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Hobson’s Choice (a Free Choice or No Choice at All?)

I recently read the argument that attorneys for Safelite Group Inc. (Safelite) made relating to Connecticut’s Public Act-13-67(c) (2) in a glassBYTEs.com article. They argued that,

“it puts appellants Safelite Group Inc. and Safelite Solutions to a Hobson’s choice….”

Hobson’s choice[1] refers to a businessman by the name of Thomas Hobson who ran a livery in Cambridge, England in the 1600’s. Hobson required that every rider asking to hire one of his horses to always take the horse nearest the door. If a patron didn’t want to use that particular horse no other horse could be used. A “take it or leave it” choice. As another source on the origins of the phrase states[2], “A Hobson’s choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered.” I thought using “Hobson’s choice” in this particular instance an interesting one considering the origins of the term. More on that later.

This link to the summary of the act that was first introduced in the Insurance and Real Estate Committee of the Connecticut House and ultimately signed by the Governor of the State of Connecticut required that in the handling of any insurance auto glass claim in the State of Connecticut that:

“The act requires that a glass claims representative for an insurance company or its third-party claims administrator, in the initial contact with an insured about automotive glass repair services or glass products, tell the insured something substantially similar to: “You have the right to choose a licensed glass shop where the damage to your motor vehicle will be repaired. If you have a preference, please let us know. ” By law, appraisals and estimates for physical damage claims written on behalf of insurers must have a written notice telling the insured that he or she has the right to choose the shop where the damage will be repaired (CGS § 38a-354).”

Fairly straightforward.

A public radio program called “A Way with Words” talked about Hobson’s choice on one of the program segments. One of the hosts of the radio program, Martha Barnette tells us:

“The phrase Hobson’s choice goes all the way back to 17th-century England. For 50 years, Thomas Hobson ran a stable near Cambridge University. There he rented horses to students. Old Man Hobson was extremely protective of those animals. He rented them out according to a strict rotating system. The most recently ridden horses he kept at the rear of the stable. The more rested ones he kept up front. That meant that when students came to get a horse, Hobson gave them the first one in line—that is, the most rested. He’d let them rent that horse, or none at all.”

Perhaps you see where I was thinking that Hobson’s choice was an interesting phrase for the attorneys to use in their argument. First, Public Act-13-67(c) (2) is a duly enacted Connecticut law so their client really doesn’t get a choice in deciding whether they wish to follow it or not. As is their right, they can dispute the law which is obviously why the company is filing the appeals to the act which provides Connecticut consumers a choice in what company repairs or replaces their damaged auto glass. It’s just that at his stable Hobson didn’t want the same horse(s) being used each time by his patrons. Hobson wanted his patrons to use only the horse(s) that he wanted them to use. You can understand why Hobson wanted to rotate his horses so that each got equal use. Safelite wants Connecticut consumers to only use the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) company that Safelite wants them to use. In this case it would appear that Safelite is Hobson.

By enacting Public Act-13-67(c) (2), the State of Connecticut took steps it deemed appropriate to protect consumer choice for residents of the state. There are any number of AGRR companies operating in the State of Connecticut for consumers to use when they sustain auto glass damage. So is it “A Matter of Self-Interest or Consumer Choice”? Isn’t it Safelite that is attempting to provide Connecticut consumers with a Hobson’s choice?

Just sayin’.

Take it or leave it

Another example of a Hobson’s choice would be from Henry Ford’s book titled My Life and Work and written in 1922 referencing options available for the Model T Ford.

Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”

 

[1] Merriam-Webster.com meaning of Hobson’s choice

[2] Wikipedia.org description of Hobson’s choice

Other sources:

http://www.glassbytes.com/documents/07302014SafeliteLettertoCourt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobson’s_choice

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hobson’s%20choice

 

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Rube Goldberg Machines and Business

I was recently sitting in an airport waiting for a flight and for 30 minutes I stood mesmerized watching an amazing sculpture designed by George Rhodes known as a ball machine. This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen one of these ball machine sculptures. The first one of Rhodes designs I saw was in the late 1980’s while walking through a terminal at Boston Logan Airport. I remember almost missing my flight watching and listening to the sculpture. This Rhodes sculpture at another airport attracted young and old alike. The sculpture really doesn’t serve any practical purpose, but is an intriguing piece of kinetic art. It’s hard to pull yourself away from watching all that is going on – a sculpture that often uses a combination of drums, cymbals, gongs and depending on your point of view makes either a virtual cacophony or euphony of sounds.

In a way these sculptures remind me of a Rube Goldberg machine. Wikipedia defines a Rube Goldberg machine as follows:

“A Rube Goldberg machine is a contraption, invention, device or apparatus that is deliberately over-engineered or overdone to perform a very simple task in a very complicated fashion, usually including a chain reaction. The expression is named after American cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg (1883–1970).”

An Example:

Rube Goldberg Guinness World Record by Purdue Society of Professional Engineers

________

Rube Goldberg and Business

While watching the steel balls that roll endlessly though the intricate Rhodes sculpture I started thinking about examples of how some businesses work effortlessly and continuously in a similar endless fashion. Businesses that provide the same exacting levels of customer service and delivery of a product (or products) over and over again that are a key to success. Some businesses have developed very simple processes to find success while other companies tend to overcomplicate processes in an attempt to achieve success.

