Posts Tagged Independent Glass Association
Today I’m talking with Eric Asbery, President of , an undisputed premier provider of innovative for the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry in the world. The company was founded by Eric’s father in 1987. Ray unexpectedly passed away last September 27th at the age of 67.
Over the years Equalizer has received many awards, including several “Best of Show” awards. Company executives have also received a variety of industry awards including Eric’s being recognized in 2007 by the (NGA) with its prestigious NGA “10 Under 40” award; in 2005, Equalizer Vice President of Sales, Gilbert Gutierrez was awarded the prestigious Len Stolk Award” and Ray was honored by being awarded in 2004 the “Carl Joliff Award” by the , in 1994 the NGA’s “Professional of the Year” and in 1992 Inc. Magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award. In fact, Auto Glass Week 2012 will be dedicated to Ray’s legacy.
Equalizer is headquartered in Round Rock, Texas which is about 15 miles north of the Texas state capitol of Austin.
DR: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer some questions Eric. I’m a big fan of Equalizer and I only wished that the tools that your company has developed and brought to the market over the past 25 years would have been available when I first started as an auto glass installer 40 years ago.
Eric Asbery: I hear that very often. As I was growing up, my Dad was transitioning from being an auto glass technician to a manager over several locations. I can remember him always talking about how there were no specific tools that technicians could use and that the taking glass out of automobiles was getting harder.
DR: I know that your father got his start in the AGRR industry with U.S. Auto Glass. How did long did he work for Joe Kellman and what were his responsibilities while at U.S. Auto Glass?
Eric Asbery: Actually, Dad got his start in AGRR as an installer in Louisville, Kentucky in the early 1960’s. He was hired in 1985 by Joe Kellman to manage the Austin, Texas market for U.S. Auto Glass. He worked there until late 1987.
DR: What was the impetus for Ray to start the company and how was he able to envision the tools he developed over the years?
Eric Asbery: Early in 1987, Dad and his technicians encountered the problematic 1986 Ford Taurus. It was a radical new design and the lower part of the windshield was attached by a thick, heavy bead of urethane that was nearly impossible to use conventional tools to remove it without breaking the windshield further. Many technicians were so frustrated by it that they resorted to just breaking it out with a hammer. One Saturday morning, after several of these tough jobs had come through his shop, Dad woke up with the design for the original Equalizer tool in his head. He went to work that Monday with the first Equalizer after building it over the weekend in our garage.
Dad was always inventing. He was a working man that really enjoyed working with his hands. He was always trying to improve upon any working situation he encountered. He listened to those around him, when they encountered a problem with their daily work; he always tried to make their job easier. Whether it was a tool or technique, it was very enjoyable for him to make work more productive for everyone.
DR: Equalizer is known for its products all over the world. How did that happen and what are you planning to maintain and grow that presence, especially beyond North America?
Eric Asbery: In the early days of Equalizer, we received a lot of attention on a worldwide scale. Every trade show we exhibited at or magazine we advertised in, people who did auto glass anywhere in the world were drawn to us because we were producing tools that hadn’t existed before. The timing was right and we knew it. We were fulfilling a need, right when it was needed the most. We simply focused on providing great customer service and the world came to us.
We now have over 100 different distributors worldwide; we are constantly traveling, researching current automotive glass installation trends and training the appropriate people necessary to satisfy the needs of technicians everywhere. As the global economy allows, we are always in search of new areas to market and support our products.
DR: Equalizer has always been known as the dominant company for auto glass replacement tools. Do you plan to do the same for repair?
Eric Asbery: The auto glass repair market is something we have always invested in. There are several great repair systems out there and we have carried several of them over the past several years. If our coverage of this market is consistent, then there is a chance we can become the dominant supplier. However, our primary goal is to ensure that any product we offer gives the auto glass technician the best opportunity to do their job effectively and easily.
DR: Many people are always looking forward to the new Equalizer catalog. In the last several years, you also established a great presence on the internet. Do your customers still like to look through a paper catalog or is there a shift to see the products through electronic media?
Eric Asbery: We have found that even though there is an ever-growing part of the industry that is becoming electronically inclined, most people still like to “flip through pages” of our catalog and that will be the direction we will continue to go until we sense that a major shift to electronic media is on the horizon. We think our catalog will continue to stay in printed form for quite some time but we always alternately develop and make available electronic versions of our promotional or marketing materials.
