On the Offensive
National Windshield Repair Association
Strives to Grow During Annual Conference
by Penny Beverage
Every organization or association has some underlying reason for its existence; usually, it’s just to serve an industry. But the terms of how to serve the industry can be somewhat general.
This year, though, the National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA) was reminded of its specific reason for existence; and its purpose is now more clear than ever.
“Connecticut has given us this reason,” said Mike Boyle, newly elected vice president of the association during the NRWA’s annual conference in Orlando, Fla., January 17-18. “Connecticut was a wake-up call for us.”
When referring to Connecticut, Boyle (et al.) refers to the industry’s struggle to keep windshield repair from being banned there in early December (see January/February 2004 AGRR, page 44, for related story). The association’s plight there remained a common theme throughout the two days of the conference—and how it can fight to keep something similar from happening again in other states.
Among the many seminars offered during the NWRA conference were also several updates—including secretary/treasurer Dave Taylor’s take on what happened in Connecticut, the ongoing struggle there and the results of the incident. Taylor stepped in for NWRA board president Bill Batley, who was unable to attend the conference due to an illness in his family.
“It was a memorable year for the repair industry,” Taylor began.
The former NWRA president and founding member of the association went on to explain all that had occurred in Connecticut, beginning with the state’s licensing of auto glass installers and moving into licensing repair technicians—and a possible attempt to limit the area of a windshield that could be repaired.
Eventually, several of the association’s members attended a meeting in Hartford, Conn., in December, and think the battle to limit repair in Connecticut is over.
“There has never been a problem with windshield repair,” Taylor said, “and we can’t prove there never will be. We can’t prove you’ll never beat your wife, either.”
He warned, though, that this could happen in other states—so anyone involved in repair must be vigilant. Taylor encouraged those in attendance to go to their state representatives and senators to educate them on windshield repair and to check state bills posted online for anything involving windshield repair.
Taylor also announced that the National Glass Association and NWRA have joined together to develop an ANSI standard for windshield repair.
“The people out there purchasing windshield repair have a right to purchase from an industry with a standard,” he said.
He added, “The NGA’s been very helpful in providing assets and support that we as a group can’t provide on our own.”
On the subject of NGA/NWRA certification, Taylor said the board had decided that after 2006, those who have certified won’t ever need to recertify.
“The chances are you’ll do the same amount of business you’ll do this month as you’ll do next month if you certify,” he said, “but the need to certify is for the good of our industry.”
One positive event Taylor cited was the acquisition of Harmon AutoGlass by Glass Doctor.
”It’s very likely that [Glass Doctor] will become a strong windshield repair company and that’s a good thing,” he said.
Something to Learn
Boyle, who, in addition to being the NWRA’s new vice president, has also taken the helm at Glas-Weld, offered a seminar called “What Drives Your Customers.” He explained that the best way to sell a repair is to explain its benefits to the customer. However, he noted, these are not the same for every customer. Some customers care about cost, others about the environment, and, still, others, about safety, so it’s important to feel out what drives your specific customer and use that to your advantage.
“When you communicate all the benefits of windshield repair, you legitimize our industry,” he said.
Thom Inman, formerly of Harmon AutoGlass and Glass Doctor’s newest technical services manager, presented a very technical seminar on resin properties. He stressed the importance of understanding your resins and being able to indicate the quality of a good resin.
“Do you know how your resin performs? Have you ever measured it?” asked Inman, who is also the new chair of the NWRA’s certification committee. “There’s no way the resin you’re using today is the best one you could be using.”
Matters of Business
The NWRA also took care of some pressing business during this meeting, including electing new board members and officers. Paul Syfko of Glass Medic America was elected president. He replaces Bill Batley of Novus Windshield Repair, who will continue to serve on the board of directors.
Mike Boyle, president of Glas-Weld Systems, was elected by the board to serve as vice-president. He replaces Dee Berge-Morse of Dee’s Windshield Repair, who served as vice president for nine years. Dave Taylor of Cindy Rowe Auto Glass will continue to serve as secretary/treasurer for the board.
In addition, the association elected three new board members: Troy Mason, Bill Penrod and Paul Syfko. Likewise, Dee Berge-Morse, Bill Batley, Thom Inman, Dave Taylor, Mike Boyle, Walt Gorman and David Casey will remain on the board.
The 2004-2005 board had its first meeting during the conference and planned a telephone board meeting to discuss the association’s 2004 budget.
Of course, the budget was on the minds of the board in attendance as well.
“There’s no question that our money is tight,” Taylor said.
He added that the NWRA’s home office had been moved into administrator Peg Stroka’s home.
In an effort to raise the membership levels and generate more revenue, there was much discussion about holding a strong membership drive this year.
Boyle suggested the group consider providing discounted memberships to manufacturing members’ customers, which the board took under consideration.
Uniting All Aspects
As usual, the NWRA had a good turnout from people from other areas of the industry, particularly that of the network arena.
Steve Shaw, national participants manager for LYNX Services, conducted both a roundtable on issues of importance to independent repair technicians and a discussion on some recent changes in scripting about repair at LYNX Services.
“We want to be repair-friendly,” he told his anxious audience. “How can you be a choice-driven model without all the choices?”
He also encouraged network participants to remember that they still must do their own marketing.
“You can’t just enroll and sit back and wait for the phone to ring,” Shaw said.
During Shaw’s roundtable, attendees got very involved in sharing their ideas with one another, which is what some would say the conference is all about. Some ideas suggested for selling repair were providing the customer with coupon books to make it worth their while, or perhaps a gift certificate for lunch at Chic-Fil-A. In addition, several technicians said they put small stickers with all of their contact information somewhere in the car, just as many oil change companies do.
Following Shaw’s presentation, Taylor issued his own warning to attendees on a simple business practice.
“The auto glass industry has a huge opportunity to improve the way it answers its phones,” he advised.
Matt Larson of Delta Kits followed up with a discussion with marketing as the focus.
“When I talk to glass shops that aren’t doing well, there’s a theme—they’re doing the same thing they were doing ten or fifteen years ago,” Larson said.
He encouraged repair shops to diversify, read marketing manuals and try to get involved in online windshield repair referral services. Finally, he reminded the audience that retail shops, such as Jiffy Lube, are taking up windshield repair—and they should get in on the deal early.
“Think outside the box,” he Larson warned. “Go to a retail location and diversify your business.”
Of course, in addition to hours of work and learning, the association had some networking time. Along with several short breaks throughout the two days of the conference, the association had a cocktail party and sit-down dinner on Saturday night to give its members an opportunity to learn from each other. A breakfast was also held on Sunday morning for the early risers to talk before the day’s seminars began.
Before the conference’s thirty participants headed home, Boyle offered some closing statements for next year’s conference, the location and date of which have not been announced.
“I’d like to see everybody in the windshield repair industry know what a repair is and how it works,” Boyle warned.
For attendees, including first-time attendee Ed Mathias of Chip and Crack Windshield Repair in Columbus, Ga., the conference, however small, was helpful.
“I drove here Friday, and will work my way home this week—and will do some repairs along the way, so it’s a good chance for me to branch out and learn while I’m here,” Mathias said.
Woody Andrews of Glass Surgeon in Greenville, N.C., was left wondering why more repair technicians don’t want to attend.
“Why don’t others join and come to the conference?” Andrews asked the board at their meeting. “It seems like this could only help them.”
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