While at the sculpture I was holding a Starbucks coffee and that company certainly comes to mind as a business that invariably delivers both simple and very complicated orders efficiently and effectively. This Seattle based company that got its start almost 40 years ago has today become the largest coffeehouse with over 23,000 locations in 64+ countries. I just order a Venti black coffee when standing in line at Starbucks. I can never tell if the barista is happy or somehow saddened by my straightforward order. A Huffington Post blog titled “The Most Obnoxious Starbucks Drink Orders“ details some of the complicated orders at Starbucks such as a ‘Venti Iced Skinny Hazelnut Macchiato, Sugar-Free Syrup, Extra Shot, Light Ice, No Whip’. Now that order would be a challenge to any barista fulfilling Starbucks “delicious, handcrafted beverages” mantra. It makes me smile when I hear someone standing in line ordering a similar concoction. It really doesn’t matter where in the United States or the world you place your order; Starbucks seems to always deliver the same level of consistent service regardless of the local. The company has obviously spent a great deal of time and effort in perfecting the delivery of consistent levels of service, but it all seems pretty simple to the casual observer ordering coffee. Everyone knows that you’re going to have to wait a bit when ordering one of the “delicious, handcrafted beverages” mentioned earlier versus my Venti black coffee order, but those who order the complicated drinks don’t mind. They know they are going to be rewarded with a delicious drink made to order by a barista that has perfected his or her craft. In plain sight the platform seems pretty simple. Do you think that behind the curtain there resides a Rube Goldberg machine? Doubtful.

Can you think of other businesses which deliver products consistently in a simple straightforward manner? Maybe FedEx, Amazon.com or even MacDonald’s could come to mind. Fortune Magazine lists 50 of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” and the top 5 are:

  1. Apple
  2. Amazon.com
  3. Google
  4. Berkshire Hathaway
  5. Starbucks

I’m sure you’d agree that each of these companies is the polar opposite of a Rube Goldberg.

I’ve worked in a business or two that have taken great steps to simplify business processes through employee training and the use of technology in an effort to reduce back office costs that keep company investments focusing on people and growing the platform. And I’ve worked in a business or two that seems compelled to use a Rube Goldberg machine mentality. I think that those who insist on making simple processes overly complicated could find greater success by streamlining operating procedures, but as long as shareholders are pleased with the return on investment, changes in operating styles aren’t likely to happen. In a highly competitive industry companies that are overcomplicated ultimately could be disadvantaged versus others in the same industry that have found ways to reduce the Rube Goldberg machine mentality.

Do you know of businesses in your industry which operate more like a Rube Goldberg machine (deliberately over-engineered or overdone to perform a very simple task)? I’m sure that you do. Noted management doyen Peter Drucker is quoted as saying:

“Only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.”

It has to be frustrating for people who work for companies that use complicated procedures or policies in an industry where other companies have found a simpler way of delivering the same service. I’m sure you can come up with some examples in your industry.

So, what’s it like at the company you’re working? Does your company operate more like an Apple, Amazon.com, Google, Berkshire Hathaway and Starbucks; or does it operate more like a Rube Goldberg? Imagine the potential for those companies that operate using a Rube Goldberg machine mentality that pivot to find a better way to provide the services or products they offer. If you look at your company and think you see an area of the business that might resemble a Rube Goldberg machine, perhaps you should seek ways to make it a little less complicated. Isn’t that what leadership is all about?

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Road Trip

A few weeks ago we decided to take a road trip. The trip has taken us through Indiana, Michigan, Canada, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina and now onto South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and then back to Illinois. We could add a couple of other states to the trip. It has been a great road trip. Besides keeping my eyes on the road I also kept an eye out looking for windshields in need of repair or replacement as I have since I entered the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry. I was also looking for mobile auto glass vehicles along the way.

Road_Signs2

In an article titled “April Miles Driven Increases” that appeared in glassBYTEs.com last week, the web site reported that there was an overall 1.8% increase in miles driven in 2014 versus 2013. Only the Northeast reported fewer miles driven. Based on our experience, the number of vehicles of all types on the road has been pretty amazing. We’ve encountered very heavy traffic everywhere we’ve been so far and, since one of the three key drivers for the AGRR industry is miles driven (the weather and the economy the other two), perhaps this is another good sign for glass breakage and future business….at least in the states visited on this road trip.

I’ve spoken with a number of people who either own or work for AGRR retail and wholesale companies; regardless of the area in the country in which they compete, each says business has been great this year! In other road trips over the past few years there have always been a plethora of windshields in need of repair or replacement on the drive, along with countless plastic and tape wrapped broken door, quarter or back glasses (the “do nothings” – those who break glass and don’t repair or replace it). On this road trip I have been surprised to see very few broken windshields or taped up door, quarter or back glasses. Hopefully this is a sign that people are repairing or replacing glass when it breaks.

I saw the first AGRR mobile van on the road trip in Canada – a Speedy Glass van (I was the President and CEO of Belron Canada in the late 90’s and early 00’s). I didn’t see my next mobile van until I saw a Tiny & Sons Auto Glass mobile van in Massachusetts. I have driven by a number of glass shops on the road trip (and stopped by a few) and I didn’t see any mobile vans parked at the shops so I assumed (hoped) that each was busy doing mobile replacements. I’m in North Carolina now and I haven’t seen any more mobile vans. Odd I think as I see them in Chicago all the time.

