Posts Tagged No Shortcut to Safety
Posted by "Just Sayin'..." in aftermarket, AGRR, AGRSS, aumotive after-market, Auto Glass, Auto Glass Safety Council, Autoglass, Business, Collision Repair Industry, Innovation, Interviews, Leadership, OEM, Retail, Service, Sika Corporation, supplier, Tools, Uncategorized, USP, Windscreens on October 28, 2014
John King is retiring this year as the Vice President – Aftermarket at Sika Corporation. In his role at Sika John has been a key influencer in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry both in North America and the world. I wanted to get John’s thoughts on the industry prior to his retirement and he agreed to talk.
Thank you for taking the time to talk again John. I know that you’re going through some changes in your life. You saw an auto glass installation for the first time in 1997 and a lot has changed since then to today. As you prepare to depart an active role in the AGRR industry can you tell us your view of the state of the industry as it relates to the safe installation of auto glass?
John King: For Auto Glass Retailers that continue to provide their Customers with Safe and Cost Effective Glass Replacement and Repairs, the future is bright, as there will always be a need for quality work.
Do you feel that there are more safe installations done today for consumers versus when you first entered the industry in 1997?
John King: Statistics like this are difficult to define, as it becomes more of an observation and opinion, than fact based. However, Economics always drive business decisions, and unfortunately, for the Auto Glass Industry, the Economics of today are much more stressful, than in 1997. For a number of reasons, the size of the Replacement Industry has shrunk over the past 7 years, resulting in a competitive climate that has far too many Glass Shop Companies and Independent One-Off Installers making Installation decisions based solely on the Revenue then need to survive. When that happens, Safe Installations take a back seat, to getting the job done cheaply. While “cheaply” does not necessarily mean incorrectly, it can mean that shortcuts in an installation may occur; “Slipping the Cowls, Short Urethane Beads, Incorrect Use of Priming Systems, No use of Priming Systems, and Not Holding the Vehicle until it is safe to Drive, are all symptoms of an unsafe installation”.
Unfortunately, I still believe that far too many Installers sacrifice a Complete Job, for a Quick Job. Therefore, my answer is that today, that are still far too many unsafe installations being done.
On the bright side, those Shops and Installers that are doing a Complete Job, have vastly improved since 1997. There is more adequate training available today, and for quality installers, who have kept up with training, and who are using the latest technologies of Urethane and Installation Equipment that better equip the Technician for making a Safer Installation, they are light years ahead of the best installs of 1997.
Do you think more needs to be done to ensure that replacements are being done correctly and are there any further steps you feel should be taken to ensure that auto glass is installed safely?
John King: No one likes or wants Government Intervention. However, unless the Industry takes it upon themselves to collectively raise the “bar of performance” when it comes to proper installations, it will only take a high profile auto glass installation related death, to raise the awareness of the Public and those that Govern to actively do something about it.. The Television Program 20-20, that aired 12 years or so ago, raised awareness for a period of time, but unfortunately, that awareness petered out and the public is still at risk. Quality Glass Shops who can “prove” to the Insurance Industry that they do perform Safe Installations, will be rewarded with business in that segment of the market. Glass Shops who implement and use “Net Promoter Scores” and track their Customers’ Satisfaction and Continue to Train their Technicians will be doing what the Consumers need them to be doing.
The Cash Market is another issue, and because it is structured differently and because there is “little to no quality barriers” for someone to enter the Auto Glass Industry, Consumers that utilize the Cash Market vs. the Insurance Market are subject to the unknown.
Have you any advice or hopes for the industry?
John King: Again, there will always be a need for Quality Work in an Industry. Just look at what 2014 has brought to the Automobile Manufacturers, with record numbers of Recalls. Consumers now have the lowest confidence ratings ever for Car Companies and those Manufacturers will only change that conception when Recalls are reduced. Auto Glass Retailers, Glass Manufacturers, Installation Equipment Makers and Urethane Producers need to work together to ensure the Public gets quality installations. There are many great people within the Auto Glass Industry and I believe that those committed to providing Safety will win their fair share.
