Posts Tagged NWRA

The Future in the Automotive Aftermarket Industry

For me, listening to keynote speaker Tony Aquila, CEO of Solera Holdings, Inc. at Auto Glass Week in Baltimore was most interesting. He led Solera’s purchase of LYNX Services, GTS and GLAXIS from owners Pittsburgh Glass Works LLC and PPG Industries, Inc. earlier this year. Tony’s accomplishments are considerable, especially considering that he grew up sweeping floors working in his uncle’s body shop and he has a 9th grade education. You have to be incredibly impressed by the guy.

The “Strategic Focus” web page for the company states, “Solera is the world’s leading provider of software and services to the automobile insurance claims processing industry.” (Link to corporate history) Solera will certainly be changing the world of auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) with innovative software solutions that will simplify the claims handling process surrounding glass repair and replacement. The organization has the potential to affect the way all consumers and influencers ultimately buy AGRR products and services dramatically. Depending upon the vision and direction Solera heads automotive aftermarket parts and service providers, including the auto glass repair and replacement industry (along with the collision repair industry and parts distribution industry) could be in for some big changes. It’s all about taking out market inefficiencies and reducing costs associated with those inefficiencies.

Just look at the AGRR industry. To ensure that service level expectations of the consumer is ultimately met, any software program would need to have access to the real-time inventory level of any supplier or distributor warehouses in the area, the inventory levels of any AGRR shop or technician in the vicinity vying for repairs or replacements, along with the schedules of all technicians available to properly repair or replace the part.

Imagine when an auto glass replacement is required, if it would be possible for the software program to instantly search for the part determining which supplier(s), distributor(s) or AGRR shop(s) has (have) the part in stock; perhaps ranked by cost for the part while finding the best auto glass replacement technician suited to properly install the part; when and where the consumer wants it installed. With that capability you then have to start asking some questions like:

Once the software program has all of the information required to start processing an auto glass replacement, who or what company is directly buying and paying for the part(s) required?

It could be:

  1. The AGRR shop or technician facilitating the replacement or
  2. Maybe the customer’s insurance company or
  3. If it’s a cash job the consumer could pay.

Which of the three above pays for any part required is important to determine the all-in price to be paid for replacement parts, along with the price paid for required installation supplies and labor.

So which organization determines the pricing level for the various scenarios outlined above?

Who is buying and paying for the part and installation supplies required?

Who is paying for the technician to install the part?

Answers to these and many other questions will give you an idea as to where the industry could be heading. There will be changes coming and margins are probably going to change in the AGRR industry in the near future. And probably not for the better.

What is it you’re doing to be prepared for the future?

Just sayin’.

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Courtesy of TomFishburne.com – Marketoonist.com©

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Interview with Dave Taylor and Cindy Rowe-Taylor

Two of the most respected people in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry are Dave Taylor and Cindy Rowe-Taylor who together built Cindy Rowe Auto Glass into the dominant AGRR company in much of Pennsylvania and Maryland. They retired to Florida a few years ago and spend much of their time cycling the world and enjoying their lives.

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At Auto Glass Week™ 2013 that was held in Tampa, Florida last month Rich Campfield, president of the National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA), presented Dave Taylor with a new industry award named in his honor. As a founding member of the NWRA, Dave was a force in helping to mold the organization. Cindy was in the audience during the opening ceremony where Dave was presented with the inaugural award.

While at the Auto Glass Week™ Conference I had the chance to talk with both Dave and Cindy and they agreed to an interview. 

DR      First, thanks to you Cindy and Dave for taking the time to talk with me today. Special congratulations to you Dave for receiving the NWRA award that was named in your honor. I can’t think of anyone more deserving to be recognized for the work you have done to bring windshield repairs to consumers.

My first question is how do you both like retirement versus the daily challenge of being in the AGRR business?

DT      Retirement is terrific. As many folks know, we are avid bicyclists and living in The Villages in Florida is a bicyclists dream come true. We would have retired sooner if we had known had much fun and satisfaction retirement life had to offer.

CR-T  Retirement has been an easy transition and so enjoyable.  It is not sitting on the couch eating bon-bons, but having a very busy schedule and having such fun being busy.

DR      It sounds like you’re both making the most out of retirement. Cindy, what year was it and what was it that drew you to the AGRR industry that caused you to open the first Cindy Rowe Auto Glass store?

CR-T  I was a registered nurse for 13 years and decided I wanted to be my own boss.  That was when I became aware of the windshield repair (WSR) possibility in my area. In 1979 I started out with my repair kit in the trunk of my Vega, seeing dealers and fleets, where the volume was.  No sales experience ever.  I loved it from the start. I am the WSR pioneer in the Harrisburg, PA, and surrounding areas.  Dave joined me in 1986, working mobile WSR for one year; it was after that year that we bought our first glass shop.  We kept on both technicians and learned about replacement.

DR      Dave, what was it that you found attractive (besides Cindy) to the industry?          

DT      Self employment is the short answer.  After a 25 year career in department store retailing I wanted to be independent of the corporate world. Joining Cindy’s business was the logical next step. Being able to work together added icing to the cake.

DR      What was it Dave that made you such an early and strong supporter of repairs versus replacements?