After the strong winter season across much of the country we experienced some “Wind at our Backs” which was discussed in previous posts. Perhaps with a steady increase in year-on-year miles driven, and if the economy will come out of the doldrums we will see some positives for the AGRR industry. You still have to have to figure out how to deal with the big guys increasing market share and the brand recognition programs in play. If this year’s weather provided and continues to provide AGRR opportunities, if the miles driven continues to grow providing further opportunities and if the economy going forward gains strength and provides further opportunities; you’ve got something to work with. Not always easy I understand, but if it was easy you’d have a lot more competitors to deal with. You just need to continue to figure out what you can do to push and pull consumers to your business.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Disruption Innovation in Business

 

Clayton Christensen developed his disruption innovation theory studying the computer industry. Disruption in virtually any industry will determine winners and losers in business. If you visit the Christensen Institute web site you’ll read that:

“The theory explains the phenomenon by which an innovation transforms an existing market or sector by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility, and affordability where complication and high cost are the status quo. Initially, a disruptive innovation is formed in a niche market that may appear unattractive or inconsequential to industry incumbents, but eventually the new product or idea completely redefines the industry.”[1]

Image

Courtesy of TomFishburne.com

At the annual Code Conference held at the Terranea Resort, located in Rancho Palos Verdes, California that brings together some of the world’s geekiest folks; Google’s Sergey Brin debuted Google’s driver-less car (link). These cars were designed without a dashboard, steering wheel or a brake pedal. Why? A driverless car doesn’t need any of those accessories in the cars of the future as seen by the visionaries at Google. Could this be an example of “disruptive innovation” that could affect multiple industries?

This Google designed driver-less vehicle is very different from the self-driving vehicles that Google equipped with the driver-less technology installed on the Toyota or Lexus models that Google first began using. The initial self-driving cars Google used were off –the-lot models made by original equipment manufacturers so each came equipped with a dashboard with all of the typical accessories you’d expect to find both on and under the dash. But this new Google car comes without many of the accessories deemed required, up until now, and Google added a few other things that you will find disruptive long-term. It evidently is equipped with a flexible plastic windshield.

The car can only top out at 25 miles per hour and you’re not going to be seeing it on the highways anytime soon, but nonetheless with Google behind it one can only assume that the company’s long-term goal is to dramatically change driving habits. Will this technology be successful in disrupting the car industry? It would take time and a lot of treasure, both human and monetary. Google certainly has the wherewithal to attract the best and brightest to make this project a reality and money isn’t an issue.

Experts believe a self-driving car will make driving safer. Imagine that you can text or talk on your phone to your heart’s content as you won’t need to be concerned about distractions. Human driving errors should be greatly reduced if all the other cars around you are interconnected resulting in greater safety. Older drivers would have more freedom which would be good for them and great for everyone else concerned about grandma and granddad getting behind the wheel. Disabled drivers would also gain new freedom to rely on themselves versus others. An EY Automotive study says that autos with Autonomous Vehicle Technology will surge from 4% in 2025 to 75% by 2035.

There are going to be winners and losers as self-driving cars gain traction in the coming years. What will greater safety and independence for everyone mean to the insurance industry and all of those in claims departments today if the number of accidents drops? To the collision and automotive parts repair industry? To the rental car industry? To the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry? To the trucking industry? Countless industries will be affected. There’s going to be a lot of businesses that will rise and fall with this disruptive innovation and a lot of people at risk of losing their current job in an industry affected by the self-driving car.

There will probably be a day when those who want to drive their own cars could be viewed similarly as today’s drunk driver or someone that is texting as they are putting self-driving car riders at risk.

What will the likely outcome be if Google’s self-driving cars become a “disruptive innovation” and disrupt car manufacturers, the transportation industry as a whole and change the habits of the driving public in the years to come? We’ll have to wait to see.

So is there something a company or companies are doing today (or will be doing) in the AGRR industry that is (or will) disrupt the way things operate? Are there innovations that will “completely redefine(s) the AGRR industry”? I think the answer is yes to both questions. There are plenty attempting to disrupt what it is you are doing today and I know that there are those trying to disrupt the future of the industry with new innovations.

Here is another definition of disruption innovation:

“A disruptive innovation[2] is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in a new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market.”

You probably think we already have enough disrupters in the AGRR industry, but what is your plan going to be if you’re not one of the one’s who has designed or is designing a “disruption innovation” in the industry? Something is certainly coming.

Just sayin’.

 

 

 

[1] http://www.christenseninstitute.org/key-concepts/disruptive-innovation-2/

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_innovation

 

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Wind at Our Backs? – Part III

Last September and December I wrote blogs titled “Wind at Our Backs?” and “Winds at Our Backs? Part II” writing that “it appears that we may have some wind at our back” when looking at the key drivers (the weather, the economy and miles driven) of the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry. If you focus mainly on the weather as a key driver and look at what we’ve experienced in the United States this past winter, many would describe it as harsh or brutal in much of the country. Based on the weather over the past week, even though the vernal equinox or the first day of spring arrived on March 20, 2014, our winter really hasn’t seemed to have ended yet. I live in Chicago and this past winter was the coldest (December – March) ever on record and snowiest (9.7 inches from snowiest on record – 1978-79 as reported by the WGN-TV Weather Blog) I’ve ever experienced anywhere, except maybe for one when I lived in Montreal.

Chicago Lakefront 2014x

Chicago/Lake Michigan February 2014

The Old Farmer’s Almanac forecasted that the 2013 – 2014 winter season would bring us colder weather and heavier snowfall in many sections of the country and for those who were hoping that the forecast would come true they weren’t disappointed. Stretching from the Rockies to the East Coast the weather has been a big boon to the industry with extreme or unseasonably cold weather that included snow and ice storms. I’ve talked with a number of retailers and suppliers who had a great first quarter of 2014 which followed a rather lackluster 2013. One supplier told me, with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, that on a trailing twelve months he looked like a genius since all the strategies that his company had used in the past year to increase business had really paid off.

