Posts Tagged safe drive away time

“Follow-up” Interview with Sika Corporation’s John King (who is retiring)

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.

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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.

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Photo courtesy of http://www.glassbytes.com

Just sayin’.

 

 

Below is the original interview that was done with John King on September 9, 2011

 

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.

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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 – Now and in the Future

Last Tuesday, February 4, 2014 there were two items in glassBYTEs.com™ e-Newsletter that I read with great interest. The two articles got me to wondering about how technology could be developed to increase passenger safety in the auto glass replacement (AGR) industry by alerting passengers of potential problems.

The first article I enjoyed reading was the “View From The Trenches” blog post by Neil Duffy. His blog post titled “Nightmare on Stevens Creek” pointed out those in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry who are portrayed as “hacks” in the article; those who lower the quality of installations and how our industry is viewed. Many of these “hacks” don’t follow or worse are even aware (an even scarier nightmare) of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard® and what is required, on their part, to ensure that those they install auto glass for are safe in an accident. The second article was an Associated Press article that appeared on TribLive.com titled “Feds want cars to be able to talk to each other“. Seems like a great way for the cars we drive not to run into cars that others drive. This technology will have to be in full use when we move to driverless cars, but in the meantime it could greatly reduce collisions today if rolled out in new cars.

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Everyone in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry across the country has seen someone who isn’t following proper installation standards and put drivers at risk when auto glass is replaced. There are those in the industry who think the drums are beat too loud about this topic, but it is an issue and Neil rightly points to the concern that he sees with the acts of some lowering the standards which could bring us all down at some point in the future. As Neil wrote,

“This drains the resources and profitability of shops who value quality. By allowing hacks to contaminate our industry we are putting both the public at risk and our own livelihoods. The sad fact is that there is an unwillingness to seek regulatory constraints or to somehow cull the worst offenders in the AGRR industry. Why would a glass manufacturer or wholesaler try to cut the number of sales they could make by calling for the removal of incompetent or illegal customers? Why would a third-party administrator (TPA) demand stringent certification and high-limit liability insurance over negotiating deeper discounts from the same vendors? Furthermore, we, in AGR, play into the hands of our largest competitor who promotes its technician’s training and employee character via the media over smaller companies – the local unknown local glass purveyors – that may prey upon potential clients. That alone can create a bad dream or two.”

Are there auto glass suppliers or urethane suppliers that would walk away from a sale if the supplier is aware of bad behavior on the part of a customer? I for one would like to believe that there are. But would some suppliers step in and provide the products versus losing a sale? Sadly probably yes.

I appreciate Neil Duffy pointing out that there are those in the industry who shouldn’t be installing auto glass in any vehicle because they either don’t know how to properly do a replacement or they don’t care that they are installing a part in an unsafe manner. Bad apples that exist in our industry can lower the value that the vast majority of us in the industry who are doing it right receive as Neil suggests. Consumers believe they are getting a quality product regardless of what company they use. When a company that is doing everything right competes against those who don’t, how could a consumer know that they could be choosing a company that delivers the service and/or products in an unsafe manner which could ultimately cause serious safety issues? They don’t.

The second article that I referenced that appeared on the glassBYTEs.com™ web site on February 4th dealt with the United States government push to require automakers to equip vehicles with technology that will reduce accidents by having vehicles “talk with each other”.

The Associated Press article details the work that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been doing in cooperation with automobile and truck manufacturers since the early 2000’s to prevent accidents via new technology.

The article quotes David Friedman, the head of the safety administration saying that NHTSA “estimates vehicle-to-vehicle communications could prevent up to 80 percent of accidents that don’t involve drunken drivers or mechanical failure”. Imagine the lives that will be saved with the implementation of new technology. Mr. Friedman goes on to say the goal is “to prevent crashes in the first place”. Historically the government’s focus has been on passengers surviving accidents. On the NHTSA web site the department’s mission reads:

“NHTSA was established by the Highway Safety Act of 1970 and is dedicated to achieving the highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety. It works daily to help prevent crashes and their attendant costs, both human and financial.”

The technology that is being developed and installed on vehicles today across the globe is pretty amazing and has been a dream going back over 50 years.

