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May/June 2002

The Stongest Link

NWRA Conference Proves Beneficial to Independents and Chains Alike
by Penny Beverage

When Harmon Inc.'s Thom Inman went forward to speak at the National Windshield Repair Association's (NWRA) annual conference, no one was sure what to think. He hadn't been on the official event schedule, but he had something to share. Most expected a commercial, or even a spiel about a new product or service available from Harmon. But, Inman wasn't trying to sell anything. He wanted to make a point about the future of the NWRA.

DAVID TAYLOR "Let's not look at it as us versus them, but as that we're all an us," said Inman, who then shared a vision for the future of the NWRA as an association that would fight to keep repair alive-not fight other repair and replacement companies.

Unity seemed to be the theme of the entire event, which was held in Orlando, Fla., April 3-6 at the Renaissance Worldgate Hotel. The conference brought together repair technicians from throughout the country— from Massachusetts to California—and from all sorts of companies. In addition to the numerous independents in attendance were several, including Inman, from the industry's largest repair and replacement chains along with representatives from Columbus, Ohio-based Safelite Glass Corp. and LYNX Services by PPG.

Tom Reid of Safelite was actually in Orlando vacationing with his family, but took the time to meet with others in the windshield repair industry to learn about the newest resins from Paul Syfko of Glass Medic, to hear Dee Berge-Morse's seminar on how she direct-bills from her shop, Dee's Windshield Repair, and to learn from Chuck Lloyd on how to avoid short pays.

Likewise, LYNX representative Steve Shaw attended almost every session of the conference and when a network question arose—for example, how does a network handle its processing fees?—Shaw was always on-hand to field the questions.

Some called these men the bravest men in the room for attending what is usually known as an event for the independents. As Inman pointed out, this year marked a turn for the NWRA, which is now in its seventh year as an association.

"My point was … to applaud our new members. I think we are destined for a great future," Inman said. "To quote a fellow NWRA member, Dave Casey [of Superglass Windshield Repair], 'what's good for the industry is good for me.'"

NWRA John Nolen, Lawrence McAdams and Alan Unowitz (from left to right) participate in “The Weakest Link”  with Peg Stroka acting as Ann Robinson.

The Man in Charge
As the NWRA embarks upon this new future, it is also making some changes this year. The largest of these came when David Taylor, secretary/treasurer for Cindy Rowe Auto Glass in Harrisonburg, Pa., announced in March that he was stepping down as president. The board of directors appointed Bill Batley of Novus Windshield Repair in Seattle to serve as the new president. Batley formerly served as secretary/treasurer for the association, and Taylor will now take over this role as he continues to work with the NWRA.

However, Taylor's departure from the presidency was not a quiet one-thanks to the humor of his fellow members, who surprised him with a "roast" during the first day's luncheon. Gross Enterprises' Paul Gross led the comedy skit, which included a number of stories about Taylor from those who know him best, including his wife, Cindy Rowe and board member Jackie Newman.

"A few years after he joined me in the business and helped it to grow with all of his great marketing ideas, David came to me with an idea. He said, 'I think we should change the name now to David Rowe Auto Glass," Rowe said with a chuckle.

Newman, however, took a more serious route for her part of the roast, recalling all of the work Taylor has done for the association. "If it wasn't for him, this association might not be here," she said.

Taylor accepted the roast graciously and was awarded with a plaque for his many years of service to the association.

NWRA BOARD MEETING Walt Gorman, Paul Gross, Keith Surdich, Dave Casey, Dave Shores, David Taylor, Jackie Newman, Bill Batley, Dave Schuh, Dee Berge-Morse and Joyce Newman (from left to right) hold their open board meeting.

The Weakest Link
On the morning of April 5, five windshield repair technicians came under the scrutiny of NWRA director of operations Peg Stroka, who served as the association's "Ann Robinson" for its own version of "The Weakest Link." Steve Jeffers of Glas-Weld Systems, which is based in Bend, Ore., took first in the competition. His competitors were John Nolen, Lawrence McAdams, Alan Unowitz and Jim Kamesch.

Stroka quizzed the five contestants on the ins and outs of the National Windshield Repair Association Certification Manual, a copy of which was the grand prize for the game.

"I think you've sniffed too many resins," joked Stroka, when Kamesch missed a question. While many resisted entering the competition, it proved a good time for both participants and spectators as Stroka dismissed the "weakest links" of the five.

Taking Care of Business
GREG GOREE While the conference did offer some humor, and several networking opportunities such as the buffet/cocktail party held by the hotel pool on April 5, it also was a time for handling business. The board of directors held an open board meeting on Sunday afternoon, April 7, giving all a chance to voice their opinions on the association's plans for the upcoming year.

Greg Goree speaks during the NWRA Open Town Meeting.



In With the New
In addition, the board's newest member, Keith Surdich of Polylite Windshield Repair Products, had his first opportunity to participate as a board member. Surdich was nominated to fill the board's only empty seat and was elected without opposition on the first day of the conference. Paul Gross and Jackie Newman were also re-elected to their seats on the board. The board also re-elected Berge-Morse as vice president.

Other board members in attendance were AGRR columnist Walt Gorman of A-1 Windshield Repair, Gross, Casey, AGRR columnist Dave Shores of Glas-Weld Systems, Jackie Newman, Batley, Dave Schuh of Schuh Manufacturing, Berge-Morse and Joyce Newman. While the meeting was a short one, Batley took the opportunity to share some of his goals for the association in the upcoming year.

"One of the goals we have this year is to increase our membership. I'd like to see it increase by 100, but at least by 50," he said.

The NWRA is planning several regional meetings this year—a first for the association. Berge-Morse plans to organize one in Southern California, while Batley and Shores hope to plan one for the Pacific Northwest. In addition, the association hopes to sponsor such events in Indianapolis and Texas in an effort to attract more members in these areas, and give the current members in these areas a chance to get together without traveling too great of a
distance.

Kamesch offered his own services, suggesting that people like he and other members mail a general letter about the NWRA to fellow windshield repair technicians in their areas and encourage them to join. "If you guys will develop a general letter encouraging people to join, I'd be glad to go through the phone book and mail them to all the shops in a 200-mile radius of my own," he said.

Batley applauded this offer. "Now in the NWRA it's turning around. People are no longer asking, 'what can the NWRA do for me?,' but instead are asking, 'what can I do for the NWRA?'"

Berge-Morse echoed Batley's sentiment. "We have to remember that they might be our competitors, but if we're all doing good work and we come together it will help the industry as a whole and will help us to get recognized," she said.

RENAISSANCE HOTEL The 2002 NWRA Conference was held in sunny Florida, here at the Renaissance Worldgate Hotel in Orlando.

An Optimistic Outlook
The NWRA conference joined people who rarely come together and united them with a common bond—the goal of advancing windshield repair and keeping the industry alive. While attendance was down from the previous year, the crowd of 60 expects next year's conference to grow larger.

"Although we didn't have as many people this year, it was profitable for the association financially, and from what I've hard, it's been worthwhile for those here," Taylor said. "I think we can make a goal of having at least 100 more next year."

Attendants seemed to agree.

"This gives us a chance to find out what methods other people are using and get the feedback we need," said W. Peter Jones of Dorchester, Mass.
The date for next year's convention is not set, but the association has several locations in mind, including Dallas and Las Vegas.

NWRA ROUNDTABLE Bill Batley and Rose Mackey the future of the NWRA during the conference’s roundtable discussions.

 


Penny Beverage is the editor of AGRR magazine.

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