Posts Tagged Massachusetts

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 – The Times They Are (Always) A-Changin’ – Part II

In a recent blog titled The Times They Are (Always) A-Changin’ I mentioned a few of the acquisitions that have recently taken place and I wrote about why an owner might consider that selling at this time is a good choice.

There are many ways for your business to remain relevant and continue to survive in the retail world. Whatever you believe it is that you must do to remain relevant you need to make sure that your customers believe it too. For some businesses remaining relevant may mean selling or merging with a competitor. In recent weeks several businesses have announced that they are doing just that.”

Later in that paragraph I wrote:

“During the past 30 years, a number of companies have acquired others in the AGRR industry to increase their own market share and separate them from or take out competitors. It certainly seems that there has been an uptick in acquisitions of companies of all sizes and I’m sure you’ll be hearing of others very soon.”

It didn’t take long to hear of others. On December 31, 2012, The Boston Globe posted on its www.boston.com web site a story titled “Safelite declines to comment on talks to buy Giant Glass”. If the story was true it was big news in the greater Boston market. Safelite has been trying to regain its position in New England for a number of years. A couple of days later it was confirmed by glassBYTEs™ and also in a story titled, “its official: Giant Glass is now owned by Safelite”. As a local company Giant Glass advertised against using “national” companies, but now Giant isn’t a local company anymore and its now owned by a company that’s headquartered in Belgium. I wonder how that’s going to play in the marketplace. Then last Friday, January 11, 2013 glassBYTEs™ posted another article titled “Safelite Acquires Second New England Area Shop this Month” reporting the acquisition of Windshield World based in Vermont.

There are all sorts of good and bad reasons to buy or sell. I think we’ll be hearing of further acquisitions announced by Safelite, Gerber and others in the near future. Maybe you’re hearing some of the same rumors that I’m hearing?

Regardless of the ongoing consolidations that are taking place I’m certainly a firm believer that there are opportunities for independents in the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry. In order to be successful you’ve got to make sure that you surround yourself with the best people and that they are committed to the goals and aspirations that you have for your business. You’ve got to deliver on the promise of providing the best service and products that you can versus your competitors and then do it at a fair price. In The Times They Are (Always) A-Changin’ (Part One) I wrote,

Other ways you can remain relevant are by finding that unique selling proposition (USP) that separates you from your competitors. So what is that something that only you can do in your market, something that raises the bar so high that your competitors either can’t or won’t try to achieve it therefore distinguishing you from others in the eyes of consumers? If you find that USP, you will survive against other retailers in the battle royal that exists in your market. Of course the need to find that extra something has always existed in business, but maybe more so today with the pace of change that you see across the retail industry. When you see the mega-retailers like Amazon.com and Wal-Mart fighting over current customers to determine which will find the USP that will secure future customers and separate it from others, you know that the same battles that have been going on for years aren’t subsiding anytime soon. It is the same in the AGRR industry and you can be sure that things that you’re doing today in your business will change tomorrow and you need to change with it.”

 In times like we’re in now you need to focus on what you’re doing and how you can differentiate yourself from your competitors. Non U.S. based companies like Safelite and Gerber seem to be gobbling up the competition. Find your USP and find a way to compete. As the cartoon below suggests, “keep changing the game”. 

Keep Changing the Game

Cartoon courtesy of http://www.TomFishburne.com

 Just sayin’…….

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Just Sayin’ Blog – A “Reasonable” Path to Follow

In 2012 elected representatives in two states, South Carolina and Massachusetts, introduced legislative initiatives related to the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry. In both states the initiatives ultimately turned into bills that were passed and signed by the respective state’s governor. The legislative process is often referred to as “sausage making” (attributed to American poet John Godfrey Saxe), taking ideas of a diverse group of interested parties (in this case both large and small AGRR retail companies, manufacturers and distributors, networks or remarketers, third-party administrators, insurance companies and others) who attempt to influence legislation in hopes of making the sausage to their own individual taste. Legislators, with the help of all the interested parties and of course the lobbyists employed to help influence the outcome for their clients, attempt to find common ground so that when possible all of the interested parties see something of what they originally wanted in the bill that is ultimately passed but probably not everything each was hoping to achieve. There is of course always next year…

In the blog I posted on June 12, 2012 titled Auto Glass Repair & Replacement Industry Legislation in South Carolina ***UPDATED*** , I wrote about the law that was passed and signed by the governor in South Carolina earlier this year and what it meant to those who compete in all facets of the AGRR industry in that state. The South Carolina law takes effect on January 1, 2013. In this blog post I’d like to take a look at the bill that was passed and signed into law by Massachusetts Governor Devel Patrick and what its guidelines mean to those that it is truly meant to protect – consumers in the State of Massachusetts. I believe that this law is one that should be a template for use in other states that want to pass AGRR legislation in the coming year.

