Rebirth in Memphis
Just a Few Short Blocks from the Birth Place of Rock and Roll, IGA experiences Revitalization of its Independence
by Penny Beverage
|Some say Memphis was the birthplace of one of
our society’s most compelling discoveries: rock and roll. Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison were discovered there right in the midst of the Southern city along the Mississippi River, and made their starts in the city’s small, one-roomed Sun Recording Studio.
In April, Memphis witnessed another rebirth: the rebirth and revitalization of a dream, that of the Independent Glass Association (IGA), which signed up 81 participants in its newest program, e-direct bill™, and 13 new participants in another of its programs, the AmeriGlass Group Buying Program, according to Tim Smale, chief executive officer for the IGA.
The event kicked off early on Wednesday with a golf outing, followed by a Blues Cruise in the evening, on which attendees had a chance to relax before the festivities went into full swing. True Memphis barbecue was served on the authentic steamboat, as participants cruised up and down the Mississippi River and caught up with old friends and associates.
Approximately 600 attendees and 54 exhibitors met for Independents’ Days, April 4-7, doubling the show’s previous attendance last year. The fourth annual IGA show kicked off with an introduction by the enthusiastic Smale, who intrigued attendees immediately with one suggestion: “Sometimes you’ve got to get mad, and stand up and say ‘I’m mad as @#!% and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
Smale showed a clip from the movie Network in which Peter Finch encourages the nation via television news to “run to the window, stand up and shout, ‘I’m mad as @#!% and I’m not going to take it anymore!’” After sending the audience into both passion and laughter with the clip, Smale urged the audience to stand up and join him shouting the slogan, as it relates to their positions as independent glass shops. From that moment on, the enthusiastic group got down to business in what proved to be a successful weekend for all—attendees and exhibitors alike, along with the association as a whole, which ended the convention with an optimistic outlook for the coming year.
IGA president Donovan Trana also took the stage to reflect on a good year for the association and to welcome Independents’ Days attendees. Bringing all to reminisce about the days when former president George Bush named 1,000 “Points of Light” across the nation, joined by Randy Travis’s hit of the same name, Trana named the following as Points of Light in the industry, for their contributions throughout the past year: Bob Hittenburger, Best Glass, Phoenix; Scott and Lonna Owens, Excel Auto Glass, Lake Katrine, N.Y.; Mark Rizzi, ACR Glass, Alliance, Neb.; John and Pam Waller, Waller’s Auto Glass Express, Ladysmith, Wis.; and, Marc Anderson, All Glass of Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minn.
In addition, the IGA presented the President’s Award to Kurt Muller of Auto Glass Express in Plainville, Conn., and the Carl Joliff Leadership Award to Ray Asbery of Equalizer.
|The Sika Corp. prepares for visitors.|
|Dale Malcolm of Essex ARG assists IGA attendees with the company's latest products.|
The Big Premier
In addition to marking the IGA’s fourth annual show and largest attendance ever, the Memphis event gave the association a chance to debut its newborn program, e-direct bill™, which has been in the works for approximately two years. The association just recently signed a contract with AMJ Logistics of Troy, Mich., to develop the program, and will be able to make it available to IGA members within 12 weeks of the show. With e-direct bill, shops will be able to bill both electronically and on paper, but could eliminate the “middle man” (the auto glass network), and could send invoices directly to insurance companies themselves.
“The ultimate goal is freedom,” said Smale, who added that he personally has contributed 60-70 hours a week to this program for two years.
Sylvia Webb, president of AMJ Logistics, also gave her own remarks on the program and reminded the room of independents of the “new” golden rule: “He who has the gold makes the rules.”
However, she and Smale hope that with enough participants in e-direct bill, this new rule could transform into its original form yet again.
Using e-direct bill, all program members can bill insurance companies directly and electronically from their shops. At the same time, they would all share one system, which would be administered by the IGA’s headquarters and AMJ Logistics, so that information could be accessed through one simple source. For example, the IGA can keep track of how often an insurance company short-paid auto glass shops, while regular members could do the same, using the e-direct bill system. Although this information would only be available on an overall, anonymous basis, one could track the statistics more easily to discover patterns in the payment—and lack thereof—process.