DR: When did you join Equalizer and what areas of the company were you responsible? How did your responsibilities grow over the years?
Eric Asbery: I have been at Equalizer since day one. My role at Equalizer, until 2005, had been directly related to developing Equalizer’s brand, image and marketing presence. In 2005, Dad (then 61) and I began work on my transitioning to the daily management of Equalizer. We both considered that transition complete in late 2010. Although Dad had never had any definitive plans for retirement, we all figured he’d work at Equalizer into his 80‘s. In retrospect, I am very relieved we had this foresight.
DR: I know that many of the tools that Equalizer has developed over the years have unquestionably helped reduce countless injuries of auto glass technicians. The number of cuts, lacerations, back and neck strains requiring visits to hospital emergency rooms has had to have gone down by those using your tools and products. I know many companies supply auto glass technicians with Equalizer tools just for that reason. Hopefully this question doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable, but do you hear from those who buy and use your tool thanking you for how Equalizer tools make it easier for them to do their jobs?
Eric Asbery: It is a very humbling experience to hear from someone who has benefited greatly from something you created for them. We receive feedback from hundreds of technicians each year thanking us for offering these products to them. My favorite memories from over the years have been when a technician has walked up to my Dad or any of us working at a trade show or open house and proceeded to tell a “before and after” story about our one of our tools and how it has greatly impacted their life in a positive way. It is truly the best part of my job.
DR: When new car models come out each year they often have auto glass parts factory-installed in ways that many responsible for replacing those parts feel were designed by diabolical design engineers who seem to try to cause problems. How quickly do you start looking for replacement solutions for those parts that could cause difficulties?
Eric Asbery: We have a network of “Equalizer Inventors” who are mostly auto glass technicians who have worked with us to design or create products over the years that we sell and/or produce for them. These technicians will encounter new design problems during their job on a daily basis and within a very short time they inform us of it. In many cases, they will offer a potential solution based on their experience and that’s what gets the ball rolling to create a product that will simplify the experience.
DR: With the sudden great loss of your company’s leader, mentor, friend and your father, what plans do you have in the future to continue to grow the business and provide the AGRR industry with leading edge and innovative products in your leadership role?
Eric Asbery: Since the beginning of our company, our focus has been to serve the needs of auto glass technicians everywhere. We developed relationships and processes to ensure we have been on the leading edge of technology for this industry. Nothing has changed or will change in this area. This is why Dad founded this company, this is our purpose.
We are always on the lookout for the next big thing, the next viable trend. Be it a tool, a process or just an idea or concept. We will travel, learn, adapt and teach. We will continue to gain from the experience of technicians in the smallest auto glass shop to the biggest national chain. We will always listen, respond and provide the best products available. This is what we do.
Thank you very much for spending the time to answer my questions Eric. You have a great company and I wish you continued great success. You and your team have provided the AGRR industry with amazing products. I know that many join me in anticipation of the next great product that you develop to further improve the installation process as well as the safety of technicians around the world. Thank you for all you and your company do.
A couple of weeks ago my mother experienced shortness of breath along with chest pains. Two hours later she called her sister who lives close by and told my aunt she was thinking that she should go to the emergency room. They could’ve called 9-1-1, but instead together they made the decision to have my aunt drive my mother to the closest emergency room in a hospital about 30 miles away.
My aunt is 91 and my mother is 90……
They made it to the E.R. and after a few days in hospital my mother was released and is doing fine. I talked with them about whether they thought they really made the best decisions to drive down themselves based on the symptom’s my mom was experiencing, the fact that ambulance service was readily available and that it was snowing that day. I hesitated to mention their age to them.
They both are very independent women who have great genes. I’m very happy that they both are very independent and it’s great that they rely on each other, but they reluctantly agreed that they probably made a bad decision even though it turned out okay so it wasn’t that bad of a decision. I suggested that perhaps they should’ve called 9-1-1 and they said that next time they would. I’m not so sure they will though.
If you look up the definition of decision in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary you will find:
“a determination arrived at after consideration”.