In 1956 General Motors showcased their cars with a traveling show featuring the company’s fleet at events in major cities across the country. The first “Motorama Show” was held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. This “Key to the Future” video was a “featured film at the exhibit that looked into the far distant future of 1976 which predicted a jet age future with electronic digital displays and an On Star like central command that would guide us along our uncrowded path to adventures.”   

The view of the cars of the future from 1956 obviously wasn’t reality in 1976, but we will be seeing more and more technology installed in all types of vehicles. This CarScoops.com article talks about an “Augmented Reality System (that) Allows Drivers to See Through Large Vehicles”. The ‘See-Through’ developed by a team from the University of Porto, in Portugal, is directed by Professor Michel Ferreira. The technology is a great advancement in driving safety and will undoubtedly save life’s’. Imagine being able to “see-through” a large vehicle such as a bus in front of you in order to safely pass on a two lane highway.

Virtually every car on the road today has on-board technology that informs drivers of mechanical issues that have been detected.  Additionally, mobile telephone hands free devices and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technologies are available for most vehicles further helping to improve driver safety. Government authorities, driving safety advocates and organizations in cooperation with automobile manufacturers continue to build on technology that improves passenger safety. The ever changing availability of new safety technologies being developed for vehicles is rapidly changing how we interact with vehicles, how the vehicles we drive interact with us and even how the vehicle interacts with everything near the vehicle. A Bloomberg.com article titled “Talking-Car Systems to Be Required as U.S. Weighs Rules” briefly discussed future technologies being developed by CISCO Systems and others for connected cars, along with companies such as Google and Telsa Motors working to employ that technology in driverless vehicles.

So, after reading both of the articles that appeared on the same glassBYTEs.com™ e-Newsletter I began wondering if future technology could be developed to let auto and truck drivers know if the auto glass in the car they are driving or are passengers has been properly replaced. Perhaps a farfetched idea you’d say, but since we all know that a windshield that is being replaced has to be properly installed to ensure that the passenger side air bag deploys correctly to protect occupants and to also maintain structural integrity of the roof; maybe not. As I’ve heard a number of people say over the years, “It’s going to take some politician’s family member or someone important to be killed for something to be done to ensure the safe installation of auto glass.” Certainly no one wants that to happen. As Neil so aptly wrote:

“This writer is truly tired of having nightmares that “Freddy the hack” is becoming the ugly face of today’s automotive glass industry. I see it more and more each day and most worrisome is the complete lack of concern by many within our industry. How can we police ourselves or be policed is the $ 64,000 question that has to be addressed and answered some day, hopefully sooner rather than later. If we continue to bury our collective heads in the sand, it will be our own necks that get hacked, as well as more unfortunate windshields.”

I know of countless AGRR professionals who strive to ensure that auto glass is installed properly and spare no expense to do so. But without either the industry as a whole taking a more active interest or governmental authorities taking a regulatory role in the AGRR industry maybe someone can develop a technology to alerts drivers and passengers alike that the car they are riding in is indeed safe to drive, or not.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Doing the Right Thing Isn’t Always Easy

Whether you are an auto glass shop owner or an auto glass technician working in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry, following the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard® isn’t easy, nor should it be. The AGRSS® Standard has rules and best practices which requires a higher level of diligence and reporting to be adhered to on the part of both the auto glass company and its technicians. Deciding as a company to fully embrace the standard and fulfill all of its requirements separates your company and your auto glass technicians from other companies which you compete. As a company you make the decision to follow the AGRSS® Standard then take the additional step and join the Auto Glass Safety Council™ as a registered company. Being a registered company requires that you participate in the non-profit organization’s Validation Program. Understand that if you’re a registered company, following the standard tells your customers that you are willing to open yourself to a 3rd party validation and inspection to ensure that you indeed follow the rules of the standard.

For the purposes of full disclosure, I sit on the board of directors of the Auto Glass Safety Council™. The Auto Glass Safety Council™ consists of countless industry members who donate their time and efforts to maintain the standard. They and/or the companies they work for pay for the time and travel required to spend working on behalf of the AGRSS® Standard. No one is paid for the work that they do.