DT      Cindy founded the business as a windshield repair-only business before we had even met. Eventually we expanded from repair to full service.  Unfortunately for the consumer, and perhaps fortunately for us, 25 years ago most glass companies were focused on replacement. They probably felt it was best for their glass company.  Solid business management practices made repair profitable for us and a well executed repair program gave us a significant and profitable competitive advantage. Providing customers with their best solution to an auto glass problem, be it repair or replacement, was our primary business strategy.

DR      This question is for both of you. What can you tell the readers of this blog made the biggest difference in the growth and sustainability of Cindy Rowe Auto Glass over the years?

CR-T  Staying ahead of the industry with their many changes, starting with the early 90’s and on.  Customer service was not to be compromised and keeping valued employees.  Early on, Dave and I decided that advertising heavily and educating the public would do well.

DT      Consistently providing the best quality service to customers and aggressive brand building through media and public relations.

DR      I know that in my own career finding the right mix of people made all the difference in my finding success that I’ve enjoyed. At Cindy Rowe how were you both able to always ensure that you surrounded yourself with the best people, that you got the best from them and what advice can you offer those in business today as to that importance?

DT      Choose wisely, treat kindly.

CR-T  Fairly early on, we decided to hire people “green” and train them, offer good benefits, keep them abreast of the industry and give some autonomy.

DR      At Cindy Rowe you provided consumers in the Pennsylvania and Maryland markets you served with AGRR services, but you also offered paint-less dent repair. Would you suggest paint-less dent repair (PDR) as an additional product line that for those in business looking for additional revenue streams? And if not paint-less dent repair are there other products you think work well in today’s AGRR business?

DT      PDR is a profitable but technically challenging service. While it worked for us, it has proved difficult for many AGR companies to integrate into their businesses. I like what I saw during Auto Glass Week’s joint event with the window film industry.  We would have given window film a thorough evaluation.

DR      Something that some may not have known about you Cindy is that you are a registered nurse and that you’ve donated your time and expertise to those in need while in business at Cindy Rowe Auto Glass and still to this day being retired in Florida. Were you a registered nurse when you first started Cindy Rowe Auto Glass?

CR-T  Yes, for 13 years.  In 2002 I took the “Refresher Course” for RN’s and have been volunteering since in an area where uninsured patients are treated.  It is gratifying to be able to give back in some capacity.

DR      What traits or experiences in your background Cindy gave you the ability to find such success in business?

CR-T  I would guess perseverance, honesty, not afraid of working extra (lots of that for years), organization and time management skills.

DR      Here is a question for you both. Using radio and/or television advertising was a way that you got your name out into the marketplace and helped establish and differentiate Cindy Rowe Auto Glass. It is expensive to advertise on radio and television. When you look back at the genesis of Cindy Rowe through the day you departed the business, what was it that caused you to make that decision to spend money on that form of advertising?

DT      When we expanded from being a car dealer driven windshield repair only business to full service auto glass, we were the new kids on an already crowded block. Capturing the customer through the traditional referral routes would have taken a decade or more. So we went directly to the customer with Radio/TV and created an awareness and demand for our brand. When TPA’s began to capture significant market share, our brand building paid off handsomely. We were the only AGR company anyone in our markets had ever heard of and they asked for us. We never anticipated TPA’s when we began our brand building but brand building saved our skin when TPA’s took over most of the insurance business.

           Radio/TV and now internet are the effective media tools to build your brand with the general public. To influence “choice” at TPAs we wanted to be top-of-the-mind before the customer calls the TPA. Branding is a prerequisite to being “chosen”.  While media is expensive, aggressive purchasing strategies can help control the costs.

DR      Here’s a non-industry question. You mentioned that you are avid cyclers. Can you tell me what countries you’ve cycled and as a follow-up what you’ve learned about yourselves in your cycling adventures?

CR-T Cycling helps keep one in good physical condition and it really is a focus issue while on the bike – lots of issues to watch out; cannot daydream.

DT      United States, Canada, Bermuda, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Hungary, Lichtenstein, South Africa and Switzerland.

DR      One thing I’ve noticed is that you both smile quite a bit. Can you say you’re both happier now that you’ve left the industry? What is it you miss being in business?

DT      Happier? YES! What I miss about the business is the daily challenge to effectively manage the unending stream of issues. In retirement I can choose easier and less stressful challenges.

CR-T  I look at it as another chapter in life. I have always loved my work, but times change and I am now thoroughly enjoying retirement with Dave. One of the things I missed when we first left was seeing the people in the office. My people spoiled me and it did not go unnoticed by me!

DR      My thanks to you both for taking the time to answer my all of my questions.

For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to meet Dave and Cindy I can tell you from personal experience with them that they are good people. Truly fine people; who have effected and changed the lives of those that have come into contact with them over the years. Whether that interaction was in the business they operated together, the AGRR industry they both left their mark on or in their active community service over the years, both Cindy and Dave have given their time to those who sought them out or they felt needed their help.

The industry has been made better by their being a part of it and I hope that they continue to be active in helping to improve it in the future.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – March Madness (and the AGRR Industry)

It’s my favorite time of year for sports!!

March Madness!!!

The 2012 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Basketball Tournament known as ‘The Big Dance’ offers 68 Division 1 basketball teams (27 teams are automatic qualifiers for the tournament by winning their individual conference tournaments and an additional 37 teams that are selected by getting the nod of the tournament ‘Selection Committee’ based on the teams “body of work” during the 2011 – 2012 basketball season), along with 4 additional teams that get a chance to play enduring an elimination round at the University of Dayton Arena the opportunity to lift the Championship Trophy and be crowned the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Champion. To become the Championship team, they will have to win all 6 games they play in the tournament. The teams that will be playing this year will be announced beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern on CBS television this Sunday, March 11, 2012.

