May/June  2001    

Feature


The month of February offered a variety of options for the world in holidays, events and other celebrations. Full of presidents’ birthdays and hearts a-fluttering, some didn’t know which way to turn or what to celebrate. Even the auto glass industry had its own celebration—the Second Annual Spring Auto Glass Conference and Expo, held in Las Vegas, February 4-6, co-sponsored by AGRR magazine and its sister publication, Window Film magazine, along with the National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA) and the International Window Film Association.

Between the trade show and a number of educational seminars, held in conjunction with the Annual National Windshield Repair Conference and the International Window Film Expo (see AGRR’s sister publication, Window Film, March-April, page 16, for more info), both repair and replacement technicians were kept busy—learning, networking and showing off their latest products. 

Carl Tompkins of the Sika Corp. in Madison Heights, Mich., kicked things off on Sunday afternoon with his keynote speech and set the tone for what proved to be a successful time in Vegas. Tompkins spoke about improving your business through a number of techniques.

Included among these were communication with employees and customers. He urged attendees to look at selling a product as “partnering” with your customer and not soliciting a product to them.

Additionally, he warned attendees that they must keep employees in the loop. He used major corporations who make decisions in corporate headquarters far off from their employees of an example of how not to run a business.

“Ideas should be a dialogue, not a monologue,” he said. “When you make a goal, make sure the people who carry it out know how to implement it.”

Finally, Tompkins hit on age-old business axioms such as knowing your costs, customer service and diversification. When he was speaking about diversification, Tompkins did warn attendees to “stay within the auto glass industry.”

Back in the Classroom
Early on Monday morning, when many of Las Vegas’ visitors were rising early to gamble, or still up from the night before or sleeping off the previous night’s excitement, the auto glass industry was up bright and early, ready to learn. Bob Birkhauser, president/chair of Auto Glass Specialists and AEGIS Tools International LLC in Madison, Wis., served as chairperson of the event. He gave a brief overview of what was to come in “What’s New in Replacement?” Birkhauser spoke of mobility in the industry, such as new technology, including windshields with electrically-conductive coatings and laminated sidelites (see "Seeing the Lite" for related story), among a number of other topics to be discussed in the coming days.

Finally, he congratulated his large audience of early-risers. “It’s nice that so many people made it out this morning,” Birkhauser told members of the crowd, who rose at 8:30 a.m. in the “city that doesn’t sleep” to participate in his seminar. “I’m glad you didn’t get trapped in the casinos,” he added.

Many also stuck around to gain a wealth of knowledge about “Reversing Margin Compression in the Auto Glass Industry,” presented by Chuck Lloyd, a partner in the Minneapolis-based law firm of Lindquist & Vennum. Lloyd, who handles auto glass cases throughout the United States, warned participants that they need to think about what factors influence profit margins, including what the auto glass shop pays for its products and what revenue it generates.
He offered a number of ideas to help technicians boost prices—without attempting to set prices themselves. He warned they could be prosecuted for this. 

Among his suggestions were debating networks and whether the shop could do better with or without the network’s assistance; analyzing shop location by asking if there are cheaper places to do business or places with better markets and, finally, being more aggressive in preventing steering by encouraging customers to request your shop when they call an insurance company.

In addition, Lloyd offered advice on a problem, which, according to the audience, regularly affects those in the industry: short payment from insurance companies. He admonished his attentive listeners to never accept a short payment and never to cash the check; otherwise, they might not ever see the full amount. Lloyd also urged those afflicted by this to call the insurance companies, insist on speaking to the highest person in the company’s hierarchy and send invoices for rest of the payment, along with interest and finance charge.

Down to Business

In addition to these educational opportunities, the NWRA took the opportunity to conduct business during its conference, electing board members for the new year. Five seats were open and five members were nominated to fill the chairs prior to the meeting: Dave Schuh, Bill Battley, Jim Portoff, Dee Berge-Morse and Dave Casey. In addition, Gil Rucker was nominated from the floor by Jerry Hernandez of AACE Windshield 911 Repair during the meeting. The first five candidates were elected.

