Archive for category Service

Being Thankful

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’.

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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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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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Ideas

In the highly charged political environment we live in today we see a growing division regarding differing ideas and views. I’m sure you’ve seen how new ideas or viewpoints offered by some aren’t really appreciated, acknowledged or even allowed when they differ (e.g. Kanye West / @KanyeWest) from what’s expected. There seems to be no room to find a middle ground any more; we’ve lost the ability to have civil and open debate of ideas. When you turn on cable news, read Twitter feeds and even when you have conversations with friends and relatives about countless topics, today’s vitriol has become pervasive. If you aren’t in lockstep with others you’re often castigated, ridiculed and left on the outside looking in. A form of groupthink. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines groupthink as,

“a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics”

GroupThink 2

Historically in business most companies operated in a groupthink mode. Autocratic, dictatorial company owners or management with no interest in opposing views or new ideas. Perhaps you worked for a company like this during your career or maybe work for a company today that stifles new ideas? That style may have worked once upon a time, but not in today’s business environment.

Over a 10-year span beginning in 1990 I had the great fortune to work with a small, boutique consulting firm based in California while I was an executive at Belron International Ltd. Everyone I worked with at the consulting firm, from the principal to all the associates, brought tremendous value to company meetings they attended or facilitated. With their help teams openly discussed issues the business was facing, and we were encouraged to fully consider and debate all ideas to find the best way forward. The firm espoused that there were “No Bad Ideas (NBI)”. Out-of-the-box thinking. A key to using NBI is that it cultivated the opportunity for all participants to feel comfortable suggesting highly creative or unconventional ideas without the chance of being mocked by peers. When you remove the fear of being ridiculed for what might be viewed as a controversial idea in a meeting, you unlock infinite opportunities and options. It’s amazing to see what can be accomplished in an NBI environment. The firm provided tremendous value to me, as well as the companies I was responsible for managing.

While working at the company the Chairman, as well as the President/CEO of the organization (at that time) were both key influencers in my career. They used a similar concept to NBI in meetings. Everyone was encouraged to raise contrarian viewpoints to ensure that as many ideas as possible were raised and considered. When offering a contrarian or unconventional idea during meetings we were told to start with “I’m just practicing, but what if……”

Participants could raise ideas without fear, regardless of how outrageous the ideas may have been viewed, as all participants in the discussion were “just practicing”. The outcomes of meetings where we used just practicing always provided better options or alternatives to determine the best path forward for the company.

I’ve used NBI and just practicing with great success for almost 30 years in other organizations. I suggest leaders embrace NBI and just practicing within your teams to maximize opportunities for success. Respectful listening and learning never ends and any organization could benefit from using these techniques.

Just sayin’.

 

p.s. Today, all of those with whom I worked with at that consulting firm have gone their separate ways and each have had and continue to have amazing individual careers. So, thank you, Selwyn, John, David, Jim and Brian for NBI, along with the support you all provided. Thank you to Ronnie and John for just practicing.

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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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An Encounter with Jack Welch

This past Friday, while attending an automotive aftermarket conference (Auto Glass Week 2015); the keynote speaker was business icon Jack Welch. Instead of giving a speech, he answered questions from the audience for almost an hour and a half. Jack Welch in person is what I expected him to be. He’s certainly not afraid to answer any question asked and I found myself nodding and/or clapping to each of his answers. In a world of political correctness it was refreshing to know exactly what Jack’s position was on any question that he was asked.

Jack and Deb 10-2-2015

Photo Courtesy Auto Glass Week™ 2015

It didn’t matter whether the question was related to business, education or politics; he answered every question without hesitation. Jack’s view on business is all about winning. All about transparency. All about honesty. Telling those that worked for him when he was the CEO of General Electric for 84 consecutive quarters that the business they worked at needed to be either number one or number two in the world or figure out quickly how to become number one or two or the consequence would be that the business wouldn’t be a part of GE.

Jack isn’t big on tenure in education either. He believes that the customer should determine whether a professor or teacher is good or bad and whether they should stay or go. With the cost of education so high there is no room for mediocrity at Jack Welch Management Institute.

In politics Jack is a Republican.

After he took questions from the audience I had the opportunity to sit on an industry panel consisting of him, along with panelists from the automotive industry:

     Paul Heinauer, President of Glasspro Inc.

     Troy Mason, President of Technaglass

     Michael Schuch, president of XLNT Window Film Tinting

     Donna Wells, Vice President of Signature Shutters

     Ed Golda, president of Michigan Glass Coatings

Suzy Welch, renowned bestselling author, television commentator, Harvard Business School graduate and who also is Jack’s wife, was the moderator of the panel. It was an amazing experience where the panel answered questions posed by Suzy and the audience. Everyone answered questions including Jack and then he provided further commentary on the answers that were given.