Fill in the name of who is replacing you at Sika. I know that you’ve been transitioning him into your role as you are nearing retirement. Will there be any changes in direction for Sika?
John King: Mr. Marius Mavrodin replaced me, effective July 1, 2014, although I have still been consulted on important issues. That followed 5-6 months of us working very closely together so that he understood the Industry and our Customer Needs as much as possible. Marius has been with Sika for a number of years, so he knows our capabilities and he is blessed with an Organization that works very hard to provide Quality Products, Services and Support to our Customers. I know there is still room for improvement in what we do and Marius will lead this cause.
As an avid golfer I’m sure golf will play a major role in your retirement. Do you have any other plans you’d care to share?
John King: For the short term, my wife Marilyn and I will take a couple of months to catch our breath. The last 45 years together have flown by and we have been blessed with 5 wonderful children, with the Grandchild count, now at 4. They have been and will continue to be our major focus. It is not so much that I want to retire, but rather, I don’t want to work 50 hours a week anymore.
Fortunately, there are some opportunities for me that might take root. While deciding that, Marilyn loves to play golf as much as I do, and that is a major blessing. We will stay active in Church and Charitable Activities and perhaps do a little travel, but the one thing I will not miss are Planes, Trains and Automobiles, if you catch my drift. I will miss the People, for they have made it all worthwhile, and to all whom I have encountered over the years, I am truly grateful. And lastly but most importantly, I thank My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for looking after My Family and I. We would have been lost without Him.
Thank you very much for your thoughts and insights John. You have provided great leadership to the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry and I’ve certainly valued both our business and personal relationship. You will be missed by our industry. I’m sure everyone wishes you the best in your retirement and/or the new opportunities that await you.
I was honored at Auto Glass Week™ 2014 to present John with an inaugural AGRR industry award. The award begins a new tradition through which the industry honors an individual for the body of their contributions through the years. The award was once known as the Len Stolk Award (as you will remember Len was an individual focused on the advancement and education of all facets of the AGRR industry). John was an excellent choice to receive this inaugural award.
Photo courtesy of http://www.glassbytes.com
Welcome John King, Vice President – Aftermarket at Sika Corporation. Sika celebrated its 100 year anniversary in 2010, a true testament to the quality of their products and dedication to their customers. Sika has developed product systems in the automotive, construction, and industrial markets with a continuing focus on safety and sustainability. In the AGRR world, Sika produces adhesives for sealing and bonding windshields in the aftermarket auto glass industry that meet and/or exceed OEM (original equipment manufacturer) requirements.
What changes have you seen in the auto glass world since you first joined Sika and began working in this industry?
John King: My first exposure to an Auto Glass Installation, was in 1997, in Zurich Switzerland, where I saw the Technician wearing a shirt and tie, and a smock. This was how this tech dressed every day. To him, his job was his profession. While I certainly do not think that USA Installers need a dress code, I do see that many glass shop companies want to “raise the bar” of customer perception, installer performance and the glass shops’ commitment to safety, within our industry. I firmly believe that this country has many technicians who are committed to this cause, and take pride in their work. Unfortunately, over time, I have seen far too many technicians that care little about quality work, and even less about safety. We have an Industry with an extremely low “barrier of entry”, meaning that anyone can put a phone number on the side of their truck and advertise auto glass repair and/or replacement. However, that does not mean that they know what they are doing, and both the Public and Insurance Industry, know little about how to discern the difference between those who care and those who do not. As our country’s economic conditions have worsened, our industry has become a haven for persons looking to find some type of income. While it does not mean that those techs necessarily perform improper installations and repairs, we have to ask ourselves, have these new industry participants been trained? How are they kept abreast of the ever changing details of vehicle glass replacement? How many of them even care to know anything about “doing it right”?