Smale said that with e-direct bill, auto glass shops can also negotiate prices themselves—without a network—with insurance companies and would only need Internet access and a membership in the program to do so quickly and easily. And in the case of a short-payment, he or she could immediately send an invoice to the insurance company (and yet again, electronically) in an effort to get paid more quickly. “Why shouldn’t you get paid in just two days?,” asked Smale, who said he has worked in enough other industries to find that in most scenarios besides auto glass, short payment is usually a rare occurrence.
Other benefits of e-direct bill cited by the IGA were access to management tools through the program and its software, consistency for all locations, the fact that no custom programming is needed to start using e-direct bill, low costs, shared insurance databases, electronic payment (via online fund transfer, possibly) and reduced administrative times.
“We really want to move from the system that we use today to a system that we can use in the future,” added Smale.
Although members will have to pay an initial fee per billing location of $100, the IGA agreed to waive the fee for the first 300 locations that signed up. In addition, a monthly fee of $100 will be charged, but the first 300 to join will also be exempt from it for the first six months of enrollment. After those first six months, the monthly fee will be $50 for the first 300 enrolled. The IGA added that these prices are subject to change.
After plugging the benefits of the program to the enthralled attendees, Smale admonished IGA members that the program wouldn’t be around forever unless they utilized it themselves.
“This is our only chance,” he said. “We’ve got the house built, but now it needs the furnishings.”
If those furnishings—or members—don’t come within a year, the IGA plans to drop the program, Smale said.
Trana echoed his concerns. “AMJ Logistics needs to hear that you all are serious about this,” he said. “The bus is here—if you don’t get on it, it’s just going to be sitting here.”
Rob Schuyler, vice president of enamics Inc., the IGA’s consultant on e-direct bill, shared in the warning. “You can have the greatest technology out there, but if you don’t have the people to use it, there’s no point,” he added.
If the program does catch on, though, as IGA hopes it will, it expects it to be a breakthrough for the industry.
Compared to systems like e-mail, fax machines and even telephones, where all systems work together to stay in touch with one another, e-direct bill would enable auto glass shops to maintain simple contact with each other and insurance companies, according to Roger Cadaret, who worked with the Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association to develop a similar program.
Cadaret said that in the collision industry, the electronic billing system has been a hit amongst all, including a number of the largest insurance companies such as State Farm, Allstate, Farmers, Liberty Mutual and American Family.
After several introductions to the benefits of e-direct bill and an actual demonstration on how it would work on the final day of the show, IGA members appeared as fired up as its coordinators about the new program. Eighty-one signed up for the program immediately, weeks before its official launch.
Aside from the talk of newborn e-direct bill, which kept the association entranced and excited for much of the three-day convention, Independents’ Days also included a number of other seminars focused on the independent glass shop and its daily business, along the many strides it made during the last year. Among those programs discussed was the AmeriGlass Buying Program, launched last year by the IGA. This program, which gained 13 members during the event, allows independent glass shops to purchase glass and other supplies in bulk together, and then divide it up in an effort to cut shipping costs and fees associated with buying just one supply (glass lites, resins, sealants, etc.) at a time.
John Stoeckinger, vice president for VIPAR Heavy Duty, spoke the praises of the trucking industry’s own program similar to AmeriGlass, and encouraged attendees to consider what it could do for their shop expenses. “What are the big guys providing that you can’t as an independent?,” he asked, and then continued to praise the advantages of buying parts—whether glass supplies or truck parts—as a group to save money, as a large company might do.
Likewise, Smale rallied the crowd to celebrate in its other successes of the year: the development of the Auto Glass Excellence Training Program with Madison, Wis.-based Performance Achievement Group, the formation four state chapters of the IGA and the IGA’s National Warranty Program.
In other educational events, a panel composed of Chuck Lloyd of Minneapolis-based Lindquist & Vennum L.L.P., Rich Campfield of Ultra B-O-N-D of Grand Junction, Colo. and Patrick McGuire, an attorney from Illinois, helped to keep independents up-to-date on their rights in the judicial system.
Lloyd began the panel comparing auto glass claims to modern philosophy, asking the following three questions: “What can I know?,” “What should I know?” and “What can I hope for?” In reference to the first question, he suggested that auto glass shop owners learn the laws affecting timing of payment, laws affecting amount of payment, the right-to-choose-a-shop laws and who gets to enforce each of these laws.
As for what one should do when faced with short payments, he suggested getting the assignment of proceeds from the customer, sending an invoice with interest added to the insurance company and finally, call the insurance company (and don’t forget to document the call). Finally, Lloyd said an independent should hope to be taken seriously and to be paid, “sometimes without a fight even.”