Suzy Jack and panel

Photo Courtesy Auto Glass Week™ 2015

There isn’t much you can say about Jack Welch and Suzy Welch that hasn’t already been written so I won’t try. I can only say that the two of them make one heck of a team and are about as down to earth as you can be. In this day it was refreshing to see two people who didn’t hold back in answering questions.

It was an honor meeting them both and sitting on a panel with them was certainly an experience that I will never forget. Thanks to them both for the chance to spend a few hours with them last Friday. And thanks to Deb Levy for inviting me to join the panel.

Jack David and Suzy 10-2-2015

Just sayin’.

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Employees vs. Robots

I was reading an article that appeared in Tuesday’s USAToday with the headline – “Amazon puts 15,000 robots to work on Cyber Monday”. 15,000?!?! The Kiva Systems robots do tasks that historically have been done by some number of Amazons 88,400 employees. Robots picking products that are purchased online by consumers that then need to be shipped to them from Amazon fulfillment centers across the globe cost some number of people jobs. Using Kiva robots obviously provides great value to Amazon shareholders since they don’t require a human resource department to oversee payroll, other benefits such as medical and dental plans, vacation days, sick days, etc.. But this can’t be good for union and hourly workers.

Automation Robots vs People

 

Robots are obviously taking over or facilitating any number of manual jobs that historically have been done by employees. Amazon’s use of robots brings the product(s) ordered online and stored in shelf bins to a packer for shipping. Once the purchased item is delivered to the packer the robot returns the shelf bin back to where it belongs awaiting the next task. These robots have certainly saved Amazon the cost of workers who provided this service. The article says that Amazon spent $ 775 million for the Kiva robots and that, “The robots are part of a complex software and hardware system that simplifies picking and packing at warehouses that contain literally millions of items.” The article doesn’t mention that each robot, and the systems that supports them, cost an average of $ 51,667. Payscale.com estimates that the average Amazon employee salary cost is in a range of $ 50,098 – $ 122,195. After Amazon’s initial investment in the Kiva robots there would be ongoing costs for maintenance, repairs, replacements and of course those whose job it is to manage the 15,000 robots, but Amazon obviously did all the internal analysis and studies to see that the return on investment was well worth the $ 775 million.

The advent of using robots isn’t new, but with robots taking over responsibilities of human pickers at Amazon and the use of robots across countless industries and companies the potential loss of unskilled or low skill jobs could be devastating. Taking place at the same time is the strong push by some city and state governments to increase the minimum wage through legislation. Somehow there seems to be a potential disconnect.

Redwood.com compiled a report titled “The Top 10 Reasons Businesses Demand Enterprise-Level Automation”. Reason #2 in this report is:

“Happy and Productive Employees

Automated tasks keep people—who can get bored or irritated by doing repetitive tasks—free from drudgery. It also liberates them to do more strategic and valuable activities for the company. Automation lies at the core of all of our modern conveniences. Machines are made to do repetitive, boring tasks—without complaining.”

You can see where the use of robots and/or automation that is rapidly taking over or helping employees in their jobs providing cost reductions and greater shareholder value for companies who utilize them, but I’m guessing that most employees would prefer being “bored or irritated” and not “free from drudgery” versus not having a job. Certainly there are countless jobs that won’t be taken over by robots, but is your job completely safe from being replaced by a robot so that you can be freed to do something else? I’m guessing the Amazon employees that were picking products for packing at one time thought so.

If you’re a business owner or in management with responsibility for delivering shareholder value you have to continually be looking for ways to cut costs and increase value just as Amazon has done. There are countless jobs that aren’t going to be replaced by robots, but are there robots that can help you improve the productivity of your employees making their jobs easier and provide greater shareholder value? As companies compete against each other for business at a local, regional, national or international basis; looking for the slightest advantage against industry competitors the answer has to be yes. What are you doing to take any advantage available and ensure that you continue to grow and prosper in your industry?

Just sayin’.

 

 

 

 

Sources:

www.usatoday.com

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/12/01/robots-amazon-kiva-fulfillment-centers-cyber-monday/19725229/

www.kivasystems.com

http://www.kivasystems.com/about-us-the-kiva-approach/

www.amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/Locations-Careers/b?ie=UTF8&node=239366011

http://www.amazon.com/Inside-Careers-Homepage/b?node=239367011

www.payscale.com

http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Employer=Amazon.com_Inc/Salary#by_Yearly_Sales

www.wikipedia.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pick_and_pack

www.Redwood.com

“The Top 10 Reasons Businesses Demand Enterprise-Level Automation”

 

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