What changes would you like to see in the future?
John King: Some States have talked about “Licensing” of auto glass technicians. While I do not want glass shops to have to spend any more money then necessary, we have to ask ourselves, “How can we raise the barrier-of-entry into this industry?” Licensing may be one avenue of doing this, while at the same time, providing a means of “raising the bar of safety” within AGR. In any industry where the safety of the public is at stake, there are usually steps that those industry participants must take to first, truly understand what their work is to accomplish, and then secondly, prove they are worthy of doing the work. In essence, become Industry Certified. In AGR, the goal should be to provide correct and safe auto glass installations, meaning the vehicle’s passengers should not be placed at risk after their vehicle is returned to them. Today, responsible Glass Shop Companies take this task upon themselves. They see to it that any new technician receives adequate training, and spends time observing experienced and qualified technicians, before turning the new techs loose, to do jobs on their own. The question to all of us should be, “How does the Public and or the Insurance Industry know that adequate training has taken place?” In today’s AGR market, Glass Shop Companies spend their CSR’s time or their Outside Sales Rep’s time trying to convince prospective customers that “their installations are safer than their competitors”. Unfortunately, there are many Glass Replacement Companies that are either ignorant of a truly safe and quality installation, or they are outright lying. Licensing, which would include testing and certification, may be one of the ways to accomplish industry wide compliance of correct installation standards.
How long have you worked at Sika, and what do you find most rewarding about your job?
John King: January 1997 is when my career at Sika began, and I must admit it took me a while to have an understanding of how this industry works. However, without a doubt, the most rewarding part of the business is getting to know people. There are always business issues, business problems to solve, and strategies to implement, but at the heartbeat of this industry, is its’ people. For me, there is nothing I like to hear more, than an unsolicited positive comment about how our Sika people are perceived by customers. Whether Distributors or End Users, if our salespeople, or our customer service department are liked and appreciated by customers, that means that more than half the battle is already won. The bottom line, is that most people, want to do business with good people. Therefore, if we can hire honest people with good interpersonal skills, and then adequately train them, and provide our customers with quality products, in the end, our sales people will provide excellent service and support to those customers, which would be ultimately rewarded with an ongoing business relationship.
Sika recently created a great animated cartoon called, “No Shortcut to Safety.” It’s a wonderful tool for glass installers and consumer alike, and describes the process of safe windshield installation without using laymen’s terms that can sometimes feel unfamiliar to people who don’t speak AGRR garble.
John, why did Sika Corporation feel it was important to develop this animation video?
John King: The AGR Industry is a cross section of groups. We have the makers of product, the distributors of products, and the users of products, and those who need those products and services, who are collectively the Consumers, or Fleet Customers, or Insurers. Communicating to a wide array of groups, with a single message, is always a challenge. Our message needed to be part technical, part educational, part logical and if possible, part entertaining. Most groups can understand all 4 parts of the message, if the message is short, and studies indicate, even with very intelligent persons, that 4 minutes is tops, to maintain someone’s attention. We investigated a number of ways to develop and communicate our No Shortcut to Safety message, and when we came across the animated concept, it made sense to use the video’s simplicity. We also found from experts in video communication that presenting a new message with an entertaining format, also maximizes the listeners retention of the subject matter; hence a cartoon format.
What were your goals and target audience for this important message, “No Shortcut to Safety?”
John King: The message was still the key objective, and a message of a Safe and Reliable auto glass installation needed to be created and delivered to the Shop Owner, the Technician, and their Customers. .
How would you like to see this video utilized? In other words, what do you feel is the most effective way to reach out to drivers to educate them about safe windshield installations?