Afterwards, the new board members took their seats for the annual board meeting. After approving both the previous meeting’s minutes and the NWRA’s financial reports for 2000, the board discussed the best way to set up its budget for 2001. Berge-Morse suggested working with a college class or business development center to write news releases and market the association’s programs for free, in an effort to further its own causes and to give the respective college or business development center an opportunity to gain some marketing experience. Berge-Morse volunteered to follow up on this effort with California University.

In other business, the board elected to retain its current officers for the following year (see WGRReports for related story).

With 355 members total, the board also made plans for increasing the NWRA’s membership during the upcoming year. “Total membership is down a little bit, but we did go back and try to contact all of them,” Taylor said.

On a positive note, Berge-Morse added that for a relatively-new association, the group is doing well. “I just want to say that we are a young organization, but I am extremely pleased with what we’ve seen at this conference so far,” she said.

Later in the evening, after most had retired for the day, the NWRA’s Long Crack Subcommittee met to discuss methods for repairing long cracks (see WGRReports  for more information).   AGRR

On the Go
A panel of specialists in both technology and the industry discussed “Competing in a Mobile Pro World,” offering attendees an opportunity to learn some ideas for advancing their companies’ technologically—including a way to sell services via the Internet, software for scheduling both employees and jobs and call centers to more rigorously handle an overflow of work. 

Dave Stagner, founder of TimeHighway.com, shared a glimpse at his product, which allows companies—particularly those that are automotive-related—to sell services through the Internet. The company helps auto glass shops set up their own websites using the TimeHighway.com format. On these websites, customers can obtain price quotes, schedule their windshield repairs and replacements and find out more about a company. “Your customers can come to you seven days a week, 24 hours a day ... You are selling time and expertise, not products,” Stagner said.

Stagner added that increased Internet efficiency and capability is one of the best ways to beat the competition. “Guys, your number-one competitors out there in the market are scheduling online,” he warned.

Dave Taylor, president of the NWRA, took time out from the repair sessions to offer his own suggestions for getting a shop up-to-date in technology. Taylor, whose wife, Cindy Rowe, began regional chain Cindy Rowe Auto Glass in 1980 in Harrisburg, Pa., said his own company has gained a great deal from an in-house scheduling program, which allows the store’s numerous branches to all be in touch simultaneously with whoever is working where and how many jobs are going on at once. “I may be in Store A and see if Store B is real busy and if I can get [employee X] to come over and help us some,” said Taylor. 

In addition, he said that by adding a small dent repair business to the company, he has also seen great profits—particularly when the auto glass repair business lags in the cold winter months.

Bob Birkhauser continued the session with a discussion about the importance of properly training customer service representatives (CSRs) to take phone calls, schedule inquiries and answer other questions from customers. In addition, his company, Auto Glass Specialists, has a call center in its home office to take the overflow of calls from its other locations. “The CSR really has to understand that technician’s job,” Birkhauser warned. 

Cindy Minon of JC’s Glass in Phoenix ended the panel with a different outlook on mobility. Her company closed eight locations in an effort to go completely mobile, and now just maintains “bays” where the technicians can check in and for scheduling purposes, but no actual offices or shops. “At JC’s Glass we’re completely centralized,” Minon said. “Brick and mortar is the most expensive way to go.”

Dialing Up
After this panel, Roger Pickett, vice president of Cindy Rowe Auto Glass, discussed “Outbound Telemarketing” and how often, customers may be hastened to the shop by a simple phone call, after putting off a repair on a cracked windshield. “Originally, I was the worst adversary of this mode of advertising,” said Pickett. “I was so afraid that in a short period of time, we’d lose everything we’d worked so hard to do.” 

However, his company gave it a shot in an attempt to make first contact with the customer—and, much to his surprise, it worked. “We’re feeling pretty good about telemarketing right now,” he added.

Crossing the Tracks
While the replacement group crowded the upstairs of the Riviera Convention Center, the NWRA held a number of seminars meetings downstairs. The NWRA sessions were also full of attendees anxious to learn, contribute and do their part for the association.

Many were alert bright and early to hear Dave Taylor’s first seminar of the day, “What You Don’t Know, You Don’t Know!” Taylor spoke about the importance of safety and training in windshield repair. “We often lose sight of the fact that we’re working on a very complicated material,” he warned. In an effort to teach the importance of safety and what it entails for the auto glass repair technician, the NWRA has put together a 176-page windshield repair manual. 