March Madness takes us to and from various arenas around the country ending up in New Orleans from March 30th-April 1st for the Final Four. The teams are ‘seeded’ ranked from 1st to 68th in 4 regional brackets with 16 teams in each bracket (1 plays 16, 2 plays 15, 3 plays 14,…….8 plays 9, I think you get the idea), along with the 4 play-in teams.

 It’s a fairly complicated process that pits the best teams in Men’s NCAA Division 1 Basketball against each other in competition for the title of National Champion. If you’re not fully engrossed in March Madness you can follow this link to learn more (2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Principles and Procedures).

‘The Big Dance’ is the culmination of an endurance test that starts in the fall of each year.  NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball is composed of 346 teams in 32 conferences plus 4 independent schools all starting the season working to get there’. The chances of reaching the tournament are 1 in 5. Those really don’t sound like bad odds. What makes March Madness a great sports event is the opportunity for an ‘underdog’ to reach the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight, The Final Four or even make it to the Championship Game Final.

 It happens. In 1983 the North Carolina State (NC State) Wolfpack, coached by the legendary Jimmy Valvano (nicknamed Jimmy V), won what is considered to be one of the best Championship Final Games in the history of the sport on a last second tip-in by Lorenzo Charles after a miss by Derrick Whittenburg beating the favored University of Houston Cougars. NC State’s team was a ‘Cinderella Story’.

Last year the number 11 seed Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Rams made it into the Final Four by beating the number 1 seed Kansas in an Elite Eight game. The Butler University Bulldogs, a number 8 seed, made it into the Championship Game (two years in a row – in 2010 they were a number 5 seed) where the team played the number 3 seed University of Connecticut (UConn) Huskies. UConn was the highest seed making it to the Final Four. What happened to all the number 1 and 2 seeds? They were all obviously beaten by lower seeded teams. UConn ended up beating Butler in the Championship Game 53 – 41.

I think that there are similarities between the March Madness process and the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry. Perhaps a stretch to compare the two, but it’s my blog so here it goes…..

Imagine if the AGRR industry had a Division 1 Tournament (there are 3 NCAA men’s basketball divisions, but Division 1 is made up of the top colleges). Would the company that you work for be invited to the tournament based on how you rank in the market or markets you serve? If your answer to that question is yes, then what ‘seed’ do you think your company would receive giving you a chance to get to the Championship Game? Does the level of work and the service you provide match up to those you compete with in your markets? Yes? Great! You’re invited to ‘The Big Dance’!!

Another prerequisite for participating in the tournament is one that the NCAA tournament has too. You can only play one team from your company. If you happen to be one of those companies that operate under multiple company names in the same market you can’t expect to get them all into the AGRR tournament as that wouldn’t really be fair, so pick the one that you think can take you all the way to the end and quit trying to manipulate your odds.

Now that you’ve done all that work to make it into the big dance, is your company a highly seeded contender or are you a lowly seeded ‘underdog’? In ‘The Big Dance’ the underdog has a fighting chance. Not a great chance, but look at how the Butler Bulldogs and VCU Rams did in last year’s tournament. It happens.

Oh yeah….I forgot to also mention that the big difference with games played during March Madness versus the regular season is the tournament rule that there is never any home court advantage. Home teams often get more fouls called against the visiting teams by officials who have a tendency to do so to keep the hometown fans off their backs. All games are held on neutral courts so there is no home team advantage. Sadly that rule is suspended in the AGRR tournament to give one team an advantage. Safelite® Auto Glass gets to play all its games on a home court.

When you look at the 4 different brackets of my imaginary AGRR tournament who do you think will be the number 1 seeded company? How will it do versus the number 68 team do you think? Obviously the number 1 seed in the AGRR tourney is Safelite® Auto Glass. One of their star players is a gentleman named Ryan. You see him on television all the time (someone told me that they were going to cut those TV ads way back starting January 2nd…..guess not).

A potential problem for all of you who’ve made it into the AGRR tournament is that Safelite® Auto Glass decided to take the number 1 seed in all four brackets. Remember I mentioned earlier that no company could play under different names, but I didn’t say that there weren’t advantages to being the big guy and they have so many players that they get into all 4 brackets as the number 1 seed. And Safelite® owns most of the basketball courts (markets) and it has cornered the basketball market (insurers, fleets and cash customers, even suppliers) so they get to make most of the rules in the tournament. Now who do you think has better odds to win? The chances for a ‘Cinderella Team’ getting into the Final Four are tough as the odds are Safelite® is going to make it in with all 4 of its teams. You can imagine the odds for my hopeful Cinderella making it into the Championship Game. Sadly non-existent.

It seems to me that it’s a foregone conclusion that Safelite® has achieved the ‘dynasty’ status that the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins achieved from 1964-1975 (except for 1966 when the University of Texas, El Paso – UTEP Miners won and 1974 when the NC State Wolfpack won). The Bruins were coached by the legendary Coach John Wooden. But I’m still holding out hopes that someone, somewhere will be up to the challenge of taking on Safelite®. After all, since that 17-year run where the Bruins won 15 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championships….they’ve only won one Championship Game since and that was in 1995.