Massachusetts Bill 2216 took full effect on November 1, 2012 and the law’s primary focus is on what it should be – consumers. When you review the requirements of the law, it states that businesses that provide AGRR services in the state are required to follow a number of guidelines in order to be licensed which ultimately will provide a variety of protections to consumers. Licensed? That seems “reasonable” doesn’t it? With the importance of a safe installation of the windshield to vehicle owners in the state it seems like a “reasonable” expectation that residents of the state should feel confident that the Massachusetts Division of Standards is watching out for them and their passenger’s safety.

What are some of those protections? The first is that any company or individuals doing replacements for Massachusetts residents register with the state and maintain an address in the state. Any new company or a company that is seeking renewal of its license for a shop or shops must have a physical location or locations and that the company maintain indoor facilities to perform repairs to vehicles. Again that appears to be a “reasonable” expectation on the part of consumers.

If you’re going to operate in Massachusetts a company must register its vans as commercial vehicles and obtain all licenses and permits that are required by the various governments (local, state or federal). Again that seems like a “reasonable” expectation of a consumer in the state.

There is a requirement in the law that a “registered motor vehicle glass repair shop shall maintain records for each motor vehicle upon which motor vehicle glass repair services have been performed”.  That the registered motor vehicle glass shop has to maintain records to “show(ing) the usage of all glass parts, major accessory parts, including moldings and major hardware and component parts”. Remembering that the law is really all about protecting Massachusetts residents, the bill goes on to address the requirement that the registered shop maintain records about “the brand, product number or name and lot and batch numbers for the adhesive system product used” (language that relates to the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard – AGRSS™) and again is a “reasonable” protection of the consumer in case of a failure or recall of the glass part or adhesive product used. The law requires that the registered shop maintain records for “18 months or for so long as a warranty  on the motor vehicle glass repair service is performed is in effect, whichever is longer.” This is another guideline in the law that is now in effect that seems like a “reasonable” expectation of a consumer in case they experience an issue relating to the AGRR service provided in the future.

The law also requires that the consumer must be provided, upon their request that a “registered motor vehicle glass repair shop shall disclose all information relating to the charges for the repair or replacement services, including the amount of the charges, the identification and line item charges for the parts provided and verification of the parts used, regardless of whether the amount is paid by the consumer or billed to the consumer’s insurance company.” That seems “reasonable”. If a Massachusetts consumer has a glass repaired or replaced, shouldn’t they expect that the price that is being invoiced by the company that is actually doing the repair or replacement is the price that is actually being charged to their insurance company when a claim is filed against the consumer’s insurance policy? Yes that does seem “reasonable”. I’m not sure how a network or remarketer who is used to receiving a “spread” on the work being done by others on its behalf in Massachusetts deals with that new guideline, but it is now the law.

There are also requirements relating to the actions that are allowed to take place by third party administers, networkers or remarketers and insurance companies that operate in the state. The law also includes a section relating to guidelines that outlaws anti-steering by any of the aforementioned to ensure that consumers can use a shop of their choice. No third party administer, network, remarketer or insurance company can require that a Massachusetts insured use a particular AGRR glass shop. That also seems “reasonable” expectation doesn’t it? A law that is providing the consumer the opportunity to choose the shop they want to use via this legislation is a good thing.

The law authorizes the Massachusetts Division of Insurance to not only enforce all of the guidelines, but authorized the authorities to collect fines associated with any violation of the law by those providing AGRR services to Massachusetts residents. The law requires consumer transparency and that too is a “reasonable” expectation that consumers should expect to receive when they are in need of auto glass repairs or replacements.

I believe that Massachusetts Bill 2216 which has was enacted by the state legislature and signed by the governor into law could be a template for similar legislative initiatives in other states in the coming year. In a previous blog titled Network Participation Agreement – “Special Update” I suggested that as an AGRR retailer you might want to,

continue to focus on the customer and provide exceptional value with outstanding transparency.” 

It seems to me that the Massachusetts law provides transparency and new protections to residents of the Bay State who may require the services that AGRR industry provides to them and those protections are indeed “reasonable”. The guidelines in the law and the protections it provides must be abided by AGRR retailers in the state, third party administrators, networks, remarketers and insurance companies or there are consequences to any who may attempt to circumvent the law. The guidelines provide protections for residents/consumers that are “reasonable” for all to follow and are in the best interest of residents/consumers. The Massachusetts law is, I believe, a great place for other states who are interested in protecting its residents to start. What do you think?

Just sayin’……………

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