John King: Ideally, it is a combination of utilization of the video. First of all, we know safety is important to most consumers. This video has been shown in glass shop waiting areas to hundreds and hundreds of vehicle owners, and feedback from them has been exactly what we desired. They have told those glass shops that they understand what they are doing for them. Nothing has been more rewarding than reaching the Public with this message of No Shortcut to Safety. Currently, glass shop waiting rooms are still the most common place where the message is shown. However, with smart phones and the internet, we would hope to experiment with some glass shops being able to forward this video, to their customer, once they have scheduled a job. The video then acts as an explanation to that customer as to what they should expect, when the job gets done. This approach could then create a real value added marketing piece for shops to make the whole glass replacement experience, an even better one for their customers.
Thank you for joining us John.
It’s always an interesting exercise looking at automotive aftermarket retailers that excel in the industry they compete to understand reasons for their success. It doesn’t matter where in the world a company operates; be it in the United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom or elsewhere in the world. Those companies that do standout and outclass rivals, take on market leaders in the industry they compete and are recognized for the high levels of service they provide to customers, deserve our admiration, respect and emulation. One such company is based in the United Kingdom. Auto Windscreens is headquartered in Derbyshire, in a town named Chesterfield 150 miles north of London. Originally formed in 1971 Auto Windscreens has gone through a number of evolutions to get the company to where they are today. Auto Windscreens is the United Kingdom’s fastest growing and most dynamic provider of (auto) glass repair and replacement services (AGRR). Suffice it to say that the company has a lot of things going for it right now.
Auto Windscreens has won several prestigious awards over the past several years. Among them:
- At this year’s 2014 British Insurance Awards Winner Auto Windscreens won top honors for two award categories:
- Both in 2014 and 2013 they were recognized by The Sunday Times being selected as one of the “Best 100 Companies to Work For”.
- Auto Windscreens was ranked second in the United Kingdom and when the received recognition as a “Top 50 Call Centres for Customer Service” in 2011. At the same time they were also named the “Best Newcomer” and the “Best Service Provider”.
These are very impressive awards for any company. George Bernard Shaw said, “Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s the sincerest form of learning.” I think that there is a lot automotive retailers can learn from Auto Windscreens.
Chris Thornton is the Managing Director (the U.K.’s version of Chief Executive Officer) of Auto Windscreens and I thought hearing from him on a number of topics would be interesting to readers of this blog. Chris took over as Auto Windscreens’ Managing Director earlier this year.
DR: Thank you for taking the time to talk Chris.
CT: My pleasure David. I like nothing better than talking about Auto Windscreens
DR: Auto Windscreens has certainly seen some great successes of late. What do you believe are key the reasons for the company’s successes?
CT: It’s all about being the best at everything we do in delivering the finest service possible to our customers. And in order to do so every member of the team has to play their part. As we offer a Customer Satisfaction Survey to every customer, we can see exactly where and when we are delivering this outstanding service and where we may have some improvements to make
DR: What were some of the issues (positive and/or negatives) you and your management team faced in moving the company forward after you joined Auto Windscreens in 2013?
CT: The atmosphere and approach within Auto Windscreens is outstanding. Everyone knows what we are looking to achieve and how to get there. I am a firm believer in clear and regular communications within the business.
Our biggest challenge is maintaining this as we expand. Many of the UKs biggest insurers and fleets are in discussion with us at the moment as we are clearly THE automotive glass company to be dealing with.
That expansion impacts across our business and one critical area is recruiting and developing technicians to work at the same high standards as we do now. At the end of the day we are a people business.
DR: Of the issues you’ve mentioned which one do you feel made the biggest difference in getting everyone focused on providing customer excellence?
CT: Communication and training is essential.
From the moment we take the customer call, the focus is on finding the right appointment to fit the customer needs. Our automated system generates a selection of appointments for the customer to choose from and once selected the appointment is guaranteed. We spend a lot of time training our contact centre agents in both call handling and technical skills.
Auto Windscreens has the only accredited training centre in the UK. Our facility not only provides an excellent workshop environment for new starters but on-going training, development and advancement to higher qualification.
All our technicians are kept fully up to date with the latest information. All work is processed on Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) which have a detailed Technical and Training programme on them to support the technician. In addition our Training department supports the technicians with a team of field based trainers and a 24 hour support line.