Campfield instructed the audience on why an auto glass shop owner should be able to litigate himself, as he is currently doing through correspondence courses; Campfield just completed his first year of law school in this way. He provided a brief glossary of legal terms, a list of recommended legal readings and finally, he guided participants through the process of filing a suit of sorts in small claims court. He also touted attendees to study these subjects themselves so that they could sue often and actively when necessary.
“The legal profession says he who represents himself has a fool for a client—I don’t believe that. Anyone can represent himself,” Campfield said. “So good luck, and let’s go sue.”
McGuire, who represents 70 shops in Illinois and has a background in insurance coverage law, advised that auto glass shops keep up with the laws that apply to their businesses. Likewise, he said that to get things done, sometimes they need to see themselves as consumers, rather than companies, when filing claims against insurance companies.
“Most of the laws out there are designed to protect the consumer … the courts don’t have the ability to protect one company from another, but they will [try to protect you] if you make it into a consumer issue,” he said.
The session titled “Protecting Precious Cargo” provided participants with a panel on the importance of safe installations, composed of Tom Whitford of Performance Achievement Group, Kurt Muller of Auto Glass Express in Planville, Conn. and Doug Linderer of Salisbury, Md.
Whitford explained the course outline for the IGA’s Auto Glass Excellence Training Program, which he has helped to both develop and conduct.
Likewise, Linderer continued Whitford’s educational theme by discussing continuing education amongst insurance agents, which auto glass shops can provide. According to Linderer, insurance agents need to recertify for their licenses every two years, but need credits to do so. By taking courses in subjects such as auto glass, with which they interact often, they can recertify. Linderer suggested that auto glass shops consider conducting these courses, in an effort to market the business, while also providing insurance agents with a deeper knowledge of what is involved in an auto glass replacement.
“During lunch [when I conducted a course], I got three or four jobs during lunch from some of them who’d put off having their windshield replaced,” Linderer said.
In addition, it gives them an opportunity to see the auto glass shop’s shoes for what they are. “It’s fun when you’re the only expert in the room,” he added.
Muller took a different approach to the safety issue, showing a video he himself made detailing the importance of safe installations. His video featured a woman who was paralyzed when she wrecked and flew through the windshield of her car, which had not been properly replaced.
“When everyone raises the bar [of safety], we’ll get to where we should be,” said Muller, who received a standing ovation for his compelling video and heartfelt words.
Smale added, “I think we’d all agree that quality and safety are the number one issues in this industry.”
Safety continued to be the focus of the discussion with a seminar by Bob Birkhauser, owner of the Performance Achievement Group, AEGIS Tools and Auto Glass Specialists, all based in Madison, Wis., “Safety: How the New AGRSS Safety Standards Will Affect Your Business.” Birkhauser, vice chair of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards (AGRSS) committee, offered a history of the standard and where it is headed in the future. “We want to improve the performance and practices of individual technicians and raise their level of professionalism,” said Birkhauser, outlining the goals of the committee.
He encouraged attendees to study the document when the revised version becomes available to the public, probably sometime this summer, and to make suggestions to the committee for how it should be changed before it is complete. “You are the eyes and ears of the industry,” he reminded them.
The Grand Event
In planning this year’s Independent’s Days, the IGA staff conducted a survey among past attendees to see how the time should be organized, what topics should be discussed and the format of each. In response to the survey, the forum for discussions was held throughout each morning, with the trade show following in the afternoon. All in attendance seemed to be in agreement that the time organization was profitable for all and allowed every one a chance to make the most of the convention, rather than dividing their time between seminars and the trade show.
The trade show was filled with approximately 54 exhibiting companies, ranging from auto glass distributors, to manufacturers of auto glass repair and replacement supplies, to marketing companies wishing to help auto glass shops get ahead in their businesses. Among these, several held out for the IGA
show to release their own newborn products—following the theme of the city.
Three of the booths, although separate, were in a-buzz with news of their partnerships, released just before the show: Pilkington, Quest and Mainstreet. Just a little over a week ago, Pilkington released news of partnerships with each, which it says will provide its customers with easier access to its products through its e-Premier™ website.