By following the AGRSS® Standard you set yourself apart from others in the industry that’ve chosen not to do so; whether for reasons of profit, lack of knowledge or perhaps that you just don’t care about the safety issues involved. I’m not sure what would cause a company to not follow AGRSS®, but it has to be for one of those reasons. There are 8 deliverables that an auto glass company must adhere to comply with the standard. They are:

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Adhering to the AGRSS® Standard requires that you follow all 8 of the above deliverables. Does your company follow the standard and the deliverables? How do your customers know that you do?

A number of networks and/or third party administrators (TPA) require that auto glass shops that do replacements on the behalf of network customers replace glass according to the AGRSS® Standard. How is it possible for those networks to know that each replacement is actually performed to the standard? The only way for a network to confirm that every glass replacement is completed according to the standard is to require membership of every glass shop that does work on its behalf. No network or TPA, to my knowledge, requires 100% of the glass companies that do its replacements be members of the Auto Glass Safety Council™ to validate that its members are indeed completing replacements according to the AGRSS® Standard.

There are insurance companies that require auto glass shops that do replacements for their policyholders to complete them according to the AGRSS® standard. But what, if anything, do those companies do to enforce their own requirement? I’m not sure the answer to that question, but I’m not aware of anything more than an auto glass company being required to just say that they do installations according to the AGRSS® standard.

Do insurance companies ask you to install used glass on older cars or on cars involved in collisions? That claim has been made recently and that request is not allowable under the AGRSS® Standard. If asked would you install a used part in a consumer’s car when you can’t determine how it may have originally been installed?

Here are a few questions that are important to ask if you say you follow the standard, but don’t use a 1 to 4 hour fast cure Safe Drive Away-Time (SDAT) urethane:

·         If you’re an auto glass shop that uses a urethane that requires 24 hours or more to provide a SDAT do you actually inform your customer that they can’t drive their car for 24 hours?

·         Do you really think that if your customer is told that the car isn’t safe to drive for 24 hours that they actually will follow your instructions?

·         What do you think happens when you do the installation at their place of work knowing that they will be driving at the end of the day?

If the urethane you’re using requires a specific humidity and/or temperature level to cure properly, do your auto glass technicians have equipment with them that tells them that they are in compliance with the urethane they’re using?

What do you do if you encounter rust when doing an installation? Do you do the repair required to ensure that you comply with the standard? Do you go ahead with a replacement when there is rust damage that must be repaired according to the standard without actually doing all that needs to be done to ensure compliance? Would you walk away from a job if the customer won’t do what is required to fix a rust issue? It’s not easy to follow the AGRSS® standard.

To be sure, to do all that is required to be done by an auto glass company, auto glass technicians that perform the replacements and those who are tasked to keep proper records to execute all of the deliverables of the AGRSS® Standard isn’t easy as I said, but it is certainly achievable by companies and auto glass technicians that care. Fully knowing that a company or network or TPA that professes it follows the standard can certainly be called into question. The only way to know if some company is truly conforming to the standard is to be validated it by an independent 3rd party company.

The standard is a challenge. It is made to be. Validations can only be confirmed by an independent 3rd party organization approved to complete the inspection of an auto glass shop that says it adheres to the standard. To proclaim that you follow the AGRSS® Standard and not also back it up with an independent 3rd party verification would be similar to saying that the Affordable Care Act and HealthCare.gov has been a rousing success from its rollout on October 1st. The Affordable Care Act and HealthCare.gov may indeed ultimately provide what some profess that it will provide, but just saying so doesn’t mean that it has or will.

By the way, just because you are a registered company with the Auto Glass Safety Council™ and follow the AGRSS® Standard doesn’t mean that insurance companies or consumers will beat a path to your door. Not yet anyway. Doing the right thing when it comes to ensuring your customers safety should be enough.

There will certainly be those who read this blog who will disagree with me as to the “how” we ensure that consumers are protected when it comes time to having their glass replaced, but ensuring that consumers receive adequate protection when having auto glass replaced should be a concern to us all. That is of course if you care about consumers and the AGRR industry you wish to participate.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Wind at Our Backs?

As we near the end of the first three quarters of 2013, it appears that we may have some wind at our back. There has been some slight improvement in a couple of the key drivers of the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry. The key drivers of the AGRR industry are weather, the economy and miles driven.