One of President Ronald Reagan’s favorite jokes was,

Worried that their son was too optimistic, the parents of a little boy took him to a psychiatrist. Trying to dampen the boy’s spirits, the psychiatrist showed him into a room piled high with nothing but horse manure. Yet instead of displaying distaste, the little boy clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to all fours, and began digging.

“What do you think you’re doing?” the psychiatrist asked.

“With all this manure,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere.”

So I am optimistic that something will happen to level the playing field and give others a fair chance to realize their dreams of winning an AGRR Championship Game.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Hopes for the New Year

I’m hoping that 2012 turns out to be a great year for those in the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry or if great is too high a bar to set at the very least better than 2011. In my opinion there are few key things that need to happen (and perhaps more than a few) for 2012 to be a great year. I’ve listed some of my hopes for 2012. Perhaps some are on your list as well.

  1.  Our industry is affected by three key business drivers:  weather, the economy and miles driven. Sadly we have no control or influence over any of these so I’m hoping for some luck for 2012.

Weather – I’m hoping to see “good” weather this year. I think you know what the definition of “good” means. For the most part 2011 was a “good” weather year.

In many markets, the AGRR industry and all those affected by it rises or falls depending upon the severity of the winter season which means snow. A severe winter brings increased breakage while a mild winter has the opposite effect. Annual demand obviously can vary considerably based on those weather fluctuations. I have many friends that compete in the snow-belt and at this time of the year they are looking at weather reports day-in and day-out to see when and where that next big snow will be. That snow, of course, has to come in the right amount and at the right time of day for maximum effect and that would be during rush hour. It would be great to see snow come in every other week so that after that big snow there would be sunny weather that follows allowing all those new repairs and replacements to be completed.  If there is no snow, owners/managers are forced to make tough decisions they’d prefer not to make relating to cutting expenses, so please let it snow. Snow brings out plows and salt trucks. If the area you live in still uses gravel or coal or sand, even better. 

Then there is ice. Ice can be even better than snow for the AGRR industry. Then there are cold snaps that can cause star breaks to run out when drivers go out and clean frost off windshields on cold mornings with scrapers or   even better – hot water. And when drivers turn on the defrosters to get rid of frost and warm air hits cold windshields. 

Hail is nice too. Of course not too small that won’t break the glass, but not too big either.  Just the right size will do. Rain isn’t ever really that good for our industry, but if it does rain please let it rain at night.

The Economy – My hope for 2012 is that in the United States and everywhere else in the world the economy becomes robust.  Since 2007 -2008 the economy in the United States obviously has not been robust.  During economic downturns many who experience auto glass breakage – the “do nothings” – delay repairs and/or replacements.  Everyone in the industry hopes that as the economy improves those “do nothings” will replace that broken auto glass.

A fully-employed workforce in the United States would be great. My hope for a robust economy includes the wish that everyone has a great job and that its a great paying one. All those fully employed people should have a car too — actually several cars would be even better. It would be great if all those cars would be fully insured with a zero dollar comprehensive insurance deductible. And, since these are my hopes for 2012, I hope that all those cars are fully insured with an insurance company that doesn’t use Safelite® Solutions as its auto claims administrator (I’m guessing most of you’d agree with me on that one). I hope everyone is going on vacations this year and preferably driving to all the beautiful places there are to visit and see in our great country.

A bad economy requires those competing in the AGRR industry to take an introspective look at their businesses.  That introspective look should include “SWOT” – your strengths and weaknesses versus the opportunities and threats you face. How you deal with SWOT generally determines how successful you’ll be.

Miles Driven – Miles driven are key to auto glass breakage and my hope is that for 2012 gasoline prices remain “low” which will equate to more miles driven by putting more people in their cars and on the road providing more opportunities for drivers to break auto glass.

The total monthly vehicle miles driven have been growing since the federal government started tracking the data. In September 2011 the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Commission released an in-depth Traffic Trend Report. If you follow this link to a graph on miles driven, after hitting a moving 12-month high of 3.039 billion, yes billion miles driven in the rolling 12-months ending in November 2007 the graph shows a down-tick in estimated vehicle miles driven that occurred in 2008 – 2009.  Thankfully the miles driven appear to have somewhat stabilized for now.

But the cost of gasoline is a major influencer relating to total miles driven. On December 18, 2011, a Chicago Sun Times (Chicago Sun Times article) article titled “At gas pump, 2011 was the year of the big squeeze” reported on the annual cost of gasoline for the average American family in 2011. The opening line of the article stated, “It’s been 30 years since gasoline took such a big bite out of the family budget.” The article goes on to report, “the typical American household will have spent $ 4,155 filling up this year, a record.  That is 8.4 percent of what the median family takes in, the highest share since 1981.”  This wasn’t good news for AGRR retailers in 2011. 

On January 6, 2012, a Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles Times article) article titled “Gasoline prices start the year at a high – and rising” reported on how gasoline prices are starting out this year. The article states, “but this also may be the year of the gas-pocalypse, analysts warn. That’s because gasoline prices are the highest ever for the start of the year, and they’re on the rise, supercharged by expensive oil and changes in refinery operations.” That’s certainly not good news for AGRR retailers looking for 2012 to be a better year than 2011.