Taylor cited the manual and the NWRA certification program as essential to increasing safety in the business throughout his presentation. “We need to try to convince the world it wants to certify,” he insisted to his audience of approximately 50 people.

Later in the day, Greg Goree of Dallas-based OIL@WORK profiled his company in a seminar called “Creating Opportunities.” He used his own experiences in offering add-on services to give advice to others in how they, too, might expand their businesses. For example, he suggested that the repair technicians in attendance develop trademarks for their companies, like a personalized checkered flag for company vehicles. Likewise, he suggested offering other services in addition to auto glass repair, such as oil changes, and vehicle washes. He explained that his own company provides such services on the sight of office buildings and other places of employment so that customers might employ the business conveniently, while they are at work. “Our customers end up calling us for all of the services we offer,” said Goree, who added that often property managers will assist shops like his in promoting their companies on-site in return for some sort of reimbursement.

Following Goree’s theme of enhancing available services, Gil Rucker of Apollo Auto Glass Repair in Birmingham, Ala., discussed how to use the Internet to advance your business, particularly through e-mail and company websites. “You should have the e-mail address of every customer you have that has one,” he warned. “And, every one of your customers should get some kind of follow-up [after the job is done].”

He added that right now, most people find their windshield repair technicians through the yellow pages of the phone book, but soon, he suspects they’ll be going to the Internet for that purpose. Thus, companies should begin to prepare, even if it’s by developing a very simple website containing basic company information.

Tim Smale, chief executive officer of the Independent Glass Association (IGA), took center stage next to explain e-direct bill™, and how it can help a company deal with problems incurred by auto glass networks. “How many of you can say the networks have ended hassles? And, how many can say it’s been the start of new hassles?,” asked Smale.

He continued to urge that glass shops consider directly billing insurance companies to become more efficient, insist on payment and cut down on short-payment, while also unifying the industry.

Success in the Air
After three days in Las Vegas, spent in classrooms and on the trade show floor, learning from peers, most found the show to be a success.

Jerry Hernandez of AACE Windshield 911 Repair traveled all the way from Albertville, Ala., to attend his first Spring Auto Glass Expo. “I went to all the seminars,” said Hernandez. “They were exactly what I needed.”

Hernandez, who has been in the business of both repair and replacement for seven years, added that he is now using some of the techniques and suggestions he learned during the show. “I enjoyed Gil Rucker’s seminar because he helped me to see how important it is to start writing down people’s e-mail addresses. We’re actually making new invoices so that we can have a space for it every time,” he said.

Clarence Rome of Dudley’s Glass Service in Plaquemine, La., agreed that the show, also his first, was beneficial to him as both a repair and replacement technician. “It was real educational,” Rome said. “There was a lot of up-to-date information, and that’s really what I was looking for, with all the new models of vehicles coming out and technology changing so quickly. I’ll definitely go back.”

Show Business
After each day of listening and taking notes, attendees had an opportunity to step out on to the show floor and see what was new in the world of auto glass. Some of the companies unveiled brand-new products, while others showed their standard selections with recent advancements and upgrades.

One of the newest products to hit the floor was Beach, N.D.-based Atlas Windshield Repair’s Curing Lamp—the lamp’s first time in the public eye. The auto glass shop has been in business for five years repairing windshields, but was tired of straight-curing, said Randy Dietze of Atlas. So, it invented this patent-pending lamp which could cure all three sides of a repair at once.

GTS Services of Portland, Ore., showed its point-of-sale and accounting software, designed specifically for the auto glass industry. The point-of-sale software provides technology for part lookup, quotes, inventory and customized reports. Likewise, GTS’s accounting software includes functions for managing accounts receivable, accounts payable, a general ledger and payroll capabilities.

DataTranz™ of Fargo, N.D., also displayed its software, “GlassShop Manager 6.0,” designed specifically for the industry. This software is specifically for repair technicians, who do not require access to an electronic database of glass parts. According to a DataTranz brochure, the software’s capabilities include maintaining records of repairs and producing professional invoices.

Quest Software Inc. of St. Johns, Mich., which recently partnered with Toledo, Ohio-based Pilkington (see AGRReports for related story), continued the technology-driven theme by displaying its various types of software for auto glass shops, including quoting systems and its claims services abilities.