DR: How have the partnerships Auto Windscreens has made with insurance and fleet customers improved your customer service?
CT: Both insurers and fleets have recognized the quality Auto Windscreens have brought to the industry. We demonstrate this through leading Management Information and more critically through Customer Satisfaction Surveys and Net Promoter Score.
Our surveys are both offered by Auto Windscreens and through an independent survey analyst which creates total transparency for our clients. In turn they have total confidence in Auto Windscreens in our service delivery.
DR: Can you provide an understanding how your value proposition is resonating with your customers? How does your relationship with your customers differ from what other competitors offer?
CT: In 2011 we noticed that customers were regularly getting in touch with us to thank us for the quality of the work they had received. This told us we were doing something right.
From this we created the Praise Log, an internal document sent to everyone in the business each month showing where customers had called to say “Thank You”. And our people love to see their names on there.
This has expanded as customers write about their experiences on review sites such as reviewcentre.com. This is totally independent and Auto Windscreens have a 96% recommendation rate. It is the consumer trust in our brand that is making the difference.
DR: Your company focuses a great deal on providing management information systems to customers to help them find ways to reduce costs and operate more efficiently; how do you feel that helping them understand their windscreen losses is a winning strategy for Auto Windscreens?
CT: Management Information is critical in every business and we support our clients by providing them with the information they need to enhance customer experience and in doing so boosting customer retention.
The information also helps reduce wastage and controls cost but our clients are now being driven by quality rather than cost alone.
DR: How does Auto Windscreens use social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, etc.) to interact with its customers? Do you feel it is time well spent for anyone operating in the retail automotive after-market?
CT: The world of communications has changed significantly in the last decade and like many businesses we have had to adapt. Our marketing department manages our social media accounts not only promoting our business but monitoring and responding to any questions.
It is very worthwhile as it brings us closer to our customers and helps identify trends before our competitors
DR: How many fitting centres, mobile service units and employees does the company currently have?
CT: We have over 40 branches covering the UK (it’s a lot smaller than the USA) more than 350 mobile service units and over 500 staff in total
DR: Do you see further growth for Auto Windscreens in the United Kingdom? With the success you’re enjoying, are there any thoughts of growth outside of the United Kingdom?
CT: Our focus in firmly on the UK for the foreseeable future. It offers great opportunities for us as we expand. We will not get distracted by expansion alone, the key is to continue delivering the best service in the industry.
DR: With the great success Auto Windscreens has found in recent years while facing a large competitor, can you offer some advice to those who also find themselves competing against companies bigger than they are in a market or country?
CT: I believe you need to set your stall out and get your team on board in delivering this. Our message has been Total Customer Satisfaction from our beginnings which meant everybody has to play their part.
DR: Do you use radio or television to reach customers?
CT: We have in the past but not currently.
DR: What is the most effect way to reach targeted customers?
CT: If you win the corporate accounts then the volume will come. If those clients will support you as the only option for replacement glass and repairs then the business is as good as guaranteed.
DR: Auto Windscreens was a winner in the 2006 Commercial Fleet World Honours – The Environment Award. I know that you and your company have a strong commitment to green initiatives by recycling 100% of the windscreens that you replace. When did this initiative begin and what has been the response from Auto Windscreens’ customers?
CT: 2006! That was a few years back but we are as proud of our environmental credentials now as we were then. We are in a world where recycling is promoted greatly and we have always led in our industry with green policies. Our customers have always been supportive of this approach which started more than 20 years ago. Our resources are finite so we must use them wisely
DR: I read on your web site that 40 replaced windscreens that you recycle fit on a skid, while the materials required for 40 repairs can fit in the palm of a hand. By your commitment to repairing windscreens Auto Windscreens is providing great value to its customers while also fulfilling your green initiative strategy to help reduce the effect replacements have to the environment. That is a strong endorsement for repairing over replacing. How do your customers view your commitment to repair? Can you give us a range of repair rates you see in the United Kingdom?