Starting in 2011 The Weather Channel started naming winter storms that are strong enough that meet the criteria set by the prognosticators. For the winter of 2013 – 2014 The Weather Channel’s list of 26 alphabetical names were developed with the help of a Bozeman, Montana high school Latin Class. The potential storms this winter began with the name Atlas and will end with Zephyr. Through today there have been 24 named storms with the current storm that hit the Upper Midwest with up to 18” of snow before heading off to Canada. Since it is now the first week of April and a couple of weeks since the first day of spring winter storm Xenia is dumping snow in parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. Enough already. Although this winter may have been good for some in the AGRR industry I’m thinking of it more like a Dr. Seuss book I read countless times to my sons when they were growing up – “Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!

 

When you look back at this past winter named storms starting out with Atlas in early October that delivered feet of snow from the Rockies to the Upper Plains winter storms kept hitting almost every week including some areas that haven’t seen much in the way of winter weather for a few years. In early February starting out in Georgia and hitting especially the Atlanta metroplex were a couple of storms that CNBC described as a catastrophic ice storm that effectively shut down Atlanta for several days before continuing on up the east coast wreaking havoc along the way. In early March the greater Dallas-Fort Worth and North Texas area got hit with an ice storm that crippled the metroplex. The Carolinas got hit by a couple of storms in February and March with the last one being Ulysses hitting around March 10th. If you live in the North you expect to get snow and you’ve learned how to deal with it, but it’s not quite the same below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Every year there is a contest that awards a trophy called The Golden Snowglobe that recognizes the snowiest city with a population of 100,000+. The trophy typically goes to Syracuse, Rochester or Buffalo, New York each year, but as of today it appears that for the winter of 2013 – 2014 the winner for The Golden Snowglobe will be Erie, Pennsylvania with 137.2” of snowfall.

For this blog I’m not going to address the economy or the miles driven. Neither of those has really changed all that much since my December blog. Regardless whether you feel the wind is at your back or not, you and your employees are the key driver(s) in your business. How you’re dealing with the various opportunities and obstacles that you face each day in your business determines the success you achieve. All that really matters is what is going on in the market or markets you operate and I hope that you’re achieving success in the markets you compete.

As good a predictor that The Old Farmer’s Almanac was for this past winter, the prediction for the 2014 – 2015 winter season from this long-time source hasn’t been published yet, but I recently saw a very detailed prediction made by The Weather Centre for next winter. Please take the time to read and interpret all of the information and let me know what you think what the upcoming winter will be like.

Since weather is so important to the AGRR industry, in the coming months I’m hoping that you get some hail in the markets you compete. I know a couple of suppliers that think that could be their winning strategy for 2014.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – The American Dream and Garages

Have you seen the General Motors (GM) commercial selling the new electric 2014 Cadillac ELR? Interestingly you actually don’t know what the commercial is selling until the very end. When I started to watch it (click on this link to view) I recognized the voice of FX television show Justified bad guy Robert Quarles played by Neal McDonough. McDonough also appeared in the great film “Band of Brothers” portraying 1st Lieutenant Lynn “Buck” Compton who passed away in 2012. The commercial begins with our seeing from behind Mr. McDonough standing facing a swimming pool dressed in shorts and short-sleeved shirt in what could be a Southern California back yard. The actor starts out asking:

“Why do we work so hard? For what? For this? For stuff? Other countries that work stroll home; stop by the café and take August off. Off! Why aren’t you like that? Why aren’t we like that?“

Six quick questions and two statements set up the commercial. McDonough is then shown walking through his home pointing to his two daughters; then high-fiving one of the girls:

“Because we’re crazy hard working believers that’s why.”

“Those other countries think we’re nuts. Whatever…”

Next he’s seen walking down a hallway heading to the kitchen where he passes a newspaper off to his wife and continues his trek through his nice home.

“Were the Wright Brothers insane? Bill Gates? Les Paul? Ali? Were we nuts when we pointed to the moon? That’s right. We went up there and you know what we got? Bored. So we left. Got a car up there and left the keys in it. Do you know why? Because we’re the only ones going back up there that’s why.”

Mr. McDonough walks into an opening and then re-emerges dressed in a business suit and walks out of the house to his Cadillac ELR. He then delivers the overriding message, besides selling the ELR of course:

“But I digress. It’s pretty simple. You work hard, create your own luck and you gotta believe anything is possible.”

As for all the stuff. That’s the upside to only taking just two weeks off in August.”

“N’est pas?” (The French expression impossible n’est pas français is actually a proverb, equivalent to “there’s no such thing as can’t” or simply “nothing is impossible.”)

One heck of a great commercial in my opinion delivering the message of the American Dream being available to anyone and more importantly owning a Cadillac ELR of course. Wikipedia defines the American Dream as, “a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work.” Sounds right.

The commercial clearly points out that you’ve got to work hard to get all the “stuff” you see from the beginning to the end of the commercial. No one is going to give it to you. Pointing out in a very quintessential American way the commercial finishes with “N’est pas?” – a French proverb meaning “there is no such thing as can’t”. Words to live by. The owner of Cadillac is GM and as everyone remembers the company went into and out of bankruptcy protection during the summer of 2009. In a way the commercial was an analogy of all that GM and countless thousands of dedicated employees accomplished – “You work hard, create your own luck and you gotta believe anything is possible.” Granted they also did it with the help of $ 50.1 billion from U.S. taxpayers….

The commercial hasn’t necessarily been greeted all that well by the some in the media as they view it as American being arrogant, but the very simple message in the ad is that if you want you can own a Cadillac as long as you work hard and do what you do well. Simple message.

This commercial follows one aired earlier this year from Cadillac called “American Garages” (click here to view). The commercial is pointing out the value of Motor Trend’s Car of the Year – the 2014 Cadillac CTS. Mr. McDonough does the voiceover for this commercial telling us:

“The Wright Brothers started in a garage. Amazon started in a garage. Hewlett-Packard and Disney both started out in garages. Mattel started in a garage. The Ramones’s started in a garage. My point? Some of the most innovating things in the world come out of American garages.”