 

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has been published since 1792 and is “North America’s most popular reference guide and oldest continuously published periodical”. Forecasting the weather is a specialty of the Almanac and the publication touts an 80% success rate at correctly forecasting winter weather. The Almanac recently published the weather maps for 2013 – 2014. The Almanac is forecasting the following weather for regions they report for this coming winter:

  • The Northeast a winter milder in the North and colder in the South with slightly above average snow in the region;
  • In the Atlantic Corridor a colder winter with snowfall above normal;
  • The Appalachians will see a colder winter with snowfall near normal;
  • The Southeastern United States will see colder weather and above normal snowfall;
  • In the Lower Lakes temperatures will be slightly milder with below normal snowfall;
  • In the Ohio Valley area winter will be colder, along with below normal snowfalls;
  • The Upper Mid-West will be a mixed bag with a warmer winter in the eastern part and below normal in the western part of the area. Snowfall will be above normal;
  • The Heartland will be colder than normal this winter and snowfall near normal;
  • The rest of the country is expected to be colder than normal with average to above average snowfall;

All-in-all a mixed bag with the weather and I hope that wherever your business is located you’re benefited by a colder and snowier winter.

The economy is also a bit of a mixed bag. Positive news came from new car sales which can be an important factor in an improving AGRR industry. J.D. Powers detailed year-on-year improvement in new-vehicle sales in the United States by reporting in their August 2013: Monthly Automotive Sales Forecast that “August new-vehicle sales reached the highest level in seven years.” The report went on to state, “New-vehicle retail sales in August 2013 are projected to come in at 1,270,400 units, 12 percent increase from 2012”. That’s great news for the AGRR industry. J.D. Powers is predicting growing new-vehicle sales for the remainder of 2013 and well into 2014. Really great news for the AGRR industry!

CNNMoney reported this past week in an article titled, “Jobless claims fall to 7-year low, but…” the rate of unemployment showed signs of dropping which is great news, but is tempered with the suggestion that it’s a result of people continuing to drop out of the work force. There are “11.3 million Americans who remain unemployed” the article reported with “three unemployed people for every job opening”. As with the weather, unemployment figures vary by region so its how your local economy is doing is what could affect how good your business will be in the next year.

The price of oil and how oil prices effect gasoline prices is another key part of the equation for the AGRR industry. As reported by the United States Energy Information Administration in the “Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update”, prices year-on-year through September 9, 2013 on regular gasoline show that prices are down $ 0.26. Lower gasoline prices are great for both the consumers we rely on for business and for all of those company vehicles providing mobile service. Hopefully the price of gasoline will stay low.

You can look at reports from the U.S. Department of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration (FHA) as positive or negative depending where you reside. The FHA showed in its June 2013 Travel Monitoring and Traffic Volume Report that year-on-year miles driven were relatively unchanged with a slight decline of 0.1% from June 2012. The news that miles driven is not showing growth wasn’t great news for the AGRR industry that thrives on vehicles out driving on roads, but staying level was better news than a drop.

So how are these three key drivers affecting your business and do you think the wind is at your back? Regardless of whether the wind is at your back or not, I think there is a fourth key driver to your business and it is the most important one for finding success in your business. That key driver is you. So how are you going to take advantage of the marketplace you compete? What is it you’re doing to make your business stand out among all those with whom you compete?

I’ve written in previous blogs “The Times They Are (Always) A-Changing” and “The Times They Are (Always) A-Changing – Part II” about the opportunities in the marketplace for AGRR companies. I strongly believe that there are opportunities for independents in our industry, but you’ve got to surround yourself with the best people and make sure that they are all committed to the goals and aspirations that you have for your business. If you haven’t got that you’re going to be struggling.

What else are you doing to separate yourself from your competitors? Look for ways to be successful and be relevant in your market so that you stand out. There is a recipe for success in your market and you’ve got to figure out what it’s going to take to make sure you find and keep being successful. It starts with you as you’re the key driver of your business.

If the three key drivers are beginning to turn to your favor and with the possibility of the wind at our backs, what is it you’re going to do in the next year to see that you not only survive, but thrive in the AGRR industry? It’s really up to you.

