“We’re unified and our resolve is strong
toward resolving issues plaguing this industry.”
by Brigid O’Leary
It was like the final scene from a movie. One person—a man who has said little throughout the duration of the film—speaks before the entire cast of characters, his deep baritone carrying throughout the hall, transfixing all who listen. He speaks at length, a monologue on freedom, desires and fighting for what is right. When he is done, he receives thundering applause and all are changed by what he said. The movie, of course, is not over, technically. There are a few more scenes, but nothing as significant as that which has just occurred. And so it was at the IGA Town Hall meeting when founder Carl Jolliff addressed a room full of independent glass shop owners in the last of ten seminars held at the Independent Glass Association’s (IGA) annual conference, which took place this year in Columbus, Ohio, April 28-May 1.
“You can write up your wish list and put it up on a board and ten years from now it probably won’t change one iota. It won’t matter. You can go to the NGA, apply, get on their board, go to the NWRA, apply, and get on their board. The bottom line is, until we find a way to find a win-win situation and induce a win-win situation, it will end up in the courts,” Jolliff said, in a manner not unlike Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
“God bless you, come up here and do my job. Let me sit out there and write my wish list,” he continued. “Let’s get real. NAGS—are they the guys? If they go, will that solve it? If network A goes, will that solve it? Put your wish list down. If you want to be influential, come see the members of this board. Some of you can do it with wisdom. Some of you can do it with money. Until we get out of the handcuffs of the golden rule, we’re not going to get anything done. We’ve accomplished a lot. We’ve got a lot of good heads. I don’t think this industry is over. It will take a lot of hard work to make happen what we want to happen.”
The Heart of the Matter
Though people continued sharing thoughts and information for a few minutes more after Jolliff finished speaking, and the trade-show floor remained open for another three hours, it was an appropriate climax to the conference as a whole. The theme of this year’s conference was “Getting to the Heart of the Matter,” and the seminars led off with keynote speaker Carl Tompkins of Sika Corp. discussing how to lead with one’s heart (“Mind Over Matter but Heart Over Mind”) and to be a leader rather than a manager.
“Managers enjoy counting beans rather than growing,” he said, differentiating between the two. “Leaders are inclined toward transformation.”
The key to successful business, he intoned, is taking care of people—the employees—because they take care of the numbers. Happy employees will generally lower the occurrences of behavior such as absenteeism, complaints, insubordination, turnover and theft, none of which employers want anyway, and happy employees also provide better customer service.
“You know what customers are leaving suppliers for?” Tompkins asked the audience. “Customer service.”
Customer service takes many forms, including making sure the customer knows when an insurance company short pays you, but not making him or her pay the difference. Such was the advice from Chuck Lloyd, attorney with Livgard & Rabuse in Minneapolis who spoke about short pays and steering. Prior to giving the advice, however, he recounted the urban legend of the woman who, leaving a supermarket, thought she’d been shot in the back of the head. Only later does she discover that she had been hit by the contents of an exploding biscuit tin. He likened it to the scenario the auto glass industry is facing with insurers and networks; it’s not as bad as it seems, because if it were, it’d be over by now.
“Folks, that’s your industry,” Lloyd said. “You’ve been shot and you’re holding in your brains. I’ll tell you what, if you have been shot and those really are your brains, you’re dead. Take your hand away and look at the gooey stuff.”
A tactic Lloyd suggested to fighting for one’s business is to re-bill the offending company, with interest.
“I know we’re unique but we don’t have to be unique in everything we do,” he said, using the example that if you don’t pay your utilities in full each month, your water or electric company doesn’t accept it without charging late fees or interest.
“Every other industry out there does it but yours,” he told the audience.
Other suggestions that Lloyd made include making a complaint to insurance regulators. “I don’t care if they don’t want to hear from us; they need to. We’re taxpayers,” he said and suggested to shop owners the idea of getting together with others in the area to brainstorm and test strategies and ideas.