This commercial finishes with “Ain’t garages great!” Indeed they are. I know many auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) companies that started out in a single garage.

It has been a long time since I’ve owned a GM product (a 1985 Chevrolet Station-wagon) and I don’t have plans on buying one anytime soon, but these two commercials celebrate what America is all about and why people from across the globe continually come to our shores. The opportunity to try like hell to catch the American Dream by working hard and then anything is possible, especially owning a Cadillac. Plenty of people work hard and then haven’t accomplished what they most wanted as their own American Dream, but it’s all about the opportunity. Nothing is guaranteed.

Don’t let any company or anyone keep you from whatever may be your American Dream.

You work hard, create your own luck and you gotta believe anything is possible.”

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Now and in the Future

Last Tuesday, February 4, 2014 there were two items in glassBYTEs.com™ e-Newsletter that I read with great interest. The two articles got me to wondering about how technology could be developed to increase passenger safety in the auto glass replacement (AGR) industry by alerting passengers of potential problems.

The first article I enjoyed reading was the “View From The Trenches” blog post by Neil Duffy. His blog post titled “Nightmare on Stevens Creek” pointed out those in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry who are portrayed as “hacks” in the article; those who lower the quality of installations and how our industry is viewed. Many of these “hacks” don’t follow or worse are even aware (an even scarier nightmare) of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard® and what is required, on their part, to ensure that those they install auto glass for are safe in an accident. The second article was an Associated Press article that appeared on TribLive.com titled “Feds want cars to be able to talk to each other“. Seems like a great way for the cars we drive not to run into cars that others drive. This technology will have to be in full use when we move to driverless cars, but in the meantime it could greatly reduce collisions today if rolled out in new cars.

jetson

Everyone in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry across the country has seen someone who isn’t following proper installation standards and put drivers at risk when auto glass is replaced. There are those in the industry who think the drums are beat too loud about this topic, but it is an issue and Neil rightly points to the concern that he sees with the acts of some lowering the standards which could bring us all down at some point in the future. As Neil wrote,

“This drains the resources and profitability of shops who value quality. By allowing hacks to contaminate our industry we are putting both the public at risk and our own livelihoods. The sad fact is that there is an unwillingness to seek regulatory constraints or to somehow cull the worst offenders in the AGRR industry. Why would a glass manufacturer or wholesaler try to cut the number of sales they could make by calling for the removal of incompetent or illegal customers? Why would a third-party administrator (TPA) demand stringent certification and high-limit liability insurance over negotiating deeper discounts from the same vendors? Furthermore, we, in AGR, play into the hands of our largest competitor who promotes its technician’s training and employee character via the media over smaller companies – the local unknown local glass purveyors – that may prey upon potential clients. That alone can create a bad dream or two.”

Are there auto glass suppliers or urethane suppliers that would walk away from a sale if the supplier is aware of bad behavior on the part of a customer? I for one would like to believe that there are. But would some suppliers step in and provide the products versus losing a sale? Sadly probably yes.

I appreciate Neil Duffy pointing out that there are those in the industry who shouldn’t be installing auto glass in any vehicle because they either don’t know how to properly do a replacement or they don’t care that they are installing a part in an unsafe manner. Bad apples that exist in our industry can lower the value that the vast majority of us in the industry who are doing it right receive as Neil suggests. Consumers believe they are getting a quality product regardless of what company they use. When a company that is doing everything right competes against those who don’t, how could a consumer know that they could be choosing a company that delivers the service and/or products in an unsafe manner which could ultimately cause serious safety issues? They don’t.

The second article that I referenced that appeared on the glassBYTEs.com™ web site on February 4th dealt with the United States government push to require automakers to equip vehicles with technology that will reduce accidents by having vehicles “talk with each other”.

The Associated Press article details the work that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been doing in cooperation with automobile and truck manufacturers since the early 2000’s to prevent accidents via new technology.

The article quotes David Friedman, the head of the safety administration saying that NHTSA “estimates vehicle-to-vehicle communications could prevent up to 80 percent of accidents that don’t involve drunken drivers or mechanical failure”. Imagine the lives that will be saved with the implementation of new technology. Mr. Friedman goes on to say the goal is “to prevent crashes in the first place”. Historically the government’s focus has been on passengers surviving accidents. On the NHTSA web site the department’s mission reads:

“NHTSA was established by the Highway Safety Act of 1970 and is dedicated to achieving the highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety. It works daily to help prevent crashes and their attendant costs, both human and financial.”

The technology that is being developed and installed on vehicles today across the globe is pretty amazing and has been a dream going back over 50 years.

In 1956 General Motors showcased their cars with a traveling show featuring the company’s fleet at events in major cities across the country. The first “Motorama Show” was held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. This “Key to the Future” video was a “featured film at the exhibit that looked into the far distant future of 1976 which predicted a jet age future with electronic digital displays and an On Star like central command that would guide us along our uncrowded path to adventures.”   

The view of the cars of the future from 1956 obviously wasn’t reality in 1976, but we will be seeing more and more technology installed in all types of vehicles. This CarScoops.com article talks about an “Augmented Reality System (that) Allows Drivers to See Through Large Vehicles”. The ‘See-Through’ developed by a team from the University of Porto, in Portugal, is directed by Professor Michel Ferreira. The technology is a great advancement in driving safety and will undoubtedly save life’s’. Imagine being able to “see-through” a large vehicle such as a bus in front of you in order to safely pass on a two lane highway.