The AGRR industry really needs to see lower gasoline prices that will cause a spike in miles driven for its business outlook to improve in 2012. Based on predictions made by Edward Morse, head of commodities research at Citigroup Global Markets, Inc., on December 22, 2011, on Bloomberg Television’s “Surveillance Midday” that doesn’t seem likely. If you follow this link Mr. Morse talks about factors affecting the crude oil market and the outlook for oil and gasoline prices. You’ll see that he holds out little hope for “low” gas prices in 2012.  Mr. Morse sees the floor for gasoline prices to be $ 4 by the end of May 2012. That’s certainly not good news for AGRR retailers in 2012.

My hope for 2012 is that gasoline prices are low and miles driven are high. Based on the realities of the marketplace and comments from experts you’d better cross your fingers and say a prayer for that one.

  1.  I’m hoping that in 2012 some entity – some organization or company in the AGRR industry steps up and becomes a leader for the industry. By the way, I’m certainly not suggesting that the “market leader” can assume that role.  I don’t think that’s possible. I am hoping that leadership is shown by someone who really cares about the AGRR industry and the issues that it faces, offering positive ideas for all to improve the valuable services that the industry provides to consumers.
  1. I hope to see fewer imports of auto glass manufactured overseas coming to the United States/North America and the imports that do come to our shores at least be from those companies that are major suppliers of Original Equipment Manufactured auto glass to car manufacturers and not those who primarily make after-market parts.
  1. I hope that every windshield that needs replacing in 2012 is replaced using the Auto Glass Safety Council’s auto glass replacement standard known as the AGRSS® Standard.  The standard is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards development organization.  The AGRSS® Standard (ANSI/AGRSS® 002-2002 Automotive Glass Replacement Standard) is North America’s only auto glass replacement standard and it addresses the proper procedures that must be used by auto glass technicians, along with other company employees who are also important to ensure the safe installation of auto glass.  No other company or organization maintains any standard remotely similar to AGRSS®.  I also hope that replacements are completed using a urethane that provides a 1 hour safe drive away time.  Your customers deserve nothing less.
  1. My final hope is that someone steps up and attempts to compete on a larger scale against the market leader. The industry really needs a strong competitor to Safelite®.  I really don’t care who that is, but come on already.  Somebody step up on the retail or third party administrator side and give them a go.

I hope everyone who competes in the AGRR industry the best of success and luck in 2012.

And finally I’m hoping for a great 2012 for myself.

Just sayin’……..

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I’d appreciate your feedback.

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Mike Paley – Retail auto glass entrepreneur

Mike Paley is someone I think you should get to know.  He experiences all of ups and downs of being an entrepreneur in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry.  Mike is the owner and president of Freedom Glass, an independent auto glass repair and replacement business providing auto glass repair and replacement services to customers in the greater Richmond, Virginia area markets.  He started his AGRR business in 2004 after working as Service Manager at a car dealership in the Midlothian, Virginia area.  Mike served as a Gunnery Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, where one of his assignments was the business of recruiting.  His patriotism remains steadfast, as is evident by his aptly named business, Freedom Glass and its red, white and blue colors.    

Last year at the 2010 Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard® Council (AGRSS®) Conference, held in Oakbrook Terrace (Chicago), Illinois, Mike was honored for having the first auto glass company to successfully complete the AGRSS® independent third party validation process with a 100% score on November 11, 2009.  I know that it takes a lot of work to make sure that your organization follows AGRSS® and being the first company to be validated and pass the validation with a score of 100% was an amazing feat.

Additionally, at the September board meeting of the AGRSS® Council Mike was elected to the Board of Directors of AGRSS®.

On a personal side, Mike is the proud father of three sons; Jason, Justin and Austin, all of whom reside in the Richmond area. 

First let me thank you for your military service Mike.  I’d then like to congratulate you for being the first AGRR company to be validated by the auto glass safety organization.  Sadly, that is one experience (or risk) that many in our industry are unwilling to allow their companies to have. 

With an estimated 45 – 50% of the auto glass that’s repaired or replaced in the United States being installed by independent single owner businesses, Freedom Glass is a great example of the vast number of auto glass repair and replacement companies in the AGRR industry today.  I think many in the industry would like to hear from someone such as you Mike, a strong competitor providing the highest level of quality workmanship to the customers in your marketplace.  What attracted you to the AGRR industry?


Mike Paley:  “Attracted” is an interesting term.  I think it was more fate than attraction!  While transitioning from my job as a Service Manager, a chip in my windshield spread into a crack that required replacement.  During the replacement process, the technician asked how long it had been chipped.  When I told him three years he asked why I never called to have it repaired.  I confessed that I had never heard of repairing a chip.  (As a dealership Service Manager, no one had ever approached me about repairing chipped windshields for our service clients bringing their vehicles in… hint to those in marketing).  So I began looking at every parked car’s windshield and was surprised to see how many were chipped.  From there I started researching the “repair” industry and I felt it was  a job I could perform without employees for the time being.  And I’ve always been confident  that I could “sell” anything that I believed in.  So Freedom Glass was created with only the repair industry in mind.   