CT: The repair rates vary by customer type but can be up to 50% of our work. Our customer base encourages repair over replacement and so wherever we can safely make a repair we will.
DR: During my career I spent a fair amount of time in the United Kingdom and I greatly value all that I learned from those I worked with while in country. There is one service component that is offered by your company (and other windscreen companies in the United Kingdom) that hasn’t caught on in the North America and that is 24/7/365 service* with mobile units. Your web site touts that, “Our fitting centres are open from 8:30am till 5:30pm Monday to Friday and on Saturdays from 8:30am to 12:30pm. Outside these hours, work is carried out by our team of mobile technicians who are on call 24 hours a day every day of the year.” Can you provide the reason why this type of service is offered in the United Kingdom and what percentage of work is done outside of the normal fitting centre operating hours?
* Since 1981 windscreens in the U.K. have been laminated. Prior to that date tempered glass was used for some windscreens.
CT: It has been customer led and is for “emergency” work such as broken rear and side glass. We cannot allow customers to be left stranded in a vehicle that cannot be driven or is insecure. Such urgent requests may be low in volume but very high in importance.
DR: What do you feel are the strengths and weaknesses of Auto Windscreens and what are you doing to take advantage or fix them?
CT: Some of our IT infrastructure was getting old so we have created a data centre, 24 hour IT monitoring team and issued new PDAs to all technicians. This significant investment will cover our requirements for the next 10 years.
Our strengths are many. Our independence allows us to develop the business as we need without interference from head offices, shareholders or partners. Our clear leadership in high quality service provision is proving very difficult for our competitors to get close to and as we further develop this, the gap will increase.
And as technology becomes more prevalent in windscreens, companies who cannot demonstrate and prove that they have the proper training processes in place will fall away.
DR: I know that you focus a great deal of time and effort on training Technicians. You obviously feel that you’re reaping dividends on these initiatives. Can you give us a brief overview of your company’s approach to training?
CT: By having highly skilled technicians we have created a team that is prepared to go that extra mile and takes pride in its work. The training starts from the moment a technician, either skilled or a new recruit, joins the business and that training never ends.
It may take place at our Technical Training Centre or through field accompaniments. All technicians are assessed annually to ensure they continue to work to the standards expected of them whether a repair technician , replacement technician or a master technician.
DR: You have an amazing Net Promoter Score (NPS) that is off the charts in the mid 90’s. That is the highest number I’ve ever seen in our industry. As a company how have you been able to achieve that result?
CT: We are very proud of Net Promoter Score and Customer Satisfaction results. It has not been easy but by creating a customer centric culture as mentioned previously we have all staff aligned in delivering an outstanding service
DR: With that high level of NPS you’ve been earning a great deal of new business and contracts with fleets and insurers alike. How was Auto Windscreens able to garner this new business from the incumbents?
CT: That’s a question our customers would have to answer but I would say it’s down to the breadth of service we can offer at a rate which works for everyone. As a progressive business with a clear vision we will attract like minded businesses.
DR: I have been very impressed with what you and your team(s) have accomplished at Auto Windscreens. I firmly believe that that some of the strategies and tactics that Auto Windscreens has been employing can be exported to other countries and used by those who are interested in growing and/or making a difference with their company. I appreciate your taking the time to talk with me. I wish you and Auto Windscreens continued great success.
CT: It’s been a pleasure David.
Auto Windscreens is a great case study in how to turn a company around and make it into a world class service provider. It takes great leaderships and dedicated teams throughout the business, but I believe that Auto Windscreens has shown how to take on competition (big or small) and consistently win against them by focusing on the needs of each and every customer. I applaud Chris and all at Auto Windscreens for all they’ve accomplished.
