 different cities with the highest use in Boston. I don’t live in Boston, but they told me that most international air travel from Boston is to London. Who knew? I learned that I signed up for Uber® 1,396 days ago and my average rating of drivers was 4.82 out of 5. I guess I’ve been impressed with most of them.

Uber

Uber® also informed me that Los Angeles riders provide the highest satisfaction ratings for drivers across the World, Tampa uses Uber Eats® most often and that New York stands out as the city with the most late-night and weekend rides. Miami had the most mobile telephones that go MIA (pun intended) in an Uber®, the top tourist destination was The Eiffel Tower and Chinese is the most ordered food in the United States, Burritos in Asia and Europe, along with Tacos in Latin America via Uber Eats®.

Uber 2

Now I’m not sure that any of this information is meaningful or actionable for me, but when you provide your customers with unique information that you track which you believe is important and that could be useful to them in bettering their business you add value. Can you provide a unique perspective that shows the value that you bring? Adding value to your customer is a key component to finding success for your company. By differentiating your value proposition to your customers, you help separate your company from your competitors. So, if you’re not using data to provide your customers with information that can improve their business you’re missing out on a great opportunity to improve yours.

Here’s hoping your 2018 is a very successful one!!

2018

Just sayin’.

 

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The Opportunity to Listen (and Learn)

Over the last few months I’ve had the opportunity to listen to a number of amazing speakers at conferences. Each speaker had a great message tailored to the audience and each offered a look into their area of expertise; offering advice that was meaningful and relevant to the industry audience that was listening.

At a conference held earlier this year I listened to keynote speaker Ron Insana, award-winning journalist, financial analyst, commentator and author. His ability to examine and offer analysis of past and current world events, be they political or business, that have shaped or shape the decisions made by politicians, businesses and individuals was amazingly insightful. Ron spoke of how those in attendance could also look at those same events to determine the direction that we lead our respective companies. I had the opportunity to spend time with him at breakfast prior to his keynote and his engagement and interaction with those of us at the table provided a great experience.

I attended a conference in May that had a number of great speakers. One was Brad Grossman, Chairman and CEO of Zeitguide. Zeitguide was founded in 2009 and provides a unique view into our ever-changing world. Zeitguide utilizes people from around the globe to “find, filter and focus” on the abundance of information that exists to provide context to all that is going on today. More importantly, Zeitguide provides crucial understanding as to what is going to happen in the future that will determine the direction an industry make take. Mr. Grossman’s talk was as inspiring as it was insightful.

Another speaker at this conference was James Spellos, President of Meeting U. Mr. Spellos talked about the importance of technology and how technology is driving or should be driving your business to the greatest success imaginable. His discussion of the use of existing and innovative technology was highly entertaining. Spellos mentioned a former Google CEO’s quote, “we create as much information in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through 2003”.  As he walked through the audience answering questions posed to him he was offering countless suggestions and ideas to more effectively use information, technology and devices, but wisely.

At a conference in June the keynote speaker was Sheryl Connelly who, for the past decade has been Ford Motor Company’s Futurist. What does a futurist do? By definition she’s looking for trends. What events, conditions or insights that can be gleaned by scouring the globe for what’s happening now that helps Ford be a leader in its industry for the very long-term. For Ford, Ms. Connelly’s insight provides them another view into the strategy they could follow, the shape of the design of their vehicle platform that will find the greatest acceptance in the market and the products or technologies that will be offered in Ford vehicles well into the future. She’s not looking at the auto industry to determine the future but the social, technological, economic, environmental and political events (or “steep” as she terms it) that will affect our lives in the next 10 to 20 years. Ms. Connelly’s talk gave me a different way to think about what I could be looking at to determine what could affect my future.

At a recent conference this month I had the opportunity to listen to Bernie Brenner, author of The Sumo Advantage and Co-Founder, Chief Strategy Officer of TrueCar, Inc. He spoke of the importance of business development (BD) in the future of any business, regardless of size, to drive strategy and indirect revenue (future revenue). He offered ideas to utilize BD to form strategic partnerships with industry heavyweights that can help build and sustain your company’s growth. Bernie’s directness and openness at the conference, in his presentation and while interacting with attendees, was both refreshing and inspirational.

Next month I’m attending an industry conference where the keynote speaker will be David Robinson (The Admiral), a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a U.S. Navy veteran, an outstanding player in the NBA (1989-2003), a humanitarian and a partner in a private equity firm (Admiral Capital Group). I’m looking forward to hearing him detail his experiences and advice on how to achieve success in business and life.

If you have an opportunity to attend an industry conference don’t miss out on listening attentively to the keynote speakers. They typically have amazing backgrounds and experiences to share. Each speaker I listened to this year offered insight which I could use to improve myself in both my business and in my personal life. So I would highly recommend that when given the chance to register and attend conferences in your industry do so. Then take the time to listen to those that the conference organizers have selected to speak. They’ve been chosen to speak for a reason. I’ve found them to always have great messages.

Just sayin’.

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20 Years Ago

Twenty years ago today the United States subsidiary of Belron International Ltd. (Belron) operating under the trade name of Windshields America (WA) merged with Joe Kellman’s U.S. Auto Glass (USAG)/Globe Glass & Mirror (GG&M) companies to form a company named Vistar. The second and third largest automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) businesses merged on February 26, 1996. If memory serves me WA had 274 stores in 43 states and the retail arm of Kellman’s two companies, GG&M had approximately 200+ locations in maybe 20+ states. USAG was the network call center arm of the business covering all 50 states. The merger provided Belron with a majority shareholding in Vistar, but management control fell to USAG/GGA. WA had annualized sales at the time of approximately $ 225,000,000+ and USAG/GG&A had annualized sales were approximately $ 200,000,000+ so as one sales totaled $ 425,000,000+ with approximately 500 store locations.