Virtually every car on the road today has on-board technology that informs drivers of mechanical issues that have been detected.  Additionally, mobile telephone hands free devices and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technologies are available for most vehicles further helping to improve driver safety. Government authorities, driving safety advocates and organizations in cooperation with automobile manufacturers continue to build on technology that improves passenger safety. The ever changing availability of new safety technologies being developed for vehicles is rapidly changing how we interact with vehicles, how the vehicles we drive interact with us and even how the vehicle interacts with everything near the vehicle. A Bloomberg.com article titled “Talking-Car Systems to Be Required as U.S. Weighs Rules” briefly discussed future technologies being developed by CISCO Systems and others for connected cars, along with companies such as Google and Telsa Motors working to employ that technology in driverless vehicles.

So, after reading both of the articles that appeared on the same glassBYTEs.com™ e-Newsletter I began wondering if future technology could be developed to let auto and truck drivers know if the auto glass in the car they are driving or are passengers has been properly replaced. Perhaps a farfetched idea you’d say, but since we all know that a windshield that is being replaced has to be properly installed to ensure that the passenger side air bag deploys correctly to protect occupants and to also maintain structural integrity of the roof; maybe not. As I’ve heard a number of people say over the years, “It’s going to take some politician’s family member or someone important to be killed for something to be done to ensure the safe installation of auto glass.” Certainly no one wants that to happen. As Neil so aptly wrote:

“This writer is truly tired of having nightmares that “Freddy the hack” is becoming the ugly face of today’s automotive glass industry. I see it more and more each day and most worrisome is the complete lack of concern by many within our industry. How can we police ourselves or be policed is the $ 64,000 question that has to be addressed and answered some day, hopefully sooner rather than later. If we continue to bury our collective heads in the sand, it will be our own necks that get hacked, as well as more unfortunate windshields.”

I know of countless AGRR professionals who strive to ensure that auto glass is installed properly and spare no expense to do so. But without either the industry as a whole taking a more active interest or governmental authorities taking a regulatory role in the AGRR industry maybe someone can develop a technology to alerts drivers and passengers alike that the car they are riding in is indeed safe to drive, or not.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Doing the Right Thing Isn’t Always Easy

Whether you are an auto glass shop owner or an auto glass technician working in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry, following the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard® isn’t easy, nor should it be. The AGRSS® Standard has rules and best practices which requires a higher level of diligence and reporting to be adhered to on the part of both the auto glass company and its technicians. Deciding as a company to fully embrace the standard and fulfill all of its requirements separates your company and your auto glass technicians from other companies which you compete. As a company you make the decision to follow the AGRSS® Standard then take the additional step and join the Auto Glass Safety Council™ as a registered company. Being a registered company requires that you participate in the non-profit organization’s Validation Program. Understand that if you’re a registered company, following the standard tells your customers that you are willing to open yourself to a 3rd party validation and inspection to ensure that you indeed follow the rules of the standard.

For the purposes of full disclosure, I sit on the board of directors of the Auto Glass Safety Council™. The Auto Glass Safety Council™ consists of countless industry members who donate their time and efforts to maintain the standard. They and/or the companies they work for pay for the time and travel required to spend working on behalf of the AGRSS® Standard. No one is paid for the work that they do.

By following the AGRSS® Standard you set yourself apart from others in the industry that’ve chosen not to do so; whether for reasons of profit, lack of knowledge or perhaps that you just don’t care about the safety issues involved. I’m not sure what would cause a company to not follow AGRSS®, but it has to be for one of those reasons. There are 8 deliverables that an auto glass company must adhere to comply with the standard. They are:

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Adhering to the AGRSS® Standard requires that you follow all 8 of the above deliverables. Does your company follow the standard and the deliverables? How do your customers know that you do?

A number of networks and/or third party administrators (TPA) require that auto glass shops that do replacements on the behalf of network customers replace glass according to the AGRSS® Standard. How is it possible for those networks to know that each replacement is actually performed to the standard? The only way for a network to confirm that every glass replacement is completed according to the standard is to require membership of every glass shop that does work on its behalf. No network or TPA, to my knowledge, requires 100% of the glass companies that do its replacements be members of the Auto Glass Safety Council™ to validate that its members are indeed completing replacements according to the AGRSS® Standard.

There are insurance companies that require auto glass shops that do replacements for their policyholders to complete them according to the AGRSS® standard. But what, if anything, do those companies do to enforce their own requirement? I’m not sure the answer to that question, but I’m not aware of anything more than an auto glass company being required to just say that they do installations according to the AGRSS® standard.

Do insurance companies ask you to install used glass on older cars or on cars involved in collisions? That claim has been made recently and that request is not allowable under the AGRSS® Standard. If asked would you install a used part in a consumer’s car when you can’t determine how it may have originally been installed?

Here are a few questions that are important to ask if you say you follow the standard, but don’t use a 1 to 4 hour fast cure Safe Drive Away-Time (SDAT) urethane:

·         If you’re an auto glass shop that uses a urethane that requires 24 hours or more to provide a SDAT do you actually inform your customer that they can’t drive their car for 24 hours?

·         Do you really think that if your customer is told that the car isn’t safe to drive for 24 hours that they actually will follow your instructions?

·         What do you think happens when you do the installation at their place of work knowing that they will be driving at the end of the day?

If the urethane you’re using requires a specific humidity and/or temperature level to cure properly, do your auto glass technicians have equipment with them that tells them that they are in compliance with the urethane they’re using?

What do you do if you encounter rust when doing an installation? Do you do the repair required to ensure that you comply with the standard? Do you go ahead with a replacement when there is rust damage that must be repaired according to the standard without actually doing all that needs to be done to ensure compliance? Would you walk away from a job if the customer won’t do what is required to fix a rust issue? It’s not easy to follow the AGRSS® standard.