“We’re ready—we’re real excited about it,” said Amy Wilkins of Quest. Likewise, Mainstreet was providing demonstrations of how the system will work for auto glass shops (see AGRReports for related story).
Delta Kits of Eugene, Ore., introduced its B200 Complete Bridge Assembly, which has the same features as the company’s earlier B300, which was introduced at the Spring Auto Glass Conference and Expo™ in Las Vegas in February (see "Has Anyone Seen My Mountain Bike" feature), but with a flip-lever style vacuum cup. Sales representative Rich Davis demonstrated the product for attendees on an actual chipped windshield in his booth.
Mark Daniels of C.R. Laurence shows the company's newest caulking gun.
C.R. Laurence Co. Inc. of Los Angeles showed off its new cordless caulking gun, in the public eye for only the second time. It was first unveiled at the NGA Show™ in Miami in March.
The Minneapolis-based 3M Company also had some big news to share for its AGR Division. According to John Fryxell, marketing manager for the division, it has introduced a new technician certification program, in which a shop’s technicians can take a test to certify that it can properly use 3M’s automotive glass products. If the technicians pass the test, they will receive a certificate, a 3M patch to wear on their uniforms and information to provide consumers. The company hopes the certification opportunity will provide its technicians with an additional marketing resource through the use of the 3M logo, along with rewarding them for their excellence. The program was to become available within two weeks to a month.
AEGIS Tools International LLC of Madison, Wis., introduced its new PWR2005 Panasonic cordless gun, which it says produces 2500 N/256 pounds of force from its cordless motor. In addition, John Baltzer, international account manager for AEGIS, said the gun can dispense both cartridges and sausage packs with just one barrel. On the final day of the show, the company held a demonstration in which participants could try out the new product firsthand.
Joe Gold of Gold Glass Group of Bohemia, N.Y., manned the company’s booth and debuted its newest product, underside mouldings for remove-and-reset installations.
CPI Divisions of West Concord, Minn., also brought something original to the show. It marketed its Clean+ hand-cleaning solution. Although it is not directly auto glass-related, Matthew Coy, president of the company’s chemical division, said he received great responses from attendees over the product. “We’ve gotten a lot of interest,” he said.
Making the Rounds
As these dedicated companies showed off their new products, attendees had an array of activities to keep them busy, from visiting booths to sitting in on trade show presentations.
Attendees seemed to find the opportunities—including the forum, trade show and various other presentations—worthwhile, to say the least. “It’s very informative,” said Marcos Darosa, president of Alpha Auto Glass in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “This helps me learn through the forum, and find the right adhesives and tools in the trade show.”
Although the date is not set for next year’s Independent’s Days, the IGA staff is already working to plan it, using input gained from attendees at this year’s show. Possibilities for its location range from Denver, to Indianapolis, to Philadelphia to Mesa, Ariz., in February or April, depending on feedback from this year’s show.
But, no matter what the future may hold, most agreed that Memphis provided numerous births of products, programs and ideas at the core of the IGA.
Minnesota IGA Urges Other States to Seek Pricing Survey
Marc Anderson, president of All Glass Minnesota Inc., a member of the board of directors for the association and former president of Minnesota’s state chapter of the IGA, returned to the podium on Saturday for “The Future of Auto Glass Pricing.” Anderson touted e-direct bill, before going on to explain how Minnesota is attempting to cut down on steering and to keep insurers from setting prices.
He then presented Larry Praml of CJ Olson Market Research who helped to conduct Minnesota’s study on auto glass pricing last year. Minnesota’s Department of Commerce contracted the company to study pricing after receiving a number of documented complaints of steering from the Minnesota chapter of the IGA and other individual shops across the state. Praml provided a detailed account of how the survey was conducted, while Anderson urged attendees to seek a similar survey—and ensuing legislation—in their own states through Departments of Commerce.
The survey was originally incited by insurance agencies that proposed a bill to the Department of Commerce that third-party windshield replacement price surveys be conducted annually. Through the surveys, the Commerce Department would then develop a range of prices auto glass shops could charge. The bill was signed into law on April 6, 2000 by Gov. Jesse Ventura.
According to Anderson, windshield replacement companies in Minnesota were happy with the results. “We’ve got a pretty good deal going in Minnesota,” he said.
In addition, the Minnesota law says that no glass shop can offer an incentive in excess of $35, in an effort to cut down on steering.
Penny Beverage serves as an assistant editor for AGRR magazine.