Lloyd told the audience of other remedies. If you take a company to small claims court often enough for short pays, eventually they will get tired of it and start paying full, or, if you can prove more than monetary damages, sometimes it is possible to get an injunction against such companies.
Your Attention Please
Following Lloyd’s seminar, IGA board member Marc Anderson made what turned out to be the most important announcement of the weekend: that the IGA is spearheading a lawsuit against networks, third-party administrators (TPAs) and appropriate insurance companies concerning steering. Anderson explained that while the IGA cannot be a plaintiff in the suit as it is not a company but an organization, it would lead the fundraising efforts, interviewing and collection of evidence for a lawsuit if there is sufficient interest from IGA members. Anderson also introduced Tom Goodman, of the lawfirm Siegel Brill in Minneapolis, who has signed on to serve as counsel for the board of directors.
Contributions to the cause were solicited, and information about making donations was shared, with several companies publicly pledging money and challenging others to do the same. Out of respect for the privacy of the individual, Anderson made it clear that once the money is raised and a lawsuit initiated, the identities of all donors will be destroyed to protect anonymity, unless otherwise specified by the person or company donating the money. By the end of the two days, one company had already written a check, one state chapter of the IGA had collected $6,300 toward the cause, one company had pledged $200 for every shop it owned and another company had guaranteed to pledge $200 per installer in its shop.
Suggested Retail Pricing
The lawsuit created quite a stir at the show, but it wasn’t the only buzz. While the seminars on tricky installations and corrosion were very informative, interesting and entertaining, and the talk about PVB and the strength of a repair was well attended, nothing quite got the crowd as stirred up as the seminar about pricing.
NAGS general manager Jesse Herrera and director of editorial operations Bud Oliver detailed the rebalancing that NAGS intends to debut in 2005. After outlining for the audience what to expect in terms of time and promotion of the rebalancing, the two fielded questions from the audience, not all of them subtle.
“Who has empowered NAGS, from the glass industry, on my behalf?” asked one member of the audience. “What would happen to people in this room if there were no list pricing? The price setting is the only thing preventing me from determining my own prices.”
Herrera and Oliver took turns answering that question.
“We’re not doing it on your behalf,” Herrera responded. “We’re not establishing your list price. It’s a starting point for those who want to use it.”
They pointed out that if the industry were to wake up to no list pricing one day, it wouldn’t mean instantaneous and long-lasting freedom for the independents.
“If we were to wake up tomorrow with no bench mark, there are entities that would like to step in and fill that void,” said Oliver.
One entity that is willing to fill the void, if one should occur, is the Chicago Auto Glass Group, the leadership of whom made themselves known and unveiled their idea and goals. For more information, see related story, Mystery Uncovered, p. 26.
Following the pricing seminar was an update from members of the AGRSS Council who detailed the status of different aspects of the standards, including the marketing focus, which will target consumers and insurers this year, and the work being done toward getting an auditing process underway. The panelists also detailed the council’s efforts to validate AGRSS-registered companies.
“Audit is a very tough word,” said Bob Beranek of Auto Glass Consultants speaking for the auditing committee of AGRSS. “It is going to give us teeth so we can sell it.”
Capping off the seminar series was the IGA town hall meeting, during which Jolliff’s speech took place. An open panel discussion, audience members were free to express concerns and ask questions of the board members. The questions ranged from informational questions such as if the networks go to bat for the independents in situations such as the Safelite/Diamond Triumph suit (the answer is ‘no’) to more pointed inquires and concerns, such as how the board is chosen and if it will be member elected.
When asked about the possibility of having representatives of the repair industry on the board, Anderson referred back to the election system, saying that once that system is in place, members will be able to elect representatives to the board who do more repair work if they so choose.
The need for more education about the IGA and the concern about getting paid by an insurance company were also discussed at length.
Both days of seminars were followed by three hours of a trade show, allowing attendants the chance to network with suppliers and see the newest advancements in the industry (see box on page 35).
Feedback from the event was positive.
Kevin Tarpley of Airtight Sun Auto Glass in Somerville, Mass. attended his first IGA conference with his son and daughter-in-law.