To be sure, to do all that is required to be done by an auto glass company, auto glass technicians that perform the replacements and those who are tasked to keep proper records to execute all of the deliverables of the AGRSS® Standard isn’t easy as I said, but it is certainly achievable by companies and auto glass technicians that care. Fully knowing that a company or network or TPA that professes it follows the standard can certainly be called into question. The only way to know if some company is truly conforming to the standard is to be validated it by an independent 3rd party company.

The standard is a challenge. It is made to be. Validations can only be confirmed by an independent 3rd party organization approved to complete the inspection of an auto glass shop that says it adheres to the standard. To proclaim that you follow the AGRSS® Standard and not also back it up with an independent 3rd party verification would be similar to saying that the Affordable Care Act and HealthCare.gov has been a rousing success from its rollout on October 1st. The Affordable Care Act and HealthCare.gov may indeed ultimately provide what some profess that it will provide, but just saying so doesn’t mean that it has or will.

By the way, just because you are a registered company with the Auto Glass Safety Council™ and follow the AGRSS® Standard doesn’t mean that insurance companies or consumers will beat a path to your door. Not yet anyway. Doing the right thing when it comes to ensuring your customers safety should be enough.

There will certainly be those who read this blog who will disagree with me as to the “how” we ensure that consumers are protected when it comes time to having their glass replaced, but ensuring that consumers receive adequate protection when having auto glass replaced should be a concern to us all. That is of course if you care about consumers and the AGRR industry you wish to participate.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Interview with Paul Heinauer – Glasspro

paul-heinauer

Paul, you have a wealth of experience and knowledge in the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry. I appreciate your taking the time to talk with me today.

I know that you got your start in the industry in 1979 by joining PPG Industries as a management trainee and over the course of your time there you became a branch manager for them in Greenville, South Carolina. What sparked your initial interest in the AGRR industry?

PH:

I liked the idea. Everyone who owned a car was a potential customer. I also liked working directly with customers. It was a good fit with my personality.

 

You left PPG in 1986 to open Coastal Glass Distributors in Charleston, South Carolina. Do you mind sharing the reason why you left PPG?

PH:

I loved working with PPG and they taught me so much, but I saw an opportunity to open a glass distribution business in Charleston. The market seemed underserved to me.

 

So you saw a great opportunity to open a wholesale business to fill a need in the marketplace and Coastal Glass proved to be a success. That’s great, but what caused you to decide to exit a successful wholesale business that had grown quickly in the market and move into retail?

PH:

The auto glass business was changing and a number of our retail customers were being purchased by large retailers.

I realized that you couldn’t serve two masters.

 

So after starting Glasspro in 1995 and turning your focus solely on the retail side of the AGRR industry what did you learn about the differences between the wholesale and retail business and especially when it came to serving the needs of your customers?

PH:

The insurance industry paid better than contractors did. But more importantly, I felt insurance customers valued service and quality more than a lot of glazing contractors did.

 

So how long did it take you to open additional stores in the South Carolina market?

PH:

We opened our second location in 1995.

 

Knowing you and understanding that ensuring that each and every customer you do work has the absolute best experience and is “delighted” with that experience, as I’ve heard you say, and service they receive from Glasspro, what suggestions or ideas can you offer to the readers of this blog on how to achieve that with their customers?

PH:

It is a total commitment from all of our people to recognize that it is a one job at a time business.

 

What were some of the challenges you faced in finding and then keeping the best people to make sure your customers are always delighted with Glasspro?

PH:

We hire “nice,” and we use a personality profile assessment on every potential new hire. We want to make sure it is a good fit for all parties concerned.

 

Is it difficult in a market like South Carolina to sell people on windshield repairs?

PH:

We spend a lot of time, energy and training on explaining the benefits of a repair.


Do you provide any non AGRR services for customers at Glasspro?

PH:

No, auto glass is all that we do.

 

You and Glasspro are and have been leaders in the AGRR industry for quite some time. In the past 8 years you’ve had 4 of your auto glass technicians win the Auto Glass Olympics in the United States and 1 who won the world title. That is truly an amazing feat for one AGRR company to have achieved and I’m sure you’re quite proud of those who have competed in and those who have won these events. What drives your auto glass technicians to not only excel in what they do for your customers in South Carolina, but to work so hard to become Auto Glass Olympic winners?

PH:

We have been fortunate again in hiring the right people who are committed to striving for excellence, each and every day.

For other companies in the AGRR industry that would like to compete and have the success that you’re auto  glass technicians have had in excelling in these events, what advice do you offer them?

PH: 

Train to the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard® (AGRSS®)  and then install with it on each and every windshield.

 

As a strong supporter of the AGRSS® standard and the goals of the Auto Glass Safety Council, Inc. what advice would you offer to other AGRR companies about joining the safety organization, following the ANSI standard and opening the doors of Glasspro to third party auditors to validate to your customers that you provide the safest installations possible?

PH: 

I believe it is good for your customers and sends a message to your employees that providing safety is the most important thing that we do.


What advice can you offer on how you successfully compete against a national player in the market place?

PH:

We respect all of our competitors, but we also take great pride in striving to deliver excellence and value to our customers.

 

I know that you may be uncomfortable about talking about some of the things you and Glasspro do to help those in need in your markets, but you’re a big supporter of your community and I commend you for your the efforts. You have developed a program called “3 Degree Guarantee” to help many in your community and the coastal area of South Carolina with special needs. Could you tell us a little about what you and your company accomplishes with “3 Degree Guarantee”?


PH:

It helps us bring awareness to many non profits as well as give them funds. This allows them to serve our local community.