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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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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ZIP Code based pricing

About a month ago on November 14, 2011, Nydia Han (link), a television news reporter for the local ABC Channel 6 Television affiliate WPVI in Philadelphia, reported on that station’s nightly news program about the auto glass replacement pricing by zip code strategy that, according to the station, Safelite® Auto Glass was utilizing in the local market.  It was certainly interesting and entertaining to watch the 4+ minute “Action News Investigation” segment that Ms. Han presented on the television stations ABC News Channel 6 “Special Report” (link).  During the segment she asked this question:

“Is it fair for a company to charge you more for its services based on where you live?” 

ABC Channel 6 visited a Safelite® store location in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, asking about replacing a windshield and reported that they were told – “So book it online” – by the store.  She did just that by getting on a computer and going to the Safelite® “Get a quote” web page. It was there that she found that she first had to put in a zip code as required by Safelite® in addition to other required fields detailing the make, model and year of the car; along with the piece of glass she wanted quoted.  Based on her report she then started to put in a number of different zip codes in the area serviced by Safelite®.  Ms. Han reported that what she found was that “for the SAME windshield replacement on the SAME car at the SAME Safelite® shop” she got a number of different prices, depending upon the zip code used for the quote.  She reported that the prices varied about $ 80 for the same windshield replacement on the same car and the question she asked was does that pricing strategy model seem fair to consumers?

Based on the television stations investigation and report, the director of Philadelphia’s Consumer Affairs Lance Haver believes that it is not.  As Mr. Haver said in the report:

“It’s just wrong.  There is no two ways about it.  This is just wrong.  It should be one price for everyone; it shouldn’t depend upon where you live and how much they can gouge out of you.”

So why did Safelite® use zip code pricing?  Their spokesperson Melina Metzger was quoted in a glassBYTEs® article¹ as offering the following in response to WPVI’s investigative report saying:

“Pricing strategies are confidential.  This is a case of an investigative journalist attempting to create scandal where there is none.

Like all businesses, Safelite uses a dynamic consumer pricing model that fluctuates based on many variables, such as what other competitors the customer might choose to repair or replace your vehicle glass, the availability of a technician in [an] area, and the availability of the right part in [an] area. At Safelite, we believe our consumer pricing model to be fair and offer value.”

Okay, Safelite® certainly has the right to use any pricing model it would like to achieve its goals as does any other company.  It is an interesting model when someone on one side of a street who has the same car as someone on the other side of the street can be charged different amounts for the same item quoted and installed by the same store.  But in Safelite’s® defense, doesn’t every company have the right to price its products and services anyway it wants?  Even if the same store location actually does the work and/or those two different people in two different zip codes who might live across the street are sent the same installer to do the work on the same year, make and model of car?

I looked at a number of other auto glass repair and replacement retailers operating in a variety of markets as Safelite® and each of the retailer web sites I visited asked for a variety of customer information along with details of the car and what glass was needed to be replaced.  The web sites I looked at asked for zip codes only to determine what store was closest to the customer.  None offered quotes online.  Each of those web sites also said that a customer service representative would be in touch via email or the telephone to follow up on the quote request from the customer.

Then I visited a number of other web based auto glass replacement quoting sites.  Each of the web sites I visited requested zip code information (In all fairness to them it appeared that none of the ones I looked at actually operated auto glass shops themselves and were aggregators selling customer replacement opportunities to others who would do the replacements).  Those sites require the zip code in order to know where the customer asking for a quote for auto glass replacement service is located. This is so that the web site can make contact with the appropriate retailer(s) who will actually be doing the work for their price quote.

I’m not sure what other businesses use zip codes in pricing models, but since I had some spare time I did a little unscientific survey of local Chicago area businesses where I live by walking around to a number of Walgreens Drug Store locations in different zip codes in the downtown Chicago area where I did a store-by-store price comparison on a variety of non auto glass products.  For my very unscientific survey I chose three different products

  1. a 7.8 ounce tube of Crest® Pro Health Fluoride Toothpaste Clean Mint ($ 4.99),
  2. a 6 ounce box of my personal favorite GOOD & PLENTY® Licorice Candy ($ 1.59),
  3. and a 100 count bottle of Genuine Bayer® Aspirin 325 mg Pain Reliever ($ 6.79).

Granted those retail items aren’t even remotely close to windshields, but I did say my survey was unscientific so I took some latitude.  Anyway, I found that with all of the Walgreen stores that I visited in my survey area, the prices were actually the same for each of the products surveyed.  I also checked their online web site where I found prices were the same. 