“This is one of the best I’ve participated in, by far, because it was much more crisp, much more direct and the seminars themselves shared information that can actually be implemented at the local shops” said Tarpley. “I enjoyed the town hall meeting the most because I feel that any time people have the opportunity to give input on the direction their association is going in is the most valuable time to share. The leadership can look at the steps they’re taking. I think it was great that so many people got up to speak about what’s happening in their shops and nationally.”
He wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
“The technical seminars have been amazing,” said Donna Braden of Jack’s Glass in Allentown, Pa., who was attending with her daughter, Corianne, the fourth-generation glass installer in the family.
“Yesterday morning, Carl Tompkins was inspirational and the attorneys really gave us something to take back,” Braden added, though she didn’t have as much time for the trade show due to an early flight on Saturday. “I wish the trade show hours were longer, though. If my husband had been able to come we would have had him sit through the seminars while we went to the show.”
Braden wasn’t able to see as much of the trade show as she wanted, but Tarpley and his family did.
“In one word: fabulous,” Tarpley said. “That trade show was fabulous—it had everything from A-Z there. If anyone couldn’t find something he needed, he didn’t need it.”
|At the Show
With more than 40 exhibitors, attendees to the IGA trade show had a variety of businesses and services to meet. The following is a small sampling of those that were there and the new products or services they were showing.
Giving away Mardi Gras beads, Metairie, La.-based Diamondite introduced its three-step process for restoring and protecting glass surfaces. The Diamondite System consists of Diamondite Spray Clay, for clearing deposits such as hard water spots caused by carwashes or acid rain, and Diamondite Shield to seal the glass for future protection against acid rain and other damages. The kit also contains a glass and surface cleaner that the company says contains special detergents that target embedded deposits in the grooves of glass and glass-like surfaces.
Info visit www.diamondite.com or call 800/256-3248.
Hopper To It
Hopper Products of Bend, Ore., introduced a Windshield Hoist that it says allows installers to lift and install large and heavy windshields without compromising safety and time.
The hoist mounts to a vehicle’s receiver hitch for transportation to job sites and includes a 12V electric winch, stabilizing legs, a telescoping vertical beam and a sliding support beam that allow installers to lift windshields to a height of up to 8 feet and forward up to 10 feet. The hoist is capable of 360-degree rotation and is said to enable installers to replace windshields on large vehicles from the front without having to reach across the vehicle.
Available in full or midsize, the windshield hoist folds down to allow use of truck tailgates or rear vehicle doors.
Info visit www.hopperproducts.com or call 541/408-0472.
Something New on Mainstreet
Belleville, Mich.-based software company Mainstreet Computer brought to the show the newest incarnation of its glass business software, Glas-Avenue 7.0. The new version is said to be more user friendly than the last, with access to previous NAGS pricing after a NAGS update, room for additional customer phone numbers such as cell and pager numbers, and the ability to view POs for an invoice along with the status of each item all under one tab.
Info visit www.mainstreetcomp.com or call 800/698-6246.
Affordable Supplies Tools
Seattle’s Affordable Supplies, a supplier of tools for the industry, has broadened its market to include the independent glass shops. Formerly a supplier of large auto glass chains, Affordable debuted its new website dedicated to independent businesses, at the IGA trade show. The site, www.glasstoolz.com, includes a variety of tools for the auto glass industry, from gloves to repair kits, as well as a forum for discussions that allows visitors to share information and tips with one another.
“We ourselves are a small company competing against larger companies,” said Shannon Coyne, company president. “We have experienced the same financial conditions and constraints and simply came to the conclusion that the small company’s money is just as green as the money coming in from the larger chains.”
Info visit www.glasstoolz.com or call 866/992-3131
ParKin Accessories, an Elkhart, Ind.-based company, brought two new catalogs of its wares to the show. The catalogs show specialty replacement windows for vans, RVs, busses and caps and come in a 40-page, full-sized catalog or a 16-page pocket-sized version.
Info visit www.parkin-acc.com or call 800/637-8938.
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