 

I’m very proud that Glasspro is one of the co-branded partners of Windshield Centers. As a locally owned and operated AGRR business that has found great success in the markets you serve, what attracted you to becoming a part of Windshield Centers?

PH:

Windshield Centers is customer focused and committed to delivering excellence just like Glasspro strives to be. There were many things that I found attractive about Windshield Centers, but two in particular stood out. First, Windshield Centers is using advanced technology which provides a quick response to customers’ needs in a way that really keeps a customer in the loop. Secondly, they have created a Windshield Centers “Centers of Excellence”, which focuses on an environment that fosters continuous improvement for its members. These two advancements are just a few of the things which I believe help us bring value to our insurance partners.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to talk about with the readers of this blog?

PH:

I believe we are entering a special time in our industry and I am confident the future is bright for the committed independent auto glass company.

 

Well thank you very much Paul for taking the time to talk with me about Glasspro and the success that you’ve achieved and also passing along how positive you are for the future opportunities that exist in the AGRR industry. I’ve had the fortune to spend time with you and your team and it is quite obvious why you and your company have enjoyed such great success. There are always opportunities in the market place for those who desire excellence for their company and the people that work with them to achieve that success. I wish you and your organization the best in 2013 and the years to come.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – 10 Big Rules from T. Boone Pickens

A couple of months ago I was looking at a web site TED.com. TED.com is operated by a non-profit group dedicated to bringing together leaders from technology, entertainment and design who are given the challenge to give “the talks of their lives” in 18 minutes or less at TED Conferences. If you visit the web site you’ll find a number of very interesting people talking about a wide variety of topics and most of them are passionate discussions of topics that are very important to each speaker. The organization also has events called TED(the x means an independently organized TED event) which brings the lofty goals of the international organization to locales across the United States and world to stimulate discussion on topics that have special meaning to the community. Through this site I found a T. Boone Pickens talk which he gave at his alma mater Oklahoma State University on December 3, 2012. The topic was what he called The Leadership Plan. In a 16 minute talk that was both humorous and serious, he laid out what he called his 10 Big Rules which really resonated with me. To me, these rules seem more like principles, but Mr. Pickens rules are pretty straightforward and are ones that anyone can and should follow. His 10 Big Rules:

1.    Have a good work ethic

2.    Make a plan

3.    Look for big things

4.    Take advice from smart people

5.    Make your case in 3 minutes or less

6.    Don’t be afraid to make a decision

7.    Embrace change

8.    Don’t cheat

9.    Have patience

10.  Be generous

In the case of T. Boone Pickens these were the rules that he started following while attending Oklahoma State University after a little prodding from his father. The fact that he figured out these rules at such a young age brought him the opportunity to have a wealth of experiences and at a young age monetary wealth as well. His first rule is that, regardless of your position in life, having a good work ethic is a key to having success. No one can disagree with that one. Mr. Pickens second rule is to make a plan. If you make a plan it will provide you a clear direction to head in achieving the goals you set for yourself. This rule should also give you a way to clearly measure how you’re working toward achieving your plan. When you look for big things you find will find ways to differentiate yourself from others and this should help you in finding success in anything you pursue.

Mr. Pickens fourth rule certainly has meaning to me – take advice from smart people. You can’t know everything so finding people who can help you achieve your plan is critical to finding success. I’ve always tried to surround myself with smart people who bring knowledge and experiences I don’t have. The next rule is that you need to be able to make your case in 3 minutes or less.  This really speaks to having a clear understanding of your goals along with the key ingredients that will provide you with a recipe for success that you can easily communicate. Why is this important? In order to get those you want to join you in pursuit of your plan, you need to be able to persuade or influence them so being able to make your case will be critical to your success. Once you’ve got your team on board with your plan you also need to be able to clearly communicate to those who will be buying the product or service you’re offering. Rule five make your case in 3 minutes or less makes a lot of sense.

As a leader don’t be afraid to make a decision. You can get bogged down in the decision making process, but don’t. You obviously always try to make the best decisions you possibly can by analyzing all pertinent information and determining the best course of action. Then ou then deal with the consequences of the action that you take. Be fearless.

You also have to be able to embrace change. With Mr. Pickens’ rule number seven he’s telling us that everything around us is in constant change and you must  willing to accept change if you want to find success in business. If you’re not open to trying new ways of doing things you are not going to be successful. You can’t fear change and you have to surround yourself with people who embrace change just as much as you do. Mr. Pickens says be a change advocate and that’s truly great advice.

His eighth rule – don’t cheat – doesn’t really need any explanation, but no success can truly be enjoyed if you cheat to achieve it. I’m sure you know people or companies who you feel have cheated and achieved success by doing so. It is certainly frustrating to watch others cheat and get away with it, but if you really want to be a leader Mr. Pickens advice is just don’t do it.

The ninth big rule is one of the most important rules. As a leader you have to have patience. You need to show patience with the people that work for you and you have to be patient as you put your plan into action. If you have faith in the direction you’re going you have to give your plan time to work. Mr. Pickens tells a story of a friend who told him, “Don’t rush the monkey and you’ll get a better show.” Be patient.

T. Boone Pickens tenth big rule of leadership is that you should always be generous with your time and treasure. His grandmother told him, “Don’t forget where you came from.”

The 10 Big Rules that Mr. Pickens detailed in his 16 minute talk are really great rules for anyone to follow in life or business.  As I mentioned earlier, when I watched his talk at the Oklahoma State University Mr. Pickens 10 Big Rules really resonated with me. I’d like to think that I have followed his rules in my business career, but the only way to know for sure would be to ask those with whom I have had the privilege to have worked.

What do you think people would say about you if asked?

Just sayin’.

 

 

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