I then extended my survey to a few other online web sites.  I visited two very popular retail web sites called Amazon® and the iTunes® Store.  Neither asked for my zip code to determine pricing for the products I checked.

One last observation I made when visiting the Safelite® “Get a quote” web page.  I found it interesting and wondered why they asked the question:

“Are you thinking of filing an insurance claim?” 

If you respond – yes – you’re then asked to provide the name of your auto insurance company from a long alphabetized drop down listing.  Under that drop-down box there is a statement:

Asking your insurance provider about your policy coverage and deductible is not considered filing a claim in most cases. We can help you with information regarding your insurance coverage. (You can always change your mind before your appointment.)”.

It was easy getting a quote when I didn’t say that it was an insurance claim.  It wasn’t as easy when I answered that I was filing an insurance claim.  Do you think that the price would be the same if you said it was for insurance versus if it wasn’t for insurance?  I was just wondering and I’m…..

Just sayin’………

 

1  Articles reporting on Ms. Han’s ABC Television affiliate WPVI in Philadelphia’s report that appeared in glassBYTEs® Auto Glass and Insurance Industry News on November 15, 2011, and on November 16, 2011.

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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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Q & A with Lauren Fix – The Car Coach®

Lauren Fix is The Car Coach®   With her extensive and impressive background in the world of automotive safety, Lauren is seen and heard coast-to-coast on major TV shows, print, web and radio.  She is a winning professional race car driver and self-described alpha mom.  As an award winning “automotive and lifestyle expert” Lauren has an educational background in business, engineering and marketing; and is a renowned expert in the many aspects of the automotive industry.  I’m honored to have her answer some questions today.

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions.  After listening to a talk you gave recently it was very apparent to all in attendance that you are very passionate about educating consumers to help make them become more aware of the importance of keeping their cars in good mechanical condition, as well as making sure they know the ins and outs of how to deal with the automotive service industry when they need their cars repaired.  You also are interested in helping those that want to provide the highest level of service to car owners understand the importance of having more knowledgeable customers.  It seems like you were born for mission.

How and why did you become The Car Coach®?

Lauren Fix:   I always loved cars and helped my father in the garage when I was just a kid.  By the age of 10 I was able to help him turn wrenches and get the tools he asked for.  I was a “tomboy” for sure.  When I graduated high school my goal was to be an actress, but after long conversations with my father, he convinced me to look elsewhere. I went to school for business, communications and engineering classes.  I started racing cars at the age of 16 and being on national TV has been just as much of an adrenaline rush.  After restoring cars, racing, designed brake systems and writing articles for years about cars, a friend approached me to be a guest on Motorweek, a PBS show.  After the show he suggested that I be a dealer trainer as the money was great.   I was working for my father’s brake rebuilding company and I had done everything from tearing down old brakes to designing the first drum-to-disc-brake conversion kit.  I did ad design, marketing and placement then became a National Sales Manager.  You name it and I did it.

This opportunity was great for me as I had been working in the aftermarket side and this opened doors to the manufacturing side of autos.  I started in the parking lot and chased cones; this was crazy I had all this experience and a college degree.  So I contacted the training company and explained my background, they gave me a chance with a marketing session and thought I was a perfect fit.  I worked hard and in a few months and I was asked to be a lead trainer and was lucky enough to get that slot.  I trained dealers and dealer principles for many years until 9/11 when we were near NYC and I knew it was time to end this chapter.

In the meantime, I started writing for magazines, websites, regional and national TV appearances educating and informing people about cars and the industry.  In January of 1996, there was a blizzard in Chicago and many people were stranded and didn’t know what to do.  That led to a phone call from Oprah.  Her staff asked me to be a guest on the show and help viewers see how they should be prepared.  That led to being a guest 6 times and many reruns.  That led to multiple national TV appearance on news and morning shows.  Then hosting a show on DIY for 4 years and now a regular segment on Time Warner Cable News.

I also had a performance driving school to top it all off, called Driving Ambitions; it was held exclusively at Watkins Glen International Raceway.  We taught 100’s of drivers three weekends a year from 1981 to 2001.  It was a great way to learn about people and their cars.