We make countless decisions every day just like my mom and aunt did. There are good decisions and bad ones, and all are based on a myriad of bits and pieces of information that we take into consideration. Most decisions we make are uneventful, but some carry great consequence for those who can be affected by them. Consequential decisions are often forks in the road and generally require more information and greater evaluation of the right or wrong road to follow. Those consequential decisions will most likely be based on the values or principals you hold. They therefore provide a clear view of who you are and what is truly important in your personal and business life.
You can be decisive in your decision making or you can hesitate and be indecisive. Indecision makes all decisions more difficult because when you’re uncertain, unsure of your decision, it will often lead to less-than-positive results. Even after giving great thought and consideration to a decision it can turn out badly, but with careful consideration and a look at all the information available, those difficult decisions you make tend ultimately to be the right ones.
If you’re an auto glass shop owner or manager you make decisions relating to whom you hire to work for your company. You decide what kind of on-going training you provide to your employees. You decide the quality of the auto glass you buy for them to install and you make a really big decision on the urethane adhesives that you buy for your auto glass technician (AGT) to use when they install windshields for your customers.
Does the urethane you buy cure in 1 to 4 hours and provide a safe drive away time for your customers and their passengers? Do you tell your customers when their vehicle is safe to drive? Is it really safe for them to drive? As the shop owner it’s your decision. You make a decision on whether your company will join the Auto Glass Safety Council and follow the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard – AGRSS® as a registered company or not. If you become an AGRSS Registered Company you open your doors to an independent 3rd party validation process proving that you adhere to AGRSS®. That decision is important to all consumers who expect that their auto glass replacement is installed safely. I strongly feel that supporting the Auto Glass Safety Council is an easy decision for anyone who provides auto glass replacements to consumers. What do you think?
Your AGTs are responsible for making decisions when they are installing auto glass too. An AGT could make the decision to take a short-cut during the installation, or he could go forward and complete an installation of a windshield where a rust issue exists which could cause an adhesion problem effecting the safe installation of the glass. Or he could contaminate the surface of the pinch-weld or glass, he could use an outdated urethane which could affect the adhesion of the glass installed, etc. Whether your company is a small one or the largest, you have AGTs making decisions that affect safety with each install. Are they making the right decisions for your customers?
When an insurance company makes decisions regarding which company it chooses to replace auto glass for policyholders, what information do you think it uses to make those decisions? What information do you think is important for agents or brokers who are in a position to recommend auto glass service providers to policyholders?
What are the key drivers for these decisions? Quality should certainly be the key driver. Price is also certainly a factor as is the importance of an efficient claim handling process for the insurance company, agent and/or broker. The service and convenience provided to the policyholder should also be a factor in the decision making of those who are in a position of influencing where a policyholder has their glass replaced. Neither the steering of a customer to a particular AGRR company that also happens to be answering the call for the insurance company nor the practice of handing a gratuity to the agent/broker should be a part of the decision-making process. Sadly it is. What do you think the key factors for those making these important decisions should include?
We all have had to make many consequential personal and/or business decisions over the years. When we make those consequential decisions they often affect not only you and your family, but they also often have an unintended effect on others too. They aren’t easy, but they say a lot about your character.
The last stanza of the poem “The Road Not Taken”, penned by the great America poet Robert Frost says:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Lauren Fix is The Car Coach® With her extensive and impressive background in the world of automotive safety, Lauren is seen and heard coast-to-coast on major TV shows, print, web and radio. She is a winning professional race car driver and self-described alpha mom. As an award winning “automotive and lifestyle expert” Lauren has an educational background in business, engineering and marketing; and is a renowned expert in the many aspects of the automotive industry. I’m honored to have her answer some questions today.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions. After listening to a talk you gave recently it was very apparent to all in attendance that you are very passionate about educating consumers to help make them become more aware of the importance of keeping their cars in good mechanical condition, as well as making sure they know the ins and outs of how to deal with the automotive service industry when they need their cars repaired. You also are interested in helping those that want to provide the highest level of service to car owners understand the importance of having more knowledgeable customers. It seems like you were born for mission.
How and why did you become The Car Coach®?