At the same time Safelite Auto Glass (SAG) was the largest AGRR company in the United States both in the number of stores and total sales. SAG had well over 500 stores and sales of approximately $ 500,000,000+. So if you had been able to combine the largest AGRR company together with the second and third largest AGRR company’s sales would have been over approximately $ 925,000,000 in 1996. A very tidy sum by anyone’s measure. The race was on two determine who could become the true market leader in the United States AGRR industry.

Lo and behold just two and one half years later on December 17, 1997 the shareholders of Vistar and SAG decided that they could achieve their market goals better together than apart so they agreed to merge. SAG at the time was owned by the Boston based private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners. When the merger took place Belron received the largest shareholding followed by Thomas H. Lee Partners and Joe Kellman. After the merger Vistar was absorbed by SAG with SAG and Thomas H. Lee Partners holding management control.

As you would expect, when in just 1 year 9 months 21 days the three leading companies in any industry merge, attempting to bring together three distinctly different cultures would be a big challenge. Especially when the largest and smallest shareholders of the new SAG didn’t have management control even though they had considerably more experience in operating AGRR companies than the shareholder with control. I’m not going to delve deeply into what happened next, but the newly formed company lasted just 2 years 5 months 23 days before heading into bankruptcy via a Security and Exchange Commission filing on June 9, 2000. As reported at the time a SAG spokesperson said,

“In papers filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware Friday, Safelite, based in Columbus, Ohio — with 500 U.S. locations — listed $ 559.2 million in assets and $ 591.4 million in debts. A spokeswoman for closely held Safelite, Dee Uttermohlen, said the Chapter 11 filing was related to a debt-load from an acquisition three years ago–but added that the company has been renegotiating debt with creditors.”1

So with that bit of historical background of the two mergers that took place in 1996 and 1997, along with the fallout from those mergers with the subsequent bankruptcy in 2000; I read with interest the 2015 financial results released by Belgium based D’Iteren n.v., majority shareholder of Belron International (and its subsidiary SAG). SAG’s 2015 sales, as per a SAG press release from February 3, 2016 (follow link), are $ 1,500,000,000 ($ 1.5 BILLION). That certainly sounds like a lot of sales doesn’t it?

Looking back to the total sales of WA plus USAG/GGA plus SAG in 1996 ($ 925,000,000+) and reading the sales that was reported today for SAG (remembering that the company now comprises WA, USAG/GGA and SAG) I found it surprising. Very surprising. DollarTimes.com calculates the value of a dollar in one year and adds the cost of inflation to determine that value to today’s dollar. Using the DollarTimes calculator you will find that $ 1.00 in 1996 would equate to a value of $ 1.54 today. The site shows an annual inflation of 2.18% or a total inflation of 54.09% over the past 20 years. When you calculate the 1996 value of $ 925,000,000, today’s value is worth $ 1,425,313,518. So when you look at SAG’s reported 2015 sales against the 1996 sales you see a real growth of 5.24%.

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There has certainly been a lot that has happened in the AGRR industry in the United States over the past 20 years. While SAG has faced a number of challenges over the past 20 years they have always come out somewhat unscathed. Bankruptcy, legislative issues, what have you they seem to always come out on top. But in real dollar growth they’ve seen a 5.24% increase in sales. Seems small doesn’t it?

But arguably there is a problem if you only look at the growth in sales dollars over the past 20 years. Sales figures really don’t take into consideration calculating the effect of the large increase in windshield repairs that existed in 1996 versus today. Nor does it take into consideration the price compression that was wrought on the industry in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s by the insurance industry. Determining what those two factors have in the calculation of real sales growth is difficult as it requires you to look at both the industry’s and SAG’s 1996 mix of products sales and customer versus that mix today. SAG and Belron unquestionably know what those factors mean to the performance of the company, but I’ll leave that for speculation and debate by you.

In my looking back over the past 20 years I’m taking a positive spin as you can see that today there are competitors both old and new that are busy chasing SAG. Be they local, statewide, regional or national competitors; there are countless companies working hard to take on SAG and its position in the AGRR space. There are AGRR retailers, alliances, networks, collision and glass companies, internet platforms chasing after consumers, insurers and commercial customers alike that need the services that the AGRR industry provides. Competition abounds and although it is always difficult to take the throne from the market leader, you’ve got to continue to try at the local, statewide, regional or national level if you want your company to find success in the industry with you’ve chosen to compete.

So when you look back 20 years ago to today at the AGRR industry and at what the landscape was like then versus what it is like today, what comes to my mind is a joke about a pony attributed to President Ronald Reagan.

“Worried that their son was too optimistic, the parents of a little boy took him to a psychiatrist. Trying to dampen the boy’s spirits, the psychiatrist showed him into a room piled high with nothing but horse manure. Yet instead of displaying distaste, the little boy clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to all fours, and began digging. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ the psychiatrist asked. ‘With all this manure,’ the little boy replied, beaming, ‘there must be a pony in here somewhere.'”

I admit that I’m an eternal optimistic and I always see the pony in the room, but I think that opportunities abound for those who want to take on any leader in any industry. Never give up. Never.
Just sayin’.

 

1. Desert News article titled “Safelite Glass files for bankruptcy after listing $591 million in debts”

2. http://www.tomfishburne.com / http://www.marketcartoonist.com

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