GQA Qualifications Limited
GQA Level 2 NVQ Certificate in Windscreen Repair (QCF) (GQA Qualifications Limited)
GQA Level 2 NVQ Certificate in the Principle of Windscreen Repair (QCF) (GQA Qualifications Limited)
I read an article relating to the Novus Super Session at the organization’s Annual Franchise Conference held last week in Tucson. A representative from one of the networks that operate in the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry in the United States attended the conference and discussed industry related issues and ideas. One of the issues discussed related to the responses to survey questions that the network had asked of some number of in-network shops that either are:
- required to bill through the network for the insurance or fleet work that these shops do for an insurance company that utilizes this network as an administrator or
- shops that are asked by the network to do work on the behalf of the network for an insurance company or fleet account that the network either can’t or doesn’t want their own company owned technicians to do for some reason.
The survey question that the representative said received the most comments related to unlicensed and/or unregistered AGRR shops. The network representative reported that when the survey responders were asked if they would support the regulation of auto glass shops in their states a resounding 74.2% responded with a yes. I think the question relating to regulation of auto glass shops an interesting one and I support the regulation of auto glass shops that do replacements.
When you consider all of the various “services” that are regulated by states, it is inconceivable to me that auto glass replacements (and other automotive repairers) are not. I looked on the web site of the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR) that oversees and licenses those considered “professionals” by the State of Illinois. There are 237 professions that are regulated by the IDFPR starting first with those who provide “Acupuncture” services. That seems like a profession that should be regulated. If you’re going to have someone perform acupuncture on you, would you want just anyone off the street be allowed to stick needles in you? Probably not. The listing ends with “Veterinary Technician”. The professional listings include some in the medical profession, but not every specialty is listed so if you add every regulated and/or licensed professional’s in the medical field to the list on the web site would be much longer. How does the state you live regulate those they consider professionals? Do you have 237 different professions regulated and/or licensed by your state?
I think it’s interesting that some of the professions that are regulated and/or licensed by the State of Illinois include:
Real Estate Appraiser Athlete Agent
Cemetery Customer Service Employee Community Association Manager
Detection of Deception Trainee Nail Technician
Shorthand Reporter Timeshare Resale Agent
Understanding that a few of the professions on the truncated list above taken from the IDFPR web site could, for instance, certainly cost you money if you had a bad appraisal via a Real Estate Appraiser, but in all likelihood none of these licensed and/or regulated professions are going to put your life at risk. A faulty windshield installation, on the other hand, could cost you and/or passengers riding in your vehicle serious injury or in a worst case scenario a life.
If you visit the AutoGlassSafetyCouncil.com or SafeWindshields.com site you’ll find a variety of information regarding the importance of windshields in auto glass safety. A question on the SafeWindshield.com site asks:
The windshield provides a significant amount of strength to the structural support in the cabin of the vehicle. For instance, in a front end collision the windshield provides up to 45% of the structural integrity of the cabin of the vehicle and in a rollover, up to 60%.
There should be no dispute regarding the importance of a windshield in ensuring the safety of auto and truck passengers, asking that those who install your windshield to be licensed and/or regulated doesn’t seem unreasonable to me? If in the State of Illinois the state government feels that there is sufficient need to regulate and/or license Nail Technicians, Athletic Agents or Shorthand Reporters, wouldn’t you think that the same state legislature would take a look at various automotive repairs that if not done properly, could cost someone a serious injury or death?
The network representative at the Novus meeting was quoted as saying that for those that the network surveyed:
“By far, the largest problem was unlicensed/unregistered shops.”
You can certainly downplay the network that provided the survey results when asking the question “What was the largest problem in the AGRR industry?” (some might suggest the right answer to the question is the network providing the information is actually the largest problem in the AGRR industry), but is it time to consider the licensing and regulation of the AGRR industry considering the importance of the windshield to occupant safety? Perhaps that licensing or regulation could include adherence and verification of replacements to the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard®. That might be an unpopular position for some, but would it be so bad? As auto glass professionals what are we afraid of?
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.