In May of ’05 I started to contemplate adding replacements to our services.  But since I didn’t know anything about replacing auto glass I needed to research that, just as I had done earlier for repairs.  During my research, I learned just how critical windshields were to safety in the event of a crash or collision.  Shortcuts or errors could be catastrophic, so I wanted to make certain I was replacing windshields correctly.  I contacted a glass company in Jacksonville, Florida, and asked if I might come down to shadow a couple of their technicians for a week.  They graciously agreed, and in July I went down.  I learned a tremendous amount in a very short time from those two technicians.  In September I traveled to Charleston, South Carolina to attend the NGA’s Auto Glass Technical Institute (AGTI) course.  Exactly one year after opening our doors, we began doing replacements in addition to repairs. 

 

Without a background in the AGRR industry, what prompted you to want to enter this industry as a business owner rather than an employee?

Mike Paley:  Two words come to mind as for why I wanted to own rather than work for the business; leadership and responsibility.  The Marine Corps instilled in me leadership by example.  I have never asked, nor expected, an employee to do anything I would not be willing to do.  Case in point, I required of myself to get trained and certified before I ever brought on a technician.  That enabled me to learn what was expected and required to perform the job.  As the owner, I am responsible for the technicians and their ability when I place them in the field.  To this day, we have never installed a windshield whereas an NGA certified technician was not at that job.  Some owners may not deem that necessary, but it is for me!  Someone is trusting Freedom Glass with their most precious cargo, and I take that responsibility very seriously.  Another responsibility the owner has is the material his technicians have to work with.  I often say the greatest technician in the world can’t be great if his company’s owner refuses to provide him with the best material.  But likewise, if an owner provides the absolute best material available and the technician is untrained or doesn’t care, the installation can still be compromised.  It takes both.  

      

Independents have to stay competitive by finding ways to differentiate themselves from not only the larger companies they compete against in their local markets, but also other independents such as themselves.  What advice can you offer independents such as yourself to stay competitive against the larger chains?

Mike Paley:  There are several things that we emphasize.  We encourage our clients to call me if there is ever a question, concern or issue about a job after our technician has left.  Plus, I let people know that when you’re dealing with a company our size you’re no more than two phone calls away from talking with our President; try calling a “big” company to talk with their President.  I would strongly encourage smaller independent shops to focus on quality, not quantity.  I would rather have a technician do five jobs a day correctly, then eight incorrectly.  I also express to clients and contacts that because we don’t have a TPA feeding us business we must rely on referrals and word-of-mouth.  So we “ask for referrals”!  If you don’t ask, you probably won’t receive.    

 

By your being the first auto glass company to pass the AGRSS® independent third party validation, what advice do you offer those in the industry who are considering joining the association?  Why did you join and why should other AGRR companies join AGRSS®?

Mike Paley:  There are a multitude of associations and organizations that an AGRR company can join, and they all have their place.  But for me, our participation in AGRSS® is my priority because its focus is on the safe installation of windshields.  And without that, nothing else matters!  To me that is.  And so, if an auto glass company is genuinely concerned about the safety of its clients, they owe it to themselves, their staff and their clients to be a part of AGRSS®.

 

Why did we join AGRSS®? Let me first say that it took some time for us to join AGRSS® and the reason was purely fiscal.  I had read the Standard and recognized that we were following it, but for anyone to be able to simply write a check (and sign an affidavit) stating they were doing installations correctly without any way to substantiate it didn’t sit well with me.  Perhaps I was being too cynical, but I expressed this concern to someone at AGRSS®, and was advised that a validation process was in the works.  So I politely asked to be contacted once that validation came to fruition.  Several months later I was contacted and advised the validation process would be rolled out soon, so we jumped at the opportunity to demonstrate that we were indeed performing our replacements correctly and in accordance with the AGRSS® Standard.  Unfortunately, the roll out didn’t take place as soon as we had expected.  But ultimately validations did start and we are thrilled to have been the first auto glass company in the Nation to pass the third-party validation with 100% compliance.   

 

Why should other AGRR companies join AGRSS®?  David, I didn’t realize my “sometimes” lack of being politically correct would be tested this early!  While I do believe that every AGRR company “should” be registered with AGRSS®, I know that not all companies can be!  As someone who is still very close to the front line of windshield replacements, I will tell you that far more windshields are being replaced improperly than should be the case.  And I’m confident that our area is not the exception, but rather the rule.  So let me answer your question this way.  I feel as though any auto glass company that “claims” to be performing safe and proper windshield replacements should be, and should want to be, a registered company with AGRSS®!!!  I don’t know why those companies wouldn’t be excited about being registered with and connected to AGRSS®.  After all, AGRSS® is trying to educate and promote that there is a difference between a safe and an unsafe windshield replacement.  And they’re promoting those shops that care enough about wanting to keep their clients safe.  So I guess I’ll answer your question with a question.  Why would any auto glass company performing replacements properly and safely NOT want to be a part of AGRSS®?  Personally, I can’t think of one reason! 

  

What can you share about the experience of what it was like for you and your people to go through the AGRSS® validation process that other registered companies will be going through in the next few years?

Mike Paley:  When I learned of our scheduled validation, I did get nervous.  But my nervousness stemmed from the validation process being new and perhaps there being some bugs in the system that may not have been worked out yet.  I felt we had a lot riding on the results of our evaluation.  So our company went over the Standard again, worked with our adhesive manufacturer representative and prepared for what I feared would be an interrogation.  Turned out it was anything but an interrogation.  The validator, who is not a glass-industry person but rather statistician or assessor, went down a list of questions that everyone familiar with the Standard will already know, and merely asked questions.  The questions weren’t tricky or deceptive.  It was almost as if our validator were simply curious as to what we were doing and why.  I likened it to a curious client watching and questioning a technician during an installation.  The one piece of advice I would offer everyone, regardless of your company’s size, is to have a trainer, manager, or owner present during the actual validation for each technician.  We found this to be invaluable to clear up any misunderstandings about nomenclature, verbiage or procedures.         