Glass Technology of Durango, Colo., released its updated Scratch Hog 2 Scratch Removal System, which can now be used not only for auto glass, but also for storefronts, residential windows and even in preparation for the application of window film, said Kerry Wanstrath, vice president for the company. The Scratch Hog takes approximately 30 minutes to use and following the detailed instructions provided by the company, users can restore glass to its original optical clarity, according to a brochure provided by Glass Technology. In addition, the company showed its VP-5000 Windshield Repair System, which it says is a Vac-U-Pressure system that is completely mobile and gives a shop the capability for repairing long cracks, as well.

Houston-based Thrifty Glass Inc. reintroduced its windshield repair system at the Spring Auto Glass Expo. President Art Janszen came out for the show and said that although the system has been around since 1987, he has maintained his repair shop and hasn’t had time to make or sell the system for nearly ten years. “We’ve been busy repairing,” said Janszen. “That’s what we do.” The company says the system, now available again from Thrifty, can apply tremendous force on the resin to fill hairline cracks of any size.

Glas-Weld Systems Inc. of Bend, Ore., promoted its Glas-Weld 2000 Resin line at the show, along with its Pro-Vac Injector System and its training and certification program.

The IGA, based in Idyllwild, Calif., was also in attendance, as it geared up for its own show April 4-7 in Memphis, Tenn.

 (see "Rebirth in Memphis" feature for related story

In addition to his seminars on e-direct bill™, both chief executive officer Tim Smale and his wife, Jenna, IGA administrator, manned the IGA’s booth, as they introduced some new attendees to the association’s causes and also greeted fellow members touring the trade show floor.

Los Angeles-based C.R. Laurence Co. Inc. (CRL) displayed an array of its products at the show, including its full-power truck sliders, frameless “all glass look” van and custom windows and pop-up and electric sunroofs.

AEGIS Tools International LLC of Madison, Wis., promoted its new PWR2005 Panasonic Cordless Gun at the show, which it calls “the newest and most versatile addition to our line of cordless caulking guns.” The company says its new gun produces 2,500 N/562 pounds of force from its cordless motor, and with its rack and gear design, it provides a solid powerful push to adhesives and high-viscosity urethanes.

Ultra B-O-N-D Inc. of Grand Junction, Colo., showed off its patented systems for repairing long cracks, along with its variety of tools, including the New Crackmaster, Deluxe Injector, suction cups, sunscreens, primers and a number of resins. The company’s president, Rich Campfield, manned the booth, after also participating in the NWRA’s numerous sessions and board meeting.

Next to Ultra B-O-N-D stood Edgeguard™ International of Castle Rock, Colo., which also promoted its Crack-Resistant Material for repairing windshields.

Unruh Fab Inc. of Sedgwick, Kan., displayed several glass racks and carts and promoted its glass-carrying pickup trucks. In addition, it showed one of its newer products, the Ergonomic Windshield Cart, a steel cart that holds 20 units, stands 24-inches high and employs ½-inch diameter, half-round rubber setting pads. The rack can hold a capacity of approximately 250 pounds, according to a company brochure.

San Diego-based NAGS continued to promote its GlassMate®: Version 3 software, which it introduced to the industry last November. The company says this CD allows its operator to quickly look up auto glass part numbers and prices, prepare quotes on jobs, invoice customers and vendors, prepare work orders, access all information in the NAGS database and perform EDI transactions with a number of auto glass claims processing centers.

Glass Doctor® of Waco, Texas, was also present on the showroom floor, working to sell franchises to auto glass shops across the nation.

Delta Kits Inc. of Eugene, Ore., boasted its continually-growing product line for windshield repair systems. The company offers an array of parts, including its new EZK-1 and EZK-1-2B professional windshield repair systems, which now feature the company’s own EZ Plunger automatic injector system. According to Delta’s latest catalog, the injector “virtually eliminates the need for pumps, hoses, compressors, etc.” In addition, it has available the B300 Complete Bridge Assembly and the B200 Complete Bridge Assembly, which are also brand-new this year, according to sales representative Richard Davis. 

   AGRR



Penny Beverage serves as an assistant editor for AGRR magazine.

   AGRR