Posts Tagged PPG
Paul, you have a wealth of experience and knowledge in the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry. I appreciate your taking the time to talk with me today.
I know that you got your start in the industry in 1979 by joining PPG Industries as a management trainee and over the course of your time there you became a branch manager for them in Greenville, South Carolina. What sparked your initial interest in the AGRR industry?
I liked the idea. Everyone who owned a car was a potential customer. I also liked working directly with customers. It was a good fit with my personality.
You left PPG in 1986 to open Coastal Glass Distributors in Charleston, South Carolina. Do you mind sharing the reason why you left PPG?
I loved working with PPG and they taught me so much, but I saw an opportunity to open a glass distribution business in Charleston. The market seemed underserved to me.
So you saw a great opportunity to open a wholesale business to fill a need in the marketplace and Coastal Glass proved to be a success. That’s great, but what caused you to decide to exit a successful wholesale business that had grown quickly in the market and move into retail?
The auto glass business was changing and a number of our retail customers were being purchased by large retailers.
I realized that you couldn’t serve two masters.
So after starting Glasspro in 1995 and turning your focus solely on the retail side of the AGRR industry what did you learn about the differences between the wholesale and retail business and especially when it came to serving the needs of your customers?
The insurance industry paid better than contractors did. But more importantly, I felt insurance customers valued service and quality more than a lot of glazing contractors did.
So how long did it take you to open additional stores in the South Carolina market?
We opened our second location in 1995.
Knowing you and understanding that ensuring that each and every customer you do work has the absolute best experience and is “delighted” with that experience, as I’ve heard you say, and service they receive from Glasspro, what suggestions or ideas can you offer to the readers of this blog on how to achieve that with their customers?
It is a total commitment from all of our people to recognize that it is a one job at a time business.
What were some of the challenges you faced in finding and then keeping the best people to make sure your customers are always delighted with Glasspro?
We hire “nice,” and we use a personality profile assessment on every potential new hire. We want to make sure it is a good fit for all parties concerned.
Is it difficult in a market like South Carolina to sell people on windshield repairs?
We spend a lot of time, energy and training on explaining the benefits of a repair.
Do you provide any non AGRR services for customers at Glasspro?
No, auto glass is all that we do.
You and Glasspro are and have been leaders in the AGRR industry for quite some time. In the past 8 years you’ve had 4 of your auto glass technicians win the Auto Glass Olympics in the United States and 1 who won the world title. That is truly an amazing feat for one AGRR company to have achieved and I’m sure you’re quite proud of those who have competed in and those who have won these events. What drives your auto glass technicians to not only excel in what they do for your customers in South Carolina, but to work so hard to become Auto Glass Olympic winners?
We have been fortunate again in hiring the right people who are committed to striving for excellence, each and every day.
For other companies in the AGRR industry that would like to compete and have the success that you’re auto glass technicians have had in excelling in these events, what advice do you offer them?
Train to the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard® (AGRSS®) and then install with it on each and every windshield.
As a strong supporter of the AGRSS® standard and the goals of the Auto Glass Safety Council, Inc. what advice would you offer to other AGRR companies about joining the safety organization, following the ANSI standard and opening the doors of Glasspro to third party auditors to validate to your customers that you provide the safest installations possible?
I believe it is good for your customers and sends a message to your employees that providing safety is the most important thing that we do.
What advice can you offer on how you successfully compete against a national player in the market place?
We respect all of our competitors, but we also take great pride in striving to deliver excellence and value to our customers.
I know that you may be uncomfortable about talking about some of the things you and Glasspro do to help those in need in your markets, but you’re a big supporter of your community and I commend you for your the efforts. You have developed a program called “3 Degree Guarantee” to help many in your community and the coastal area of South Carolina with special needs. Could you tell us a little about what you and your company accomplishes with “3 Degree Guarantee”?
It helps us bring awareness to many non profits as well as give them funds. This allows them to serve our local community.
I’m very proud that Glasspro is one of the co-branded partners of Windshield Centers. As a locally owned and operated AGRR business that has found great success in the markets you serve, what attracted you to becoming a part of Windshield Centers?
Windshield Centers is customer focused and committed to delivering excellence just like Glasspro strives to be. There were many things that I found attractive about Windshield Centers, but two in particular stood out. First, Windshield Centers is using advanced technology which provides a quick response to customers’ needs in a way that really keeps a customer in the loop. Secondly, they have created a Windshield Centers “Centers of Excellence”, which focuses on an environment that fosters continuous improvement for its members. These two advancements are just a few of the things which I believe help us bring value to our insurance partners.
Is there anything else you’d like to talk about with the readers of this blog?
I believe we are entering a special time in our industry and I am confident the future is bright for the committed independent auto glass company.
Well thank you very much Paul for taking the time to talk with me about Glasspro and the success that you’ve achieved and also passing along how positive you are for the future opportunities that exist in the AGRR industry. I’ve had the fortune to spend time with you and your team and it is quite obvious why you and your company have enjoyed such great success. There are always opportunities in the market place for those who desire excellence for their company and the people that work with them to achieve that success. I wish you and your organization the best in 2013 and the years to come.
