Archive for category Success

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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Credibility Leads to Success

It really doesn’t matter what it is you do in life, to find long-term success in your chosen field or business you have to have the skill set to adapt and find solutions to the problems you and your business face. To be able to continually build on successes and achieve goals that you’ve set for yourself, or those that your boss or board-of-directors have set for you and/or the business, is key to finding long-term success. That then earns you credibility.

 

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How do you achieve credibility? There are a lot of ways to do so, but as a mentor once told me years ago, that way was to “fulfill the promise”. “Fulfill the promise” meant delivering on the budgeted fiscal year revenue and EBITDA that we developed for the company. The person who told me that was the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a multi-national company and I reported to him as President and CEO of the U.S. division. He taught me a great business and life lesson.

By surrounding myself with a talented team of like-minded individuals, together we fulfilled the promise year after year. That gave us credibility. Credibility provided greater influence in moving the business forward. Credibility also provided us flexibility to pursue new business opportunities, money for acquisitions to further the growth of the company and to build innovative software solutions that provided us with greater success. The key is that you have to work continually to fulfill the promise. It’s not an easy task but it’s the only way secure the future for yourself and the team.

Ultimately when you establish credibility, gain influence and flexibility in what it is you do you will find that new opportunities abound. It really doesn’t matter what it is you do in your life, if you have credibility it speaks to the ability to inspire others.

“In government institutions and in teaching, you need to inspire confidence. To achieve credibility, you have to very clearly explain what you are doing and why. The same principles apply to businesses.”

Janet L. Yellen, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

When you have credibility you gain influence. Your ideas and views have greater meaning and weight, which will help shape the direction of the company that you work.

“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.”

Robin S. Sharma, Author

With credibility you also gain flexibility.

“What is clear is that business leaders must commit to champion change – to be transparent about their goals for change, to align their incentives systems to drive the change, and to make sure their work environments are flexible in a way that allows men and women who choose to work to be able to achieve all of their potential.”

Beth A. Brooke, Global Vice Chair – Public Policy, Ernst & Young

So working to gain and then maintaining credibility should serve you well in whatever endeavor you choose. Credibility is achieved when the actions you’ve taken allow others to believe in you as a leader.

Just sayin’.

 

EBITDA – earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization

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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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What’s Your Formula for Success?

Is there a formula that you use to measure success in your career or to measure the performance of employees of your company that determines the success you achieve? What are the metrics or goals that you follow to measure success (or failure) that drives (inhibits) sales and profits for you company? Having metrics is obviously critical to ensure that employees know what is required of them allowing companies to be successful.

Sports are another example of the importance of metrics and formulas managers and coaches use to ensure success. If you like basketball you’ll know who Rick Majerus was (he passed away in 2012). He attempted to be a walk-on college basketball player for the Marquette Golden Eagles in 1967, but didn’t get a chance to play. Instead he became a student assistant at Marquette. After being an assistant coach to Al McGuire for 11 years; Majerus went on to become a head coach at Marquette, then to Ball State, Utah State and ending his coaching career at Saint Louis. Majerus had a short stint as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks in the late 1980’s.

During his coaching career he developed a statistics formula he believed a college basketball team needed to achieve in order to be successful. Majerus developed a metric he called the “165 Formula”. It combined three key game statistics that were added together for each individual player on the team. He totaled each player’s shooting percentage during the season for field goals, 3 pointers and free throws; believing that a successful team needed at least one of his players have these three stats add up to a total of 165. Over his coaching career Majerus won over 70% of his games, so he must have found players that he felt could hit his magical 165.

There are a lot of ways to achieve success on the basketball court. Just take a look at men’s college basketball’s current AP number one ranked team the University of Kentucky Wildcat’s. How many players does Coach John Calipari (Coach Cal) have that meet Majerus’ formula? Take a look at the graph below and you’ll see how many.

Now let’s take a look at the team that I follow, the University of Illinois Fighting Illini men’s basketball team to see how they compare against The 165 Formula. As you will see in the picture below (from the game versus the Hampton University Pirates  on 12/17/2014), the Illini have four players that beat the formula. Great!

165 Formula

After last Saturday’s game versus the Ohio State Buckeye’s, the season statistics for the Fighting Illini’s six leading players show that Rice, Hill, Eguw and Nunn continue to exceed the formula target of 165.

Fighting Illini
Name FG % FT % 3-PT % Total
Rayvonte Rice 49.7 79.7 45.5 174.9
Malcolm Hill 53.2 73.3 41.7 168.2
Nnanna Egwu 50.0 87.5 36.8 174.3
Kendrick Nunn 44.2 90.9 42.9 178.0
Ahmad Starks 36.1 88.9 32.2 157.2
Aaron Crosby 30.1 84.0 33.3 147.4
Average as of 1/3/2015 166.7

U of I Fighting Illini Statistics for 104-2015 Season

So the Fighting Illini has a record of 10 wins versus 4 losses for the year and they are not currently ranked in the AP Top 25 and they’ve lost their first two Big 10 Conference games. You’d think they’d either be ranked or winning conference games with four starters with numbers that exceed 165 as per The 165 Formula Rick Majerus felt was needed for success. Perhaps Illini Head Coach John Groce thinks that they are successful? I’m guessing not as much as he’d like.

Now let’s compare the Fighting Illini to the number one ranked team in men’s college basketball, the Kentucky Wildcats. How many players do the Wildcat’s have that meet the Majerus 165 Formula? Well…..just one.

Kentucky Wildcats
Name FG % FT % 3-PT % Total
Aaron Harrison 37.0 66.7 27.3 131.0
Andrew Harrison 36.7 77.8 32.1 146.6
Karl-Anthony Towns 51.9 74.3 20.0 146.2
Willie Cauley-Stein 60.7 60.5 0.0 121.2
Tyler Ulis 51.1 80.0 52.2 183.3
Dakari Johnson 60.5 56.7 0.0 117.2
Average of 1/3/2015 140.9

University of Kentucky Wildcats Statistics for 2014-2015

As you can see the one player on the Wildcats that scored a 165 using the Majerus formula is Tyler Ulis. He became a starter after Alex Poythress was injured after the 10th game of the season so his stats may be an outlier. The Wildcat’s had already found phenomenal success prior to Ulis getting more playing time. With the Wildcat’s averaging 140.9 points (110.4 if you take out Ulis) to the formula and the Illini averaging 166.7 points there must be more to achieving success. Besides the entire team of players performing at a level it also takes the head coach, assistant coaches, trainers and doctors to achieve success. You can add to the mix scouts, recruiters, training facilities, athletic director, along with support from students and alumni. So Coach Cal has obviously found his formula to achieve success at the University of Kentucky. He’s surrounded himself with the best players, along with the all the best people and resources needed to support the team.

So John Calipari (along with Rick Majerus) obviously found a formula that he has used to find success in his career. It’s the same in business isn’t it? Don’t we all want to be Coach Cal? To achieve a consistent level of success you need to develop your own formula. But a key ingredient is the need to surround yourself with the best people, the best team you can find to help you find great success for your organization. It doesn’t really matter what your business is, if you don’t have great people it’s going to be more challenging for you to find success against those you compete with in the marketplace.

Just sayin’.

Previous blogs on the importance of assembling a great team:

                What’s Your Line-up? – December 26, 2012

                What’s Your Line-up? – “Updated” – January 17, 2014

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