In addition, my husband Paul, and I started a company in 1989 called Classic Tube and we manufacture automotive and industrial tubing products in short runs.  I no longer have a desk there but I am still Vice President.  Paul also operates Fix Motorsports where we restore collector cars and vintage race cars.

I’m an ASE certified technician, although I only work on my cars and I’m also a long-standing member of SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers).  As the spokesperson for the Car Care Council I’ve been honored to help educate consumers for over 10 years and help drivers “Be Car Care Aware”.

You were recently a featured speaker at Auto Glass Week2011 that was held in Memphis.  What was the message you took away from your time there?
Lauren Fix:  Auto Glass Week was a great idea to merge multiple groups for a common cause, meet budget demands and allow your industry networking and educational opportunities.  I learned quite a bit about the industry and look forward to educating consumers on the importance of auto glass and how it integrates with safety.  AGRSS® is critical to consumer’s safety and drivers really need to be informed about an area that is never discussed in public.

Where do you see the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry going?  Do you see any problems that need to be fixed?

Lauren Fix:  I believe that the auto glass industry can learn from the successes in the automotive aftermarket with educating consumers to be smarter customers.  Very little is ever mentioned and insurance companies control the outcome, and as tightly as the drug companies control doctors.  This needs to change for all drivers’ safety and consumer’s pocket books.

What do you think about the importance of AGRSS®, the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard® Council’s mission relating to consumer safety?

Lauren Fix:  I think the mission makes sense and they are on the right track – getting more eyes to the website and a consumer education campaign will raise the awareness for all auto glass installers.  There are many ways to do this without spending millions on television commercial campaigns.

In your experience, what do drivers and consumers understand about auto glass?

Lauren Fix:  They never even think about it until there is a crack or chip.  Then it’s left in the hands of their insurance company and who they push them toward.  Consumers are not making the choices for themselves because they are sheltered from the fact and insurance companies are very aware of it so they handle it for them and control the industry for the most part.  Consumers need to make their own choices.

Do you think that drivers are aware that their windshield is an important safety device in their vehicle?
Lauren Fix:  I don’t think they have a clue.  They think seatbelts and airbags work together as a team, not realizing that the windshield is a critical component.

What is the most important safety tip that you personally wish that all drivers knew about?

Lauren Fix:  I wish that driver’s realized that they need to learn more than what is taught in driver’s education when they were 16.  Safety is more than driving skills and being aware, it’s about making their cars safer on the road for themselves, their families and other around them on the road.  Our culture of cars being just transportation is a fallacy because they are an integral part of our everyday lives.  Drivers should take the automobile and the industry more seriously; and with respect. If you look at how drivers in Europe see their vehicles and their training it could be a good starting point for the US and Canada to start including some of their programs here.

What does it mean to you to be selected by the Car Care Council Women’s Board (WB) and the Automotive Communication Council (ACC) 2011 winner of the Automotive Communication Award for “B to C Public Relations Efforts” and also the “B to C– TV Segment for the The Car Coach® Show”?

Lauren Fix:  This is a great honor, I take being The Car Coach® very seriously, but with some fun involved too.  To be recognized for my efforts just confirms the fact the we are doing all we can to help all drivers everywhere to be more informed, be safer on the road, maintain the value of their cars and learn to love them at the same time.

And finally, tell me about your mission and goals for the next year.

 Lauren Fix:  I just started working with The Weather Channel, and this will offer me the opportunity to reach more drivers.  This is all in my monthly newsletter, blog, twitter and RSS feeds.  My daughter, Shelby, and I are finishing my 4th book and her first; she is the Teen Car Coach™  helping teens and younger millennial drivers be informed as this generation looks at autos in such a different perspective.  My mission is constantly evolving as new opportunities arise from speaking to writing to television opportunities.  Also watch for me on QVC and Fox Business Channel. The Weather Channel has added automotive to their lifestyle programming.  I’m always listening and learning; so feel free to contact me at www.laurenfix.com.

Thank you again for taking the time to reach out to those of us in the AGRR industry with your message.  Those of us who are part of AGRSS® certainly appreciated your appearing at Auto Glass Week in Memphis last month. 

Lauren has a strong voice in the automotive industry customer service space.  Through her brand and her high visibility in the automotive industry, she can help bring needed attention to the importance of safe windshield installations to the driving public.  That’s what I believe.  What do you think?

Just sayin’……

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