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Today I’m talking with Marc Talbert, Vice President and Managing Partner with Guardian Auto Glass, LLC. Marc was formerly the president of PGW Auto Glass Wholesale, LLC until he left the auto glass manufacturer and wholesaler in late 2009. In the Fall of 2010 Marc, along with Jim Latch (a former executive with PGW Auto Glass and PPG Industries, Inc.); and Jerry Ray and Neil Smith (who passed away on June 17, 2011) who together were founders involved with Glass Pro and Elite Auto Glass formed a partnership titled LRST LLC. The four equal partners joined with Guardian Industries and LRST was given the management responsibilities of Guardian Auto Glass, LLC. This unique partnership was formed to grow the number of stores under the Guardian Auto Glass banner. The goal is for Guardian Auto Glass to provide automobile glass repair and replacement (AGRR) services using a local ownership/management model. The model looks very similar to the one that Wes Topping and his partners (including Jerry Ray and Neil Smith) used to rapidly grow Elite Auto Glass across the western United States before selling to Belron in 2005. Guardian Industries Corp. had owned the platform for years. At this time Guardian Auto Glass operates over 90 stores in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
DR: I know that you and your partners have been busy the past two years working on growing Guardian Auto Glass and I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today Marc.
MT: Thank you for the opportunity to participate.
DR: What year did you get your start in the AGRR industry and what was your first position in the industry?
MT: My ARG (automotive replacement glass) experience began in 1994 as manager of PPG’s branch distribution centers in Dallas/Ft Worth. I started my career with PPG in 1980.
DR: What were the positions and responsibilities you’ve had since you first started in the industry in 1994?
MT: I relocated to Southern California in 1995 as manager of PPG’s western distribution locations, then to Pittsburgh in 2003 with responsibility for PPG Auto Glass, LLC.
DR: Which of those jobs did you find most interesting and why? And which was the worst one and why?
MT: Honestly all were equally interesting because they presented increasing challenges and responsibilities. Working in the field for the first 23 years of my career I anticipated the move to PPG’s corporate office would be the most intimidating, but I was fortunate to work with some very good people who made the transition much easier, and even enjoyable.
DR: You left PGW Auto Glass in 2009 as a President and your responsibilities at PGW included wholesale sales and distribution for the company. What made you jump from the wholesale side of the AGRR industry to retail?
MT: I had the opportunity to partner with Jim Latch who I had worked with at PPG and two of our long-time customers Jerry Ray and Neil Smith. Jerry and Neil brought significant and successful retail experience along with a proven business model, and together we saw an opportunity to partner with a company like Guardian to expand their retail business. There remains quite a gap between the largest US retail provider and the next largest and one of our goals is to try and reduce this gap.
DR: About a year after you entered the LRST partnership Neil Smith sadly passed away. Did his passing change the plans you’d made in your goals at Guardian Auto Glass?
MT: Neil’s passing was certainly a shock to us and we miss his experience and counsel every day, not to mention his humor. Our plans to grow Guardian Auto Glass will be more difficult to achieve without Neil but we have not altered our plans.
DR: What are your key responsibilities at Guardian Auto Glass?
MT: Jerry and I share the responsibilities for new market growth and acquisitions, and Jim has responsibility for managing the legacy Guardian locations and our administrative support center in Worthington, Ohio. We all share responsibility for the management of Guardian Auto Glass.
DR: Did you find the retail side of the AGRR industry a little harder than you had expected it to be?
MT: I think you ultimately have similar issues with retail and distribution, or any business for that matter. As you effectively pointed out in a recent blog you try to attract the best people and provide enough support for them to succeed without bogging them down with non-value added work. That is the focus of our business and the core of our local ownership model, and what we believe differentiates Guardian Auto Glass in each of our markets. Having local owners with a stake in our collective success changes many aspects and costs of traditional corporate management, and we believe is the key to growing profitably.
The primary difference we’ve learned in retail is the need in some cases and with certain third-party administrators to retain customers who have chosen a Guardian Auto Glass location to complete work we’ve already sold through our local marketing and customer relationships. This is a dynamic we did not face in distribution and one we are increasingly concerned with.
DR: How many brick and mortar locations did Guardian Auto Glass have before you partnered with Guardian on this new venture versus the number that the company has today? How are you doing on achieving the strategic goals that were set for the first two years of the venture?
MT: We currently pay rent at over 90 locations and I believe Guardian had 25-30 locations when we started. The economy and lack of weather is certainly not generating a tailwind for us this year but we have continued to expand as anticipated and build a competitive infrastructure.
DR: Many in the industry are waiting for Guardian Auto Glass to do something with the call center/third party administration (TPA) that you operate, especially with Jim Latch participation in the partnership. Does Guardian Auto Glass have any plans to become a bigger factor in the call center or TPA side of the industry?
MT: Guardian’s network is not part of Guardian Auto Glass and is not operated by LRST. As you point out Jim’s experience in this area provides a unique opportunity for us and we anticipate working with Guardian’s network to help expand both businesses.
DR: What advice can you offer other retailers on how to successfully compete against Safelite®?
MT: I don’t think we are in a position to provide advice to anyone, but we are concerned as I’m sure many ARG retailers are with maintaining access to our customers who have chosen to have their vehicle glass serviced by one of our Guardian Auto Glass locations. We will continue to direct our efforts and investments in building our local customer relationships, and retaining access to those customers will be an area of increased focus for us going forward.
DR: Where do you see Guardian Auto Glass in 5 years? What will make you and your partners feel that it will be a success?
MT: Our mission is to grow profitably through our local ownership model and to continue our expansion, so we will need to see how we measure up at the end of our 5th year. We remain excited about the opportunities in the ARG retail market and will continue to seek strategic partners and existing businesses in all markets to help us reach our goals.
DR: How’s your golf game coming along? I know that in some circles you’re considered to be a tough guy to beat in a game.
MT: Must be very small circles, however I would welcome a rematch with you and others free from the constraints of customer golf.
DR: Perhaps. I look forward to the opportunity to a rematch. Some of my team members I’m going to change out, as I would guess you will too. Loser pays?
Thank you again for taking the time to talk with me Marc. I know that many in the industry are looking for someone, some company to step up and take on Safelite. Perhaps Guardian Auto Glass can be one that does. Good luck in achieving the goals that you have for Guardian Auto Glass.
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