 

Regardless of the size of your company, whether you’re the biggest or the smallest, why doesn’t (or shouldn’t) everyone who installs auto glass strongly embrace AGRSS®?

Mike Paley:  I think every auto glass company should embrace AGRSS®, and its intent!  A major part of my presentation when a potential client calls in for a quote is to educate them on windshield safety.  Yes, I want Freedom Glass to perform their replacement, but most important to me is that they know what to look for and ask about.  For those AGRSS® registered companies in my area, if you didn’t already know it (but I suspect you do), I am constantly promoting you.  While I’d love to install every windshield needed in my area, I recognize that we simply can’t do it; we’re just not large enough.  So if someone elects not to use Freedom Glass, I strongly encourage them to contact a competitor who is also registered with AGRSS®.  Some may question my reasoning for that, but I do not.  As I tell everyone that will listen, my family and friends will be safe with their windshield replacements because they will have us do the installation.  However, I can’t protect those I care about from someone else’s windshield coming out during an accident and striking them.  So I feel as though it behooves me to insure that everyone has a safe windshield installation.  And with that, I believe it is in every AGRR owner’s best interest to promote education, not lowest price.  I don’t ever want to read another story about a fatality resulting from a windshield failure.  As much as I hate to actually say this, I believe there are two types of auto glass companies out here today; those who genuinely care about safety and those who will do anything for the almighty dollar.  At Freedom Glass we have, and will continue to, turn down any job that will not result in a safe installation.  Making a living is important to us, but not at the expense of someone else not living!       

 

What do you see as key opportunities for you (and for others like you) in the AGRR industry and what do  you feel differentiates you in the marketplace.

Mike Paley:  David, I sincerely believe AGRSS® brings us the single greatest opportunity to demonstrate to the driving public that those of us registered with and adhering to the AGRSS® are indeed putting safety first.  As the saying goes, a lot of glass companies talk the talk, but only a few of us walk the walk.  And again, the way we try to differentiate ourselves from our competitors is by educating.  I do not want a client because I’m the cheapest out there.  I want that client because they care about those persons in their vehicle, and they’ll heed our warnings, i.e. Safe Drive-Away Time.  I feel if every AGRSS® registered shop would spend more time educating and less time concentrating on price, some of the 800-lbs gorilla’s business would come our way and some of the fly-by-night installers would either leave the industry or get trained and certified.          

 

From your prospective, what do you see that is right with the industry and what do you see is wrong with it?

Mike Paley:  There are several things that I see as right in our industry, and that gives me reason to hope more positive things are forthcoming.  I sincerely believe that the formation of AGRSS®, and its validation program, is the absolute best thing that could have occurred for our industry.  I also know from attending the conferences over the years and talking with other glass companies around the nation, there are others that truly care about consumer safety and place that in the highest regard.  And while independents, especially small independents, can’t compete head-to-head with that 800-lbs gorilla in our industry, if we can work together to educate and demonstrate our collective professionalism, I believe that we can gain some of that gorilla’s market share.

As for what I see wrong in our industry, there are several things there as well!  Of course the biggest is that gorilla.  Anytime a company can have an affiliation with the majority of the insurance companies out here; answering their glass claim calls, dispatching their own installers, using the glass they manufacture, and getting paid a Guaranteed Average Invoice (GAI) price; that’s about as “wrong” as it can get for the rest of us.  And there are several “wrongs” I feel are being self-inflicted by many in our industry, including some by independents.    Freedom Glass does not, has not and will not waive any portion of a client’s deductible.  If a client wants a zero deductible, I encourage them to talk with their agent.  After all, if anyone reading this does waive even a portion of that deductible and our industry’s compensation keeps getting smaller and smaller, I would implore you to write a letter to AGRR Magazine as to how you’re doing that and staying profitable.  But the truth is, I already know!  And my company will never do anything to compromise anyone’s safety.  The other issue I see are the numerous installers who, after working for someone else, have decided to open their own auto glass company.  The problem is that while they may have the best of intentions and may even be very good technicians, their inability to quote and market properly is driving the value of our industry into the ground.  Often times these “new” independents will survive for a month or two based on family, friends and connections, then they begin calling other glass companies to inquire about performing subcontracting work for them.  Then, within six months their company is no longer in business.  And finally, we have those companies in our industry, large and small, that do not see the value and importance of training and educating their personnel.  To me, that’s a frightening shame.          

 

What industry associations or organizations do you belong and why did you join them?

Mike Paley:  We have been members of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS®); Independent Glass Association (IGA®); National Glass Association (NGA®); and, National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA®).  We currently belong to only AGRSS®.  The reason we joined each of these associations was to learn more about our industry as a whole, each association independently including its goals and objectives, and to become certified by each.  I don’t believe we can ever learn too much.     

 

You may be uncomfortable answering this question, but what advice can you offer others in the industry that you feel could possibly help them improve their businesses?  Can you pass along any ideas on how they can grow sales in their markets in the difficult environment that the industry is facing?