Lauren Fix: I always loved cars and helped my father in the garage when I was just a kid. By the age of 10 I was able to help him turn wrenches and get the tools he asked for. I was a “tomboy” for sure. When I graduated high school my goal was to be an actress, but after long conversations with my father, he convinced me to look elsewhere. I went to school for business, communications and engineering classes. I started racing cars at the age of 16 and being on national TV has been just as much of an adrenaline rush. After restoring cars, racing, designed brake systems and writing articles for years about cars, a friend approached me to be a guest on Motorweek, a PBS show. After the show he suggested that I be a dealer trainer as the money was great. I was working for my father’s brake rebuilding company and I had done everything from tearing down old brakes to designing the first drum-to-disc-brake conversion kit. I did ad design, marketing and placement then became a National Sales Manager. You name it and I did it.
This opportunity was great for me as I had been working in the aftermarket side and this opened doors to the manufacturing side of autos. I started in the parking lot and chased cones; this was crazy I had all this experience and a college degree. So I contacted the training company and explained my background, they gave me a chance with a marketing session and thought I was a perfect fit. I worked hard and in a few months and I was asked to be a lead trainer and was lucky enough to get that slot. I trained dealers and dealer principles for many years until 9/11 when we were near NYC and I knew it was time to end this chapter.
In the meantime, I started writing for magazines, websites, regional and national TV appearances educating and informing people about cars and the industry. In January of 1996, there was a blizzard in Chicago and many people were stranded and didn’t know what to do. That led to a phone call from Oprah. Her staff asked me to be a guest on the show and help viewers see how they should be prepared. That led to being a guest 6 times and many reruns. That led to multiple national TV appearance on news and morning shows. Then hosting a show on DIY for 4 years and now a regular segment on Time Warner Cable News.
I also had a performance driving school to top it all off, called Driving Ambitions; it was held exclusively at Watkins Glen International Raceway. We taught 100’s of drivers three weekends a year from 1981 to 2001. It was a great way to learn about people and their cars.
In addition, my husband Paul, and I started a company in 1989 called Classic Tube and we manufacture automotive and industrial tubing products in short runs. I no longer have a desk there but I am still Vice President. Paul also operates Fix Motorsports where we restore collector cars and vintage race cars.
I’m an ASE certified technician, although I only work on my cars and I’m also a long-standing member of SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers). As the spokesperson for the Car Care Council I’ve been honored to help educate consumers for over 10 years and help drivers “Be Car Care Aware”.
You were recently a featured speaker at Auto Glass Week™ 2011 that was held in Memphis. What was the message you took away from your time there?
Lauren Fix: Auto Glass Week was a great idea to merge multiple groups for a common cause, meet budget demands and allow your industry networking and educational opportunities. I learned quite a bit about the industry and look forward to educating consumers on the importance of auto glass and how it integrates with safety. AGRSS® is critical to consumer’s safety and drivers really need to be informed about an area that is never discussed in public.
Where do you see the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry going? Do you see any problems that need to be fixed?
Lauren Fix: I believe that the auto glass industry can learn from the successes in the automotive aftermarket with educating consumers to be smarter customers. Very little is ever mentioned and insurance companies control the outcome, and as tightly as the drug companies control doctors. This needs to change for all drivers’ safety and consumer’s pocket books.
What do you think about the importance of AGRSS®, the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard® Council’s mission relating to consumer safety?
Lauren Fix: I think the mission makes sense and they are on the right track – getting more eyes to the website and a consumer education campaign will raise the awareness for all auto glass installers. There are many ways to do this without spending millions on television commercial campaigns.
In your experience, what do drivers and consumers understand about auto glass?
Lauren Fix: They never even think about it until there is a crack or chip. Then it’s left in the hands of their insurance company and who they push them toward. Consumers are not making the choices for themselves because they are sheltered from the fact and insurance companies are very aware of it so they handle it for them and control the industry for the most part. Consumers need to make their own choices.
Do you think that drivers are aware that their windshield is an important safety device in their vehicle?
Lauren Fix: I don’t think they have a clue. They think seatbelts and airbags work together as a team, not realizing that the windshield is a critical component.
What is the most important safety tip that you personally wish that all drivers knew about?
Lauren Fix: I wish that driver’s realized that they need to learn more than what is taught in driver’s education when they were 16. Safety is more than driving skills and being aware, it’s about making their cars safer on the road for themselves, their families and other around them on the road. Our culture of cars being just transportation is a fallacy because they are an integral part of our everyday lives. Drivers should take the automobile and the industry more seriously; and with respect. If you look at how drivers in Europe see their vehicles and their training it could be a good starting point for the US and Canada to start including some of their programs here.
What does it mean to you to be selected by the Car Care Council Women’s Board (WB) and the Automotive Communication Council (ACC) 2011 winner of the Automotive Communication Award for “B to C Public Relations Efforts” and also the “B to C– TV Segment for the The Car Coach® Show”?
Lauren Fix: This is a great honor, I take being The Car Coach® very seriously, but with some fun involved too. To be recognized for my efforts just confirms the fact the we are doing all we can to help all drivers everywhere to be more informed, be safer on the road, maintain the value of their cars and learn to love them at the same time.
And finally, tell me about your mission and goals for the next year.
Lauren Fix: I just started working with The Weather Channel, and this will offer me the opportunity to reach more drivers. This is all in my monthly newsletter, blog, twitter and RSS feeds. My daughter, Shelby, and I are finishing my 4th book and her first; she is the Teen Car Coach™ helping teens and younger millennial drivers be informed as this generation looks at autos in such a different perspective. My mission is constantly evolving as new opportunities arise from speaking to writing to television opportunities. Also watch for me on QVC and Fox Business Channel. The Weather Channel has added automotive to their lifestyle programming. I’m always listening and learning; so feel free to contact me at www.laurenfix.com.
Thank you again for taking the time to reach out to those of us in the AGRR industry with your message. Those of us who are part of AGRSS® certainly appreciated your appearing at Auto Glass Week in Memphis last month.
Lauren has a strong voice in the automotive industry customer service space. Through her brand and her high visibility in the automotive industry, she can help bring needed attention to the importance of safe windshield installations to the driving public. That’s what I believe. What do you think?
When you own or operate an auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) business, you find yourself wearing a lot of hats. I know that was the case when I was operating a small business in Florida back in the late 70’s and 80’s. I worked hard to make it successful, and luckily I had the help of a lot of great people. If you work in a small to mid-sized shop, there are a number of tasks to handle after the phone rings:
- Answer customer questions
- Offer quotes and (hopefully) take orders
- Input customer data into the point-of-sale program
- Participate in one of those never ending conference calls with TPA’s (Third Party Administrators) and get all of the required approvals (and probably put other customers on hold in the meantime)
- Contact your supplier for required parts via phone or online order
- Coordinate and schedule an appointment for the installation of the glass
- Invoice the person paying for the replacement
- Make collection calls for slow payers
And these are only some of the things that you have to do to properly take care of a customer. Just think of all the different tasks that you do every day to run your business.
Then there’s the challenge of figuring out how to make the phone ring vianewspaper and Yellow Pages ads, internet advertising, social networking sites, and face-to-face sales calls to potential customers who you hope will send you referrals. There are countless other sales and marketing tactics that you can use to help customers to find your business, and you have to spend a lot of the time and money to make that happen.
Then there is the time that you spend managing the people who work for you, scheduling jobs, ordering parts, making sure that you’ve got the right materials to do a proper installation, and maintaining a clean and safe shop. You have to purchase trucks for mobile installations, and buy all of the different types of insurance for your business to operate. You have to keep records for your business, pay bills, hopefully pay yourself, and of course account for and pay taxes to the federal, state and sometimes local governments. When you start to write down the list of things that you do, the tasks are endless. The various skills that you need to be successful are truly impressive.
If you’re lucky enough to have a larger scale business, then you must find a number of dedicated people with similar skills who can help you to run the business as it continues to grow. It’s an exciting and somewhat daunting task, isn’t it?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines FACTOTUM as, “a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities.” The origin of FACTOTUM is Latin and the word literally means to “do everything.” When you own a small business you have to wear a lot of hats. You need a lot of knowledge about everything in your business. There are many resources in our industry that can help you to run your business. For example, there are a number of AGRR associations that can provide helpful inside information about our trade – the Independent Glass Association, the National Glass Association, NWRA and AGRSS® to name a few.
Running a business is hard to do. Wearing all of those hats keeps you very busy and you’ve got to truly master countless parts of your business to keep a step ahead of suppliers, TPA’s, insurance companies, competitors and many others who often make running your business even more challenging. It’s tiring to constantly focus on controlling costs. It takes a lot of work to find the right recipe for success that ensures that your business is profitable and viable.
But in the face of all of this, it’s worth the effort. Just know that you are indeed a FACTOTUM, so hold your head up high.