Mike Paley:  I believe I’ve already addressed a couple of ideas, but let me offer this.  In my humble opinion, I believe owning an auto glass company is a marathon, NOT A SPRINT!!!  Go to work each day with the goal of educating everyone and making at least one friend.  Share something about auto glass safety with everyone you come in contact with.  Do those things and the sales will take care of themselves.  People ultimately do business with people they like and trust.  Sure, the cheapest guy may get the job today, but he probably won’t be around tomorrow when that client needs their service again.  So stay true to yourself, your clients and your industry.  It may be tempting to lower your prices or your standards, but once you’ve compromised them, they’re gone!             

 

And finally, one thing I have to ask you about is how your Carolina shag dancing is coming along with the Richmond Shag Club and how do you rate your dancing prowess versus your skills in the auto glass repair and replacement industry?

Mike Paley:  Talk about being blind-sided, LOL!  Having never danced until I reached the half-century mark, and always thinking I had two left feet, I’ve grown very confident in my dancing.  Five years ago you couldn’t have dragged me onto an empty dance floor; today you can’t keep me off one.  My skills in the auto glass industry have also grown tremendously, and with that, so has my confidence.  Without that confidence I would never have even considered accepting the honor of being nominated, much less elected, to the Board of Directors for AGRSS®.  Ten years ago I wouldn’t have dreamt of owning an auto glass company, but today I’m proud of where we stand and the reputation we’re building daily.  And that’s my hope for the future of our industry as a whole, to grow in skills and knowledge, abilities and confidence.  Can we learn more?  Absolutely!  Can we get better?  Without question!  Are we passionate?  We better be; people’s lives depend on us!!!   

 

I want to thank you for taking the time to answer my questions Mike.  I very much appreciate your candor and willingness to share your views on the industry.  We both have a great desire to see everyone who runs and operates a glass company in the AGRR industry find ways to remain viable during the difficult competitive landscape that exists, especially today.  With all of the changes that have taken and are taking place in the industry you need to find ways to compete in the marketplace and not only maintain the customers you have, but grow your business by differentiating yourself in the marketplace.  I hope that many in the industry can see through your experiences and advice in opening Freedom Glass that there are ways to be successful in the industry, regardless of the size of your company.

Thanks again Mike and I wish you great luck in the prosperity and growth of Freedom Glass.  I’m glad I’m not currently competing against you in Richmond.

Just sayin’………….

 

p.s.  The Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS®) changes its name to the Auto Glass Safety Council® effective January 2012.

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Associations

What associations have you joined?  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines associations as “organizations of people having a common interest”.  The definition seems fairly straightforward and easy to understand.  When you join a group with those who have a common interest it could be for something such as a golf club, a church group, the AARP, the NRA, a political party, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, even a company that you work for, etc.  The common interest which you have could be a hobby, a sport, an industry group or it could involve a social issue that you feel strongly that motivates you to join an association.  The list of associations and common interests are endless.  Common interests can remain for a short or long-term period of time.  In all likelihood a common interest is something that you’re probably passionate about.

If you’re in the automotive repair and replacement (AGRR) industry there are a three well known associations that serve the common interest or interests of their members.  There are associations such as AGRSS® (soon to become the Auto Glass Safety Council), the Independent Glass Association, and the National Windshield Repair Association.  You get a good sense of their main interest by their names and when you look at their web sites you’ll find:

  • The common interest for AGRSS®, which stands for the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard, “is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the safe replacement of auto glass. AGRSS® was founded and is supported by companies in the auto glass replacement industry that keep safe installation as their primary goal.” 1 2
  • The Independent Glass Association and its members common interest is “the only association dedicated to the needs of the independent glass companies in North America. Its members are also dedicated to the professional and ethical installation of glass in a safe and proper manner. IGA members are located in all 50 states and ten countries.”1
  • For National Windshield Repair Association members the common interest they share is that they are “recognized nationally and worldwide as a professional source of reliable information on the windshield repair industry.  NWRA membership puts you on the leading edge of timely information and gives you a strong influence in the industry. Your membership not only couples you with the dynamic leaders of the windshield repair industry, but with a voice in your destiny equal to any other member.”1

1)     I have had the honor of being a member of this association.

2)     I am a member of the board of directors and vice-president of AGRSS®.

Each of these three associations has memberships which are strongly aligned to common interests.  When you visit their individual websites, each association clearly states their goals in representing the interests of their membership.  By joining any association members are making a conscious effort to align themselves with other like-minded individuals and companies who share common interests or who share similar goals (values, principals, interests or beliefs).  If you surround yourself with people who have a common interest, then you and the group as a whole should be able to achieve more of those shared goals and the association will further improve or execute on the shared common interest as well.  Associations need to constantly increase membership and grow their sphere of influence in order to build on their success at gaining notice of their common interest or they will fade away along with their shared goals.  If you’re going to join an association, actively participate and you’ll be able to help achieve that common interest.  Passion, along with values and principals are key fundamentals of all associations.

If you find that you no longer share a common interest in the association you belong you can leave and then find and join one that does.

Just sayin’……….

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Factotum: A Day in the Life of an AGRR Owner

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:

  1. Answer customer questions
  2. Offer quotes and (hopefully) take orders
  3. Input customer data into the point-of-sale program
  4. 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)
  5. Contact your supplier for required parts via phone or online order
  6. Coordinate and schedule an appointment for the installation of the glass
  7. Invoice the person paying for the replacement
  8. 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.


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